Author Archives: Sue Sentance

Attend our Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium

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Are you an academic, researcher, student, or educator who is interested in computing education research? Then come and join us in Cambridge, UK on 1 April 2020 for discussion and networking at our first-ever research symposium.

Dr Natalie Rusk from the MIT Media Lab is our keynote speaker

Dr Natalie Rusk from the MIT Media Lab is our keynote speaker

Join our symposium

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we carry out research that deepens our understanding of how young people learn about computing and digital making and helps to increase the impact of our work and advance the field of computing education.

As part of our research work, we are launching the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium, a new one-day symposium hosted jointly by us and the University of Cambridge.

The theme of the symposium is school-level computing education, both formal and non-formal. The symposium will offer an opportunity for researchers and educators to share their work, meet others with similar interests, and build collaborative projects and networks.

University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory

The William Gates Building in Cambridge houses the Department of Computer Science and Technology (Computer Laboratory) and will be the symposium venue

The symposium will take place on 1 April 2020 at the Department of Computer Science and Technology. The day will include a range of talks and a poster session, as well as a keynote speech from Dr Natalie Rusk, Research Scientist at the MIT Media Laboratory and one of the creators of the Scratch programming language.

Registration for the symposium is now open: book your place today!

Pre-symposium workshops and networking

When you register to attend, you’ll also have the chance to sign up for one of two parallel workshops taking place on 31 March 2020 at the Raspberry Pi Foundation office in Cambridge.

Workshop 1 concerns the topic of gender balance in computing, while in workshop 2, we’ll consider what research-in-practice looks like in the computing classroom.

The workshops will draw on the experiences of everyone who is participating, and they’ll provide a forum for innovative ideas and new opportunities for collaboration to emerge.

You’re also invited to join us on the evening of 31 March for an informal networking event over food and drink at the Raspberry Pi Foundation office — a great chance to meet, mingle, and make connections ahead of the symposium day.

Register for the symposium to secure your place at these events! We look forward to meeting you there.

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Gender Balance in Computing programme opens to all schools in England

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After launching our Gender Balance in Computing programme this April, we have been busy recruiting for two trials within a small group of schools around England.

Today, we are opening general recruitment for the programme. This means that all primary and secondary schools in England can now take part in the upcoming trials in this landmark programme. You can register your interest here. Why not do it right now?

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

What we are doing, and why

Many young women don’t choose to study computing-related subjects. A variety of factors across primary and secondary education are likely to influence this, including girls feeling like they don’t belong in the subject or its community, a lack of sustained encouragement, and a lack of role models in computing when making their career choices. We are working with schools to better understand and help change this.

The Department for Education has recently funded our Gender Balance in Computing (GBIC) research programme, giving us the amazing opportunity to work with schools to investigate different approaches to engage girls in computing and to help increase the number of girls who select Computer Science at GCSE and A level.

Woman teacher and young students at a computer

GBIC is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation; STEM Learning; BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT; and the Behavioural Insights Team.

Operationally, we will lead the project together with the Behavioural Insights Team, with Apps for Good and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) also contributing to the project. Trials will run in 2019–2022 in Key Stages 1–4, and over 15,000 pupils and 550 schools will be involved. It will be the largest national research effort to tackle gender balance in computing to date!

Which approaches are we trialling?

The different trials in this programme are related to:

  • Non-formal learning
  • Belonging
  • Relevance
  • Teaching approaches

Non-formal learning (Primary and Secondary, Jan 2020 – Mar 2020)

In the non-formal learning trial, which started in September, we seek to strengthen the links between non-formal learning and studying computing at GCSE or A level. The reason for this is that girls are often unaware that their non-formal learning about computing can help them in formal studies. Girls are also better represented in non-formal computing clubs than in formal settings where computing is taught, i.e. they are engaging with computing outside of the classroom, but not in their formal studies. So far in the non-formal learning trial, we have created specific resources for schools running Code Clubs and Apps for Good programmes which signpost the links between non-formal and formal learning of computing, and how these can lead to future career/subject choices later in the participants’ lives.

Belonging (Years 6 and 8, Sep 2020 – Jul 2021)

The belonging trial will tackle girls’ “lack of belonging” because they don’t see themselves represented in computing media coverage. To address this situation, we will work with primary and secondary schools to introduce girls and their parents to positive role models in computer science, deliver testimonials from these role models at key transition points in their education (such as while making their GCSE choices), and encourage the development of peer support networks.

Woman teacher and female student at a laptop Woman teacher and female students at a computer Male teacher and female student at a computer

Relevance (Years 6 and 8, Jan 2021 – May 2022)

The relevance trial will look at helping learners to see the real-world applications of learning computing. We will support schools to hold stimulus days that engage pupils by helping them to solve real-world problems through technology. We will also encourage pupils to develop projects that solve problems that are relevant to their local area, home, or classroom. The pupils will be able to further explore the real-world applications of computing through newly written classroom resources.

Teaching Approach (Years 6 and 8, Jan 2021 – May 2022)

The teaching approach trial is based on the idea that current approaches to teaching computing may not be fully inclusive and so may be less appealing to girls. In Key Stage 1, we will trial a “storytelling around computing” approach. In Key Stage 2 and 3, we will explore different types of teaching approaches to assess what the most effective mix is for engaging girls in the subject.

There is also an innovation trial, which we will develop based on any additional promising research pathways that emerge while the GBIC project progresses.

One male and two female teenagers at a computer

Join our GBIC School Network

By joining our programme, you’ll become part of our GBIC School Network.

This will give your school:

  • The chance to participate in projects designed to increase girls’ engagement in computing  although designed to make computing more accessible for girls, all of our projects are designed for whole cohorts at your school to take part in, including boys
  • A bi-monthly GBIC newsletter that will keep you up to date with the project and other news on addressing gender balance in computing
  • Opportunities to participate in events to promote the sharing of best practice and research updates between fellow GBIC School Network schools

As part of the GBIC School Network, your school will need to:

  • Identify a key contact in the school who will liaise with the GBIC School Network and our researchers at Raspberry Pi
  • Send out the information and opt-out consent forms (which we will provide) to parents of pupils in the relevant year groups
  • Deliver the trial materials in line with the project guides; the timeline, delivery model, and types of material will differ depending on the trial

A male teachers and three female students at a computer

Get involved in this landmark programme

  • Register your interest in taking part
  • Send this article to a colleague in a different school and invite them to register their interest
  • If you’re interested in this research but can’t take part, we’d love you to sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter, and to include a link to this article in any newsletters, blog entries, or social media posts you are sharing with teachers

Your support is invaluable — together we can work to improve the gender balance in computing!

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The Raspberry Pi Foundation and Bebras

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We are delighted to announce a new partnership that will ensure the long-term growth and success of the free, annual UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge.

Bebras UK logo

‘Bebras’ means ‘beaver’ in Lithuanian; Prof. Valentina Dagiene named the competition after this hard-working, intelligent, and lively animal.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has teamed up with Oxford University to support the Bebras Challenge, which every November invites students to use computational thinking to solve classical computer science problems re-worked into accessible and interesting questions.

Bebras is:

  • Open to students aged 6 to 18 (and it’s quite good fun for adults too)
  • A great whole-school activity
  • Completely free
  • Easy to sign up to and take part in online
  • Open for two weeks every November; this year it runs from 4 to 15 November and you’ve still got until 31 October to register!

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

Why should I get involved in the Bebras Challenge?

Bebras is an international challenge that started in Lithuania in 2004. Participating in Bebras is a great way to engage students of all ages in the fun of problem solving, and to give them an insight into computing and what it’s all about. Computing principles are highlighted in the answers, so Bebras can be quite educational for teachers too.

Male teacher and female student at a computer Male teacher and male students at a computer Woman teacher and female student at a laptop

The UK became involved in Bebras for the first time in 2013, and the numbers of participating students have increased from 21,000 in the first year to 202,000 last year. Internationally, more than 2.78 million learners took part in 2018.

  • Bebras runs from 4 to 15 November this year
  • The challenge takes 40 minutes to complete
  • Use the practice questions on the website to get your students used to what they’ll encounter in challenge
  • All the marking is done for you
  • The results are sent to you the week after the challenge ends, along with an answer booklet, so that you can go through the answers with your learners
  • The highest-achieving students in each age group are invited to Oxford University to take part in the second round over a weekend in January

To give you a taste of what Bebras involves, try this example question!

You’ve still got three more days to sign up for this year’s Bebras Challenge.

Support computational thinking at your school throughout the year with Bebras

The annual challenge is only one part of the equation: questions from previous years are available as a resource with which teachers can create self-marking quizzes to use with their classes! This means you can support the computational thinking part of the school curriculum throughout the whole year.

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

You can also use the Bebras App to try 100 computational thinking problems, and download sets of Bebras Cards for primary schools.

Follow @bebrasuk to stay up to date with what’s on offer for you.

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The National Centre for Computing Education: your questions answered

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Last week was a very exciting week for us, with the announcement of the National Centre for Computing Education: funded programmes for computing teachers and students for the next four years, to really support the growth and profile of our subject. For me and many others involved in this field over the last decade, it’s an amazing opportunity to have this level of financial support for Computing — something we could previously only dream of. Everybody at Raspberry Pi is very excited about being involved in this important work!

Some background

A new Computing curriculum was introduced in England in September 2014, and it comprises three strands: computer science, information technology, and digital literacy. The latter two have been taught in schools for many years, but the computer science strand had not been taught in schools to the pre-16 age group since the 1980s.

Two Royal Society reports have been widely influential. Firstly, the Shut Down or Restart report (2012) instigated the curriculum change. To support teachers implementing the new curriculum, the CAS Network of Excellence received a modest amount of funding from 2013–2018; the network has had a great impact on the field already, but clearly more government input was needed. The second report, After the Reboot (2017), evaluated current computing education in schools in the UK. It highlighted the challenges faced by teachers who felt unprepared to deliver the Computing curriculum, and recommended that significant government funding be provided to support teachers — and this has now happened! The new programme gives us the opportunity to reach all computing teachers, and to make massive improvements to computing education around the country.

What is the National Centre?

The National Centre, together with specific support for GCSE and A-Level Computer Science, is a government-funded programme of training and support for computing education. It will lead to a great education in the subject for every child from the beginning of primary school to the end of secondary school, enabling them to develop the valuable skills they need, whether or not they choose computing-related careers.

Since last week’s announcement, I’ve received lots of questions from teachers and others about exactly what will be happening and who will be doing the work, and I’ve gathered together answers to many of these questions here. Read on to learn more about our plans.

Key Stages 1–3 and non-GCSE Key Stage 4

If you are a primary teacher or a secondary teacher at Key Stage 3 or non-GCSE KS4, delivering Computing, either as a classroom teacher or as a specialist, you will be able to access professional learning opportunities (CPD) and resources in your region. Initially these will be available via partners working with us, and from September 2019, you will be able to access them via 40 Computing Hubs.

You will be able to register for a certificate and work towards it through a range of activities, working with colleagues and in your region. There will also be a range of online courses to support you at your own pace. Some of these are available now, and many more are to be launched over the next two years.

GCSE Computer Science

If you teach GCSE Computer Science, or you’d like to, there is a unique programme just for you. Bursaries will be available to enable you to take a series of face-to-face and online courses that best suit your needs: these will range from courses aimed at the completely new-to-GCSE teacher to advanced courses for more experienced teachers who are aiming to stretch and challenge students and to hone their subject knowledge.

two young people coding at a computer

The online courses will be free for everyone, forever. There will be a diagnostic test to help you plan your journey, and a final assessment to measure your success. You’ll be able to sign up for this programme from January.

A Level Computer Science

If you teach A Level Computer Science, or would like to, you will have access to comprehensive resources for students and teachers. There will also be a range of face-to-face events for both students and teachers. These will be starting shortly, so watch out for more news!

It will take a few months for the Computing Hubs and CPD provision to be available at scale, but in the meantime, there is much within our existing networks that computing teachers can engage with right now: CAS hubs and other events, Code Clubs in schools, STEM Learning training, and our online courses are some examples.

Building our team

We also announced last week that we are looking for new team members to implement our part of the work.

Developing resources, courses, and publications

Our role involves developing a comprehensive set of resources, lesson plans, and schemes of work from Key Stages 1–4, drawing on the best of existing materials plus some new ones. We will also develop all the online courses. We need content writers to help us with both of these areas. We are working on producing newsletters, case studies, and other publications about evidence-based practice, and this will also be part of the new team’s work. At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we will be leading on the A Level Computer Science programme content, so we have opportunities for people with the skills and experience to focus on this area.

Many of these roles are available if you want to work remotely, but more senior jobs will involve regular days in Cambridge. We also have fixed-term, part-time work available. You can find all our current job openings on this page.

Finally, as a team, we want to visit lots of schools to see what you need and listen to your thoughts, so that we can get our work right for you. If you’d like to support us in that, please get in touch by emailing sue@raspberrypi.org.

Hubs, face-to-face training, and certification

STEM Learning, one of our two consortium partners, will be commissioning the 40 Hubs, and they will also be responsible for face-to-face training. The Hubs will become centres of excellence for computing, where teachers can find regional support. Existing CAS (Computing At School) communities will be linked to the 40 Hubs, and CAS Hubs will also play a really important part in the new structure. Our other partner, BCS, will be supporting certification, building on the work they have already done with the BCS Certificate in Computer Science Teaching.

You will be able to access everything you need on the website of the National Centre for Computing Education, where you’ll soon be able to learn where to find your Computing Hub or local CAS communities and discover what is happening in your region.

Across the consortium we have teams of people who are deeply committed to computing, to Computing At School (CAS), and to teaching; most have of us recent teaching experience ourselves. Our first priority is to work with teachers collegially to meet your needs and make life easier for you. So follow the National Centre on Twitter, talk to us, and give us your feedback!

Outside England?

This post has been all about teachers in England, but our free online resources will be available to anyone, anywhere in the world. If you want to talk to us about the needs in your country, do get in touch.

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