Process vs Product: Opportunities in the new curriculum

By February 16, 2013 2 Comments



As we move forward towards a new National Curriculum, I for one am excited about the new challenges the new Computing/Computer Science/Computing Science (whatever you want to call it) curriculum will bring. It’s an opportunity to help bring some credence back to the subject which, let’s be face it, has had a bit of a bum deal for some time. And this, again, being frank, hasn’t necessarily been down to the thousands of teachers who have painstakingly jumped through the hoops of the qualifications that have been available, eg OCR nationals et al with death by screenshot qualifications; in many ways, it has been down to exam boards, Government and OFQUAL allowing ‘paint by numbers’ qualifications that, so long as you’re able to jump through the hoops of the 100% coursework (with no time limit!!!) of the qualification, then you’re going to be able to get a seriously good grade. The new curriculum gives us a brilliant opportunity to spark new fires in the minds of our learners.

This post isn’t trying to belittle the hundreds of hours teacher and students will have spent working on these courses mentioned above. I’m not trying to bemoan the amount of money schools will have spent on these courses either. To a large extent too, students will have learned lots about the ways in which various applications work and how the minutiae of the requirements of A N Other coursework brief might hold.

What I’m really hopeful for however, on top of the courses being ones which light fires with students and herald a new era of exciting technological learning, is that the assessment of the work created by students in ICT and Computing lessons will be assessed imaginatively, taking in to account the tools that students have access to in the real, modern world. At the end of the day, if it is important for a students to not only show the product, it is important for them to show the process that has taken them there.

One such way of showing the process, which doesn’t involve 23535624 annotated screenshots is through the use of screencasting and tying it to an eportfolio or curation of a variety of evidentiary screencasts. This can be done in a large number of ways; YouTube, Vimeo, local storage, linking on Storify, Scoop.it, so forth and so on. This I feel, has been part of the problem. I think a large number of students have become turned off by the subject by death by screenshot courses. Students can print a document landscape. It’s easy. So why can’t the process of generating evidence to demonstrate the process be simple too?

Another way, as seen for example in coding, is where we use commenting to explain our decisions and what the various parts of code do at various stages in the code – not only is it a way of sharing this with others who may view our code who might want to develop it, but it is also a really good way of showing understanding. In addition to this, particularly with coding – often there are lots of different ways to coming to the same conclusion. @teknoteacher references some great examples of this in this podcast. My analogy is that on the route to Edinburgh, there are lots of paths we could take; east coast, west coast, flying, boat, so forth and so on. Sometimes, the end product doesn’t take in to account the journey. There are bigger issues here that I could discuss, but am not, particularly about the whole ‘all eggs in one basket‘ problem as discussed by @huntingenglish

If I think about today for example. Posterous is shutting down, so I made this screencast here to help people who want to migrate their existing blogs to the WordPress.com option: https://ictevangelist.com/?p=1450 – making that took me circa 15 minutes. Imagine if I had had to do that by taking screenshots of each and every stage which I had to write down painstakingly each of the steps too. How long would that have taken? Would I have not been able to show the process as well? Does the screencast show the best process – the product is still the same, but is it the best way?

Let’s have a new curriculum which recognises the need for examining the process, taking in to account of the learning journey, making reference to and applauding the tenacity, grit and determination of learners along the way – not one which deadens learners, but makes appreciation of the ways in which modern students learn and give students the opportunity to show the product of that work in an end of course examination. That way – we value the process AND the product.

And…. whilst I might have your attention for a moment, could I please ask you to check out the Computing at School network and get involved in the discussion there too: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/door


  • I love screencasts and build them into loads of lessons rather than do a whole class demo then repeat myself 30+ times. Having the process pre recorded really frees me up as a teacher to focus on extending/supporting where needed. My favourite tool for this at the moment is screencast o matic.

    The only issue I have with students screencasting is one of background noise. My lessons often resound with working noise (I hope!) and so short of having a separate breakout recording space it’s really difficult to get high quality audio recordings. This is before the natural corpsing that takes place hen students hear themselves back. I’d be interested to hear any ideas for managing this that your readers have?

  • Ian Lynch says:

    100% coursework is designed to assess baseline competence in the work place and it would be appropriate eg for recognising competent use of IT across the curriculum. Certainly there is a lot of very patchy use and the DfE itself adopts poor ICT practice in collecting data in word documents that should be collected in web forms. 100% exams done in a pressured environment with restricted time are just as limited. Who would ever design a practical computer program under such conditions? Qualifications need assessment that is designed to enable ALL students to demonstrate what they can do and to inform their future progression routes without demotivating and alienating groups along the way. Hence my blog entry here https://theingots.org/community/node/33025

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