If you’re interested in teaching better computer science lessons, please read on…

This post is to support the new 2019 discussions on the Facebook Group Gr8 Computer Science Teaching Ideas.  

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

– Whether this is correctly attributed to Albert Einstein or not, it is a useful reminder that if as computer science teachers we fail to improve the ways we teach, then we should not be surprised if our students’ exam results stay the same.  I am a great believer in Reflective Practice.  Teaching is not a talent, but something that can be improved with practice, and we improve by reflecting on what we have done, assessing its impact, and doing it better next time.  This is best done in a collaborative space… we learn more from each other.

I’m an ex-ICT teacher.  I really enjoyed teaching ICT to all abilities and if you read the about section, I was very good at it.  I have now been four years teaching computer science, and in the summer, completed my first CS GCSE. I have felt, and continue to feel, considerable pressure.  This is mainly down to not knowing my subject content as well as I would like, but also the change to (mostly ) the top third of our students, often bright and motivated – and I really do not want to let them down.  Now I’ve gone through a GCSE, and nearly an A-level, I want to be more considered about how to improve. The only lessons I feel really confident with are Key Stage 3 lessons when I repeat lessons to different classes, and only then really know what I am doing.  Part of being reflective is taking time to decide what has gone well, but also to know that there is a mechanism in place to make the not-so-good-bits-better. I invite you to do the same and in doing so, feel better about what you are doing. There aren’t many other channels of praise unless you are lucky to work with other colleagues in a supportive department.

Like many colleagues, I have tried to keep afloat with KS3, GCSE and A-level.  To help me and other colleagues with this, I organised the North Yorkshire CS teacher support group and as we were all teaching Eduqas GCSE, started the original Eduqas GCSE FB group.  This is now the main Eduqas and WJEC GCSE/A-level FB group. Although I really value the immediacy and connectivity of FB, I am frustrated that we have discussions that are of interest to all on different exam board groups,  and that as a result, people often miss out. Ideally, I would like to concentrate on pedagogy and effective teaching and learning in just one group. Therefore I have set up Gr8 Computer Science Teaching Ideas (link here) which can integrate into everyone’s feeds.  Facebook is not great for archiving, but it will be more open to all and a more focused resource without procedural issues and things related to just one exam board.  If people think to use the group search things will be even better… 😉

At a recent York CAS get-together, our fifth Tech-Meet, (thanks to the hard work of Dan Tait)  I outlined what I am doing to improve on my first GCSE results. I propose to use these as the basis for some discussions in the next month or two, and see how we progress.   I know there is already a fan base for Sue Sentance’s PRIMM materials, so I suggest we kick off with discussing these.   All the resources (with Sue’s permission) are available in the Google folder linked off the group.  I will start with a post on PRIMM on Thursday, so please join in (link to Gr8 Computer Science Teaching Ideas) saying which school you are at and what you are teaching.  If you would like to then add ideas for further discussions to the first pinned post then that would help too.

I’e been meaning to do this for a while. With your help, it could really work… Thanks for reading.

Chris Sharples, Jan 2019

Here is the proposal:

Dear All,

*2019* I propose a new Gr8CoSTI discussion each fortnight starting 17th January:

Jan01: Introduction (CSh)

Jan02: PRIMM – Sue Sentance’s take on teaching Python.  She has provided 10 exemplar lessons on Python based on research and a number of us have used the lessons.  After using all 10 with my Year 10 group, I am adapting the lessons for Year 8 and Year 9, using Trinket.io to provide all the structure and assessment. (CSh)

Feb01: Packet Tracer. Duncan Maiden’s has written substantial resources to go with Cisco’s network simulation software “Packet Tracer”.  I have used these resources and will share how I have split them up for Year 8, GCSE and A-level use. (CSh)

Possible future topics:

– Pedagogy – what classroom approaches work well for Teaching and Learning Computer Science in the Classroom. To include Flipped Learning / Paired programming / Sabotage etc…

– Revision and Exam Technique

… whatever people ask

I (and other volunteers I hope) will write a ‘starter’ post about the current topic – including
– a DESCRIPTION and links
– TECHNICAL requirements
– thoughts on PEDAGOGY (Good teaching)
– any links to underpinning of RESEARCH
– IMPACT – did it make a difference? Is it worth repeating? If so, with what changes…

Anyone can join in during the subsequent fortnight with experience/views/questions…