Tag Archives: computing education

Our new SIGCSE Special Project on culturally relevant resources for computing

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Over the last 20 years, researchers and educators have increasingly aimed to develop computing curricula that are culturally responsive and relevant. Designing equitable and authentic learning experiences in computing requires conscious effort to take into account the characteristics of learners and their social environments, in order to address topics that are relevant to a diverse range of students. We previously discussed this topic in a research seminar where the invited speakers shared their work on equity-focused teaching of computer science in relation to race and ethnicity.

Educator and student focussed on a computing task
Designing equitable and authentic learning experiences in computing requires conscious effort.

Culturally relevant teaching in the classroom demonstrates a teacher’s deliberate and explicit acknowledgment that they value all students and expect all students will excel. Much of the research on this topic stems from the USA. In the UK, it may be that a lack of cultural responsiveness in the computing curriculum is contributing to the underrepresentation of students from some ethnic backgrounds in formal computing qualifications [1] by negatively affecting the way these young people engage with and learn the subject.

Guidelines for creating culturally relevant learning resources for computing

Addressing this issue of underrepresentation is important to us, so we’re making it part of our work on diversity and inclusion in computing education. That’s why we’re delighted to have received an ACM SIGCSE Special Project Award for a project called ‘Developing criteria for K-12 learning resources in computer science that challenge stereotypes and promote diversity’. Our overarching aim for this project, as with all our work at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, is to broaden participation in computing and address the needs of diverse learners. Through this project, we will support computing educators in understanding culturally responsive pedagogy and how to apply it to their own practice. To this end, we’ve set up a working group that will use research into culturally responsive pedagogy to develop a set of guidelines for creating culturally relevant learning resources for computing. Our primary audience for these guidelines are teachers in the UK, but we are confident the project’s results will have value and application all over the world.

There is increasing awareness across all education, and in computing education in particular, that culturally responsive approaches to curriculum and teaching fosters relevancy, interest, and engagement for student learners. This exciting effort brings together computing classroom teachers and education researchers to identify approaches and resources that England’s educators can leverage to enact culturally responsive approaches to teaching computing.

Joanna Goode, Sommerville Knight Professor at the University of Oregon, member of our Special Project working group

What do we mean by culturally relevant resources?

A learning resource obviously has learning objectives, but it is also always set in a particular context, which may or may not be relevant to young people. It may contain images, video, and other media assets in addition to text. Presenting computing stereotypes, for example in the media assets and language used, or situating resources in an unfamiliar context can cause learners to feel that they do not belong in the subject or that it is not relevant to them and their life. On the other hand, providing resources that allow learners to relate what they are learning to issues or tasks that are personally meaningful to them and/or their culture or community can be empowering and engaging for them. For example, a common scenario used to introduce basic algorithm design to young people is making a cup of tea, but tea preparation and drinking may be culturally specific, and even if tea is drunk in a young person’s home, tea preparation may not be an activity they engage in.

A matcha tea preparation
Preparing a cup of tea — a scenario often used for introducing learners to algorithm design — can be culturally specific: compare matcha and builder’s tea.

Ensuring that a more diverse group of young people feel like they belong in computing

The expected long-term outcome of this project is to remove significant obstacles to young people’s participation in computing by ensuring that a more diverse group of young people feel represented and like they belong in the subject. The working group we have established consists of seven practising computing teachers from a diverse range of UK schools and a panel of four experts and academics (Lynda Chinaka, Mike Deutsch, Joanna Goode, and Yota Dimitriadi) working with young people and their teachers in the UK, USA, and Canada.

A teacher aids children in the classroom
We will support computing educators in understanding culturally responsive pedagogy and how to apply it to their own practice.

Yota Dimitriadi, Associate Professor at the University of Reading and a member of the expert panel, says: “I am delighted to participate in this project that enables conversations and positive action around inclusive and intersectional computing practices. It is more important than ever to enhance a global perspective in our curriculum planning and further our understanding of culturally responsive pedagogies; such an approach can empower all our students and support their skills and understanding of the integral role that computing can play in promoting social justice.”

Such an approach can empower all our students and support their skills and understanding of the integral role that computing can play in promoting social justice.

Yota Dimitriadi, Associate Professor at the University of Reading, member of our Special Project working group

The group has started to meet and discuss the guidelines, and we aim to share early findings and outputs in the summer months. We’re very excited about this project, and we think it is an important starting point for other work. We look forward to updating you in the summer!


[1] Students of Black, non-Chinese Asian, and Mixed ethnicities; Kemp, P.E.J., Berry, M.G., & Wong, B. (2018). The Roehampton Annual Computing Education Report: Data from 2017. University of Roehampton, London.

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Expanding our free Isaac Computer Science platform with new GCSE content

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We are delighted to announce that we’re expanding our free Isaac Computer Science online learning platform in response to overwhelming demand from teachers and students for us to cover GCSE content.

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

Thanks to our contract with England’s Department for Education which is funding our work as part of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) consortium, we’ve been able to collaborate with the University of Cambridge to build the Isaac Computer Science platform, and to create an events programme, for A level students and teachers. Now we will use this existing funding to also provide content and events for learning and teaching GCSE computer science.

Building on our success

With content designed by our expert team of computer science teachers and researchers, the Isaac Computer Science platform is already being used by 2000 teachers and 18,000 students at A level. The platform houses a rich set of interactive study materials and reflective questions, providing full coverage of exam specifications. 

Within the Teach Computing Curriculum we built as part of our NCCE work, we’ve already created free classroom resources to support teachers with the delivery of GCSE computer science (as well as the rest of the English computing curriculum from Key Stages 1 to 4). Expanding the Isaac Computer Science platform to offer interactive learning content to GCSE students, and running events specifically for GCSE students, will perfectly complement the Teach Computing Curriculum and support learners to continue their computing education beyond GCSE.

One male and two female teenagers at a computer

We’ll use our tried and tested process of content design, implementation of student and teacher feedback, and continual improvements based on evidence from platform usage data, to produce an educational offering for GCSE computer science that is of the highest quality.

What will Isaac Computer Science GCSE cover?

Isaac Computer Science GCSE will support students and teachers of GCSE computer science across the OCR, AQA, Eduqas and WJEC exam bodies, covering the whole of the national curriculum. The content will be aimed at ages 14 to 16, and it will be suitable for students of all experience levels and backgrounds — from those who have studied little computer science at Key Stage 3 and are simply interested, to those who are already set to pursue a career related to computer science.

Benefits for students and teachers

Students will be able to:

  • Use the platform for structured, self-paced study and progress tracking
  • Prepare for their GCSE examinations according to their exam body
  • Get instant feedback from the interactive questions to guide further study
  • Explore areas of interest more deeply

Teachers will be able to:

  • Use the content and examples on the platform as the basis for classroom work
  • Direct their students to topics to read as homework
  • Set self-marking questions as homework or in the classroom as formative assessment to identify areas where additional support is required and track students’ progress

Free events for learning, training, and inspiration

As part of Isaac Computer Science GCSE, we’ll also organise an events programme for GCSE students to get support with specific topics, as well as inspiration about opportunities to continue their computer science education beyond GCSE into A level and higher education or employment.

Male teacher and male students at a computer

For teachers, we’ll continue to provide a wide spectrum of free CPD training events and courses through the National Centre for Computing Education.

Accessible all over the world

As is the case for the Isaac Computer Science A level content, we’ll create content for this project to suit the English national curriculum and exam bodies. However, anyone anywhere in the world will be able to access and use the platform for free. The content will be published under an Open Government License v3.0.

When does Isaac Computer Science GCSE launch, and can I get involved now?

Our launch will be in January of 2022, with the full suite of content available by September of 2022.

We’ll be putting out calls to the teaching community in England, asking for your help to guide the design and quality assurance of the Isaac Computer Science GCSE materials.

Follow Isaac Computer Science on social media and sign up on the Isaac Computer Science platform to be the first to hear news!

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Engaging Black girls in STEM learning through game design

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Today is International Women’s Day, giving us the perfect opportunity to highlight a research project focusing on Black girls learning computing.

Two black girls sitting against an outside wall while working on a laptop

Between January and July 2021, we’re partnering with the Royal Academy of Engineering to host speakers from the UK and USA to give a series of research seminars focused on diversity and inclusion. By diversity, we mean any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference. In this blog post, I discuss the third research seminar in this series.

Dr Jakita O. Thomas
Dr Jakita O. Thomas

This month we were delighted to hear from Dr Jakita O. Thomas from Auburn University and BlackComputHer, who talked to us about a seven-year qualitative study she conducted with a group of Black girls learning game design. Jakita is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University in Alabama, and Director of the CUlturally and SOcially Relevant (CURSOR) Computing Lab.

The SCAT programme

The Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) programme started in 2013 and was originally funded for three years. It was a free enrichment programme exploring how Black middle-school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking skills over time in the context of game design. After three years the funding was extended, giving Jakita and her colleagues the opportunity to continue the intervention with the same group of girls from middle school through to high school graduation (7 years in total). 23 students were recruited onto the programme and retention was extremely high.

Dr Jakita Thomas presents a slide: "Problem context: Black women and girls are rarely construed as producers of computer science knowledge in US schools and society. Design, learning, identity and teaching are inextricably linked and should come together and promoto robust experiences for participation in a global world. Black girls in STEM+C environments are rarely served in such ways. Some scholars suggest that STEM is simply a neoliberal project. When we put that view in conversation with Black girls in and informal learning environment design to promote Black female excellence, a more nuanced and complex perspective emerges."
Click to enlarge

The SCAT programme ran throughout each academic year and also involved a summer camp element. The programme included three types of activities: the two-week summer camp, twelve monthly workshops, and field trips, all focused on game design. The instructors on the programme were all Black women, either with or working towards doctorates in computer science, serving as role models to the girls.

The theoretical basis of the programme drew on a combination of:

  • Cognitive apprenticeship, i.e. learning from others with expertise in a particular field
  • Black Feminist Thought (based on the work of Patricia Hill Collins) as a foundation for valuing Black girls’ knowledge and lived experience as expertise they bring to their learning environment
  • Intersectionality, i.e. considering the intersection of multiple characteristics, e.g. race and gender

This context highlights that interventions to increase diversity in STEM or computing tend to support mainly white girls or Black and other ethnic minority boys, marginalising Black girls.

Why game design?

Game design was selected as a topic because it is popular with all young people as consumers. According to research Jakita drew on, over 94% of girls in the US aged 12 to 17 play video games, with little differences relating to race or socioeconomic status. However, game design is an industry in which African American women are under-represented. Women represent only 10 to 12% of the game design workforce, and less than 5% of the workforce are African American or Latino people of any gender. Therefore Jakita and her colleagues saw it as an ideal domain to work in with the girls.

Dr Jakita Thomas presents a slide: Game design cycle: brainstorming, storyboarding, physical prototyping, design document, software prototyping, implementation, quality assurance / maintenance"
Click to enlarge

Another reason for selecting game design as a topic was that it gave the students (the programme calls them scholars) the opportunity to design and create their own artefacts. This allowed the participants to select topics for games that really mattered to them, which Jakita suggested might be related to their own identity, and issues of equity and social justice. This aligns completely with the thoughts expressed by the speakers at our February seminar.

What was learned through SCAT?

Jakita explained that her findings suggest that the ways in which the SCAT programme was intentionally designed to offer Black girls opportunities to radically shape their identities as producers, innovators and disruptors of deficit perspectives. Deficit perspectives are ones that include implicit assumptions that privilege the values, beliefs, and practices of one group over another. Deficit thinking was a theme in our February seminar with Prof Tia Madkins, Dr Nicol R Howard, and Shomari Jones, and it was interesting to hear more about this. 

Data sources of the project included analysis of online journal data and end of season questionnaires across the first three years of SCAT, which provided insights into the participants’ perceptions and feelings about their SCAT experience, their understanding of computational algorithmic thinking, their perceptions of themselves as game designers, and the application of concepts learned within SCAT to other areas of their lives outside of SCAT.

In the first three years of the programme, the number of participants who saw game design as a viable hobby went from 0% to 23% to 45%. Other analysis Jakita and her colleagues performed was qualitative and identified as one theme that the participants wanted to ‘find meaning and relevance in altruism’. The researchers found that the participants started to reflect on their own narrative and identity through the programme. One girl on the programme said:

“At the beginning of SCAT, I didn’t understand why I was there. Then I thought about what I was doing. I was an African American girl learning how to properly learn game design. As I grew over the years in game designing, I gained a strong liking. The SCAT program has gifted me with a new hobby that most women don’t have, and for that I am grateful.”

– SCAT scholar (participant)

Jakita explained that the girls on the programme had formed a sisterhood, in that they came to know each other well and formed a strong and supportive community. In addition, what I found remarkable was the long-term impact of this programme: 22 out of the 23 young women that took part in the programme are now enrolled on STEM degree courses.

Dr Jakita Thomas presents a slide: "Conclusions and points of discussion: STEM learning for whom and to what ends is a complex narrative when centering Black girls because of the intersectional politics of their histories and STEM education opportunities. SCAT serves as a counter-space for STEM learning. Black girls should be positioned as producers of knowledge in STEM. Black girls need to have not only opportunities to acquire and develop STEM skills, capabilities and practices, but they also need time to reflect on those opportunities and experiences and assess whether and how STEM connects to their own interests, goals and aspirations (at least 12 months). It is imperative that learning scientists think from an intersectional perspective when considering how to design STEM learning environments for Black girls."
Jakita’s final slide, stimulating a great Q&A session (click to enlarge)

What next?

Read the paper on which Jakita’s seminar was based, download the presentation slides, and watch the video recording:

This research intervention obviously represents a very small sample, as is often the case with rich, qualitative studies, but there is much we can learn from it, and still much more to be done. In the UK, we do not have any ongoing or previously published research studies that look at intersectionality and computing education, and conducting similar research would be valuable. Jakita and her colleagues worked in the non-formal space, providing opportunities outside the formal curriculum, but throughout the academic year. We need to understand better the affordances of non-formal and formal learning for supporting engagement of learners from underrepresented groups in computing, perhaps particularly in England, where a mandatory computing curriculum from age 5 has been in place since 2014.

Next up in our free series

This was our 14th research seminar! You can find all the related blog posts on this page.

Next we’ve got three online events coming up in quick succession! In our seminar on Tuesday 20 April at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Maya Israel from the University of Florida, who will be talking about Universal Design for Learning and computing. On Monday 26 April, we will be hosting a panel discussion on gender balance in computing. And at the seminar on Tuesday 2 May, we will be hearing from Dr Cecily Morrison (Microsoft Research) about computing and learners with visual disabilities.

To join any of these free events, click below and sign up with your name and email address:

We’ll send you the link and instructions. See you there!

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What does equity-focused teaching mean in computer science education?

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Today, I discuss the second research seminar in our series of six free online research seminars focused on diversity and inclusion in computing education, where we host researchers from the UK and USA together with the Royal Academy of Engineering. By diversity, we mean any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference. 

In this seminar, we were delighted to hear from Prof Tia Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Shomari Jones (Bellevue School District) (find their bios here), who talked to us about culturally responsive pedagogy and equity-focused teaching in K-12 Computer Science.

Equity-focused computer science teaching

Tia began the seminar with an audience-engaging task: she asked all participants to share their own definition of equity in the seminar chat. Amongst their many suggestions were “giving everybody the same opportunity”, “equal opportunity to access high-quality education”, and “everyone has access to the same resources”. I found Shomari’s own definition of equity very powerful: 

“Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement of all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as the distribution of resources. Tackling equity requires an understanding of the root cause of outcome disparity within our society.”

Shomari Jones

This definition is drawn directly from the young people Shomari works with, and it goes beyond access and opportunity to the notion of increasing justice and fairness and addressing the causes of outcome disparity. Justice was a theme throughout the seminar, with all speakers referring to the way that their work looks at equity in computer science education through a justice-oriented lens.

Removing deficit thinking

Using a justice-oriented approach means that learners should be encouraged to use their computer science knowledge to make a difference in areas that are important to them. It means that just having access to a computer science education is not sufficient for equity.

Tia Madkins presents a slide: "A justice-oriented approach to computer science teaching empowers students to use CS knowledge for transformation, moves beyond access and achievement frames, and is an asset- or strengths-based approach centering students and families"

Tia spoke about the need to reject “deficit thinking” (i.e. focusing on what learners lack) and instead focus on learners’ strengths or assets and how they bring these to the school classroom. For researchers and teachers to do this, we need to be aware of our own mindset and perspective, to think about what we value about ethnic and racial identities, and to be willing to reflect and take feedback.

Activities to support computer science teaching

Nicol talked about some of the ways of designing computing lessons to be equity-focused. She highlighted the benefits of pair programming and other peer pedagogies, where students teach and learn from each other through feedback and sharing ideas/completed work. She suggested using a variety of different programs and environments, to ensure a range of different pathways to understanding. Teachers and schools can aim to base teaching around tools that are open and accessible and, where possible, available in many languages. If the software environment and tasks are accessible, they open the doors of opportunity to enable students to move on to more advanced materials. To demonstrate to learners that computer science is applicable across domains, the topic can also be introduced in the context of mathematics and other subjects.

Nicol Howard presents a slide: "Considerations for equity-focused computer science teaching include your beliefs (and your students' beliefs) and how they impact CS classrooms; tiered activities and pair programming; self-expressions versus CS preparation; equity-focused lens"

Learners can benefit from learning computer science regardless of whether they want to become a computer scientist. Computing offers them skills that they can use for self-expression or to be creative in other areas of their life. They can use their knowledge for a specific purpose and to become more autonomous, particularly if their teacher does not have any deficit thinking. In addition, culturally relevant teaching in the classroom demonstrates a teacher’s deliberate and explicit acknowledgment that they value all students in their classroom and expect students to excel.

Engaging family and community

Shomari talked about the importance of working with parents and families of ethnically diverse students in order to hear their voices and learn from their experiences.

Shomari Jones presents a slide: “Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”

He described how the absence of a background in technology of parents and carers can drastically impact the experiences of young people.

“Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”

Betsy DiSalvo, Cecili Reid, and Parisa Khanipour Roshan. 2014

Shomari drew on an example from the Pacific Northwest in the US, a region with many successful technology companies. In this location, young people from wealthy white and Asian communities can engage fully in informal learning of computer science and can have aspirations to enter technology-related fields, whereas amongst the Black and Latino communities, there are significant barriers to any form of engagement with technology. This already existent inequity has been enhanced by the coronavirus pandemic: once so much of education moved online, it became widely apparent that many families had never owned, or even used, a computer. Shomari highlighted the importance of working with pre-service teachers to support them in understanding the necessity of family and community engagement.

Building classroom communities

Building a classroom community starts by fostering and maintaining relationships with students, families, and their communities. Our speakers emphasised how important it is to understand the lives of learners and their situations. Through this understanding, learning experiences can be designed that connect with the learners’ lived experiences and cultural practices. In addition, by tapping into what matters most to learners, teachers can inspire them to be change agents in their communities. Tia gave the example of learning to code or learning to build an app, which provides learners with practical tools they can use for projects they care about, and with skills to create artefacts that challenge and document injustices they see happening in their communities.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about this topic, a great place to start is the recent paper Tia and Nicol have co-authored that lays out more detail on the work described in the seminar: Engaging Equity Pedagogies in Computer Science Learning Environments, by Tia C. Madkins, Nicol R. Howard and Natalie Freed, 2020.

You can access the presentation slides via our seminars page.

Join our next free seminar

In our next seminar on Tuesday 2 March at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Jakita O. Thomas (Auburn University), who is going to talk to us about Designing STEM Learning Environments to Support Computational Algorithmic Thinking and Black Girls: A Possibility Model for Changing Hegemonic Narratives and Disrupting STEM Neoliberal Projects. To join this free online seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address.

Once you’ve signed up, we’ll email you the seminar meeting link and instructions for joining. If you attended Peter’s and Billy’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Computing education and underrepresentation: the data from England

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In this blog post, I’ll discuss the first research seminar in our six-part series about diversity and inclusion. Let’s start by defining our terms. Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference.

It’s vital that we are inclusive in computing education, because we need to ensure that everyone can access and learn the empowering and enabling technical skills they need to support all aspects of their lives.

One male and two female teenagers at a computer

Between January and June of this year, we’re partnering with the Royal Academy of Engineering to host speakers from the UK and USA for a series of six research seminars focused on diversity and inclusion in computing education.

We kicked off the series with a seminar from Dr Peter Kemp and Dr Billy Wong focused on computing education in England’s schools post-14. Peter is a Lecturer in Computing Education at King’s College London, where he leads on initial teacher education in computing. His research areas are digital creativity and digital equity. Billy is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Education, University of Reading. His areas of research are educational identities and inequalities, especially in the context of higher education and STEM education.

Computing in England’s schools

Peter began the seminar with a comprehensive look at the history of curriculum change in Computing in England. This was very useful given our very international audience for these seminars, and I will summarise it below. (If you’d like more detail, you can look over the slides from the seminar. Note that these changes refer to England only, as education in the UK is devolved, and England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales each has a different education system.)

In 2014, England switched from mandatory ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to mandatory Computing (encompassing information technology, computer science, and digital literacy). This shift was complemented by a change in the qualifications for students aged 14–16 and 16–18, where the primary qualifications are GCSEs and A levels respectively:

  • At GCSE, there has been a transition from GCSE ICT to GCSE Computer Science over the last five years, with GCSE ICT being discontinued in 2017
  • At A level before 2014, ICT and Computing were on offer as two separate A levels; now there is only one, A level Computer Science

One of the issues is that in the English education system, there is a narrowing of the curriculum at age 14: students have to choose between Computer Science and other subjects such as Geography, History, Religious Studies, Drama, Music, etc. This means that those students that choose not to take a GCSE Computer Science (CS) may find that their digital education is thereby curtailed from then onwards. Peter’s and Billy’s view is that having a more specialist subject offer for age 14+ (Computer Science as opposed to ICT) means that fewer students take it, and they showed evidence of this from qualifications data. The number of students taking CS at GCSE has risen considerably since its introduction, but it’s not yet at the level of GCSE ICT uptake.

GCSE computer science and equity

Only 64% of schools in England offer GCSE Computer Science, meaning that just 81% of students have the opportunity to take the subject (some schools also add selection criteria). A higher percentage (90%) of selective grammar schools offer GCSE CS than do comprehensive schools (80%) or independent schools (39%). Peter suggested that this was making Computer Science a “little more elitist” as a subject.

Peter analysed data from England’s National Pupil Database (NPD) to thoroughly investigate the uptake of Computer Science post-14 with respect to the diversity of entrants.

He found that the gender gap for GCSE CS uptake is greater than it was for GCSE ICT. Now girls make up 22% of the cohort for GCSE CS (2020 data), whereas for the ICT qualification (2017 data), 43% of students were female.

Peter’s analysis showed that there is also a lower representation of black students and of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the cohort for GCSE CS. In contrast, students with Chinese ancestry are proportionally more highly represented in the cohort. 

Another part of Peter’s analysis related gender data to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI), which is used as an indicator of the level of poverty in England’s local authority districts. In the graphs below, a higher IDACI decile means more deprivation in an area. Relating gender data of GCSE CS uptake against the IDACI shows that:

  • Girls from more deprived areas are more likely to take up GCSE CS than girls from less deprived areas are
  • The opposite is true for boys
Two bar charts relating gender data of GCSE uptake against the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index. The graph plotting GCSE ICT data shows that students from areas with higher deprivation are slightly more likely to choose the GCSE, irrespective of gender. The graph plotting GCSE Computer Science data shows that girls from more deprived areas are more likely to take up GCSE CS than girls from less deprived areas, and the opposite is true for boys.

Peter covered much more data in the seminar, so do watch the video recording (below) if you want to learn more.

Peter’s analysis shows a lack of equity (i.e. equality of outcome in the form of proportional representation) in uptake of GCSE CS after age 14. It is also important to recognise, however, that England does mandate — not simply provide or offer — Computing for all pupils at both primary and secondary levels; making a subject mandatory is the only way to ensure that we do give access to all pupils.

What can we do about the lack of equity?

Billy presented some of the potential reasons for why some groups of young people are not fully represented in GCSE Computer Science:

  • There are many stereotypes surrounding the image of ‘the computer scientist’, and young people may not be able to identify with the perception they hold of ‘the computer scientist’
  • There is inequality in access to resources, as indicated by the research on science and STEM capital being carried out within the ASPIRES project

More research is needed to understand the subject choices young people make and their reasons for choosing as they do.

We also need to look at how the way we teach Computing to students aged 11 to 14 (and younger) affects whether they choose CS as a post-14 subject. Our next seminar revolves around equity-focused teaching practices, such as culturally relevant pedagogy or culturally responsive teaching, and how educators can use them in their CS learning environments. 

Meanwhile, our own research project at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Gender Balance in Computing, investigates particular approaches in school and non-formal learning and how they can impact on gender balance in Computer Science. For an overview of recent research around barriers to gender balance in school computing, look back on the research seminar by Katharine Childs from our team.

Peter and Billy themselves have recently been successful in obtaining funding for a research project to explore female computing performance and subject choice in English schools, a project they will be starting soon!

If you missed the seminar, watch recording here. You can also find Peter and Billy’s presentation slides on our seminars page.

Next up in our seminar series

In our next research seminar on Tuesday 2 February at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Prof Tia Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Shomari Jones (Bellevue School District), who are going to talk to us about culturally responsive pedagogy and equity-focused teaching in K-12 Computer Science. To join this free online seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address.

Once you’ve signed up, we’ll email you the seminar meeting link and instructions for joining. If you attended Peter’s and Billy’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Learning at home with the Raspberry Pi Foundation

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As the UK — like many countries around the world — kicks off the new year with another national lockdown, meaning that millions of young people are unable to attend school, I want to share an update on how the Raspberry Pi Foundation is helping young people to learn at home.

Please help us spread the word to teachers, school leaders, governors, parents, and carers. Everything we are offering here is 100% free and the more people know about it, the more young people will benefit.

A girl and mother doing a homeschooling lesson at a laptop

Supporting teachers and pupils 

Schools and teachers all over the world have been doing a heroic job over the past ten months, managing the transition to emergency remote teaching during the first round of lockdowns, supporting the most vulnerable pupils, dealing with uncertainty, changing the way that schools worked to welcome pupils back safely, helping pupils catch up with lost learning, and much, much more.

Both in my role as Chief Executive of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and as chair of governors at a state school here in Cambridge, I’ve seen first-hand the immense pressure that schools and teachers are under. I’ve also seen them display the most amazing resilience, commitment, and innovation. I want to say a huge thank you to all teachers and school staff for everything you’ve done and continue to do to help young people through this crisis. 

Here’s some of the resources and tools that we’ve created to help you continue to deliver a world-class computing education: 

  • The Teach Computing Curriculum is a comprehensive set of lesson plans for KS1–4 (learners aged 5–16) as well as homework, progression mapping, and assessment materials.
  • Working with the fabulous Oak National Academy, we’ve produced 100 hours of video for 300 video lessons based on the Teach Computing Curriculum.
  • Isaac Computer Science is our online learning platform for advanced computer science (A level, learners aged 16–18) and includes comprehensive, interactive materials and videos. It also allows you to set your learners self-marking questions. 

All of these resources are mapped to the English computing curriculum and produced as part of the National Centre for Computing Education. They are available for everyone, anywhere in the world, for free. 

Making something fun with code

Parents and carers are the other heroes of remote learning during lockdown. I know from personal experience that juggling work and supporting home learning can be really tough, and we’re all trying to find meaningful, fun alternatives to letting our kids binge YouTube or Netflix (other video platforms and streaming services are available).

That’s why we’ve been working really hard to provide parents and carers with easy, accessible ways for you to help your young digital makers to get creative with technology:

A Coolest Projects participant

Getting computers into the hands of young people who need them 

One of the harsh lessons we learned last year was that far too many young people don’t have a computer for learning at home. There has always been a digital divide; the pandemic has just put it centre-stage. The good news is that the cost of solving this problem is now trivial compared to the cost of allowing it to persist.

That’s why the Raspberry Pi Foundation has teamed up with UK Youth and a network of grassroots youth and community organisations to get computers into the hands of disadvantaged young people across the UK.

A young person receives a Raspberry Pi kit to learn at home

For under £200 we can provide a vulnerable child with everything they need to learn at home, including a Raspberry Pi desktop computer, a monitor, a webcam, free educational software, and ongoing support from a local youth worker and the Foundation team. So far, we have managed to get 2000 Raspberry Pi computers into the hands of the most vulnerable young people in the UK. A drop in the ocean compared to the size of the problem, but a huge impact for every single young person and family.

This has only been possible thanks to the generous support of individuals, foundations, and businesses that have donated to support our work. If you’d like to get involved too, you can find out more here.

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