Computers, computing and technology have become an integral part of modern day society and play a part in our everyday lives in many ways. It is now almost impossible to envisage a world without computers or the internet.
The National Curriculum reflects the importance of this topic stating that “a high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.”
With that in mind School Travel Organiser has picked out five places across the country which can complement and enhance Computing studies.
Centre for Computing History
The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge explores the social, cultural and historical impact of the information era and teaches students of all Key Stages how computers and technologies have transformed the world today as we know it.
Programming workshops include Coding in BASIC on the BBC Micro, which will help students gain an understanding of computer programming and teach them to write and understand simple computer programmes in the coding language, BASIC, using original 1980s BBC Micro computers.
Other workshops include Introduction to Python, an insight into the modern computer language Python, and Build Your Own Adventure Game, which sees students use the free online programme, Twine, to build their own text-based adventure games.
Groups of 20 or more students are also given a guided tour, which can focus on the history of computing or the history of video games.
As well as links to the Computing curriculum, a visit to the Centre for Computing History can also tie into studies in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, History, English and Art & Design.
One free teacher place is offered for every ten students visiting.
Life Science Centre
Recognising the important part coding plays in 21st century life and supporting the National Curriculum, the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne offers hands-on coding workshops for all Key Stages.
For example Key Stage 2 students can learn how coding works in the session Coding Ants. Students will use a practical model and virtual ant program in NetLogo to observe the way simple instructions in simple systems can lead to emergent behaviours.
Another workshop available is Coding Malaria, which is targeted towards Key Stage 4. Pupils will learn how to code in Netlogo, develop a computer model of how malaria is transmitted and then use the model to work out the best ways to control the disease.
The National Museum for Computing
The National Museum for Computing, found at Bletchley Park, the site of Britain’s codebreakers during World War Two, aims to inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.
Mainly suited for students Key Stage 3 upwards, school visits will begin with a short presentation that provides an introduction to the museum and the role of Bletchley Park in history.
A range of exhibits and galleries are also available to explore at the museum. The Colussus Gallery, which houses the rebuild of the world’s first electronic computer, reveals the equipment used to encrypt and decode messages sent via the Lorenz SZ42 machine by German High Command during World War Two.
Other exhibits include The WITCH Computer, a gallery which looks at the world’s oldest original working computer, and Software Gallery, which explores how and why computers need software to function.
Museum of Computing
The Museum of Computing in Swindon offers workshops and museum tours covering topics surrounding the history of computing and digital development, which are suitable for both Primary and Secondary pupils.
Tours will look at the technical developments and social changes computers have made to society.
Activities include object handling and an opportunity to see a variety of different machines running to give a real sense of how computers have changed since they were first developed.
Tours and workshops are available for groups of up to eight, so classes will need to be split up to complete the activities.
The Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester explores how the world has developed and continues to change and offers a programme of interactive shows, workshops and activities for Key Stages 1 to 3 that supports this.
Directly linked to Computing is the demonstration Meet Baby, which is recommended for students aged 12 and older and highlights how far computing has come since 1948. Students will see volunteers run a replica of the Manchester small-scale experimental machine, Baby, which is said to be the first computer to run and store a program and led to the development of the first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark 1.
Meet Baby is only available on selected days, subject to volunteer availability. Teachers are advised to contact the museum beforehand to confirm the demonstration is taking place on the day of a visit.
Also relevant to Computing studies for pupils aged eight and over is the gallery Connecting Manchester. Students will discover how technological advancements from the printing press to modern computing have allowed us communicate further and faster.
On display will be the first British model of a linotype machine, which helped to revolutionise newspaper production, and early telephones made by Manchester company David Moseley and Sons.