Sunday, 21 July 2013

Should ICT Teachers be Concerned for their Employability?

#ComputingHour Topic 6 - Thursday 18th July 2013
"Should I be concerned for my employability? My school is teaching Computing, I'm teaching ICT."
Topic suggested by @ammorris85

Short Answer
@eslweb and @DavidBatty agreed that the short answer to the question was "Yes". @jonbilton asked if this meant that ICT had a shelf life, particularly as a GCSE? @eslweb stated that it meant exactly that, and guessed that ICT may not exist in 3-5 years time.

@digitalmaverick thought that change had been handled poorly when he tweeted that "the way the Government has left ICT departments to fend for themselves is a disgrace." He thought that teachers needed to grasp the current opportunity to take ownership of the subject, otherwise politicians and lobby groups would do so.

Participants regretted that Computing had been allowed to change to ICT only. However, they agreed that it was now time for the subject to change back to what it should have been all along. The consensus was that such change means that teachers have to adapt if they are to remain employable. It was thought that the smartest ICT teachers have been retraining for some time anyway to ensure their skills stay current. @SharplesICT supported this when he made the point that change has been ongoing and that what we teach now bares no relation to what we first taught in IT. He added that the current changes are just bigger than normal. The important thing was for individuals to be prepared to learn new things and not to be afraid to step out of their comfort zone.

Duty of Care
@jonbilton made the point that Heads of Departments had a duty of care to their NQTs to ensure that they gained experience of teaching Computing, whether that be at KS3 or KS4. @eaglestone supported this but added that teachers in service should be supported in training too.

The importance of CPD was mentioned by a number of participants. @Jon_Torbitt pointed out that change was manageable because there was plenty of help and free resources available. @eslweb added that he thought Computing was a subject where lots of people were willing to undertake free CPD, be it a MOOC, free workshop or a whole course.

@SharplesICT thought that the problem with change was not a lack of any willingness on the part of teachers to implement it, but a lack of time and/or the cost of the inevitable CPD that was required. He added that free resources were great but some staff needed more direct support if they were to progress.
@jonbilton made point that CPD would have to be formalised - informal support, say, at the end of school day once a week would take up far too much Head of Department time. He added that perhaps the job descriptions of the traditional secondary Cross Curricular ICT Coordinator could be revised?  @eaglestone agreed and suggested that they adopt the role of Deputy CPD Coordinator, with ICT as a teaching & learning focus.

Optimism for the Future
@mm_2312 illustrated the current  sense of optimism for the future when he said "Can't wait to do more next year- my class loved coding this year!" @SharplesICT agreed that he was "extremely optimistic" for the future of the subject and for the prospects of teachers.  He added that if you were a success as an ICT Department there is nothing stopping you being a success as a Computer Science Department!

@eaglestone suggested that one way forward was for ICT/Computing was to adopt a similar curriculum model to many D&T departments, in that they often run a carousel where students move between food, resistant etc. If Computer Science adopted a similar system, teachers could play to their strengths both in KS3 and in the teaching of GCSE IT and Computing at KS4. In this way, there was still a role for ICT teachers.

Computing at School
Introduction to Python book by @mwclarkson
Python Workbook by @CodeBoom

Summary compiled by @jonbilton

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Cross Curricular Computer Science

#ComputingHour Topic 5 - Thursday 18th July 2013
"What impact can Computing have on other curriculum areas?""
Topic suggested by @Coding2Learn

Ideas for Cross-Curricular Computing
A range of ideas were tweeted by the participants:
@MsBClarke told how her students had used Scratch to create games for a Languages project.
@martinbateman suggested digital art, and data collection and analysis.
@eaglestone pointed out that there was lots of potential for the use of smart phones: video, voice, sensors, apps etc
@GeetaSmedley highlighted the potential within D&T through the use of the MaKey MaKey, as well decision diagrams, loops, if...else, etc
@SharplesICT suggested a number of ideas:
  • Using Quest for text based adventures. These could form the basis of a literacy focus as game created using Quest require well written descriptions in order to be effective.
  • Any multimedia or webpage design activity can be focused on any subject being studied - e.g. a flash guide to why leaves change colour
  • Interactive quizzes can be created in a variety of ways to support revision for other subjects
  • Video editing can link with music, drama, PE, languages - in fact just about every subject
  • Spanish footage of Real Madrid v Manchester United was subtitled into English. This was undertaken within the school as part of the European Day of Languages 
Uses in Dance and Music
@SharplesICT@martinbateman, @Jon_Torbitt and @eaglestone discussed how dance could be linked with music using motion detection to trigger the next bars of a piece of music. Dancers could move to programmed music or to programmed lights on the dance floor. It was pointed out that the new Scratch 2 can be used with a webcam for video integration . Also if Scratch users install Kinect2Scratch they will be able to allow data from the Microsoft Kinect controller to be sent to Scratch. This means that anyone can write programs with motion control, use gestures, make kinetic games and generally leap about having fun. All participants thought this had lots of potential.

Augmented Reality
@eaglestone asked if anyone had used augmented reality with apps like Aurasma? @jonbilton suggested that Aurasma would be especially useful for Performing Arts and @martinbateman added that he had thought of making a light video which would cross into Performing Arts. "Or alternative endings / interpretations" @eaglestone added.

Quest text based adventures

Summary compiled by @jonbilton

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The New Programme of Study for Computing. Your Thoughts?

#ComputingHour Topic 4 - Thursday 11th July 2013
"The new Programme of Study for Computing. Your thoughts?"
Topic suggested by @Coding2Learn

Positive Initial Reaction
The contributors to this topic generally welcomed the new Programme of Study (PoS) for Computing. @eaglestone thought that the final draft of the new PoS seemed to be a lot better balanced than its previous incarnation. @Coding2Learn expressed relief that we had finally brought about change after many years of lobbying. @mm_2312 was excited about what the new PoS meant for his primary school and @SharplesICT thought that the new PoS would give a lot of scope for confident teachers to be creative with the kinds of lessons they delivered.

Managing Change
@mm_2312 explained that his excitement for his primary school was tempered by concern about how less enthusiastic teachers would manage the changes happening around them. Perhaps an exemplar scheme of work and lesson plans would help him deal with this issue?
@Coding2Learn and @eaglestone agreed that whilst the transition for secondary schools shouldn't be too difficult to manage, they were concerned for primary colleagues. So many changes were happening to the National Curriculum and some primary ICT coordinators were understandably anxious. Contributors thought they too would be nervous in their position. @Coding2Learn stated that "To the untrained eye it looks daunting People have no idea what an algorithm is."
@SharplesICT stated that with many non-specialists delivering ICT/Computing, some teachers and schools would have a difficult time managing change. @jonbilton made the point that lots of ICT teachers have got a busy summer ahead. Either that or they will always be on back foot next year. @Coding2Learn replied that their task was made manageable by the fact that there is lots of support out available - @CompAtSch being a good place to start. @MsBClarke supported this view and recommended the Royal Society of Edinburgh resources.

Concerns with Differentiating Levels
There was a lot of concern, even confusion, from contributors about how best to differentiate levels in the new PoS. @MsBClarke asked if contributors had ideas on how we should go about differentiating levels? Are there any exemplars available? @SharplesICT highlighted the "vague" attainment statements and was worried that there would be very little consistency between schools. Added to which, teachers would be expected to show progress throughout the key stages, as well as for parents and OFSTED
@MrAColley asked if contributors saw the statements as goals for top end of students or as a baseline for all students. @eaglestone added to the questions when he asked "What does differentiation look like without levels?" but revealed a light at the end of the tunnel when he pointed participants to his Tweaked Computing APP and to this resource being developed by the DfE Expert Group.

Links with Primary Schools
A number of contributors emphasised the importance of developing links with primary schools as a strategy for managing change. @SharplesICT said his school had joined @CodeClub and was contacting feeder schools to arrange sessions. @MsBClarke has Year 6 students coming up her school to work on @CodeClub. Both contributors thought that they needed to offer as much support as possible to feeder schools as "their pupils will be ours in the future."

@eaglestone's Tweaked Computing APP
@MrAColley's Database scheme of work
Royal Society of Edinburgh resources
Computer At School resources
Digital Schoolhouse
DfE Expert Group

Summary compiled by @jonbilton
@A_Weatherall has created a Storify account of this topic

Successful Teaching of Coding - Where to Start?

#ComputingHour Topic 3 – Thursday 11th July 2013
“Successful teaching of coding – where to start?”
Topic suggested by @clairegowland

First Steps
@aiddy starts by asking students to write a recipes for making a jam sandwich, then looks at the results when following the instructions to the letter.
Illustrating the process of converting code into commands by giving a series of instructions to students, line by line, was suggested by @A_Weatherall
@martinbateman starts by pretending to be a robot and the 6 year olds have to give instructions to get him across the class.
@Jon_Torbitt likes to go through the process of writing instructions in plain English, then converting these to pseudocode and finally code

First Software
Confirming the consensus of the 4 July Topic 2 chat, @Coding2Learn likes to start by using Scratch as he finds translating Scratch into Python very simple. @jiggy1976 said "I love Python for the simplicity of its syntax. Reads a little like pseudocode when you first start." @sezzyann72 also uses Scratch together with Python to stretch the more able year fives and sixes. Mozilla web maker and Hackasaurus were also being used. 

Accepting Failure
@SharplesICT, @Coding2Learn‏ and @martinbateman all felt that when learning Computer Science, an important element to learning coding was that students “must be willing to fail, then fail again, then fail again without fear of criticism or peer humiliation.” It was also important to learn from each failure and not to continually repeat the same mistakes. Also, students need to learn that there are usually many solutions to a coding problem.

Sea of Hands
@jonbilton asked “If students are making lots of mistakes, how do we deal with the "sea of hands"”? @Coding2Learn ‏and @martinbateman suggested that peer teaching was part of the solution - those that succeed help those that struggle. Expanding on this idea, @SharplesICT recommended the SNOT acronym – Self, Neighbour, Other, Teacher. A suggestion along the same lines, C3B4ME, was made by @SuzanneCulshaw, who also suggested Question Tokens. @sezzyann72 supports her teaching by using lots of step by step booklets for Scratch with the less able students tending to pair up. More on this thread has been written by @jonbilton in a blog post.

@CodeClub was suggested by @sezzyann72
@Codecademy was recommended @Jon_Torbitt

Summary compiled by @jonbilton
@A_Weatherall has created a Storify account of this topic

Monday, 8 July 2013

Tweets of the Hour

Tweets of the Hour - the most retweeted and favourited #ComputingHour contributions.

Thursday 18 July:
Thursday 11 July:

Thursday 4th July:

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Which Programming Language to Focus On?

#ComputingHour Discussion 2 - Thursday 4th July 2013
"I can't learn Python, Kodu, Alice, Greenfoot, Ruby, SmallBasic ... What to focus on?"
Summary compiled by @jonbilton

HTML, Scratch and Python
@teknoteacher pointed out that there's a bewildering choice of approaches to teaching programming, whatever language you use. @martinbateman said teachers converting from ICT should learn one language until they understand the constructs, after which "learning a new language will be easy." @eaglestone suggested that as we were working with 1 hour of lessons per week, teachers should pick 1 or 2 textual languages, in addition to HTML and Scratch. This would help to alleviate the anxiety that was emerging about the choice of language within the teaching of Computer Science. @MrAColley supported this and said that he was looking at HTML as a means of introducing the concept of text based programming

@SharplesICT stated that he preferred Python because of the wealth of online resources available to support teachers. @tweeter_lidl made the point when choosing a language to both teach and learn, the capacity for interaction and fun was very important. @MsBClarke will stick with Scratch plus Python and Greenfoot for now. @familysimpson suggested that the choice was between Python and SmallBasic as the priority was to focus on code, not the user interface as that distracts and oversimplifies programming. @CAS_Wirral suggested using SmallBasic at key stage 3 and Python at key stage 4. @Coding2Learn discussed the use of Scratch 2.0 and suggested the strategy of getting students to write Scratch scripts and translate them into Python. "Best of both worlds."

@eaglestone emphasised the need to progression by linking to his excellent post on this topic. @MrAColley raised the difficult question of devising a progression framework for programming - something that "isn't a nice linear learning curve".

@teknoteacher podcast
@teknoteacher Python resources available through the @CompAtSch website.
@MrAColley Scratch problem solving resources
@DrChips resources

Ideas for Using the Raspberry Pi

#ComputingHour Discussion 1 - Thursday 4th July 2013
"Ideas and inspiration for new Computer Science teachers when using the Raspberry Pi"
Summary compiled by @jonbilton

Teaching with the Raspberry Pi for the first time
@stwynn and @eaglestone agreed that when teaching with the Raspberry Pi for the first time with a club or class, it would be a good idea to start with a lesson aimed at identifying the different connections, putting the R-Pi and its peripherals together and booting to the command line prompt. @SharplesICT suggested that ICT teachers need not be afraid of using a traditional classroom for such activities. This was possibly a good way to disrupt preconceptions and mix things up.

PC v R-Pi
@teknoteacher and @eaglestone pointed out that we should not try to do things on the R-Pi that could be done better on a PC. Scratch 1.4 activities were cited as an example. @KathrynPeake and @sezzyann72 agreed that the R-Pi came into its own when its GPIO opportunities were realised through such things as robotics and control.

Taking it to the next level
Taking the use of the R-Pi to the next level, @MrAColley and @lifson discussed the possibility of a treasure hunt that requires groups to set up R-Pi's and connect them to Wi-Fi. The idea is that it is used as an  introduction to hardware and networking with the pieces of a QR "jigsaw" puzzle. The parts of the puzzle would have to be shared across the R-Pi network in order to create the full QR code which, as a reward, could link to "a video of a spinning seal or suchlike".

After School Clubs, Open Evenings and Enrichment
@teknoteacher suggested that, rather than in lessons, we should start by using the R-Pi in after school clubs. He pointed out that by setting up after school clubs, teachers could slowly begin to find ways to integrate the R-Pi into their lessons. @sezzyann72@clairegowland and @burtiebovine  recommended using the R-Pi in @CodeClub which they thought was as suitable for Year 7 as it was for primary aged children.

@SharplesICT highlighted the fact at R-Pi could be used to showcase Computer Science during open evenings from September 2013. Together with @clairegowland@sezzyann72 and @MsBClarke they suggested that, for that all important wow factor, the OCR "jelly baby" task is suitably impressive. @teknoteacher suggested running a Pixel Art demonstration during open evenings, again for that all important wow factor.

@mrsdenyer will be using the R-Pi with Year 8 gifted and talented students as a tool for learning Python, while @clairegowland will use them within her school's enrichment week

Networking with Colleagues
The importance of colleagues networking with each other to share ideas about the Raspberry Pi was emphasised by many contributors. @teknoteacher highlighted the great work being done through the #rjam network and encouraged contributors to build their local network with @CompAtSch hubs. "YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 4000+ members" he wrote. @dan_bowen and @MsBClarke pointed to the CAS and school links available within Surrey. @MrAColley mentioned the North West computing mini conference day he was developing for the Autumn, while @SharplesICT and @MsBClarke emphasised the need for secondary schools to work with their feeder primary schools in order to succeed