Tag Archives: GCSE

A GCSE lesson

via Raspberry Pi

Ben Llewellyn Smith is Head of Computing and ECDL manager at AKS in Lytham St Annes. He showed us this video just before last week’s Jamboree, to demonstrate his newly installed classroom Debian server being used by a class of GCSE students who all use Raspberry Pis.

Ben’s pupils each own a Raspberry Pi: we’re convinced that there’s enormous learning value in the sense of ownership and ability to customise that having your own Raspberry Pi, rather than a borrowed school unit, gives you. It’s one of the reasons we worked so hard at getting the cost of the Raspberry Pi down so low. This also means that the pupils can carry on working with their Pis at home in the evenings.

You’ll see the pupils being given a very simple Scratch task to test Ben’s new system in this video, and get a feel for what a teaching environment can be like. Ben’s aiming towards getting the class’s GCSE coursework done as a Minecraft hack, using Python on the Pi: he’s the kind of teacher I wish I’d had. (True story: my own Miss Lyons had to keep a picture of a floppy disk being inserted on her desk so she could remember which way up it fitted in the slot.)

The investigation that Ben’s class will be doing for the GCSE can be done on a Pi as well. We’re very pleased that Ben’s been able to be able to share this video with us all: I hope it’ll be of some help to other teachers out there. You’ll find a lot more from Ben at his YouTube channel: enjoy!

A preview of the new Cambridge GCSE Computing Online!

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We get a lot of emails saying: “Why aren’t you working on any schools stuff? We want to see materials!” The answer, up until now, has always been: “We’re working on it!” Here’s a sneak preview of what we’ve been doing. Working with OCR and Cambridge University Press, we’ve been producing a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) based around the GCSE Computing syllabus. You can have a look at what it’ll look like, and see some of the first videos and other materials we’ve produced for the course, today.

This MOOC will comprise an enormous suite of short, interactive videos and animations on every part of the curriculum, all presented by some of the UK’s best teachers. Most of what you’ll see at the moment is presented by Clive Beale, our Head of Educational Development and a kick-ass Computing teacher; we’re working with and filming with other teachers at the moment too. All of these videos will be supported by written materials, and audio and text transcripts of everything on the course will also be available for disabled students.

This is, we believe, the first MOOC linked to a formal GCSE qualification. Learning and teaching resources from Cambridge University Press will accompany each video (scroll right down to the bottom of the screen to find links to the resources – if you watch the videos in this area you’ll be able to see some of the interactivity), so teachers who have so far been teaching ICT rather than Computing will have support in any new materials. We envisage the MOOC being used in several different ways: a teacher can use a video at the start of a class to introduce a topic, or at the end to consolidate the learning that’s been done in a lesson; it can also be used by kids at home to reinforce what they’ve been learning at school. If you’re somewhere without access to a teacher – this MOOC is open to everyone, all over the world, not just schools – you can use it to learn all the material on the GCSE course on your own.

Part of the supporting materials for teachers. Click to see the whole document.

It’s important to us that these materials aren’t just available to people attached to schools; and that they’re not just available in the UK. Many online courses can only be accessed if you’re at a place of learning, but we wanted to see this course made open to anyone, anywhere in the world.

We want the materials in the MOOC to offer rigorous, interesting, engaging work and support for students and for teachers. If you’re a kid who wants to go beyond the syllabus, there will be plenty of opportunity to do that. Alongside around 120 “spine” videos which cover the entirety of the GCSE course, there will be several supplementary “ribcage” resources attached to each point of learning, which will take you further and teach you more if you want to go into the subject in more depth.

Part of an interactive video exercise. Click to do the exercise yourself, with help from Clive.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is very lucky to be based in Cambridge, where OCR, who we believe offer the best Computing resources out there in the UK at the moment, have their headquarters too. OCR is a branch of the University of Cambridge, and the platform that all this is built on is developed at the University of Cambridge Computer lab. Cambridge University Press will be providing written teaching and learning resources, and together all of these resources will add up to an entire course of study for the Computing GCSE.

We will start rolling out the MOOC formally in September, with 40 videos and all the associated MOOC content. Eventually, there will be more than 120 videos and animations to work through, and many times more pieces of supporting material which will help take you deeper into the subject.

We’ll be working hard with our partners on writing, scheduling and building the course for many months to come. Have a poke around the website (bearing in mind that it’s not even a beta release yet – this is very much a work in progress, so you’ll find some unpopulated links) and let us know what you think.  If you are a teacher and would like to get involved, drop me a line at liz@raspberrypi.org, and I’ll put you in touch with the organisers.

Computer Science added to EBacc

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If you’re at BETT this week, come over to Stand B240 to meet one of the Robs, Clive and a bunch of impaled Jelly Babies.

The Department for Education (DfE) has just announced that Computer Science is to be added to the new English Baccalaureate or EBacc. The EBacc is a series of new qualifications to replace the GCSEs that English kids take at 16, designed to be more rigorous than the existing standards.

This is an enormous curricular change for England, which has traditionally recognised only Physics, Biology and Chemistry as core science subjects. Computer Science is now on a level footing with those subjects, carrying the same weight and prestige, and having an equal impact on choices pupils can make later about A Levels and University courses. This is wonderful news.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said today:

It is great news that Google is helping the brilliant Raspberry Pi project. We are replacing the old-fashioned ICT curriculum with a Computer Science curriculum. This will combine with the Raspberry Pi project to spread teaching of computer coding which is so educationally and economically vital.

The new Computer Science curriculum replaces the old ICT curriculum, discontinued last year. The old ICT courses did not prepare students for studying Computer Science at university (or for much else); we’re delighted to see their replacement being treated as a proper, exacting academic subject. There’s a statement from the DfE that you can read in full over at their website; it’s worth a look.

What specifics would you like to see included in a new CompSci curriculum?