Creative Industries :: Creative Computing

  • Richard Scott

    Two years ago I decided to offer Creative Industries N4 and N5 qualifications under the title “Creative Industries :: Creative Computing”. It was very successful and I learned a lot. It was a breath of fresh air being able to deliver a course that was not tied down by shopping lists of spurious technical requirements and the pressure of an end of year exam. I could deliver a course that allowed each individual to select a context for their learning and, under my direction and whip-cracking, let them get on with it.

    This coming year Creative Industries :: Creative Computing returns. Here is how I operate it…

    Each candidate selects a context which must be an area of Computing that has room for Creativity and which develops skills that can be directly associated with job roles. The trickiest part is getting appropriate software sourced, probably for free and installed into the department computers.

    Some ideas for contexts are:

    Web design and development
    Graphics for the web
    Graphics for advertising
    Digital manga graphics
    Animation for the web
    Animation for advertising
    Animation for entertainment
    App development
    Games design and development
    3D modelling for games
    Character modelling for games
    Landscaping for games
    Music technology: sequencing, MIDI and wave editing
    Digital photo editing
    Film effects
    …as you can imagine this is an endless list. Bounded only by the pupil imagination, pupil skills, teacher confidence and software restrictions.

    This can cross over into other areas of the curriculum and can benefit by pupils bringing skills in which they have developed in other areas. These skills (or lack of) must be borne in mind when allowing pupils to select their contexts and to set their expectations; and is the major lesson I learned from my pilot year. For example UDK is a fantastic development environment but can be technically challenging and require commitment from the developer to reach even modest stages; pupils who enter in expecting to create anything beyond a fairly basic game if they have no experience will be sorely disappointed.

    Candidates must select an industry and job role that describes how they might then apply the skills which they wish to develop. In the units it is the industry and job role which comes first and after research pupils identify the skills which they would have to develop; however I have found that pupils will come into this course wanting to develop some very specific skills, some of which could be used in a number of vocational areas.

    The course consists of 4 units in which candidates learn about the specific industry which they have selected, they must then identify job roles within that industry and further to that, identify the skills required for that job role. It involves quite a bit of research but is within a context of their own choosing. It is then a good idea to form pupils into groups or companies. A key item here is making sure that the work of others in the group is not curtailed by any other member of the group who does not pull their weight. I think this would work best if the individuals contributed to a group context but that the work of each individual did not rely on any work from anyone else in the group; just from experience! I know that in an ideal world the opposite would be true and every individual would contribute a different element or skill to a final digital product but the tighter this final product integrates and relies on the individual contributions, the more scope there is for the others to feel let down and lose motivation. The customer/client is ideally an external party eg a college, local business, other department in the school or so on; I used the local college in the pilot year, but I suppose the teacher could act as customer to each of the individual groups. Alternatively the teacher could act as an intermediary between the group and the client (other department etc…) and be in more control of the situation whilst still having that external involvement. The course ends with each group delivering a presentation on the product they developed to the client. There is a fair bit of report writing and form-filling but it is all within the pupil’s chosen context and is more than balanced by the amount of creative practical work they undertake.

    I have heard of many Art departments delivering Creative Industries qualifications however after some research Computing is by far the greatest contributor to the UK economy in the area of creative industries (43% according to the latest government report: ).

    I think it is time that Computing Departments laid claim to Creative Industries qualifications, as I said, it’s a breath of fresh air in our normally content-led computing curricula. You may be surprised at the support you get from the school, most are looking for vocational alternatives to offer to pupils.

    I see Creative Industries :: Creative Computing as meeting the needs to two, quite different, groups of pupils:

    (1) Pupils unlikely to be very successful in a ‘normal’ academic National qualification but who have strong practical skills and interests in Computing. If more support is required for research and report writing then the N4 course would be the most appropriate.
    (2) Pupils wishing to go on to study an area of Creative Computing in FE. This course can be used as a folio building course into which they can bring skills from other areas of the curriculum. Eg photography, multimedia, games development etc.

    As they can be tricky to find here are links to the courses on the SQA website.

    BTW SQA approval is required to offer the N5 course. Should we have a Creative Industries :: Creative Computing section on CompEdNet?

    Is anyone else doing this? If not, I hope this has inspired you. I have ~60 pupils doing this next year, wish me luck!

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