Computing At School Hub Meeting: Notes from a developers perspective

Yesterday I attended a Hub Meeting of Computing At Schools (South East Wales area which is led by the brilliant Lucy Bunce). I thought I’d write up my notes as they might help other developers thinking about getting involved.

The Computing At School Working Group (CAS) is a grass roots organisation that aims to promote the teaching of Computing at school

As we went around the well subscribed group and introduced ourselves I quickly realised I was the only non-teacher.

That was observation number 1:

We need to link more people in industry to help teachers. They are doing a terrific job of promoting, advocating and teaching computing but they are under-resourced. Industry stands to reap the rewards of a new generation of computing literate school leavers. STEMnet are doing a great job here but we can do more. If you’re a developer and are not connected to a school and would like to help, have a look at CodeClub, or Computing At Schools – STEMnet will help you with your CRB check too.

Industry experts can have a role here to help with the teachers CPD aspects too. I’m pretty sure that lots of industry devs would be open to helping teachers keep their knowledge up to date with industry (and vice versa). If you’re a dev who’s interested please drop me a line, I’d like to explore this, I’m on twitter @danfbridge

The second observation was that most if not all attendees were from Secondary Schools (but it could likely be the meeting’s not a reflective sample). I know that programming is being taught at some Primary schools as I’ve swapped some great emails with Nicola Schofield who’s been teaching programming via Scratch at St Teresas and Merton Park Primary schools. On this subject, I had a good chat with Jason Davies who is the PGCE Secondary DT & ICT Programme Director at Cardiff Metropolitan University. He was wonderfully enthusiastic about the subject and students on his course are being connected to Primary schools.

For me, primary school is where the real opportunity lies. It’s there that a new generation can be given the materials to construct the tools needed for modern problem solving, mathematics and computing as a horizontal foundation.

Computing is a subject that has multiple foundations ranging from maths and logic to philosophy, art and language. Therefore it is a good vehicle to help dismantle the unhelpful boundaries that lead children to dangerous conclusions such as “I’m no good at maths”. I learned more mathematics from computing than I did from maths, in fact I believe Papert argues that Primary School mathematics is really a branch of number theory that could easily be part of a computing syllabus.

My last observation was the gender bias. There were around 16 or so in the room but only 4 women – two of which had organised the evening. I don’t know if that’s a general trend across computing teachers but I can tell you it’s a definite trend commercially. Somehow, we have to present this material in way that reverses this unhealthy bias.

Computing is undergoing a radical reform in the way it is perceived in regard to other subjects in education; it’s fast becoming a core subject. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the subject and those who work within it, both academically and commercially.

My sense is that, as ever, the teachers won’t have enough time and resources so if you have some spare, get involved.