CAS Conference 2012

I’m writing this post on the train home from the amazing CAS Conference 2012 (#casconf2012).

I tried ot tweet as much as possible during the two days, but between a limited battery life and (more importantly) getting actively involved in many of the sessions there is much I haven’t talked about.

As always, my blogging is almost entirely selfish and my main priority is to start to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last two days. It’s all very ‘gut reaction’ stuff before I forget the details.

Thursday – Bring & Brag

The evening before the main conference is traditionally a ‘bring & brag’ unconference style event. Meet up, eat nibbles, drink wine, then a series of short presentations .This year the whole thing felt tight and slick, with quick turnarounds, short presentations and little reliance on slideshows. Being partly involved in the running of the B&B session I didn’t really get chance to make many notes, but Alan O’Donohue (@teknoteacher) was as energetic as ever, Ben Gristwood (@Mr_G_ICT) talked about some really interesting work with Digital Leaders and someone (I forget who!) talked about a 6th form student who built a gaming PC for their A2 extended project – something I want my Y7s to get involved in this term!

Thankfully Leon Cych (@eyebeams) was there capturing everything – video, audio and stills – and I should have the audio from each mini-talk to post on the CAS Rounup Podcast over the next few weeks.

Friday – Plenaries – CAS LAndscape & Future and Centres of Excellence

Partly housekeeping and partly letting everyone know where everything is going, Simon Peyton-Jones (chair of CAS) and Bill Mitchell (Director of BCS Academoy of Computing) talked about the many, many events that have occured over the last 12 months, including the Royal Society Report, the official withdrawal of the ICT PoS and, vitally, the fact this isn’t the government saying ‘we don’t value ICT’ but TPTB offering us the opportunity to decide what WE think is important. Bill also talked about the CAS/BCS Network of Excellence. The hope was to get 200 schools and a couple of universities involved int he first year, with maybe 30 universities and lots of schools by 2020. So far there have been over 500 school applications and over 20 universities have expressed an interest, so the motiviation is there and next year should be a very exciting one.

Keynote – Replacing City Traders With Robots – Dave Cliff

Keynotes are funny things. Sometimes they’re fascinating and engorssing, sometimes they’re practical and involving, sometimes they’re dull and seem t go on for ever. This one was definitely the first. Giving a bit of context (horses and pigeons being the early information and communication technology used by the very first stock market traders) we looked at how automated systems have developed to the point where they are involved in 95% of all stock market transactions – many with no human involvements at all. Then we looked at how humans have managed to screw up complex technology on a grand scale. The scariest topic was ‘normalisation of deviance’ – the idea that something outside of acceptable parameters doesn’t immediately end in failure, so we accept it as ‘normal’. This is ultimately what led to the Challenger disaster and demonstrates nicely why relying on technology can be a risky business. Bring the two topics together and you have an almost entirely automated multi-national economic system written by software engineers that has repeatedly shown in recent years that it is working outside the bounds of safety (an IPO going from $15 per share to $0.00002 per share in less than 1.5 seconds, quicker than the CEO can hit the off switch, with no rational explanation from any financial authority is just one of many scary examples given). This might not sound like the most fascinating of topics, and it might not be the most obvious way to start a conference about teaching computer science in schools, but Dave did a fantastic job of demonstrating not how, but WHY computer science is so important.
Workshop 1 – Arduino: If seeing is beliving, what is touching? – Chris Martin

I’ve been hearing people talk about Arduinos for a while now. I even tried to buy a kit a few years ago but the company, for some reason, decided not to process my order and I never did get round to chasing it up. With a simple programming interface (there are only two buttons you need and a space for some syntax), a USB lead and any manner of ‘bits’ you can program a physical device. Starting with making an LED flash on and off we were quickly controlling the speed of the flashing using potentiometers, using light sensors to turn motors and using acoustic proximity sensors to set off explosions (because, and I quote, “it’s not just chemists that get to blow s**t up”). The kits are around £40 with everything you need to get started, and with paired or small group programming you could get away with 4 or 5 for a class. As a workshop should, this was hands on from the start and while some students naturally engage with on-screen programming, the idea that you can do something with a physical output in seconds is undoubtedly engaging for many. I think half a dozen Arduino kits half just become my top priority with any spare budget, even more so than the Kinect I was after.

Workshop 2 – Algorithmic Problem Solving – Joao Ferrerrira

I’ve mentioned more than once that while my GCSE Computing students have really engaged with computer programming and have enjoyed getting to grips with the discrete elements (assignment, selection, iteration, file handling, etc.) my big bugbear is that most are not good at problem solving, decomposition and abstraction. That is to say, ask them to write a for loop to display the first 20 square numbers and you’re sorted, but give them a problem (like how many trips it will take to get a load of vampires and maidens to a hotel bar) and they just don’t know how to start breaking th eproblem down into manageable chunks. Joao presented some really interesting approaches to generating algorithms without a computer. Some of it was quite heavy (Hoare triples and state change diagrams, for those who know about such things) but I really do think there’s scope here to investigate better ways of helping students to start thinking computationally, which is an essential part of computing as a discipline.

As an added bonus, it turns out Joao lives less than 3 miles from my school and is running his undergraduate course on algorithmic problem solving in September at my nearest university. Suffice to say I’ve made sure he’ll be presenting at a hub meeting before veyr much longer!

Lunch

Now I’m not normally one to go into *so* much detail, and this isn;t about the food (delicious though it was). The point here is I actually 5 minutes (maybe as much as 10) to catch my breath. Those 3 sessions were all genuinely inspiring and packed with brilliant ideas and stuff that I wanted to think about. The cogs were whirring and had that been the end of the day then I would have happily set out for home with a spring in my step and feeling that I’d got a heck of a lot of value. As it was, there was still much more to come!

Workshop 3 – The productive teacher – James Franklin

James wanted to talk about a pedagogical approach called Minimally Invasive Education, pioneered by Sugata Mitra. His argument is that in the absence of a teacher, learners will teach themselves. If you provide them with the resources and the encouragement then they can learn at least as effectively without direct intervention as they would with it. To this extent James showed his Y7 class a series of manipulated images and gave them 6 lessons to teach themselves and each other the skills required to replicate them. He actively refused to do any teaching or answer questions and removed any rules in order that they shouldn’t be barriers to learning. Want to text your Dad to help solve that problem? Fine. Want to use your phone to wathc a video tutorial on YouTube? Fine. Want to tie your tie around your head like Rambo? Well… only if you can justify it pedagogically.

A very similar technique apparently worked well for spreadsheet modelling too and feedback form the students was overwhelmingly positive. James’ GCSE cohort didn’t do quite as well, however. While they learned a heck of a lot about databases and could explain why forms were useful in terms of your ability to add macros, action buttons and user-friendly interface elements, they scored very poorly on practice papers because they weren’t hitting the rote answer expected by the exam board.

Maybe this says something about the way in which we assess students, and maybe this approach is better suited to skills-based topics rather than knowledge-based. James admitted himself that he would be very wary of using this technique to teach programming from scratch as it is too easy for students to waste a lot of time exploring the wrong avenue when a simple array would save them all the hassle.

Overall it’s a brave approach, and one that would almost certianly fail an inspection on the grounds that not eveyr student can demonstrate progress over one lesson (in fact, the fact that they can sometimes make no progress in a lesson is actually the point!). That said, if we want independent learners who can solve problems, communicate, work collaboratively and don’t sit around waiting to be spoon fed then this might be just what the doctor ordered.

Workshop 4 – Sensing the world (with Scratch)

My final workshop of the day was spent playing with picoboards, a £40 sensor board that plugs in via USB and talks directly to Scratch. With nothing more than a simple driver install I was playing the trombone by blowing into the microphone and moving a slider bar, and then managed to quickly write a working game with a variety of controls including light sensing, buttons and more. Much simpler than an Arduino and much more focused on physical input that a Raspberry Pi, I can see why these engage students so well and they’re going second on my shopping list after the Arduino kits mentioned earlier.

Plenaries – How Google can help you & Raspberry Pi

I have to admit, I was totally exhausted by this point and somewhat overwhelmed. Andrew Eland and Alan Mycroft both spoke eloquently and engagingly about their respective topics and Google is very keen to support computing as a discipline. Particularly as their UK recruitment of software engineers is doubling every 18 months (a trend that shows no sign of letting up in the near future). I *still* have yet to get my hands on a Pi, and even when I do, I think I might just be too busy playing with Arduino kits and sense boards to get much done.

Summary

In summary? Best. Day. Ever. Last year was great, the year before was fantastic. This was simply awe inspiring. All the things I haven’t mentioned – chatting with Susan Robson, catching up with frineds from the CAS Working Group, shared conversations in the atrium over sandwiches (or a pint, last night). They were a huge part of it all and I’m heading back and JUST the right time of year, all set to plan the most kick-ass curriculum you’ve ever seen.

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Some thoughts on IT, ICT and Computing

 

Picture courtesy of the flickrpoet site

Nick Jackson wrote a blog post yesterday entitled ‘Put the brakes on’, specifically relating to the current push for Computing. The main thrust of his argument (as I understand it) is that we need to consider what the results of this push might be, and that the many good bits of ICT risk being pushed out in order to make room for the ‘new’ content, and he posed a number of questions.

Although I want to reply directly in the comments, I also didn’t want to submit a 3000 word essay* there, so I’m doing that here instead and will provide a brief summary over there. So, expect some strong, and very personal opinions. Any comments and any inference are entirely my own.

* As of now WordPress is telling me there are 2753 words, so not far off!

Why was ICT introduced in the first place?

To an extent, this is a distraction. Rather than concentrating on the historical aspects of how we got here, I’m interested in where we go next. Alternatively, you could read into that ‘why should we teach ICT in the first place’, which is a more useful question. Now I have no statistics to hand, but how are you reading this? How many computers, computer programs and computer users were involved in your toothbrush? Designing it, designing the equipment to make it, tracking the finances within the company that made it, organising the shipping to the retailer, examining the ideal price point, marketing, designing the packaging, researching the most efficient design of the head, analysing the way that bacteria and plaque attack teeth and gums, and so on, and so on and so on. There is a real need for everyone to learn enough about IT to make use of the technology we have available, at whatever level of ability and requirement. I don’t think that anyone is arguing against the need for IT to be taught in schools here. I find the biggest arguments are those that try to define what IT actually is.

Why did Computer [studies] largely disappear into the shadows?

Short answer, I don’t know. I wasn’t around at the time. I’m led to believe that universities didn’t want students who had studied Computer Science in the same way that my primary school didn’t want me to have learned to read and write before I got there (“We like to teach them our way”). How much of that is true, I don’t know. When I was at school in the early 90s, my IT lessons involved using a spreadsheet to plan a Teddy Bear’s Picnic and creating a newsletter with textflow in a DTP. And that was about it – certainly no Computer Science there. and no wonder I didn’t take the subject at KS4 or KS5.

Why is it that universities, in particular those offering Computer Science and other related courses, don’t seem to be that interested in all this debate or in getting involved in designing a clear curriculum pathway up to degree entry?

For the first point, they are. Having just spent two days at the semi-annual Computing At School Working Group Meeting in Cambridge, the Computer Science agenda is very much at the top of people’s priorities. Whether it be university academics, genuinely (i.e. personally) interested representatives of exam boards, school teachers, IT industrialists, researchers, parents or some bloke who happened to be wandering past, there is a large group of very interested people who have a lot to say on the matter. I’d love to give you a list of names, but I’m not sure how appropriate it would be as I don’t think the attendance list is publicly available elsewhere. Suffice to say I’m happy, excited and encouraged. But if this wasn’t happening, how else did Eric Schmidt happen to fly in from the US and suddenly decide to add his opinions on the teaching of IT in schools if people aren’t talking about it? I’m sure it’s not something he decided to find out on his own.

I suppose the last argument is slightly off topic considering the original question which specified universities, but several of them were well represented. For the second part; again, there are many people interested in how we get a good intake for Computer Science degrees. CS is unique in having such a broad baseline at the start of the degree, from those who don’t really understand what CS actually is, right up to those who are already doing paid programming work in their spare time. This discrepancy makes differentiation incredibly difficult, even for the very top universities (did I mention that the meeting was hel din Cambridge?) that take the best and the brightest and it’s something that those responsible for running these courses desperately want to improve upon. Perhaps the message isn’t getting through clearly elsewhere, but within CAS it is pretty clear. Universities want a better calibre of student in terms of their experience and exposure to Computer Science and they want to help schools identify appropriate routes.

Add to that, that Computer Science at schools is about more than getting people into computer Science at university. My brother is a materials scientist, and writes his own code all the time. My dad used to a chemical engineer, ditto. Research scientists and engineers all over the place are writing their own code. Thousands of people try to maintain small websites using online template tools or Publisher. How much easier would their jobs be if more people knew a bit about scripting and coding – be it Java, Javascript, HTML or CSS? Mathematicians using Matlab, office managers knowing the difference between RJ45 and RS232 – all these things are distinct from a Computer Science degree, but some CS education further up in their education could do wonders.

Are there not other areas of ICT that are equally as ‘valuable’ as Computing?

Absolutely. I would split IT up into 3 distinct categories: Digital Literacy, or IT for users; Digital Creativity, with image editing, video editing, audio and animation; Computer Science, the technical bits including programming but also looking at system architecture, interface design, networking and protocols.

Maths does something similar – Numeracy and then Pure, Mechanics, Statistics and Decision.

English does something similar – Literacy, English Language and English Literature.

I wouldn’t necessarily argue at this point that any one of those is more important that the other, although there may be some room for positioning at some point in the future. When I first got into teaching, 7 years ago, the IT for Users agenda was the entire curriculum. Over those years the creativity has come in more and more. The big gap there is the technical stuff. We effectively have a generation of students who know how to punch the buttons into a calculator, but don’t understand how multiplication actually works – and that’s why I’m pushing. I don’t say that we shouldn’t teach students how to use the calculator, but we need to make sure we also cover the fundamentals that make it work.

What will happen if ICT ‘soft skills’ are not taught at all in schools?

If by ‘soft skills’ you mean how to create a decent slideshow, make a poster, interrogate a spreadsheet, et al. then it would, of course, be pretty bad. A lot of the ‘soft skills’ are not covered well anyway, and if I didn’t teach students how to create a 3 table relational database in Access just for the sake of it then I’m not sure that they would be significantly worse off. Equally, I can spend 4 hours trying to explain why consistency and brevity are the key elements of a good slideshow, only to see the same student arrive for a History lesson and use a different background for every slide, cut and paste whole passages from the Web and use every animation they can get their hands on. I’m wandering off topic a little, and regardless of the issues surrounding these skills, they are important and it is vital that students get experience in how to do these things well. Whether the cross curricular model is working or whether we keep it in departments is besides the point, the answer to the question is ‘of course we need them’.

If ICT is to be taught cross-curricular, is that really going to work in your school?

At the minute, it would be a struggle. We do try to make contextual links with other departments where we can. Our graphics work ties in with Art. Our Sketchup work ties in with DT. Our presentation work ties in with Geography. What I would love is for the Maths and Science departments to take the spreadsheets and models off our hands. They’re both pretty busy right now and I can see much resistance to what I think would be a better model for delivery and so the answer is ‘no’. And even if it was ‘yes’ then there would still be room for this stuff in ICT as a specific subject. If you are a teacher IN English, then you’re a teacher OF English. The same is true of IT, but English still has a valuable place in the timetable, and so does IT. Again, I refer to my earlier point – IT is made up of 3 elements and I’m not campaigning for the death or dropping of any one. One of them is woefully under taught, however, and it’s that imbalance I am seeking to redress.

Are the Computing qualifications on offer really that good?

Tail wagging the dog. That doesn’t make the question invalid, but we need to teach the right things, and then assess those. What we shouldn’t do is find out what we can assess, and then teach that.

At GCSE there are two real options. OCR GCSE ICT with the optional programming module instead of the multimedia module, or OCR GCSE Computing. The former we haven’t gone for, largely because of OCR’s reputation over the GCSE examinations and coursework moderation from the previous incarnation of the ICT GCSE. The GCSE Computing we have gone for, and we’re currently in the second year. We’ve not sat the exam yet, but the theory content looks good to me. There’s significant crossover with the ICT GCSE and the ‘new’ bits are in line with my understanding of Computer Science. The coursework controlled assessment tasks are pitched pretty high, and while the paper looks fairly accessible the practical work is coming out as pretty bi-modal. Either you’re looking at A/B or D/E, with very little in the middle. Research shows this is true at KS5 and degree level too, so it’s not necessarily a failing on behalf of the OCR specification.

What is less forgivable is the continuing reliance on describing the situation, planning, testing and evaluating. While I understand that these are fairly universal across ICT specifications, students at this age level should be looking at the principles and practicalities. Until you can write code, you’ll always struggle to design it. I experiment with writing words as I go; deleting the bits that don’t work, rewording phrases and so on. This is also how a lot of code gets written. Yes, it’s important to put some thought into it, but the weighting is all wrong.

I suspect that, again, OCR’s hands were tied on this issue, and I’m hoping that the death of the QCDA will help at least a little.

At KS5 there are several A Levels in computing, plus a number of vocational qualifications. There is some complaint that the specifications are just squashed down versions of a degree course, and certainly some of the content is similar to my own Computer Science degree, but I’m not really in a position to comment with any authority. I do know that I enjoy teaching the AQA specification and that the students seem to gain knowledge, skills, enjoyment and enthusiasm from the course. I’d call that a win.

What about the average student who just wants to use a computer to complete tasks they need to do, what should they be taught? Programming? Will that engage them?

Whatever is needed, what we are offering now simply does not work. Students are bored by ICT. Teachers are bored by ICT. Employers and universities are fed up with the lack of skills, knowledge and understanding that students have when they get there. Studies have shown that drilling spelling tests doesn’t actually help people with spelling when they’re writing sentences. Likewise, getting students to create a good PowerPoint when someone stands over them doesn’t seem to help them when it comes to doing the same under a different context. For that they need some understanding of design principles. Getting students to use a spreadsheet to work out whether they can afford an extra £1 on the cost of a prom ticket might tick a box in ICT lessons, but understanding how the spreadsheet is working and learning about how you can use VBA (or similar) to extend the core functionality would actually be pretty handy.

Does teaching Shakespeare engage all students? What about trigonometry? Or coastal erosion? Or cadences? Or the periodic table? There were plenty of Y6 and Y7 students at last night’s open evening asking about programming opportunities and I’ve yet to meet more than a handful of students who didn’t enjoy making games in Scratch and Alice. So, yes, I think we can justify an opinion that all students should be exposed to these skills and that most students would benefit.

Some responses to other bits that weren’t in that list of questions:

“We’re very very good at making games – but we need the skills. We need computer scientists, animators, artists and there aren’t enough of them,” 

Now, am I being a little pedantic here or are there three different strands to ICT cited in that quote?

YES! none of them refer to the use of MS Office though…

“a mix of personnel with STEM skills and creative talent ranging from animation to design and fine arts.”

Yet again, am I seeing something more than Computing mentioned here? And even where there is no mention of arts or animation skills, design or other non-specific Computing skills, there is reference to some ICT skills that I doubt most Computing courses cover.

And again, no-one is saying (ar at least I’m not) that Computing should be taught over and above all. Simply that there isn virtually no Computing, there has been absolutely no Computing and there needs to be more of it to complement some of the design, artistic and animation skills that are already being taught – although they’re still fairly new and they’re not necessarily being taught well or ubiquitously yet.

And finally in direct response, Nick linked to Tristram Shephard’s blog post where I saw that, speaking of the OCR GCSE Computing:

Hmm – there’s nothing that could be called forward-looking or creative here – in fact it reads much like GCSE specs from the 1990s with a bit of programming thrown in for good measure.

Now while ICT should and does change at a rate of knots, Computing (for the most part) shouldn’t! Logic gates, von Neumann architecture and the basic programming principles of assignment, selection and iteration haven’t changed. Arguably OOP is a better paradigm than procedural code and network topologies have changed, but the difference between teaching people how to use applications and how basic, fundamental principles work is that the former is constantly changing and the latter not so much. I bet that Maths teacher in the next room is still teaching that Pythagoras stuff. And the scientist on the other side still keeps banging on about stuff that Newton thought up ages ago!

In summary:

On an entirely selfish note, I am really pleased that the Computing movement is gathering momentum, and once the Raspberry Pi becomes available (see yesterday’s post) I have every intention of getting my hands of dozens of them. There has been a real lack of Computing in schools for a long time, and this needs to be addressed. Partly because I altruistically think that all students really should have access to this stuff and partly because I selfishly love teaching this stuff. I also selfishly love teaching Creative iMedia, so please don’t think that I want Computing to oust everything else. It takes a lot of momentum to shift the status quo, however, so I’m pushing like mad and make no apologies for doing so.

Raspberry Pi

Today I was lucky enough to see a first hand demonstration of the new Raspberry Pi.

I first heard about the project a year ago and initially had mixed feelings about the project that was designed to ‘recreate the BBC Micro for the 21st century’. You see I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to recreate the BBC Micro, and I wasn’t sure that a computer system with virtually no operating system and that you had to program to get it to do anything would be viable given the plethora of computing devices currently available to young people.

What we have 12 months later, though, is a circuit board that is not much bigger than a credit card that can run from either mains power or 4x AA batteries. It has two USB sockets, HDMI and composite (for SCART) video out, a 3.5mm jack and an optional 10/100 ethernet port. Onboard storage is via SD card that holds the entire operating system, so if your code manages to wreck the OS you can simply wipe and restore the SD card. It’s virtually unbrickable.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation who are behind the product (and are an entirely not-for-profit venture) will offer a downloadable image that will feature a flavour of Linux (Debian was in use for the demo, but is not the only option). It will come preinstalled with Python, Scratch, BYOB, OpenOffice and… potentially anything we want. I anticipate a number of custom images being created for specific purposes.

As well as handling programming tasks, the bespoke GPU allows you to decode and view full HD (1080p) video, while only drawing 1W of power. This means that your 4x AAs will last you for 30 hours and on a big telly I can promise you that it looks amazing.

The real beauty here, though, is the price. The base model will be $25, or $35 with onboard ethernet. This equates to £25/35 with VAT and other overheads. If schools are not having to pay the VAT then we’re talking around £20 per unit. Read that again slowly – a fully functioning PC, with USB keyboard/mouse input, RAM, an OS, programming environments and an office package. For £20.

This means that I can give one to every new Computing student at less than the cost of a textbook. It also means that parents and grandparents can pick these things up as educational Christmas presents. Heck, I spend more than that per month for my mobile phone, and I can’t write a Scratch game on that or plug it into a HD TV.

While almost all of my students have home PCs, their parents are sometimes reticent to let them install software – much less start writing their own code that might make system calls or do things to the operating system. Now my students will be able to take their Pi home, hack away with it to their heart’s content, and if they manage to break it – just re-zap the SD card. Worst case scenario, we have to pay £20 for a new one.

And if you ever had to worry about your network manager refusing to let students program on your network – they no longer need access to your network!

One issue that does worry me a little is the lack of VGA output, and this is something that may well appear in the second generation of the device.

The initial release will be at the end of November and will be for the bare device. This will allow the developers, interested educators and hacktivists to start playing with the device before a more consumer-friendly version in a case is released around March time.

I’m particularly looking forward to helping create a CAS book to go with the Pi – a user manual incorporating 15 Scratch games, 15 Python programmes and 15 Ruby projects you can code straight out of the book. A bit like the electronics kits where you wire up a burglar alarm, morse code transmitter or FM radio.

So, we have interesting times ahead, and I for one am looking forward to taking my first delivery in December with much excitement.

Computing At School – Update

Alan Turing

Originally uploaded by photoverulam

Having just got home from a 2-day working group meeting of the Computing At School I am incredibly pleased with how the day went. We had a cameo from Professor Chris Bishop as well as representation from Microsoft, Google, BCS, Vital, schools, universities, ITT providers and more.

As well as the work we got done, there was a real sense of enthusiasm and opportunity to do some pretty wonderful things – particularly from KS1 to KS3, areas that are easy to overlook.

One enormous realisation for me is just how much stock Microsoft, Google and BCS are putting into Computing as a discipline and Computing At School as a movement. As well as a significant amount of funding, these organisations are prepared to give both their names and some really key members of staff in aid of CAS and this level of commitment can only be massively positive.

The news there is a little vague, but at the summer CAS Conference (June 24th), much of it should become clear.

Computing At School North East Hub

Hub and Spokes

Originally uploaded by Thomas Hawk

Wednesday evening was the inaugural meeting, run by me, designed to get local teachers together to talk about and share ideas about including Computing in the curriculum from KS3 to KS5.

It was a bit of a “Field Of Dreams” moment – if you build it, they will come…

And thankfully, they did. We had 12 people, including two university academics, and lots and lots of good stuff came out of it. I go the impression that the teachers in the room came away feeling more confident that the teaching of Computing is a good thing and I know I came away with loads fo really good feedback about where CAS can move forwards and provide more support for teachers and for network managers.

The resources from the evening are posted on a small Google Site I created and the plan is to run another meeting next term.

So if you’re not a member of CAS and you are interested in Computing – get signed up. If you’re interested in Computing and live anywhere in the North East – get on my mailing list. And if you have a passion or an agenda of your own and you want to share it with others – do so!

CAS Teesside Hub

Hello, world

Originally uploaded by Bekathwia

I’ve mentioned Computing At School before on this blog – it’s a grassroots organisation focused on getting more Computing into schools, from KS1 to KS5.

Part of what they (we) do is to organise local hubs, where people can get together maybe once a term to share ideas, discuss what’s going on in the classroom, perhaps get a speaker or two in, run some workshops – you get the idea.

Well, on December the 1st, from 6pm-8pm the Teesside Hub will be meeting for the first time. The details can be found at teessidehub.eventbrite.com/ and I’ve already got a number of attendees confirmed (1 is a number, right?).

So if you’re within spitting distance of Teesside and interested in Computing, come along. It’s free, there’s tea and coffee… did I mention it’s free?

Computing At School

Creepy Computing

Originally uploaded by splorp

Those who haven’t come across the Computing At School group (CAS) might be surprised to know that there is a collection of people from the chalkface, industry, HE and elsewhere, all of whom are pushing for Computing to gain a higher status in schools. CAS has recently formed a strategic partnership with BCS (the British Computing Society) and is receiving significant support from Microsoft Research.

The support they can offer could be in the KS1-3 provision, qualifications at KS4 and 5, CPD for staff or even just providing sound bites for staff to use with SMT. There are lots of plans afoot – some of which have already come to fruition – including a Body of Knowledge (BOK), CPD sessions, an annual conference, even a subject association.

As well as the annual conference there are a number of regional hubs, the newest of which is going to be in Teesside with the first meeting before Christmas.

My agenda for being involved with CAS is to get and share ideas for moving the ICT curriculum at KS3 more towards an ICT & Computing curriculum as well as supporting the teaching of GCSE and AS Computing further up the school. Whatever YOUR agenda, if you’re interested in Computing at any level then I can’t encourage you enough to check it out.