Below is a link to a GCSE Computing revision pack that i have recently updated (and simplified) which focuses on past paper exam questions.
The booklet is split into theory topics and allows students to:
- identify gaps in knowledge before attempting questions.
- define keywords and build subject specific vocabulary.
- mind map key areas of each topic.
- attempt past paper questions by topic.
You can read more about my thoughts on revision here.
**Also check out this great resource from @teknoteacher – GCSE Computing revision.
Here’s a video in which he explains the use of the resource – click here.
He is also running a series of free computing webinars for teachers – click here to find out more.
2014 has been an extremely busy year both professionally and personally. I have taken on more responsibility and challenge at school as part of an extended leadership team, focusing on teaching and learning. Me and my wife are expecting our first child in April 2015, which means things are changing (in a good way!). It has been almost two years since I set up this blog and it has enabled me to reflect much more deeply on my own learning in teaching and leadership.
Here’s a few things (in no particular order) I have learnt / achieved in 2014.
1. Never underestimate the power of positive relationships in school. I learnt very quickly in my new leadership position the power of listening to concerns and more importantly acting upon them. The minute you don’t, trust is lost and it’s incredibly difficult to ever get it back. Some advice from Stephen Covey that I have been able to practice (a lot!) is “Seek first to understand before being understood.”
2. Prioritise the main thing. What one thing could you do more of that will have the biggest effect in school? This was a question posed by the Principal at one of our SLT meetings. Quite often the urgent takes the place of the important. there’s always an email that needs replying to or some marking to be done, but in my leadership whats the one thing that would make a bigger difference across the school? Getting into classrooms. The last 2 weeks of term I managed to walk classrooms every other day for about 45 minutes. This enabled me to talk to students about their learning, talk to staff, champion great practice and give live feedback with no grades. In discussion with other members of SLT I believe we have learnt more about the typicality of teaching then planned learning walks or observations.
3. TeachMeet #NeverStopLearning. In hindsight it was probably a bit ambitious trying to get teachers to attend an evening event the day before term 1 came to end, but that did not deter just over 100 teachers making the effort. The event was a great success with David Didau providing a very thought provoking keynote. There were some excellent workshops from Nina Jackson, Lucy Crehan, Crista Hazell, Zofia Higlet, Amber Bracey, Alex Heath, Chris Baker and Rory Gallagher. The evening was wrapped up in style with a plenary from Mark Anderson. These evenings are always inspirational to the people that attend and give people an opportunity to look outward from their school to seek new ideas.
4. Time. Since starting my new leadership position i have found the most useful resource I can offer colleagues is time. Whether it’s a colleague unloading after a bad day or seeking support in a lesson or just a chat. No matter how busy I am I will always offer time and enthusiasm for my colleagues.
5. Reading. I’ve read a number of teaching and leadership books this year (see my reading list). Continually building my knowledge and exploring new ideas is something I hope to continue to do for the rest of my life. It’s something I genuinely enjoy and thrive on. I want to be continuously challenged – it’s something that help keeps me to keep pushing the limits of my own capability.
6. Colleagues. I am fortunate enough to work with some remarkable colleagues that inspire and challenge me on a daily basis. Seeing colleagues thrive in school and enabling them to pursue ideas and try things out has been one of the most pleasing aspects of my work in 2014. I had the absolute pleasure of working with a fairly large cohort of NQTs these past two terms and it has been one of the highlights of my career so far watching them grow and develop, meeting challenges head on and coming up with creative solutions. A real inspiration.
7. Students. They are truly wonderful (each in their own way). Whenever I am involved in strategic decisions I always try to come back to the students and how it will help improve their outcomes. Keeping the main thing the main thing. Everything thing I do in school is focused around the students. One of my main duties in my leadership role is organising CPD for teachers, a role I don’t take lightly and one that I will work tirelessly to ensure teachers value CPD and feel suitably challenged by it. Great CPD enables teachers to thrive which helps children to succeed.
8. Running. I managed to complete my first 100km race in 2014 in addition to several other ultra marathons and marathons. This is not something that happened over night and is the accumulation of a few years of training, patiently building up the distance. Running is now part of my life. It clears my mind and puts things into perspective.
9. NPQML. I successfully completed the NPQML course in 2014 which opened up a number of doors. My project aimed to raise the profile of effective, challenging CPD across the school to help drive up student outcomes. As a result of my project I was able to work with a team of great teachers to organise to run a number of CPD sessions, INSET workshops and deliver a teachmeet in March (the second quickly followed in October). As a result of my project I was given the opportunity to deliver my first keynote speech at a National Education Trust event at a school in Bracknall sharing a bill with Roy Blatchford and Lucy Crehen. I was able to (briefly) discuss my project with Sir Michael Wilshaw after being observed by him during a visit to my school. I was asked back to speak to a new cohort of teachers starting the NPQML course which i really enjoyed – it’s always inspiring speaking to teachers who have a genuine desire to have a positive influence whole school.
Next steps (in no particular order) – what does 2015 have in store?
1. Increase leadership capacity. The best way to learn is to do. In 2015 I hope to take on further line management responsibilities as this will give me an opportunity to work with more teachers and help them thrive whilst learning from them at the same time. I see accountability as helping colleagues to achieve their goals. This may lead to some difficult conversations but if it’ll help more individuals thrive then its a conversation worth having.
2. Secure an Assistant Principal post. About 18 months ago I decided that I wanted to become a headteacher and my next step is to secure an Assistant Principal post – a challenge I am ready for. I have learnt so much in the last 4 months working alongside a remarkable leadership team. I’ve finally had the opportunity to put into practice a lot of what I have read. I’m learning everyday from every meeting, conversation, call out duty, break/lunch duty, lesson observation, NQT session and I want to pursue leadership to the highest level so that I can help as many students and staff as possible. I feel a real allegiance to public service and I want to dedicate my career to it.
3. Reading. Continue to read as much as possible in order to develop my ideas around effective teaching & learning whilst also developing my ideas around leadership. The more I read the more I question. The more I question the closer I get to understanding. Some books currently in a pile waiting to be read include: ‘Formative assessment’ by Dylan Wiliam, ‘Visible learning for teachers’ by John Hattie, ‘Built to last’ by Jim Collins and ‘Leading change’ by John P Kotter.
4. Keep my moral purpose at the centre of decision making. This is really important to me and something that I try to keep at the forefront of my mind. As I progress in my career I am exposed to more of the day to day activities that make a school run which could start to cloud ones vision. Yes these processes are important but never forget why you do what you do. Schools are a people place that thrive on great relationships – students, staff, parents/carers and the wider community.
5. Make my business getting into classrooms. As part of my leadership role I want to help develop an ‘open door culture’ which doesn’t currently exist in my school. In order to do this I need to re-prioritise my work. It’s far to easy to get sucked into your office and a never-ending flow of emails. As part of a leadership team that is truly seeking to help teachers thrive and students achieve the best thing we can do is be more of a present around the school and get into classrooms, build more trust with teachers so that it’s completely normal for SLT to be in and out of classrooms supporting and learning.
6. Running. With a baby on the way and a demanding job I have to be realistic. I want to keep running on a weekly basis and i’m hoping to compete in a 50km in February, but I expect ultra running will take a back seat in 2015 until iI can afford the time to train properly for it. 2016 will hopefully see a return to the 100km distance and my first attempt at a 100 mile race.
7. Family matters. I look forward to wrestle with the work/life balance monster in 2015 and I hope to tip the balance in my favour by working smarter. I am lucky to have an amazing wife and a remarkable family and I need to ensure I make the most of both. This is a non-negotiable.
8. #NeverStopLearning. This is the phrase I have adopted to promote continual professional development although I apply it to all aspects of my life. I don’t want to ever settle for OK. I am devoted to meaningful work that produces remarkable outcomes. To achieve this I need to continue to listen, learn and grow.
Finally, a big thank you to all the people I have interacted with via Twitter (and in real life!). The discussions that I have been involved in and observed have broadened my thinking and made me question things more. The number of thought provoking blogs currently circulating is phenomenal and I wish I had more time in the day to read them all! It was these posts that initially inspired me to start a blog. 2 years on, 36 blog posts later and over 28,000 views has not only empowered me to reflect to a deeper level but it has also enabled me to encourage more teachers to get involved, get connected and deepen their understanding.
Here’s to a great year in 2015 | Keep making a difference.
GCSE Computing revision materials.
This is a work in progress. This post will be updated regularly over the next few weeks to cover the OCR GCSE Computing syllabus. The resources can be easily adapted if needed. Feedback welcome!
1. Computer Systems
Self-reflection[PDF] [.DOC] | Chunked revision booklet [PDF] [.PPT] | Multiple choice questions [PDF]
4. Data representation
Talent isn’t born. It’s made.
In Daniel Coyle’s book ‘The Talent Code’ he travels the world to seek out groups of very successful people and in an attempt to discover why they are so successful. Through his observations of multiple different groups from musicians to football players he noticed one recurring trend – deep practice. In fact he has created an equation that summarises the elements needed to make progress and succeed at something. It looks like this…
Ignition or primal cues relates to the motivation a person has to be successful in the first place. As a teacher I believe it’s part of my job to talk to students about what motivates them to succeed. Some students are able to easily articulate this. whereas some will need some help finding the reason why they need to be successful. Either way I need to support the students I teach in understanding their ignition to succeed.
Continual deep practice is about increasing the amount of myelin in the brain*. Have a look at this great interactive guide to Myelin on Daniel Coyle’s website. Myelin is…
Myelin is a lipid and protein sheath-like material that forms an insulating cover that surrounds and protects nerve fibres.
The general idea is that the more myelin you have insulating your nerve fibres, the faster impulses (or information) can travel between nerve cells. Some scientists believe that myelin can be increased with regular deliberate practice. It’s similar to bandwidth in the speed of an internet connection. The more bandwidth you have the faster the transfer of data. The more practice you put in, the more the myelin wraps around the nerve fibre increasing the bandwidth (the diagram below shows this in a bit more detail). It’s worth noting that this works both ways and needs to be maintained with regular practice.
Daniel Coyle uses the example of Brazilian soccer players to explain deep practice in action. From an early age they play a game called Futsal and they continue to play it into their teenage years. Futsal is played on smaller court with a smaller ball which means that players will touch the ball more often than playing 11 a side on a full size pitch. This is deep practice. It’s quality controlled by a master coach (someone with expert knowledge of the game / subject) who intervenes with striking impact to ensure learning is meaningful. The video below examines more examples of where deep practice has produced successful outcomes.
How does this apply to revision?
If we want students to be successful in exams then they need to practice – sounds simple enough, but is not entirely true. If we want students to be successful they have to fine tune their practice so that it is deep, deliberate and regular in order to build up a thicker insulation of myelin. What follows are few strategies that I am currently trialling to achieve this.
1) Regular self assessment with input from the teacher.
It’s important to let students assess their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to a topic to revise. Teachers are the master coaches described in ‘The Talent Code.’ We have to know our students well and track their learning and use this information to intervene with self assessments so that students know what they are actually good at and areas that they need to improve. The key to good revision (I believe) is to focus more time on the weaker areas (being deliberate) rather than spending lots of time revisiting knowledge/skills that a student is already competent in. Below is an example of a self-assessment I have used with students. The black ‘X’ represents the student response. The green Y’s represent my response based upon prior testing and my knowledge of the students competencies through questioning and classwork. If I have agreed with the students response I have not added an additional symbol.
The grid provides a clarity. Students get validation for what they think they already know or an opportunity to discuss area for improvements. It also helps students to focus in on the weaker areas and thus provides a starting point for revision.
2) Chunking information.
Once students have self assessed their strengths and weaknesses and they have been agreed, they can then begin revising required knowledge. In order to not overload the students working memory I have created a resource that chunks the information down in smaller sub-topics (see the list on the self reflection diagram above). Each sub topic has a series of questions that students answer in an open book environment. Example answers to these sections are released to students once they have attempted to answer them. They also have access to past paper exam questions and answers. Students are free to work through this revision pack using the self assessment as a rudder to guide them towards topics that will require more attention.
3) Regular rigorous multiple choice tests.
The ‘chunked’ revision materials are sync with a multiple choice test. I have created the tests using Joe Kirby’s brilliant posts on designing rigorous multiple choice tests (Post 1 | Post 2). I’ve attempted to increase rigor by adding more incorrect answers that are based on common student misconceptions.
The tests can be taken multiple times and using a platform like Edmodo means the tests are also tracked and scored without the teacher lifting a finger. Edmodo also allows students to go back through the test and see where they dropped marks.
A key element here is frequency and over a 6 week revision period it’s important to space the timing of these multiple choice tests to aid retention. As Joe points out in his most recent post on curriculum design,
Repeated retrieval improves long term retention: frequent quizzing prevents forgetting.
4) Regular ‘Walking – Talking’ mock exams.
One new strategy that has been trialled at my school this year has been ‘walking-talking’ mocks in all subjects. For those not familiar here’s how they work. The students revise for a mock as normal. When the mock exam takes place the teacher walks them through the first question and then gives students an appropriate amount of time (depending on the number of marks available usually) to complete the question and then get some instant feedback on how well they did. It’s hard to judge the real impact of doing this exercise but it certainly helps students feel more comfortable in exam conditions. I know I have been guilty in the past of running a mock exam in ‘exam conditions’, students tend to score poorly on it, get feedback but didn’t get an opportunity to re-draft answers (my fault) and the whole scenario was demotivating and not very productive. A walking-talking mock provide students to feel success in an exam environment. This new found motivation can then be used to drive revision sessions. As the year goes the strategy is to get students to sit 3-4 mock exams and by the end of the process provide them with less and less support as their confidence grows.
This post is by no means a ‘you should run revision sessions like this’ post. It’s a reflection on some of the ideas that have inspired my thoughts around how to do revision better. It is very much a work in progress and feedback is very much welcome!
I often tell my students to not be upset with the results they didn’t get from the work they didn’t do. I feel the same and care deeply about their results. When my students walk into the their exam I want to make sure I’ve done everything within my power to ensure they succeed.
Myelin – by Daniel Coyle
How to grow a super athlete – by Dainel Coyle
The myelin in all of us – by David Shenk
Why use multiple choice tests – by Joe Kirby
How to design multiple-choice questions – by Joe Kirby
Research on multiple-choice questions – by Daisy Christodoulou
Walking, talking mocks: are mock exams the way forward? – by Martin Jones
Hardwiring learning and effort = success – by Domini Choudhury
*I am not a scientist. For more information on myelin please see this interactive guide or even better still, read Daniel Coyle’s book ‘The Talent Code.
Below is a piece written for the Guardian Teacher Network , before being edited down to size. I’d really like to hear from other teachers who have recently started teaching computing or are planning to in the near future and share experiences (please leave a comment below).
A reflection on teaching computing for the first time.
It was around this time last year I began to fret a little. The novelty of the summer holidays had started to wear off and ‘the fear’ began to settle in. After a couple of years of teaching ICT, I was getting a little bored of churning out coursework and was looking for a new challenge that would really make my students think. Don’t get me wrong, ICT has its place but I felt like students were missing out by not getting a mix of computer science(CS) and ICT. So I made a bold decision and came up with a plan to start delivering Computing from September (2012). My decision to do this was made somewhat easier a few months before, after listening to Dr Tom Crick (@drtomcrick) speak passionately about the merits of a curriculum that combined CS, IT and Digital Literacy.
Having previously studied Internet Technology at university, taught ICT for almost 4 years and being a bit of a geek, I felt quite secure in my subject knowledge for Computing (networks, the Internet, data representation, hardware, software, e.t.c.) but was not feeling confident with my my programming skills. The first thing thing I did was sign up to code academy (http://www.codecademy.com) and began working through the Python exercises. I decided to choose Python as my language of choice because it is quite close to written English and there were plenty of support materials online.
After a few weeks of spending 30-45 minutes a day working through the Python tutorials (little and often) I decided to attempt one of the GCSE programming projects and immediately became stuck! Online tutorial sites are great for learning the syntax of a programming language but don’t necessarily teach you to solve problems. This is where computational thinking comes in. After a call for help on Twitter I quickly found myself being tutored through the problem solving side of things via Skype and email by two amazing computer scientists (@codeboom and @colinthemathmo). Problem solving is the essence of computer science, using a computer as a tool to solve real world problems. The only to get good at problem solving is practice.
In terms of planning for the new school year (2012/2013) I had decided to shrink the change to allow myself time to develop my programming skills further. I incorporated some new units at KS3 looking at hardware and how computers operate and process instructions, computational thinking and an introduction to programming in Python. I also sought to explicitly raise awareness in lessons and across the school of the differences between computer science and ICT, with the latter having a little bit of a negative stigma attached to it. At KS4 I offered OCR GCSE Computing and managed to get 14 students signed up. I roughly planned out the year against the spec and used lots of the many outstanding resources already available on the Computing at Schools website.
Returning to school in September with the annual ‘fear’ instilled after 6 weeks off I was actually quite excited to get started. Teaching the problem solving / programming side of things provided a really interesting contrast to the ICT I had taught previously. Lower ability students were feeling success quicker and gaining in confidence by solving relatively simple problems whereas the higher ability students had come across something that they weren’t getting right first time. The problem solving lessons provided a great platform for differentiation by task and it was amazing to see the students take a step back and really think about the problem and plan out a solution. When I got the level of challenge just right, sessions had ,a really nice flow to them and a 100 minutes flew by. There were plenty of times when students got stuck and I didn’t know the answer so I advised them to do what I did when I didn’t know how to do something – use the Internet. Students started becoming quite proficient at searching blogs and forums to seek out the bit of code that would help them.
In hindsight I think I focused a little to much on students learning the syntax of particular language rather than embedding wider programming concepts, something I’m going to change in my approach for the upcoming school year. I’m also going to give students more open ended problems to solve rather than step by step guides. I found that students really responded well to challenge of solving problems rather than just following step by step guides. Obviously they need a starting point, and tutorial sites / syntax guides will give students that. What I will do differently from September is start getting students thinking about problem solving sooner and try and get them to see programming as a tool for solving problems rather than an exercise that they must get right at all costs.
Computing club was a real success this year and has gone from strength to strength. I initially set it up as an informal laboratory for me to try out some ideas for lessons on a group of extremely keen students wanting to find out more about Computing and specifically programming. If you haven’t already set one up – do so as soon as you get back to school! It was through this club that culture quick grew of students sharing things that they had been working on at home, outside of lessons. One student had been making apps online and had already tried out a number of sites and was able to give me a comprehensive review of each which helped me choose one to use in class. Andover student had been making text based adventure games in notepad++ and running them in a command prompt – an excellent idea for a KS3 project! In the final term I managed to secure some funding to buy a class set of Raspberry Pi’s, and who better to test them out but Computing club! It’s a great way to get confidence with new technologies before introducing them into a formal lesson.
This is potentially the trickiest obstacle to change. Thankfully I work in a great department with teachers willing to learn new things (our mission statement is ‘never stop learning’). I provided a number of after school sessions and helped staff with planning lessons whilst always returning to our moral purpose of WHY we were implenting change – trying to provide a more enriching and challenging experience for the students we teach. We reviewed things every few weeks in department meetings to find out what worked well and what needed tweaking for next year. It has been hard work but extremely rewarding to see both staff and students develop.
I’m really glad I decided to ‘dive in at the deep end’ with Computing. I believe the students have benefitted from much more challenging and engaging lessons which the subject matter of computing tends to lends itself to. With computer science all around us it’s easy to make links to ‘real world’ scenarios that students can relate to. An example of this was a starter I created for a lesson on the Internet where students had to use Google street view to go inside of a data center and locate a stormtrooper (yes a stormtrooper!) that Google had placed in one of their server rooms.
I will continue to develop my knowledge base and schemes of work to ensure students at KS3 get a balanced mix of computer science, IT and digital literacy to enable them to manipulate the digital world in which they live. Above all I want students to be challenged in lessons and enjoy them. I think Computing provides us with a great platform to achieve this. As Dr Sue Black (a senior research associate in computer science at the University College London) said in a recent tweet to students considering Computing as a GCSE, “Knowledge of computer science gives you access to and control over your future. Everything we do is depending more and more on technology and understanding computer science gives you the key to unlock its potential.”
Here’s a link to my first two articles for the Guardian Teacher Network about teaching Computing for the first time.
Influenced by a strong moral purpose to give students exciting, challenging lessons and a balance of computer science, IT & digital literacy, this time last year I started planning to deliver Computing. The first thing my lizard brain (see Seth Godin’s post) shouted out was “Ahhhhh coding, coding, codinggggg!!!” At this point it would have been quite easy to not make the change, but returning to my moral purpose of improving the experience for the students I teach, I decided to carry on. Over the last year I have learnt a lot (blog post reflecting on my first year teaching Computing is coming soon!) about Computing and engagement / challenge for students is up in lessons.
If you are reading this post there is a good chance you are either considering introducing, in the midst of planning or have already been teaching Computing. Below are some things I’ve learnt (loosely resemble ‘top tips’ – sounds a bit cheesy and I’m by no means an expert!) over the last year that I thought I’d share.
1. Practice makes better. Don’t put off learning to program, start now, right now after reading this. Go to code academy (http://www.codecademy.com) or Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/cs) or one of the other many online tutorial sites.
2. Do ‘little and often’ to ensure you remember what you learnt previously.
3. Accept failure as part of the journey to success. It’s unlikely you’ll get everything right first time, but be courageous and give it a go. Learn from your mistakes, that’s what we keep telling the students isn’t it?!
4. Start a Computing Club and use it as a laboratory to road test new technologies, activities , e.t.c. before trying them in class.
5. Join Computing at School (http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/door). CAS’s online community hosts 100’s of free resources for teaching Computing. They also have a number of ‘Master Teachers’ who are hand to answer questions and offer support, forum’s, CPD events and regular Hub meetings around the country.
6. Use Twitter to extend your PLN. I received help from a number of people on twitter who checked my program’s and tutored me through some of the GCSE level programming problems.
7. Make use of student guru’s. If you have students in your class that are already quite competent programmers, use them. Ask them to explain who they solved a problem and peer teach others.
8. Be honest. If you don’t know they answer to a question, be honest and say so. Turn it into an activity to find the answer. Take part in the learning journey with your students.
9. Shrink the change. Try focusing on one thing at a time. Introduce a couple of Computing modules at KS3 first and get use to teaching programming to solve problems. Then think about introducing a GCSE option the following September.
10. Accept that students have more time to spend becoming an expert then you do!
11. Continue being remarkable.
You can find a list of resources I have built up over the last year HERE. I will be adding to this list regularly and if you would like to share an online resource (video, website, blog, e.t.c.) please leave a comment on the Google Doc and I’ll add it in.
If you have found this post useful please pass it on, re-tweet, leave a comment below…
There is simply not enough time in the universe to try out every new resource and idea that appears in your Twitter stream or you encounter at a Teach Meet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try out a few!
Below are a few ideas that I have committed myself to trying next term in my ICT / Computing lessons (although they are not subject specific).
1. Switching to a paperless marking system using Google Drive.
At the Clevedon Teach Meet earlier in the year Mat Pullen (a PE teacher from Bristol – @Mat6543) gave a micro presentation on how his department were using iPads and Google Drive to collect coursework from students and give them feedback online. Being an IT teacher I sat there feeling a little ashamed of myself that I was still using a paper based system (“because that is how it’s always been done…”).
New Years resolution 1: I intend to switch to a paperless marking system so that I can mark and give feedback on work anywhere whilst reducing printing costs. I intend to trial this with one class to start with and hopefully by the summer have a system in place for most of my classes. By September 2013 (providing all goes well) I intend to use a paperless system as standard practice.
2. Try out Learning Place Mats as a way of showing progress in lessons.
In the last month or so I came across Dan Aldred’s (@dan_aldred) site which contains lots of great resources for ICT/Computing lessons and lots of general ideas and resources relating to teaching and learning. One idea that Dan recently launched was the ‘Learning Place Mat.’ The general idea is that students are given a place mat which they fill out at various points during a lesson to track progress towards a given destination. There is a bit of work required before the lesson by the teacher top set the place mat up with learning objectives and key questions. I think (could be wrong!) that the idea for the place mat stemmed from the ‘5 minute lesson plan.’
New Years resolution 2: I intend to try the Learning Place Mat with KS3 classes as a means for showing progress in lessons. I will report back on how this turned out by the end of term three here on my blog. If this is successful then I intend to share this idea with all the staff at my school during a CPD session.
3. Getting the experts in!
Another great presentation from the Clevedon Teach Meet came from Gavin Smart (a Science Teacher from Weston-super-Mare – @gavinsmart). Gavin had a bit of a dilemma when thinking about how he could make a lesson on acid rain more interesting. His idea was to Skype his Grandad who was an expert on the subject of acid rain – what a brilliant idea! Towards the end of last term I was doing a lesson on the infrastructure of the Internet with a year 9 class and we were talking about networks and Fibre Optic cable. My brother in law is a network engineer and my dad has a PHd in Physics so this seems like the perfect opportunity to get the experts in!
New Years resolution 3: Over the Xmas break I intend to create a video of my dad and brother in law answering student questions about the Internet so that I can use in lessons in the future.
Have a great christmas, enjoy the break and take time to recharge the batteries. Let’s take a minute to remember why we’re teachers…
** UPDATED: 31/07/2013**
Two terms into teaching computer science for the first time and its been an incredible learning curve!
Towards the end of the summer term (2012) I attended a SWiT meeting at John Cabot Academy (arranged by @lessonhacker). The keynote speaker was Dr Tom Crick (@drtomcrick). I remember sitting and listening to Dr Crick talk passionately about computer science and its importance in offering a platform for young people to develop their problem solving skills. It was at that point I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me…
Not being trained in computer science (but having a vested interest in the subject) meant that I would have a lot of ‘geeking up’ to do before the start of the new academic year in September 2012. Over the summer I spent alot of time getting hands on programming experience using Code Academy (with extra help from @codeboom and @ColinTheMathmo) and reading up on alot of the theory that I would need to cover in GCSE Computing. At first the thought of teaching GCSE Computing was a little daunting as I had fallen under the foggy myth that computer science was all about ‘coding.’ It’s not.
How I introduced computer science to the current KS3 curriculum…
Being responsible for IT / Computing at KS3 I went straight to work embedding some computer science projects at KS3 for years 8 and 9. Over the last two terms year 8 and 9 have:
- Researched the pioneers of computing.
- Been introduced to the principles of computational thinking to solve problems.
- Data representation – Binary notation.
- Designed algorithms to solve problems using flowcharts.
- Programmed in Python using Code Academy and the Python IDLE.
- Investigated the origins and infrastructure of the Internet.
- Created a web pages by writing HTML / CSS in notepad.
This has taken alot of continuous planning and regular research outside of lessons but the results have been noticeable positive. Students appear alot more engaged with the curriculum and far more inquisitive about things. Don’t get me wrong, there are still students that aren’t fully engaged but it is a big improvement. One noticeable aspect of attainment in the lessons I have taught over the last two terms is that girls appear to be making more progress then boys, especially in programming. I have noticed that the majority of girls tend to have a keener eye for following instructions (when using code academy) where as boys tend to scan over the instructions. The girls have also proved themselves to be better at debugging when things don’t work as expected.
I must take this opportunity to champion Code Academy as a tool for learning about programming and getting hands on experience. I am still very much learning how to program myself and have used Code Academy extensively to further my own skills. In lessons Code Academy has been an invaluable tool (especially at KS3) in enabling students to work at their own pace and enable me to facilitate learning rather then dictate. I’m looking foward to using their new after school club pages to run a code club next term.
I was given two GCSE Computing classes to teach from September (one first year and one second year). Due to these circumstances I am going to be covering the whole course in a year, not ideal for a first timer but I like being in at the deep end – keeps me on my toes! Again the thought of this last summer was a little daunting but I have had incredible support from the Computing At School community and feel confident enough now to offer some of my own resources. I have worked very hard on learning the theory that underpins computing in order to give students the best possible experience in lessons, but I am under new illusions that this will improve over time. I firmly believe that the most important think was for me to get involved and not put off teaching computer science because it would be ‘hard.’ Yes it is difficult, but it is extremely interesting! The majority of students are really engaged with the subject matter. I was really inspired to hear about what @LessonHacker and his department were delivering and that made me more motivated to do the best I possibly could.
The fog is clearing and I can now see the importance of computer science being taught in conjunction with ICT in order to give students a broad and balanced education. As Dr Sue Black (@Dr_Black) recently said on Twitter: “Knowledge of computer science gives you access to and control over your future. Everything we do is depending more and more on technology and understanding computer science gives you the key that unlocks its potential.” Couldn’t agree more – there has never been a better time to study computer science!! One of the reasons I got into teaching in the first place was so that I can learn lots of new things too.
Resources… (*updated 27/05/2013)
I would have been really stuck without the kind, generous people of the Twittersphere and beyond. If you are currently thinking about introducing computer science at your school or are currently in the middle of teaching it for the first time here are some links I suggest you explore…
Code Academy – great starting point for learning about programming.
Mr Fraser.org – incredible website with lots of resources for teaching GCSE Computing. I have used this alot as a starting point for most of my theory based lessons.
CodeBoom – excellent computer science blog with lots of resources that can be used at KS4 and KS5 – particularly the programming projects! CodeBoom is also the driving force behind CASInclude – a movement aiming to get more young people interested in computer science.
Dan Aldred – Dan’s website has lots of great computing resources, most of which I have used in my lessons or are planning to use in the future.
Mr Clarkson – Lots of great Computing and ICT resources. I have used his Python workbook and flipped my GCSE Computing class by using his excellent videos.
Computing at School – If you haven’t already signed up – do it now (it’s free!)!! Lots of great resources, discussions and events. Here’s a resource I contributed… (you may need to be logged in to view it).
* Alan O’Donohoe’s GCSE Computing pod-casts – In this series of FREE pod-casts (there’s about 30 of them!) Alan talks through each of his year 10 GCSE Computing lessons. Well worth a listen with lots of tips for interesting lessons and also some honest reflection on ways to improve lessons. Perfect for the commute to work!! Click here for iTunes link.
* Mr O’Callaghan’s GCSE Computing site – Here’s a site I’ve created that is very much a ‘work in progress.’ There is however some useful revision links already up!
**OCR Computing videos – Great set of videos explaining some key computing concepts.
**Fundamentals of Coding blog – Excellent post explaining the fundamentals of coding.
**Programming project ideas – Taken from an undergraduate course but can be easily adapted for GCSE / A-Level projects.
**Free Python E-books – site full of free Python books to download.
**The Logic Lab – Excellent interactive site students can use to experiment with logic gates.
**Network simulator – allows students to create their own network by following a tutorial or completely independently.
Here’s a video I use to explain to students that computer science is about taking a big problem and breaking it down into smaller ones…
Here’s another video that helps to explain the importance of being able to manipulate a computer through coding:
- Work hard to continue to make my lessons interesting / relevant for the students I teach and share my experiences, resources, e.t.c. with other teachers and like minded folk.
- Further my programming skills. Im really getting into Python and now that I have a couple of weeks off I’m looking forward to working through some of the new Code Academy tracks and programming projects from the CAS website
- Promote computer science in school by continuing a computing club (please visit the students blog and leave them a comment!!) and setting up an additional club for girls in collaboration with Lady Geek with the aim of making computing more accessible to girls.
It’s been the hardest two terms of teaching in my short four years as a teacher, but the most rewarding!!
**One year on: Reflecting on my first year teaching Computing at KS3 and KS4 I can honestly say its been very challenging but extremely rewarding. The challenge that Computing brings to lessons, that I feel wasn’t always present in ICT lessons has led to more students being engaged. Computing offers lots of opportunities to solve problems which causes students to think, rather than just follow. If you are thinking of delivering Computing but are letting your lizard brain quietly try to talk you out of it – don’t! It’s a fantastic subject that students enjoy and offers lots of challenge. As soon as you realise that students have more time then you to become experts, you’ll start to enjoy it more too. You will not have an answer to every question a student asks straight away, but sharing the learning journey with the students is a great experience.
Some tips for teaching Computing:
1. Adopt a ‘Growth Mindset’ and model it for your students.
2. With programming, practice makes better. Resources such as code academy, code avengers, LearnStreet are excellent on-line tools to start learning a language and work well as tools for learning in class, allowing you to facilitate the learning whilst students work independently.
3. Join Computing at Schools (CAS) – lots of fantastic resources, forums and general support for extremely talented people.
4. Start an after school Computing Club to try out new technologies before trying them in a lesson.
5. Be honest with your students – if you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Use it as an opportunity to join in the learning journey with your students.
If you have any specific questions that aren’t covered in this post please leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com.
I am a secondary Computing / ICT teacher from Bristol. I have set up a blog to post my thoughts and share useful ideas that I come across in my journey through education.
This is my fourth year in teaching and last term has been the busiest to date with some highlights including teaching computer science for the first time and my first Teach-meet!
Separate blog posts to follow…
I firmly believe that teaching is the best job in the world. What do you make?
**Thanks to @VicGoddard for making me aware of Taylor Mali.