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03 October, 2018 | Blog

I attended two different but connected events this week. On Monday I was at the RSA for a series of talks on ‘Coding & Creativity’ and then on Tuesday it was at Google Campus for a joint OCR/TES roundtable discussion on ‘Coding for the future’. The recording of the OCR/TES event will be made available soon, and I’ll post it to this blog.

Both events were looking at the importance of coding within education and one theme that came up in both was the importance of creativity – STEAM (with added Art) instead of STEM. At the RSA many of the talks made the point that it was the imperative of trying to create or make something that leads to better coding and programming, or even better mathematics.

At the roundtable discussion, there was consensus that the future for the subject of coding computing was for it to be become more of the mainstream school curriculum and for the barriers between it and other subjects to be removed – this is most obvious when considered alongside mathematics and natural sciences, but is also true for the areas of art and design. If students are to embrace the value of computing and for it to become as popular as I think it could be, it has to be seen as a means to an end, a tool for creating, making or designing, and not a dry theoretical subject without any practical application.

Much of the progress in introducing computing into the school curriculum stems from the NextGen report (http://www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/NextGenv32.pdf) and the author of it (Ian Livingstone CBE) was at both events. Recommendation five from the report said that we should ‘include art and computer science in the English Baccalaureate’ and this was not a plea for two separate and disparate subjects to be included but rather that they should move together and that we should encourage more interaction between art and technology.

The discussion around this went further when Debbie Forster (COO at CDI Apps for Good) said that instead of thinking about the STEAM agenda we should consider the importance of ‘STEAMED’ which includes ‘entrepreneurism’ and ‘design’ and that a fully rounded education would act to stimulate and encourage creativity and design, which in turn would aid innovation and entrepreneurship and help to drive our economy.

undefinedTo look at an example of recent British design and business success that supports this you could choose James Dyson.

His phenomenal business success and the start of his creativity was built upon the need to solve a problem and to resolve a sense of dissatisfaction, frustration and malfunction with existing products. It was the application of scientific engineering principles in combination with unique, striking and emblematic design, and then backed up with strong entrepreneurship to drive the pricing and marketing strategy.

This formula (the solving of problems with science, engineering , design and entrepreneurism) could be applied to any technological context, be it software development, computer games creation, hardware or device design etc. The science and the engineering on their own would be nothing without the imagination, creativity and design.

At OCR we can contribute to this by continuing to encourage creativity and innovation in our qualifications and assessment, and in giving students freedom and opportunities to express themselves.

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts how we try to achieve this in our assessment and that in our gcse computing qualification one of the many strengths is that the assessors credit any technically correct solutions even if they are different to what they were expecting. We are continually surprised by the innovative and inventive ways that students tackle our assignments that are different to what we expected, and we must continue to reward this kind of creativity. We also try and foster this through our D&T Product Design qualifications where we pose problems to the students and allow them to be innovative in how they respond to them.

Thank you for reading – please forward this onto anyone who you think would be interested.

I would be grateful for any feedback on my blog or thoughts or comments on how we encourage the creativity with our qualifications.