The UK Government has committed to an educational policy to increase the amount of computer science taught in schools, from early years primary to senior secondary schools. However, the reality is that (a) there are not enough qualified teachers of computer science and (b) retraining current teachers, especially in primary schools, is both unpopular with teachers and very expensive.
To address these problems, it is proposed to develop a national digital learning environment for all schools which is geared to the teaching of programming and computer science. The intention behind this is that a small number of primary and secondary subject specialists will develop material and provide an advice service and that peer-based learning between both teacher-teacher and student-student will be supported.
This environment will therefore support content sharing, access to specialists, learning and assessment tools and peer-based learning.
Issues that have to be considered in the specification and design of this environment are:
1. There are approximately 8 million school age students in the UK, this system must allow access by all of these students and be designed for simultaneous use by 500, 000 students.
2. The material and tools available for learning programming and other aspects of computer science are constantly changing so it must be possible to modify the set of tools used according to the preferences of the schools using the system.
3. It should be possible for parents to monitor the progress of their children and, in cases where parents have appropriate expertise, to provide support and assistance to students using the environment.
4. There should be a single national authentication service with all users have a unique identifier (which should not be linked to a specific school). This means that students can have a seamless transition when they move from one school to another.
5. Different schools will have different hardware available - some will base their programming teaching on standard PCs, others may use simple Linux computers such as Raspberry Pi's.
6. It should be possible for students to maintain an electronic portfolio of all the work that they have done with the system.
7. As far as possible, the system should be based on off-the-shelf web-based software