“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
On Friday 30th March we had 9 teachers visit our school from schools across the country with one common goal: to find out how to introduce computing into their curriculum. They had all signed up for our popular Teach Computing course, flyer available here. Due to the long distances some of our teachers were travelling, they had to leave their homes in Birmingham, Gloucester and Scarborough very early in the morning.
I was very encouraged that we had a fairly even gender balance, with 5 female teachers and 4 male teachers all keen to develop their confidence and expertise in this field. Although two of our teachers had studied computing science before training as teachers, they told us that they had not really had an opportunity to put their CS background into practice. The other seven teachers were new to teaching computing.
Right at the very start, I was keen to establish what the teachers’ hopes and expectations of the day were – the most popular requests were: The national picture. Choosing programming platforms. Gadgets incl. iPads, iPods and RaspberryPi. Choosing a Key Stage 4 course. Balancing Computing & ICT in the curriculum. Secrets for success.
Session 1: Building a Computing Community
The day was split into 3 sessions. During session 1, I shared stories of our successes from the last 12 months or so (read more about them on the blog). This included introducing the OCR GCSE Computing course in 2011, teaching Year 7s how to program with Python, teaching Year 5 pupils to program with Scratch, our Meet The Geek session at BBC Media City on 5th March, the hackademy events we have held and concluding with a video produced by BBC Learning showcasing our Hack To The Future event on 11th Feb 2012. I wanted to place particular emphasis on my belief that the community events we have run have helped to engage pupils into computing and for future recruitment to Key Stage 4 courses. They have also engaged the support of a wider community outside our school.
After a run through of our Key Stage 3 & Key Stage 4 curriculum, I then shared a Dropbox folder with many resources, schemes of work, worksheets, books etc to equip the teachers with the resources they could use to support the introduction of computing and programming into their curriculum and community, so that they could return to school and start teaching concepts straight away.
Session 2: Programming Tools, Scratch & Python
The session after break, was predominantly about ‘hands on’ programming. We started with some games creation in Scratch. I sometimes forget how some people have still not encountered Scratch, and as yet have not realised the full potential that it offers as a learning tool to engage all in computing science.
We all created our first racing car game in less than 10 minutes. Our extension group were challenged to add more features to their games.
Just before lunch, I introduced the Python programming language to our teachers for the first time. In a break from the traditional “Hello World” program, instead we tried print (“Are you hungry?”) at which point we went for lunch.
Session 3: Planning For Future Curriculum
Lunch was followed by more programming exercises to help our teachers get to grips with Python, including understanding what syntax errors are and how to avoid them. To illustrate just how literal computers are in interpreting our instructions, we watched the video of the Scots in a voice recognition lift.
Later during Session 3, we discovered a range of gadgets and hardware that are available to support the teaching of computing including Arduinos, Raspberry Pi, FIGnition and PicoBoards. During a PicoBoards hands-on session, teachers used Scratch to create projects such as a water controlled musical instrument, a cat that jumps when you shout, a piano that responds to touch, sound activated lights and many more. There was a consensus that the PicoBoards added an additional level of depth to Scratch programming. I have a short deonstration video of the cat that jumps when you shout here.
Session 3 concluded with a number of discussions. The first centred around the offerings of different exam boards for computing at GCSE including OCR GCSE Computing, OCR GCSE ICT, OCR Cambridge Nationals, AQA GCSE Computing Science, and Edexcel GCSE Computing Science. There was a discussion regarding the use of iPads and whether or not they had the potential to be seen as a programming tool.
A number of times, I recommended to the teachers that they join the Computing at School network and also try to get to the CAS Birmingham conference in June. Even though tickets have now ‘sold out’ – it is worthwhile joining the wait list, as there were a number of cncellations last year.
At the time of writing this blog post there are still a small number of places on the two remaining dates, April 25 and June 18th. For more information download our PDF flyer http://www.ourlearning.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/flyers/AOD-Teach%20Computing.pdf
At the end of the event, teachers recorded their responses on our course evaluation forms. Most of the responses about the course were graded ‘1 – Outstanding’ and a minority ‘2 – Very Good’ which was very encouraging. Personally – I found the greatest challenge was that I had so much advice, support, guidance, resources to offer, and find I have to be more disciplined in offering this in smaller more manageable ‘bytes’. There were just a couple of ‘3 – Good’ regarding the venue/refreshments, which I intend for us to look at improving for next time.
“It was very informative and can help with the decision making in Computing and ICT” Gareth
“Very informative, excellent” Baljit. “Enlightening” Dave
“Come with an open mind and a willingness to share your ideas” Jimmy