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Supporting teachers to spread the message

Key points

  • Through workshops and resources we are upskilling school teachers so they can teach the new English computing curriculum. We have provided ways for them to embed CHI+MED themes in their teaching of computing.
  • The CHI+MED research focus allows teaching to be embedded in inspiring, contextually rich stories. Combined with unplugged activities this makes learning fun and engaging
  • The workshops, delivered to around a thousand teachers so far with highly positive feedback, aims to give both deeper understanding, and practical ways to teach topics
  • We have sent around 20,000 copies of each of a magazine and two fun booklets, linked to CHI+MED, to schools that subscribe.
  • In 18 months around 20, 000 copies of resources have been downloaded from the Teaching London Computing website, including ones that are either directly CHI+MED based or incorporate its themes

Background
In 2014, the UK introduced a new curriculum for computing as a rigorous subject with computational thinking and programming at its core from infants school upwards. However, few ICT teachers have the necessary computer science background. Getting this right matters as the country's economic health depends on having more computer scientists to fill future hi-tech industry needs. It is also important that everyone understands issues around design of software and computer-based devices. With respect to CHI+MED, its aim is that there be long term transformational change in understanding of the problems of blame culture and how problems people have using gadgets are often design problems that could be fixed. If there is to be such transformational change then educating school students, as a matter of course, is a powerful way to drive this.

Contextually rich stories
CHI+MED teamed up with the QMUL-based 'Teaching London Computing' project to support teachers. It aims to give teachers the knowledge, skills and confidence to teach the new subject. Drawing on CHI+MED expertise and its research focus we were able to show how teaching could be embedded in inspiring stories. An important part of this is to give a rich context to the syllabus topics - why is something useful and interesting to learn. CHI+MED's focus on the human side of computing and computational thinking gave us a way to do this. We created both specific resources around CHI+MED topics, but also incorporated CHI+MED themes throughout many of the other resources.

Workshops for Teachers
We have given a series of workshops and talks to over 1000 teachers, centred around computational thinking. CHI+MED themes covered in these workshops include:

  • good design prevents mistakes
  • when things go wrong don't blame, change the system
  • formal methods make medical devices safer
  • computational thinking is about understanding people too

The workshops have been based on a series of successful talks and shows for students we have presented in schools, including using magic to inspire students.

Feedback has been extremely positive, e.g.:

"In every session I am in, people are gripped. You can see them thinking 'I am going to get that into my class'"

Teachers reported increases in confidence in teaching the subject as well as finding the sessions inspiring, interesting and useful. We have given such sessions for teachers across the UK and were also invited by the Danish Department of Education to give a talk at their 2014 national computing teachers conference.

Activity sheets
To support the workshops we have written activity sheets describing the activities from the workshops, also providing the resources needed for teachers to easily do them. These are distributed via the Teaching London Computing website (www.teachinglondoncomputing.org). Over 20,000 copies of pdf resources were downloaded from the website in its first 18 months.

Magazines and fun booklets
In addition we have worked with the cs4fn public engagement project (www.cs4fn.org), to develop magazines and booklets for teachers to use to inspire and educate their students. We produced a dedicated issue of the cs4n magazine on safer medical device design. Over 1800 schools across the UK subscribe to cs4fn. We have distributed around 20,000 copies of each to help teachers understand computer science, to use in classes and to give out. All are free to the schools.

Our resources are being used by other organisations involved in supporting teachers such as Digital Schoolhouse. In addition to through our own website, they are being distributed through the National Computing at School repository and the National STEM library. They are also being used by teachers internationally.

Partnership
These activities involved CHI+MED teaming up with high profile engagement projects including cs4fn and Teaching London Computing leveraging funding from EPSRC, the EU, Google, the Department of Education and the Greater London Assembly. We have also worked with King's College London, Hertford College, Oxford, and Digital Schoolhouse.