Further to yesterdays exciting announcement at BETT 2012 by Michael Gove around reforming and updating the computer science curriculum in GCSE's, schools have now been freed up to use curriculum and resources to prepare and inspire students for the digital age. With this in mind, teachers now have a window of opportunity to understand what that means in practice and what they need to do now to prepare.

The good news is that many of the resources, curriculum and communities are already freely available for teachers and students to take advantage of. Microsoft, in particular, has a range of services and programmes that can support this change.

When considering a schools approach to best equip themselves for these changes, I think its important to address 3 key perspectives: curriculum and accreditation, teacher support and CPD as well as the toolsets to support the delivery of engaging and inspiring projects.

1. Curriculum and Industry Recognised Accreditation

So, with the opportunity to completely redraft the curriculum, where do schools look for inspiration and support?

Whilst we are still waiting to see how the awarding bodies respond to these announcements with their specific curriculum specifications, schools can now take advantage of a range of proven Microsoft Technology Associate curriculum and exams that are mapped at Level 2 on the QCF. Whether they are embedded or aligned to GCSE curriculum, they provide students that chance to add industry recognised qualifications to their CV and prove their skills for a competitive job market.

For example, a good starting point would be the MTA Software Development Fundamentals exam which covers a core range of computer science concepts and helps build the skills that are demanded by industry. This also offers a seamless introduction into areas such as gaming and mobile that are of interest to pupils and which MTA certifications are available for.

Furthermore, the MTA exams provide excellent progression and preparation for further or higher education and also provides recognised professional certifications like Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).

2. Teacher Support and CPD

Through the regular conversations I have with teachers and headteachers, there is clear need for additional support in upskilling teachers to understand and teach the core concepts of computer science as well as providing the engaging environment for pupils to explore and learn.

To help prepare teachers to embrace new curriculum, there are a full range of programmes and support communities available now. These include:

  • Partners in Learning: Global community of millions of educators, dedicated to working together to improve education
  • Microsoft IT Academy: Offers access to teacher support and CPD materials for the classroom
  • Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT): Provides membership and access to a worldwide community of professional trainers and support as well as the allocation of 20 free MTA vouchers for staff development through IT Academy.

3. Teacher Resources and Toolsets

To support and develop engaging project scenarios for pupils have direct relevance to real world skills, schools will need to look at adopting a broad range of tools for pupils to explore. Imagine how many students would be attracted to computer science, if they had the ability to create a simple app that uses the functionality of a full body motion sensor (Kinect) for example?

Once again, these are already available from Microsoft for free.

  • DreamSpark - free software for students and faculty that provides the ability to explore a full spectrum of mobile and games programming including the Kinect SDK, Windows Phone SDK, Kodu, Visual Studio etc
  • PiL: global community of millions of educators, dedicated to working together to improve education
  • Channel 9: keeps you up to date with videos from people behind the scenes building products at Microsoft
  • Faculty Connection: resource for technology news, customisable curriculum, free software downloads, and newsgroups
  • Imagine Cup: world’s premier student technology competition hosted by Microsoft

I am personally really excited about the opportunities that yesterdays announcement offers and will be posting additional content on the blog over the coming weeks that will go in to more detail on how schools can start preparing themselves now.