Tag Archives: computing education

PRIMM: encouraging talk in programming lessons

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/primm-talk-in-programming-lessons-research-seminar/

Whenever you learn a new subject or skill, at some point you need to pick up the particular language that goes with that domain. And the only way to really feel comfortable with this language is to practice using it. It’s exactly the same when learning programming.

A girl doing Scratch coding in a Code Club classroom

In our latest research seminar, we focused on how we educators and our students can talk about programming. The seminar presentation was given by our Chief Learning Officer, Dr Sue Sentance. She shared the work she and her collaborators have done to develop a research-based approach to teaching programming called PRIMM, and to work with teachers to investigate the effects of PRIMM on students.

Sue Sentance

As well as providing a structure for programming lessons, Sue’s research on PRIMM helps us think about ways in which learners can investigate programs, start to understand how they work, and then gradually develop the language to talk about them themselves.

Productive talk for education

Sue began by taking us through the rich history of educational research into language and dialogue. This work has been heavily developed in science and mathematics education, as well as language and literacy.

In particular the work of Neil Mercer and colleagues has shown that students need guidance to develop and practice using language to reason, and that developing high-quality language improves understanding. The role of the teacher in this language development is vital.

Sue’s work draws on these insights to consider how language can be used to develop understanding in programming.

Why is programming challenging for beginners?

Sue identified shortcomings of some teaching approaches that are common in the computing classroom but may not be suitable for all beginners.

  • ‘Copy code’ activities for learners take a long time, lead to dreaded syntax errors, and don’t necessarily build more understanding.
  • When teachers model the process of writing a program, this can be very helpful, but for beginners there may still be a huge jump from being able to follow the modeling to being able to write a program from scratch themselves.

PRIMM was designed by Sue and her collaborators as a language-first approach where students begin not by writing code, but by reading it.

What is PRIMM?

PRIMM stands for ‘Predict, Run, Investigate, Modify, Make’. In this approach, rather than copying code or writing programs from scratch, beginners instead start by focussing on reading working code.

In the Predict stage, the teacher provides learners with example code to read, discuss, and make output predictions about. Next, they run the code to see how the output compares to what they predicted. In the Investigate stage, the teacher sets activities for the learners to trace, annotate, explain, and talk about the code line by line, in order to help them understand what it does in detail.

In the seminar, Sue took us through a mini example of the stages of PRIMM where we predicted the output of Python Turtle code. You can follow along on the recording of the seminar to get the experience of what it feels like to work through this approach.

The impact of PRIMM on learning

The PRIMM approach is informed by research, and it is also the subject of research by Sue and her collaborators. They’ve conducted two studies to measure the effectiveness of PRIMM: an initial pilot, and a larger mixed-methods study with 13 teachers and 493 students with a control group.

The larger study used a pre and post test, and found that the group who experienced a PRIMM approach performed better on the tests than the control group. The researchers also collected a wealth of qualitative feedback from teachers. The feedback suggested that the approach can help students to develop a language to express their understanding of programming, and that there was much more productive peer conversation in the PRIMM lessons (sometimes this meant less talk, but at a more advanced level).

The PRIMM structure also gave some teachers a greater capacity to talk about the process of teaching programming. It facilitated the discussion of teaching ideas and learning approaches for the teachers, as well as developing language approaches that students used to learn programming concepts.

The research results suggest that learners taught using PRIMM appear to be developing the language skills to talk coherently about their programming. The effectiveness of PRIMM is also evidenced by the number of teachers who have taken up the approach, building in their own activities and in some cases remixing the PRIMM terminology to develop their own take on a language-first approach to teaching programming.

Future research will investigate in detail how PRIMM encourages productive talk in the classroom, and will link the approach to other work on semantic waves. (For more on semantic waves in computing education, see this seminar by Jane Waite and this symposium talk by Paul Curzon.)

Resources for educators who want to try PRIMM

If you would like to try out PRIMM with your learners, use our free support materials:

Join our next seminar

If you missed the seminar, you can find the presentation slides alongside the recording of Sue’s talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 1 December at 17:00–18:30 GMT / 12:00–13:30 EsT / 9:00–10:30 PT / 18:00–19:30 CEST. Dr David Weintrop from the University of Maryland will be presenting on the role of block-based programming in computer science education. To join, 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 this past seminar, the link remains the same.

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Why a great teacher can make all the difference

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/a-great-teacher-can-make-all-the-difference/

When we think back to our school days, we can all recall that one teacher who inspired us, believed in us, and made all the difference to how we approached a particular subject. It was someone we maybe took for granted at the time and so we only realised (much) later how amazing they were. 

I hope this post makes you think of a teacher or mentor who has made a key difference in your life!

Here computer science student Jonathan Alderson and our team’s Ben Garside talk to me about how Ben supported and inspired Jonathan in his computer science classroom.

Ben Garside and Jonathan Alderson holding physical and virtual chess games
The teacher: Ben Garside. The student: Jonathan Alderson.

Hi Jonathan! How did you get into computing?

Jonathan: My first memories of using a computer were playing 3D Pinball, Club Penguin, and old Disney games, so nothing productive there…or so I thought! I was always good at IT and Maths at school, and Computing seemed to be a cross between the two, so I thought it would be good.

Jonathan and Ben, can you remember your time working together? It’s been a while now! 

Jonathan: I met Mr Garside at the start of sixth form. Our school didn’t have a computer science course, so a few of us would walk between schools twice a week. Mr Garside really made me feel welcome in a place where I didn’t know anyone.

When learning computer science, it’s difficult to understand the importance of new concepts like recursion, classes, or linked lists when the examples are so small. Mr Garside’s teaching made me see the relevance of them and how they could fit into other projects; it’s easy to go a long time without using concepts because you don’t necessarily need them, even when it would make your life a lot easier.

Mr Garside really made me feel welcome in a place where I didn’t know anyone. […] Mr Garside’s teaching made me see the relevance of [new computer science concepts] and how they could fit into other projects.

Jonathan Alderson

Ben: It was a real pleasure to teach Jonathan. He stands out as being one of the most inquisitive students that I have taught. If something wasn’t clear to him, he’d certainly let me know and ask relevant questions so that he could fully understand. Jonathan was also constantly working on his own programming projects outside of lessons. During his A level, I remember him taking it upon himself to write a program that played chess. Each week he would demonstrate the progress he had made to the class. It was a perfect example of decomposition as he tackled the project in small sections and had a clear plan as to what he wanted to achieve. By the end of his project, not only did he have a program that played chess, but it was capable of playing against real online users including making the mouse clicks on the screen!

Moving from procedural to object-oriented programming (OOP) can be a sticking point for a lot of learners, and I remember Jonathan finding this difficult at first. I think what helped Jonathan in particular was getting him to understand that this wasn’t as new a concept as he first thought. OOP was just a different paradigm where he could still apply all of the coding structures that he was already confident in using.

That sounds like a very cool project. What other projects did you make, Jonathan? And how did Ben help you?

Jonathan: My final-year project, [a video game] called Vector Venture, ended up becoming quite a mammoth task! I didn’t really have a clue about organising large projects, what an IDE was, or you could split files apart. Mr Garside helped me spend enough time on the final report and get things finished. He was very supportive of me releasing the game and got me a chance to speak at the Python North East group, which was a great opportunity.

Ben: Vector Venture was a very ambitious project that Jonathan undertook, but I think by then he had learned a lot about how to tackle a project of that size from previous projects such as the chess program. The key to his success was that whilst he was learning, he was picking projects to undertake that he had a genuine interest in and enjoyed developing. I would also tell my A level students to pick as a project something that they will enjoy developing. Jonathan clearly enjoyed developing games, but I also had students who picked projects to develop programs that would solve problems. For example, one of my students developed a system that would take online bookings for food orders and manage table allocation for a local restaurant.

I would tell my A level students to pick as a project something that they will enjoy developing.

Ben Garside

I think that point about having fun while learning something challenging like programming is really important to highlight. So what are you doing now, Jonathan?

Jonathan: I have just completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds (UoL) with a place on the Dean’s List and am staying to complete a Masters in High Performance Graphics. 

During my time at UoL, I’ve had three summer placements creating medical applications and new systems for the university. This helped me understand the social benefits of computer science; it was great to work on something that is now benefitting so many people. My dissertation was on music visualisation, mapping instrument attributes of a currently playing song to control parameters inside sharers on the GPU to produce reactive visualisations. I’ve just completed an OpenGL project to create procedural underwater scenes, with realistic lighting, reflections, and fish simulations. I’m now really looking forward to completing my Game Engine project for my masters and graduating.

Teachers are often brilliant at taking something complicated and presenting it in a clearer way. Are those moments of clarity part of what motivates you to teach, Ben? 

Ben: There are lots of things that excite me about teaching computer science. Before I worked for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, there was a phrase I heard Carrie Anne Philbin say when I attended a Picademy: we are teaching young people to be digital makers, logical thinkers, and problem solvers, not just to be consumers of technology. I felt this really summed up how great it is to teach our subject. Teaching computer science means that we’re educating young people about the world around them and how technology plays its part in their lives. By doing this, we are empowering them to solve problems and to make educated choices about how they use technology.

Teaching computer science means that we’re educating young people about the world around them and how technology plays its part in their lives.

Ben Garside

As for my previous in-school experiences, I loved those lightbulb moments when something suddenly made sense to a student and a loud “Yesssss!” would break the silence of a quietly focused classroom. I loved teaching something that regularly sparked their imaginations; give them a single lesson on programming, and they would start to ask questions like: “Now I’ve made it do that…does this mean I could make it do this next?“. It wasn’t uncommon for students to want to do more outside of the classroom that wasn’t a homework activity. That, for me, was the ultimate win! 

How about you?

Who was the teacher who helped shape your future when you were at school? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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Sue Sentance recognised with Suffrage Science award

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/sue-sentance-suffrage-science-award/

We’re pleased to share that Dr Sue Sentance, our Chief Learning Officer, is receiving a Suffrage Science award for Mathematics and Computing today.

Sue Sentance

The Suffrage Science award scheme celebrates women in science. Sue is being recognised for her achievements in computer science and computing education research, and for her work promoting computing to the next generation.

Sue is an experienced teacher and teacher educator with an academic background in artificial intelligence, computer science, and education. She has made a substantial contribution to research in computing education in school over the last ten years, publishing widely on the teaching of programming, teacher professional development, physical computing, and curriculum change. In 2017 Sue received the BERA Public Engagement and Impact Award for her services to computing education. Part of Sue’s role at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is leading our Gender Balance in Computing research programme, which investigates ways to increase the number of girls and young women taking up computing at school level.

Suffrage Science Maths and Computing Brooch and Bangle
The awards are jewellery inspired by computing, mathematics, and the Suffragette movement

As Dr Hannah Dee, the previous award recipient who nominated Sue, says: “[…] The work she does is important — researchers need to look at what happens in schools, particularly when we consider gender. Girls are put off computing long before they get to universities, and an understanding of how children learn about computing and the ways in which we can support girls in tech is going to be vital to reverse this trend.”

Sue says, “I’m delighted and honoured that Hannah nominated me for this award, and to share this honour with other women also dedicated to furthering the fields of mathematics, computing, life sciences, and engineering. It’s been great to see research around computing in school start to gather pace (and also rigour) around the world over the last few years, and to play a part in that. There is still so much to do — many countries have now introduced computing or computer science into their school curricula as a mandatory subject, and we need to understand better how to make the subject fully accessible to all, and to inspire and motivate the next generation.”

A girl doing Scratch coding in a Code Club classroom

Aside from her role in the Gender Balance in Computing research programme, Sue has led our work as part of the consortium behind the National Centre for Computing Education and is now our senior adviser on computing subject knowledge, pedagogy, and the Foundation’s computing education research projects. Sue also leads the programme of our ongoing computing education research seminar series, where academics and educators from all over the world come together online to hear about and discuss some of the latest work in the field. 

We are currently inviting primary and secondary schools in England to take part in the Gender Balance in Computing project.

Congratulations from all your colleagues at the Foundation, Sue!

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Formative assessment in the computer science classroom

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-formative-assessment-computer-science-classroom/

In computing education research, considerable focus has been put on the design of teaching materials and learning resources, and investigating how young people learn computing concepts. But there has been less focus on assessment, particularly assessment for learning, which is called formative assessment. As classroom teachers are engaged in assessment activities all the time, it’s pretty strange that researchers in the area of computing and computer science in school have not put a lot of focus on this.

Shuchi Grover

That’s why in our most recent seminar, we were delighted to hear about formative assessment — assessment for learning — from Dr Shuchi Grover, of Looking Glass Ventures and Stanford University in the USA. Shuchi has a long track record of work in the learning sciences (called education research in the UK), and her contribution in the area of computational thinking has been hugely influential and widely drawn on in subsequent research.

Two types of assessment

Assessment is typically divided into two types:

  1. Summative assessment (i.e. assessing what has been learned), which typically takes place through examinations, final coursework, projects, etcetera.
  2. Formative assessment (i.e. assessment for learning), which is not aimed at giving grades and typically takes place through questioning, observation, plenary classroom activities, and dialogue with students.

Through formative assessment, teachers seek to find out where students are at, in order to use that information both to direct their preparation for the next teaching activities and to give students useful feedback to help them progress. Formative assessment can be used to surface misconceptions (or alternate conceptions) and for diagnosis of student difficulties.

Venn diagram of how formative assessment practices intersect with teacher knowledge and skills
Click to enlarge

As Shuchi outlined in her talk, a variety of activities can be used for formative assessment, for example:

  • Self- and peer-assessment activities (commonly used in schools).
  • Different forms of questioning and quizzes to support learning (not graded tests).
  • Rubrics and self-explanations (for assessing projects).

A framework for formative assessment

Shuchi described her own research in this topic, including a framework she has developed for formative assessment. This comprises three pillars:

  1. Assessment design.
  2. Teacher or classroom practice.
  3. The role of the community in furthering assessment practice.
Shuchi Grover's framework for formative assessment
Click to enlarge

Shuchi’s presentation then focused on part of the first pillar in the framework: types of assessments, and particularly types of multiple-choice questions that can be automatically marked or graded using software tools. Tools obviously don’t replace teachers, but they can be really useful for providing timely and short-turnaround feedback for students.

As part of formative assessment, carefully chosen questions can also be used to reveal students’ misconceptions about the subject matter — these are called diagnostic questions. Shuchi discussed how in a classroom setting, teachers can employ this kind of question to help them decide what to focus on in future lessons, and to understand their students’ alternate or different conceptions of a topic. 

Formative assessment of programming skills

The remainder of the seminar focused on the formative assessment of programming skills. There are many ways of assessing developing programming skills (see Shuchi’s slides), including Parsons problems, microworlds, hotspot items, rubrics (for artifacts), and multiple-choice questions. As an MCQ example, in the figure below you can see some snippets of block-based code, which students need to read and work out what the outcome of running the snippets will be. 

Click to enlarge

Questions such as this highlight that it’s important for learners to engage in code comprehension and code reading activities when learning to program. This really underlines the fact that such assessment exercises can be used to support learning just as much as to monitor progress.

Formative assessment: our support for teachers

Interestingly, Shuchi commented that in her experience, teachers in the UK are more used to using code reading activities than US teachers. This may be because code comprehension activities are embedded into the curriculum materials and support for pedagogy, both of which the Raspberry Pi Foundation developed as part of the National Centre for Computing Education in England. We explicitly share approaches to teaching programming that incorporate code reading, for example the PRIMM approach. Moreover, our work in the Raspberry Pi Foundation includes the Isaac Computer Science online learning platform for A level computer science students and teachers, which is centered around different types of questions designed as tools for learning.

All these materials are freely available to teachers wherever they are based.

Further work on formative assessment

Based on her work in US classrooms researching this topic, Shuchi’s call to action for teachers was to pay attention to formative assessment in computer science classrooms and to investigate what useful tools can support them to give feedback to students about their learning. 

Advice from Shuchi Grover on how to embed formative assessment in classroom practice
Click to enlarge

Shuchi is currently involved in an NSF-funded research project called CS Assess to further develop formative assessment in computer science via a community of educators. For further reading, there are two chapters related to formative assessment in computer science classrooms in the recently published book Computer Science in K-12 edited by Shuchi.

There was much to take away from this seminar, and we are really grateful to Shuchi for her input and look forward to hearing more about her developing project.

Join our next seminar

If you missed the seminar, you can find the presentation slides and a recording of the Shuchi’s talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 3 November at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, I will be presenting my work on PRIMM, particularly focusing on language and talk in programming lessons. To join, 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 this past seminar, the link remains the same.

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Join the UK Bebras Challenge 2020 for schools!

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/join-uk-bebras-challenge-2020/

The annual UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge for schools, brought to you by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Oxford University, is taking place this November!

UK Bebras Challenge logo

The Bebras Challenge is a great way for your students to practise their computational thinking skills while solving exciting, accessible, and puzzling questions. Usually this 40-minute challenge would take place in the classroom. However, this year for the first time, your students can participate from home too!

If your students haven’t entered before, now is a great opportunity for them to get involved: they don’t need any prior knowledge. 

Do you have any students who are up for tackling the Bebras Challenge? Then register your school today!

School pupils in a computing classroom

What you need to know about the Bebras Challenge

  • It’s a great whole-school activity open to students aged 6 to 18, in different age group categories.
  • It’s completely free!
  • The closing date for registering your school is 30 October.
  • Let your students complete the challenge between 2 and 13 November 2020.
  • The challenge is made of a set of short tasks, and completing it takes 40 minutes.
  • The challenge tasks focus on logical thinking and do not require any prior knowledge of computer science.
  • There are practice questions to help your students prepare for the challenge.
  • This year, students can take part at home (please note they must still be entered through their school).
  • All the marking is done for you! The results will be sent to you the week after the challenge ends, along with the answers, so that you can go through them with your students.

“Thank you for another super challenge. It’s one of the highlights of my year as a teacher. Really, really appreciate the high-quality materials, website, challenge, and communication. Thank you again!”

– A UK-based teacher

Support your students to develop their computational thinking skills with Bebras materials

Bebras is an international challenge that started in Lithuania in 2004 and has grown into an international event. The UK became involved in Bebras for the first time in 2013, and the number of participating students has increased from 21,000 in the first year to more than 260,000 last year! Internationally, nearly 3 million learners took part in 2019. 

Bebras is a great way to engage your students of all ages in problem-solving and give them a taste of what computing is all about. In the challenge results, computing principles are highlighted, so Bebras can be educational for you as a teacher too.

The annual Bebras Challenge is only one part of the equation: questions from previous years are available as a resource that you can use to create self-marking quizzes for your classes. You can use these materials throughout the year to help you to deliver the computational thinking part of your curriculum!

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How teachers train in Computing with our free online courses

Post Syndicated from Michael Conterio original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/how-teachers-train-computing-free-online-courses/

Since 2017 we’ve been training Computing educators in England and around the world through our suite of free online courses on FutureLearn. Thanks to support from Google and the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), all of these courses are free for anyone to take, whether you are a teacher or not!

An illustration of a bootcamp for computing teachers

We’re excited that Computer Science educators at all stages in their computing journey have embraced our courses — from teachers just moving into the field to experienced educators looking for a refresher so that they can better support their colleagues.

Hear from two teachers about their experience of training with our courses and how they are benefitting!

Moving from Languages to IT to Computing

Rebecca Connell started out as a Modern Foreign Languages teacher, but now she is Head of Computing at The Cowplain School, a 11–16 secondary school in Hampshire.

Computing teacher Rebecca Connell
Computing teacher Rebecca finds our courses “really useful in building confidence and taking [her] skills further”.

Although she had plenty of experience with Microsoft Office and was happy teaching IT, at first she was daunted by the technical nature of Computing:

“The biggest challenge for me has been the move away from an IT to a Computing curriculum. To say this has been a steep learning curve is an understatement!”

However, Rebecca has worked with our courses to improve her coding knowledge, especially in Python:

“Initially, I undertook some one-day programming courses in Python. Recently, I have found the Raspberry Pi courses to be really useful in building confidence and taking my skills further. So far, I have completed Programming 101 — great for revision and teaching ideas — and am now into Programming 102.”

GCSE Computing is more than just programming, and our courses are helping Rebecca develop the rest of her Computing knowledge too:

“I am now taking some online Raspberry Pi courses on computer systems and networks to firm up my knowledge — my greatest fear is saying something that’s not strictly accurate! These courses have some good ideas to help explain complex concepts to students.”

She also highly rates the new free Teach Computing Curriculum resources we have developed for the NCCE:

“I really like the new resources and supporting materials from Raspberry Pi — these have really helped me to look again at our curriculum. They are easy to follow and include everything you need to take students forward, including lesson plans.”

And Rebecca’s not the only one in her department who is benefitting from our courses and resources:

“Our department is supported by an excellent PE teacher who delivers lessons in Years 7, 8, and 9. She has enjoyed completing some of the Raspberry Pi courses to help her to deliver the new curriculum and is also enjoying her learning journey.”

Refreshing and sharing your knowledge

Julie Price, a CAS Master Teacher and NCCE Computer Science Champion, has been “engaging with the NCCE’s Computer Science Accelerator programme, [to] be in a better position to appreciate and help to resolve any issues raised by fellow participants.”

Computing teacher Julie Price
Computer science teacher Julie Price says she is “becoming addicted” to our online courses!

“I have encountered new learning for myself and also expressions of very familiar content which I have found to be seriously impressive and, in some cases, just amazing. I must say that I am becoming addicted to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online courses!”

She’s been appreciating the open nature of the courses, as we make all of the materials free to use under the Open Government Licence:

“Already I have made very good use of a wide range of the videos, animations, images, and ideas from the Foundation’s courses.”

Julie particularly recommends the Programming Pedagogy in Secondary Schools: Inspiring Computing Teaching course, describing it as “a ‘must’ for anyone wishing to strengthen their key stage 3 programming curriculum.”

Join in and train with us

Rebecca and Julie are just 2 of more than 140,000 active participants we have had on our online courses so far!

With 29 courses to choose from (and more on the way!), from Introduction to Web Development to Robotics with Raspberry Pi, we have something for everyone — whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced computer science teacher. All of our courses are free to take, so find one that inspires you, and let us support you on your computing journey, along with Google and the NCCE.

If you’re a teacher in England, you are eligible for free course certification from FutureLearn via the NCCE.

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“Tinkering is an equity issue” | Hello World #14

Post Syndicated from Sian Williams Page original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/tinkering-is-an-equity-issue-shuchi-grover-hello-world-14/

In the brand-new issue of Hello World magazine, Shuchi Grover tells us about the limits of constructionism, the value of formative assessment, and why programming can be a source of both joy and angst.

How much open-ended exploration should there be in computing lessons?

This is a question at the heart of computer science education and one which Shuchi Grover is delicately diplomatic about in the preface to her new book, Computer Science in K-12: An A-to-Z Handbook on Teaching Programming. The book’s chapters are written by 40 teachers and researchers in computing pedagogy, and Grover openly acknowledges the varying views around discovery-based learning among her diverse range of international authors.

“I wonder if I want to wade there,” she laughs. “The act of creating a program is in itself an act of creation. So there is hands-on learning quite naturally in the computer science classroom, and mistakes are made quite naturally. There are some things that are so great about computer science education. It lends itself so easily to being hands-on and to celebrating mistakes; debugging is par for the course, and that’s not the way it is in other subjects. The kids can actually develop some very nice mindsets that they can take to other classrooms.”

Shuchi Grover showing children something on a laptop screen

Grover is a software engineer by training, turned researcher in computer science education. She holds a PhD in learning sciences and technology design from Stanford University, where she remains a visiting scholar. She explains how the beginning of her research career coincided with the advent of the block-based programming language Scratch, now widely used as an introductory programming language for children.

“Almost two decades ago, I went to Harvard to study for a master’s called technology innovation and education, and it was around that time that I volunteered for robotics workshops at the MIT Media Lab and MIT Museum. Those were pretty transformative for me: I started after-school clubs and facilitated robotics and digital storytelling clubs. In the early 2000s, I was an educational technology consultant, working with teachers on integrating technology. Then Scratch came out, and I started working with teachers on integrating Scratch into languages, arts, and science, all the things that we are doing today.”

A girl with her Scratch project
Student Joyce codes in Scratch at her Code Club in Nunavut

Do her formative experiences at MIT, the birthplace of constructionist theory of student-centred, discovery-based learning, lead her to lean one way or another in the tinkering versus direct instruction debate? “The learning in informal spaces is, of course, very interest-driven. There is no measurement. Children are invited to a space to spend some time after school and do whatever they feel like. There would be kids who would be chatting away while a couple of them designed a robot, and then they would hand over the robot to some others and say, ‘OK, now you go ahead and program it,’ and there were some kids who would just like to hang about.

“When it comes to formal education, there needs to be more accountability, you want to do right by every child. You have to be more intentional. I do feel that while tinkering and constructionism was a great way to introduce interest-driven projects for informal learning, and there’s a lot to learn from there and bring to the formal learning context, I don’t think it can only be tinkering.”

“There needs to be more accountability to do right by every child.”

“Everybody knows that engagement is very important for learning — and this is something that we are learning more about: it’s not just interest, it’s also culture, communities, and backgrounds — but all of this is to say that there is a personal element to the learning process and so engagement is necessary, but it’s not a sufficient condition. You have to go beyond engagement, to also make sure that they are also engaging with the concepts. You want at some point for students to engage with the concept in a way that reveals what their misconceptions might be, and then they end up learning and understanding these things more deeply.

“You want a robust foundation — after all, our goal for teaching children anything at school is to build a foundation on which they build their college education and career and anything beyond that. If we take programming as a skill, you want them to have a good understanding of it, and so the personal connections are important, but so is the scaffolding.

“How much scaffolding needs to be done varies from context to context. Even in the same classroom, children may need different levels of scaffolding. It’s a sweet spot; within a classroom a teacher has to juggle so much. And therein lies the challenge of teaching: 30 kids at a time, and every child is different and every child is unique.

“It’s an equity issue. Some children don’t have the prior experience that sets them up to tinker constructively. After all, tinkering is meant to be purposeful exploration. And so it becomes an issue of who are you privileging with the pedagogy.”

She points out that each chapter in her book that comes from a more constructionist viewpoint clearly speaks of the need for scaffolding. And conversely, the chapters that take a more structured approach to computing education include elements of student engagement and children creating their own programs. “Frameworks such as Use-Modify-Create and PRIMM just push that open-ended creation a little farther down, making sure that the initial experiences have more guide rails.”

Approaches to assessment

Grover is a senior research scientist at Looking Glass Ventures, which in 2018 received a National Science Foundation grant to create Edfinity, a tool to enable affordable access to high-quality assessments for schools and universities.

In her book, she argues that asking students to write programs as a means of formative assessment has several pitfalls. It is time-consuming for both students and teachers, scoring is subjective, and it’s difficult to get a picture of how much understanding a student has of their code. Did they get their program to work through trial and error? Did they lift code from another student?

“Formative assessments that give quick feedback are much better. They focus on aspects of the conceptual learning that you want children to have. Multiple-choice questions on code force both the teachers and the children to experience code reading and code comprehension, which are just so important. Just giving children a snippet of code and saying: ‘What does this do? What will be the value of the variable? How many times will this be executed?’ — it goes down to the idea of code tracing and program comprehension.

“Research has also shown that anything you do in a classroom, the children take as a signal. Going back to the constructionist thing, when you foreground personal interest, there’s a different kind of environment in the classroom, where they’re able to have a voice, they have agency. That’s one of the good things about constructionism.

“Formative assessment signals to the student what it is that you’re valuing in the learning process. They don’t always understand what it is that they’re expected to learn in programming. Is the goal creating a program that runs? Or is it something else? And so when you administer these little check-ins, they bring more alignment between a teacher’s goals for the learners and the learners’ understanding of those goals. That alignment is important and it can get lost.”

Grover will present her latest research into assessment at our research seminar series next Tuesday 6 October — sign up to attend and join the discussion.

The joy and angst of programming

The title of Grover’s book, which could be thought to imply that computer science education consists solely of teaching students to program, may cause some raised eyebrows.

What about building robots or devices that interact with the world, computing topics like binary, or the societal impacts of technology? “I completely agree with the statement and the belief that computer science is not just about programming. I myself have been a proponent of this. But in this book I wanted to focus on programming for a couple of reasons. Programming is a central part of the computer science curriculum, at least here in the US, and it is also the part that teachers struggle with the most.

“I want to show where children struggle and how to help them.”

“As topics go, programming carries a lot of joy and angst. There is joy in computing, joy when you get it. But when a teacher is encountering this topic for the first time there is a lot of angst, because they themselves may not be understanding things, and they don’t know what it is that the children are not understanding. And there is this entire body of research on novice programming. There are the concepts, the practices, the pedagogies, and the issues of assessment. So I wanted to give the teachers all of that: everything we know about children and programming, the topics to be learnt, where they struggle, how to help them.”

Computer Science in K-12: An A-to-Z Handbook on Teaching Programming (reviewed in this issue of Hello World) is edited by Shuchi Grover and available now.

Hear more from Shuchi Grover, and subscribe to Hello World

We will host Grover at our next research seminar, Tuesday 6 October at 17:00–18:30 BST, where she will present her work on formative assessment.

Hello World is our magazine about all things computing education. It is free to download in PDF format, or you can subscribe and we will send you each new issue straight to your home.

In issue 14 of Hello World, we have gathered some inspiring stories to help your learners connect with nature. From counting penguins in Antarctica to orienteering with a GPS twist, great things can happen when young people get creative with technology outdoors. You’ll find all this and more in the new issue!

Educators based in the UK can subscribe to receive print copies for free!

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Embedding computational thinking skills in our learning resources

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/computational-thinking-skills-in-our-free-learning-resources/

Learning computing is fun, creative, and exploratory. It also involves understanding some powerful ideas about how computers work and gaining key skills for solving problems using computers. These ideas and skills are collected under the umbrella term ‘computational thinking’.

When we create our online learning projects for young people, we think as much about how to get across these powerful computational thinking concepts as we do about making the projects fun and engaging. To help us do this, we have put together a computational thinking framework, which you can read right now.

What is computational thinking? A brief summary

Computational thinking is a set of ideas and skills that people can use to design systems that can be run on a computer. In our view, computational thinking comprises:

  • Decomposition
  • Algorithms
  • Patterns and generalisations
  • Abstraction
  • Evaluation
  • Data

All of these aspects are underpinned by logical thinking, the foundation of computational thinking.

What does computational thinking look like in practice?

In principle, the processes a computer performs can also be carried out by people. (To demonstrate this, computing educators have created a lot of ‘unplugged’ activities in which learners enact processes like computers do.) However, when we implement processes so that they can be run on a computer, we benefit from the huge processing power that computers can marshall to do certain types of activities.

A group of young people and educators smiling while engaging with a computer

Computers need instructions that are designed in very particular ways. Computational thinking includes the set of skills we use to design instructions computers can carry out. This skill set represents the ways we can logically approach problem solving; as computers can only solve problems using logical processes, to write programs that run on a computer, we need to use logical thinking approaches. For example, writing a computer program often requires the task the program revolves around to be broken down into smaller tasks that a computer can work through sequentially or in parallel. This approach, called decomposition, can also help people to think more clearly about computing problems: breaking down a problem into its constituent parts helps us understand the problem better.

Male teacher and male students at a computer

Understanding computational thinking supports people to take advantage of the way computers work to solve problems. Computers can run processes repeatedly and at amazing speeds. They can perform repetitive tasks that take a long time, or they can monitor states until conditions are met before performing a task. While computers sometimes appear to make decisions, they can only select from a range of pre-defined options. Designing systems that involve repetition and selection is another way of using computational thinking in practice.

Our computational thinking framework

Our team has been thinking about our approach to computational thinking for some time, and we have just published the framework we have developed to help us with this. It sets out the key areas of computational thinking, and then breaks these down into themes and learning objectives, which we build into our online projects and learning resources.

To develop this computational thinking framework, we worked with a group of academics and educators to make sure it is robust and useful for teaching and learning. The framework was also influenced by work from organisations such as Computing At School (CAS) in the UK, and the Computer Science Teachers’ Association (CSTA) in the USA.

We’ve been using the computational thinking framework to help us make sure we are building opportunities to learn about computational thinking into our learning resources. This framework is a first iteration, which we will review and revise based on experience and feedback.

We’re always keen to hear feedback from you in the community about how we shape our learning resources, so do let us know what you think about them and the framework in the comments.

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How is computing taught in schools around the world?

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/international-computing-curriculum-metrecc-research-seminar/

Around the world, formal education systems are bringing computing knowledge to learners. But what exactly is set down in different countries’ computing curricula, and what are classroom educators teaching? This was the topic of the first in the autumn series of our Raspberry Pi research seminars on Tuesday 8 September.

A glowing globe floating above an open hand in the dark

We heard from an international team (Monica McGill , USA; Rebecca Vivian, Australia; Elizabeth Cole, Scotland) who represented a group of researchers also based in England, Malta, Ireland, and Italy. As a researcher working at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I myself was part of this research group. The group developed METRECC, a comprehensive and validated survey tool that can be used to benchmark and measure developments of the teaching and learning of computing in formal education systems around the world. Monica, Rebecca, and Elizabeth presented how the research group developed and validated the METRECC tool, and shared some findings from their pilot study.

What’s in a curriculum? Developing a survey tool

Those of us who work or have worked in school education use the word ‘curriculum’ frequently, although it’s an example of education terminology that means different things in different contexts, and to different people. Following Porter and Smithson (2001)1, we can distinguish between the intended curriculum and the enacted curriculum:

  • Intended curriculum: Policy tools as curriculum standards, frameworks, or guidelines that outline the curriculum teachers are expected to deliver.
  • Enacted curriculum: Actual curricular content in which students engage in the classroom, and adopted pedagogical approaches; for computer science (CS) curricula, this also includes students’ use of technology, physical computing devices, and tools in CS lessons.

To compare the intended and enacted computing curriculum in as many countries as possible, at particular points in time, the research group Monica, Rebecca, Elizabeth, and I were part of developed the METRECC survey tool.

A classroom of students in North America

METRECC stands for MEasuring TeacheREnacted Computing Curriculum. The METRECC survey has 11 categories of questions and is designed to be completed by computing teachers within 35–40 minutes. Following best practice in research, which calls for standardised research instruments, the research group ensured that the survey produces valid, reliable results (meaning that it works as intended) before using it to gather data.

Using METRECC in a pilot study

In their pilot study, the research group gathered data from 7 countries. The intended curriculum for each country was determined by examining standards and policies in place for each country/state under consideration. Teachers’ answers in the METRECC survey provided the countries’ enacted curricula. (The complete dataset from the pilot study is publicly available at csedresearch.org, a very useful site for CS education researchers where many surveys are shared.)

Two girls coding at a computer under supervision of a female teacher

The researchers then mapped the intended to the enacted curricula to find out whether teachers were actually teaching the topics that were prescribed for them. Overall, the results of the mapping showed that there was a good match between intended and enacted curricula. Examples of mismatches include lower numbers of primary school teachers reporting that they taught visual or symbolic programming, even though the topic did appear on their curriculum.

A table listing computer science topics
This table shows computer science topic the METRECC tool asks teachers about, and what percentage of respondents in the pilot study stated that they teach these to their students.

Another aspect of the METRECC survey allows to measure teachers’ confidence, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. The results of the pilot study showed a relationship between years of experience and CS self-esteem; in particular, after four years of teaching, teachers started to report high self-esteem in relation to computer science. Moreover, primary teachers reported significantly lower self-esteem than secondary teachers did, and female teachers reported lower self-esteem than male teachers did.

Adapting the survey’s language

The METRECC survey has also been used in South Asia, namely Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (where computing is taught under ICT). Amongst other things, what the researchers learned from that study was that some of the survey questions needed to be adapted to be relevant to these countries. For example, while in the UK we use the word ‘gifted’ to mean ‘high-attaining’, in the South Asian countries involved in the study, to be ‘gifted’ means having special needs.

Two girls coding at a computer under supervision of a female teacher

The study highlighted how important it is to ensure that surveys intended for an international audience use terminology and references that are pertinent to many countries, or that the survey language is adapted in order to make sense in each context it is delivered. 

Let’s keep this monitoring of computing education moving forward!

The seminar presentation was well received, and because we now hold our seminars for 90 minutes instead of an hour, we had more time for questions and answers.

My three main take-aways from the seminar were:

1. International collaboration is key

It is very valuable to be able to form international working groups of researchers collaborating on a common project; we have so much to learn from each other. Our Raspberry Pi research seminars attract educators and researchers from many different parts of the world, and we can truly push the field’s understanding forward when we listen to experiences and lessons of people from diverse contexts and cultures.

2. Making research data publicly available

Increasingly, it is expected that research datasets are made available in publicly accessible repositories. While this is becoming the norm in healthcare and scientific, it’s not yet as prevalent in computing education research. It was great to be able to publicly share the dataset from the METRECC pilot study, and we encourage other researchers in this field to do the same. 

3. Extending the global scope of this research

Finally, this work is only just beginning. Over the last decade, there has been an increasing move towards teaching aspects of computer science in school in many countries around the world, and being able to measure change and progress is important. Only a handful of countries were involved in the pilot study, and it would be great to see this research extend to more countries, with larger numbers of teachers involved, so that we can really understand the global picture of formal computing education. Budding research students, take heed!

Next up in our seminar series

If you missed the seminar, you can find the presentation slides and a recording of the researchers’ talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 6 October at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Shuchi Grover, a prominent researcher in the area of computational thinking and formative assessment. The title of Shuchi’s seminar is Assessments to improve student learning in introductory CS classrooms. To join, 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 this past seminar, the link remains the same.


1. Andrew C. Porter and John L. Smithson. 2001. Defining, Developing and Using Curriculum Indicators. CPRE Research Reports, 12-2001. (2001)

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Gender balance in computing: current research

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/gender-balance-in-computing-current-research/

We’ve really enjoyed starting a series of seminars on computing education research over the summer, as part of our strategy to develop research at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. We want to deepen our understanding of how young people learn about computing and digital making, in order to increase the impact of our own work and to advance the field of computing education.

Part of deepening our understanding is to hear from and work with experts from around the world. The seminar series, and our online research symposium, are an opportunity to do that. In addition, these events support the global computing education research community by providing relevant content and a forum for discussion. You can see the talks recordings and slides of all our previous seminar speakers and symposium speakers on our website.

Gender balance in your computing classroom: what the research says

Our seventh seminar presentation was given by Katharine Childs from our own team. She works on our DfE-funded Gender Balance in Computing programme and gave a brilliant summary of some of the recent research around barriers to gender balance in school computing.

Screenshot of a presentation about gender balance in computing. Text says: "Key questions: What are the barriers which prevent girls' participation in computing? Which interventions can support girls to choose computing qualifications and careers?"

In her presentation, Katharine considered belongingness, role models, relevance to real-world contexts, and non-formal learning. She drew out the links between theory and practice and suggested a range of interventions. I recommend watching the video of her presentation and looking through her slides. 

Katharine has also been publishing a number of excellent blog posts summarising her research on gender balance:

You can read more about our Gender Balance in Computing project and sign up to receive regular newsletters about it.

Join our autumn seminar series

From September, our computing education research seminars will take place on the first Tuesday of each month, starting at 17:00 UK time.

We’re excited about the range of topics to be presented, and about our fantastic lineup of speakers: an international group from Australia, the US, Ireland, and Scotland will present on a survey of computing education curricular and teaching around the world; Shuchi Grover will talk to us about formative assessment; and David Weintrop will share his work on block-based programming. I’ll be talking about my research on PRIMM and the benefits of language and talk in the programming classroom. And we’re lining up more speakers after that.

Find out more and sign up today at rpf.io/research-seminars!

Thank you

We’d like to thank everyone who has participated in our seminar series, whether as speaker or attendee. We’ve welcomed attendees from 22 countries and speakers from the US, UK, and Spain. You’ve all really helped us to start this important work, and we look forward to working with you in the next academic year!

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Testing young children’s computational thinking

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-computational-thinking-test/

Computational thinking (CT) comprises a set of skills that are fundamental to computing and being taught in more and more schools across the world. There has been much debate about the details of what CT is and how it should be approached in education, particularly for younger students. 

A girl doing digital making on a tablet

In our research seminar this week, we were joined by María Zapata Cáceres from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. María shared research she and her colleagues have done around CT. Specifically, she presented work on how we can understand what CT skills young children are developing. Building on existing work on assessing CT, she and her colleagues have developed a reliable test for CT skills that can be used with children as young as 5.

María Zapata Cáceres

Why do we need to test computational thinking?

Until we can assess something, María argues, we don’t know what children have or haven’t learned or what they are capable of. While testing is often associated with the final stages in learning, in order to teach something well, educators need to understand where their students’ skills are to know what they are aiming for them to learn. With CT being taught in increasing numbers of schools and in many different ways, María argues that it is imperative to be able to test learners on it.

Screenshot from an online research seminar about computational thinking with María Zapata Cáceres

How was the test developed?

One of the key challenges for assessing learning is knowing whether the activities or questions you present to learners are actually testing what you intend them to. To make sure this is the case, assessments go through a process of validation: they are tried out with large groups to ensure that the results they give are valid. María’s and her colleagues’ CT test for beginners is based on a CT test developed by researcher Marcos Román González. That test had been validated, but since it is aimed at 10- to 16-year-olds, María and her colleagues needed to adapt it for younger children and then validate the adapted rest.

Developing the first version

The new test for beginners consists of 25 questions, each of which has four possible responses, which are to be answered within 40 minutes. The questions are of two types: one that involves using instructions to draw on a canvas, and one that involves moving characters through mazes. Since the test is for younger children, María and her colleagues designed it so it involves as little text as possible to reduce the need for reading; instead the test includes self-explanatory symbols.

Screenshot from an online research seminar about computational thinking with María Zapata Cáceres

Developing a second version based on feedback

To refine the test, the researchers consulted with a group of 45 experts about the difficulty of the questions and the test’s length of the test. The general feedback was very positive.

Drawing on the experts’ feedback, María and her colleagues made some very specific improvements to the test to make it more appropriate for younger children:

  • The improve test mandates that an verbal explanation be given to children at the start, to make sure they clearly understand how to take the test and don’t have to rely on reading the instructions.
  • In some areas, the researchers added written explanations where experts had identified that questions contained ambiguity that could cause the children to misinterpret them.
  • A key improvement was to adapt the grids in the original test to include pathways between each box of the maze. It was found that children could misinterpret the maze, for example as allowing diagonal moves between squares; the added pathways are visual cues that it clear that this is not possible.
Screenshot from an online research seminar about computational thinking with María Zapata Cáceres

Validating the test

After these improvements, the test was validated with 299 primary school students aged 5-12. To assess the differences the improvements might make, the students were given different version of the test. María and her colleagues found that the younger students benefited from the improvements, and the improvements made the test more reliable for testing students’ computational thinking: students made fewer errors due to ambiguity and misinterpretation.

Statistical analysis of the test results showed that the improved version of the test is reliable and can be used with confidence to assess the skills of younger children.

What can you use this test for?

Firstly, the test is a tool for educators who want to assess the skills young people have and develop over time. Secondly, the test is also valuable for researchers. It can be used to perform projects that evaluate the outcomes of different approaches to teaching computational thinking, as well as projects investigating the effectiveness of specific learning resources, because the test can be given to children before and again after they engage with the resources.

Assessment is one of the many tools educators use to shape their teaching and promote the learning of their students, and tools like this CT test developed by María and her colleagues allow us to better understand what children are learning.

Find out more & join our next seminar

The video and slides of María’s presentation are available on our seminars page. To find out more about this test, and the process used to create and validate it, read the paper by María and her colleagues.

Our final seminar of this series takes place Tuesday 28 July before we take a break for the summer. In the session, we will explore gender balance in computing, led by Katharine Childs, who works on the Gender Balance in Computing research project at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. You can find out more and sign up to attend for free on our Computing Education Research Seminars page.

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Reducing the load: ways to support novice programmers

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-cognitive-load-subgoal-labels/

What’s your experience of learning to program? Have you given up and thought it just wasn’t for you? This has been the case for many people — and it’s the focus of a lot of research. Now that teaching programming is in the curriculum in many countries around the world, it’s even more important that we understand what we can do to make learning to program accessible and achievable for all students.

What is cognitive load for learners?

In education, one of the problems thought to cause students difficulty with learning anything — not just programming — is cognitive load. Cognitive load, a concept introduced in the 1980s by John Sweller, has received a lot of attention in the last few years. It is based on the idea that our working memory (the part of our memory that processes what we are currently doing) can only deal with a limited amount of information at any one time. For example, you can imagine that when you are just starting to learn to program, there is an awful lot going on in your working memory, and this can make the task of assimilating it all very challenging; selection, loops, arrays, and objects are all tricky concepts that you need to get to grips with. Cognitive load is a stress on a learner’s working memory, reducing their ability to process and learn new information.

Dr Briana Morrison (University of Nebraska-Omaha)

Finding ways of teaching programming that reduce cognitive load is really key for all of us engaged in computing education, so we were delighted to welcome Dr Briana Morrison (University of Nebraska-Omaha) as the speaker at our latest research seminar. Briana’s talk was titled ‘Using subgoal Labels to Reduce Cognitive Load in Introductory Programming’.

The thrust of Briana’s and her colleagues’ research is that, as educators, we can design instructional experiences around computer programming so that they minimise cognitive load. Using worked examples with subgoal labels is one approach that has been shown to help a lot with this. 

Subgoal labels help students memorise and generalise

Think back to the way you may have learned mathematics: in maths, worked examples are often used to demonstrate how to solve a problem step by step. The same can be done when teaching programming. For example, if we want to write a loop in Python, the teacher can show us a step-by-step approach using an example, and we can then apply this approach to our own task. Sounds reasonable, right?

What subgoal labels add is that, rather than just calling the steps of the worked example ‘Step 1’, ‘Step 2’, etc., the teacher uses memorable labels. For example, a subgoal label might be ‘define and initialise variables’. Such labels not only help us to remember, but more importantly, they help us to generalise the teacher’s example and grasp how to use it for many other applications.

Subgoal labels help students perform better

In her talk, Briana gave us examples of subgoal labels in use and explained how to write subgoal labels, as well as how to work with subject experts to find the best subgoal labels for a particular programming construct or area of teaching. She also shared with us some very impressive results from her team’s research examining the impact of this teaching approach. 

Screenshot of Dr Briana Morrison's research seminar talk

Briana and her colleagues have carried out robust studies comparing students who were taught using subgoals with students who weren’t. The study she discussed in the seminar involved 307 students; students in the group that learned with worked examples containing subgoal labels gave more complete answers to questions, and showed that they could understand the programming constructs at a higher level, than students who learned with worked examples that didn’t contain the subgoal labels. The study also found that the impact of subgoal labels was even more marked for students in at-risk groups (i.e. students at risk of performing badly or of dropping out).

It seems that this teaching approach works really well. The study’s participants were students in introductory computer science classes at university, so it would be interesting to see whether these results can be replicated at school level, where arguably cognitive load is even more of an issue.

Briana’s seminar was very well received, with attendees asking lots of questions about the details of the research and how it could be replicated. Her talk even included some audience participation, which got us all tapping our heads and rubbing our bellies!

Screenshot of Dr Briana Morrison's research seminar talk

Very helpfully, Briana shared a list of resources related to subgoal labels, which you can access via her talk slides on our seminars page.

You can also read more about the background and practical application of cognitive load theory and worked examples including subgoal labels in the Pedagogy Quick Read series we’re producing as part of our work in the National Centre of Computing Education.

Next up in our series

If you missed the seminar, you can find Briana’s presentation slides on our seminars page, where we’ll also soon upload a recording of her talk.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 14 July at 17:00–18:00 BST / 12:00–13:00 EDT / 9:00–10:00 PDT / 18:00–19:00 CEST, we’ll welcome Maria Zapata, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, who will be talking about computational thinking and how we can assess the computational thinking skills of very young children. To join the seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address and we’ll email you the link and instructions. If you attended Briana’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Learning AI at school — a peek into the black box

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-learning-ai-at-school/

“In the near future, perhaps sooner than we think, virtually everyone will need a basic understanding of the technologies that underpin machine learning and artificial intelligence.” — from the 2018 Informatics Europe & EUACM report about machine learning

As the quote above highlights, AI and machine learning (ML) are increasingly affecting society and will continue to change the landscape of work and leisure — with a huge impact on young people in the early stages of their education.

But how are we preparing our young people for this future? What skills do they need, and how do we teach them these skills? This was the topic of last week’s online research seminar at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, with our guest speaker Juan David Rodríguez Garcia. Juan’s doctoral studies around AI in school complement his work at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training in Spain.

Juan David Rodríguez Garcia

Juan’s LearningML tool for young people

Juan started his presentation by sharing numerous current examples of AI and machine learning, which young people can easily relate to and be excited to engage with, and which will bring up ethical questions that we need to be discussing with them.

Of course, it’s not enough for learners to be aware of AI applications. While machine learning is a complex field of study, we need to consider what aspects of it we can make accessible to young people to enable them to learn about the concepts, practices, and skills underlying it. During his talk Juan demonstrated a tool called LearningML, which he has developed as a practical introduction to AI for young people.

Screenshot of a demo of Juan David Rodríguez Garcia's LearningML tool

Juan demonstrates image recognition with his LearningML tool

LearningML takes inspiration from some of the other in-development tools around machine learning for children, such as Machine Learning for Kids, and it is available in one integrated platform. Juan gave an enticing demo of the tool, showing how to use visual image data (lots of pictures of Juan with hats, glasses on, etc.) to train and test a model. He then demonstrated how to use Scratch programming to also test the model and apply it to new data. The seminar audience was very positive about the LearningML, and of course we’d like it translated into English!

Juan’s talk generated many questions from the audience, from technical questions to the key question of the way we use the tool to introduce children to bias in AI. Seminar participants also highlighted opportunities to bring machine learning to other school subjects such as science.

AI in schools — what and how to teach

Machine learning demonstrates that computers can learn from data. This is just one of the five big ideas in AI that the AI4K12 group has identified for teaching AI in school in order to frame this broad domain:

  1. Perception: Computers perceive the world using sensors
  2. Representation & reasoning: Agents maintain models/representations of the world and use them for reasoning
  3. Learning: Computers can learn from data
  4. Natural interaction: Making agents interact comfortably with humans is a substantial challenge for AI developers
  5. Societal impact: AI applications can impact society in both positive and negative ways

One general concern I have is that in our teaching of computing in school (if we touch on AI at all), we may only focus on the fifth of the ‘big AI ideas’: the implications of AI for society. Being able to understand the ethical, economic, and societal implications of AI as this technology advances is indeed crucial. However, the principles and skills underpinning AI are also important, and how we introduce these at an age-appropriate level remains a significant question.

Illustration of AI, Image by Seanbatty from Pixabay

There are some great resources for developing a general understanding of AI principles, including unplugged activities from Computer Science For Fun. Yet there’s a large gap between understanding what AI is and has the potential to do, and actually developing the highly mathematical skills to program models. It’s not an easy issue to solve, but Juan’s tool goes a little way towards this. At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’re also developing resources to bridge this educational gap, including new online projects building on our existing machine learning projects, and an online course. Watch this space!

AI in the school curriculum and workforce

All in all, we seem to be a long way off introducing AI into the school curriculum. Looking around the world, in the USA, Hong Kong, and Australia there have been moves to introduce AI into K-12 education through pilot initiatives, and hopefully more will follow. In England, with a computing curriculum that was written in 2013, there is no requirement to teach any AI or machine learning, or even to focus much on data.

Let’s hope England doesn’t get left too far behind, as there is a massive AI skills shortage, with millions of workers needing to be retrained in the next few years. Moreover, a recent House of Lords report outlines that introducing all young people to this area of computing also has the potential to improve diversity in the workforce — something we should all be striving towards.

We look forward to hearing more from Juan and his colleagues as this important work continues.

Next up in our seminar series

If you missed the seminar, you can find Juan’s presentation slides and a recording of his talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 2 June at 17:00–18:00 BST / 12:00–13:00 EDT / 9:00–10:00 PDT / 18:00–19:00 CEST, we’ll welcome Dame Celia Hoyles, Professor of Mathematics Education at University College London. Celia will be sharing insights from her research into programming and mathematics. To join the seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address and we’ll email the link and instructions. If you attended Juan’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium – recap of our online event

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/online-research-symposium-recap/

On Wednesday, we hosted the first-ever Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium online. Research in computing education, particularly in school and for young people, is a young field compared to maths and science education, and we do not have much in terms of theoretical foundations. It is not a field that has received a lot of funding, so we cannot yet look to large-scale, longitudinal, empirical studies for evidence. Therefore, further research on how best to teach, learn, and assess computing is desperately needed. We also need to investigate ways of inspiring and motivating all young people in an area which is increasingly important for their future.

That’s why at the Raspberry Pi Foundationwe have made research a key part of our new strategy, and that’s why we worked with the University of Cambridge to hold this event.

Moving the symposium online

This was to be our first large-scale research event, held jointly with the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology. Of course, current circumstances made it necessary for us to turn the symposium from a face-to-face into an online event at short notice.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

An enthusiastic team took on the challenge, and we were delighted with how well the way the day went! You can see what participants shared throughout the day on Twitter.

Keynote presentation

Our keynote speaker was Dr Natalie Rusk of MIT and the Scratch Foundation, who shared her passion for digital creativity using Scratch.

Dr Natalie Rusk from the MIT Media Lab

We were excited to see images from early versions of Scratch and how it had developed over the years. Plus, Natalie revealed the cat blocks that were available on 1 April only — I had completely forgotten the day of the symposium was April Fools’ Day! The focus of Natalie’s presentation was on creativity, invention, tinkering, and the development of ideas over time, and she explored case studies of two ‘Scratchers’ who took a very different approach to working in the Scratch community on projects. The talk was well received by all.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

Paper presentations

We heard from researchers from a range of institutions on topics under these themes:

  • Working with teachers on computing education research
  • Assessment tools and techniques
  • Perceptions and attitudes about computing
  • Theoretical frameworks used for computing education

Highlights for me were Ethel Tshukudu’s analysis of the way students transfer from one programming language to another, in which she draws on semantic transfer theory; and Paul Curzon’s application of Karl Maton’s semantic wave theory (taken from linguistics) to computing education.

The symposium’s focus was computing for young people, and much of the research presented was directly grounded in work with teachers and students in learning situations. Lynne Blair shared an interesting study highlighting female participation in A level computer science classes, which found the feeling of a lack of belonging among young women, a finding that echoes existing research around computing education and gender. Fenia Aivaloglou from the University of Leiden, Netherlands, considered the barriers faced by learners and teachers in extra-curricular code clubs, and Alison Twiner and Jo Shillingworth from the University of Cambridge shared a study on engaging young people in work-related computing projects.

We also heard how tools for supporting learners are developing, for example machine learning techniques to process natural language answers to questions on the free online learning platforms Isaac Computer Science and Isaac Physics.

Poster presentations

For the poster sessions, we divided into separate sessions so that the poster presenters could display and discuss their posters with a smaller group of people. This enabled more in-depth discussion about the topic being presented, which participants appreciated at this large online event. The 11 posters covered a wide range of topics from data visualisations in robotics to data-driven dance.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

We showcased some of our own work on progression mapping with learning graphs for the NCCE Resource Repository; the Isaac Computer Science A level content platform; and our research into online learning with our free online courses for teachers.

Running an online symposium — what is it like?

From having successfully hosted this event online, we learned many lessons that we want to put into practice in future online events being offered by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

There’s a plethora of tools available, and they all have their pros and cons (we used Google Meet). It’s my view that the tool is less important than the preparation needed for a large-scale online event, which is significant! The organising team hosted technical run-throughs with all presenters in the two days before the event, and instigated a ‘green room’ for all presenters to check their setups again five to ten minutes before their speaking slot. This helped to avoid a whole myriad of potential technical difficulties.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

I’m so grateful to the great team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, who worked behind the scenes all day to make sure that the participants and presenters got the most out of the event!

Stay in touch!

  • On the Research Symposium web page, you can now download the symposium’s abstract booklet. We will shortly be sharing recordings of the symposium’s presentations and files of slides and posters there as well.
  • When we moved the symposium online, we postponed two pre-symposium events: a workshop on gender balance, and a workshop on research-to-practice; we’re hoping to hold these as in-person events in the autumn.
  • Meanwhile, we are planning a series of online seminars, set to start on Tuesday 21 April at 17:00 BST and continue throughout the summer at two-week intervals.

If you’re interested in receiving a regular update about these and other research activities of ours, sign up to our newsletter.

We look forward to building a community of researchers and to sharing more of our work with you over the coming years.

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Our approach to developing progression for teaching computing

Post Syndicated from Carrie Anne Philbin original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/developing-progression-for-teaching-computing/

Part of our work in the consortium behind the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) is to produce free classroom resources for teachers to deliver the Computing curriculum to students aged 5–16 in England. Our Director of Educator Support Carrie Anne Philbin describes how we define and represent progression in these resources.

For our work to develop a complete bank of free teaching resources that help teachers deliver the Computing curriculum in England, we knew that a strong progression framework is absolutely crucial. A progression framework is the backbone of any subject curriculum: it defines the sequence in which students learn, noting where core understanding of a topic is established in order to progress.

What’s the best approach to present progression?

We studied a lot of progression frameworks, examination specifications, and even some research papers. What we found is that there are two quite different ways of presenting progression that show what should be taught and when it should be taught, as well as information on how or why concepts should be taught.

Listing is one option

Firstly, there is the approach of creating a categorisation of skills and concepts into a list or table. Sequencing is shown by having objectives listed by Key Stage, year group, or even by learners’ age. Examples of this approach include the CAS computing progression pathways and the Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Curriculum Framework. They are essentially lists of required knowledge that’s bundled by theme.

Mapping trajectories is another approach

Another approach is to use a map of possible trajectories through learning waypoints and importantly how they connect to each other. This approach highlights where prerequisite knowledge needs to be mastered before students can move on, as well as the dependent knowledge contained in other nodes that need to be mastered in order to progress.

Cambridge Mathematics are leading the way in “developing a flexible and interconnected digital Framework to help reimagine mathematics education 3-19”. We’ve been lucky enough to learn from their work, which has helped us to create learning graphs.

We develop learning graphs

For our free classroom resources, we organise computing content (concepts, knowledge, skills, and objectives) into interconnected networks we call learning graphs. We found that nodes often form clusters corresponding to specific themes, and we can connect them if they represent two adjacent waypoints in the learning process. Depending on the level of abstraction, the nodes in a learning graph contain anything ranging from the contents of a curriculum strand across an entire Key Stage, to the learning objectives of a six-lesson unit.

The learning graph for the Year 9 unit Representations: going audiovisual

The learning graph for the Year 9 unit ‘Representations: going audiovisual’. Click to embiggen.

Initially, the graphs we produce are in a fluid state: they uncover the structure of the content and the possible journeys through it, without being bound to a specific teaching pathway. As we develop the content further, the graphs eventually reach a solid state, where the nodes are arranged to reflect our suggestions on the order in which teachers could actually deliver the content.

Learning graphs are doubly useful

We believe that learning graphs are useful to teachers on a whole new level: they directly inform lesson planning, but they also add value by showing opportunities to assess understanding at landmark waypoints in a lesson or unit. By checking that students are grasping the concepts, teachers are able to think more about how they are teaching and can revisit knowledge that perhaps didn’t land with learners the first time.
Woman teacher and female students at a computer

We need teachers’ feedback

All progression frameworks are subjective, and because so far there’s only little research into computing education, we rely on teachers’ experience of combining the ‘what’ we teach and ‘how’ to teach it in order to help inform this work. If you’ve not taken a look at our learning graphs for the NCCE Resource Repository, access them via teachcomputing.org/resources and let us know your thoughts via [email protected].

A version of this article will be part of the upcoming issue of Hello World, our free magazine for computing educators, launching on 23 March. Follow Hello World on Twitter for updates!

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Attend our Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/cambridge-computing-education-research-symposium-2020/

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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What we are learning about learning

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/what-we-are-learning-about-learning/

Across Code Clubs, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, and all our other education programmes, we’re working with hundreds of thousands of young people. They are all making different projects and learning different things while they are making. The research team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation does lots of work to help us understand what exactly these young people learn, and how the adults and peers who mentor them share their skills with them.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Senior Research Manager Oliver Quinlan chats to participants at Coolest Projects 2018

We do our research work by:

  • Visiting clubs, Dojos, and events, seeing how they run, and talking to the adults and young people involved
  • Running surveys to get feedback on how people are helping young people learn
  • Testing new approaches and resources with groups of clubs and Dojos to try different ways which might help to engage more young people or help them learn more effectively

Over the last few months, we’ve been running lots of research projects and gained some fascinating insights into how young people are engaging with digital making. As well as using these findings to shape our education work, we also publish what we find, for free, over on our research page.

How do children tackle digital making projects?

We found that making ambitious digital projects is a careful balance between ideas, technology, and skills. Using this new understanding, we will help children and the adults that support them plan a process for exploring open-ended projects.

Coolest Projects USA 2018

Coolest Projects USA 2018

For this piece of research, we interviewed children and young people at last year’s Coolest Projects International and Coolest Projects UK , asking questions about the kinds of projects they made and how they created them. We found that the challenge they face is finding a balance between three things: the ideas and problems they want to address, the technologies they have access to, and their skills. Different children approached their projects in different ways, some starting with the technology they had access to, others starting with an idea or with a problem they wanted to solve.

Achieving big ambitions with the technology you have to hand while also learning the skills you need can be tricky. We’re planning to develop more resources to help young people with this.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Research Assistant Lucia Florianova learns about Rebel Girls at Coolest Projects International 2018

We also found out a lot about the power of seeing other children’s projects, what children learn, and the confidence they develop in presenting their projects at these events. Alongside our analysis, we’ve put together some case studies of the teams we interviewed, so people can read in-depth about their projects and the stories of how they created them.

Who comes to Code Club?

In another research project, we found that Code Clubs in schools are often diverse and cater well for the communities the schools serve; Code Club is not an exclusive club, but something for everyone.

Code Club Athens

Code Clubs are run by volunteers in all sorts of schools, libraries, and other venues across the world; we know a lot about the spaces the clubs take place in and the volunteers who run them, but less about the children who choose to take part. We’ve started to explore this through structured visits to clubs in a sample of schools across the West Midlands in England, interviewing teachers about the groups of children in their club. We knew Code Clubs were reaching schools that cater for a whole range of communities, and the evidence of this project suggests that the children who attend the Code Club in those schools come from a range of backgrounds themselves.

Scouts Raspberry Pi

Photo c/o Dave Bird — thanks, Dave!

We found that in these primary schools, children were motivated to join Code Club more because the club is fun rather than because the children see themselves as people who are programmers. This is partly because adults set up Code Clubs with an emphasis on fun: although children are learning, they are not perceiving Code Club as an academic activity linked with school work. Our project also showed us how Code Clubs fit in with the other after-school clubs in schools, and that children often choose Code Club as part of a menu of after-school clubs.

Raspberry Jam

Visitors to Pi Towers Raspberry Jam get hands-on with coding

In the last few months we’ve also published insights into how Raspberry Pi Certified Educators are using their training in schools, and into how schools are using Raspberry Pi computers. You can find our reports on all of these topics over at our research page.

Thanks to all the volunteers, educators, and young people who are finding time to help us with their research. If you’re involved in any of our education programmes and want to take part in a research project, or if you are doing your own research into computing education and want to start a conversation, then reach out to us via [email protected].

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The National Centre for Computing Education: your questions answered

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/ncce-questions-answers/

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 [email protected].

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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A world-class computing education

Post Syndicated from Philip Colligan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/world-class-computing-education/

I am delighted to share some big news today. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is part of a consortium that has secured over £78 million in government funding to make sure every child in every school in England has access to a world-leading computing education.

National Centre for Computing Education

Working with our partners, STEM Learning and the British Computer Society, we will establish a new National Centre for Computing Education, and deliver a comprehensive programme of support for computing teachers in primary and secondary schools. This will include resources, training, research, certification, and more.

A teacher works at a computer, smiling delightedly. Another adult, standing in the background, observes. national centre for computing education

All of the online resources and courses will be completely free for anyone to use. Face-to-face training will be available at no cost to teachers in priority schools, and at very low cost to teachers in other schools. We will also provide bursaries to ensure that schools can release teachers to take part in professional development.

Several children, some smiling broadly and some concentrating intently, work with Raspberry PI computers and electronic components in a classroom

An unprecedented level of investment

This level of investment in computing education is unprecedented anywhere in the world. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we teach computing and computer science.

The announcement follows the Royal Society’s report from last November, which drew attention to the scale of the challenge. The report was quickly followed by a commitment from the Chancellor in last year’s budget statement that the government would invest £100 million in computing education across the UK. Earlier this year, the Department for Education launched a procurement process focused on England, and today’s announcement is the outcome of that process.

national centre for computing education

The consortium has been tasked with delivering three pieces of work:

  • A National Centre for Computing Education, which will establish a network of Computing Hubs to provide continuing professional development (CPD) and resources for computing teachers in primary and secondary schools and colleges. The Centre will also facilitate strong links with industry.
  • A teacher training programme to upskill existing teachers to teach GCSE Computer Science.
  • A programme to support AS- and A-level Computer Science students and teachers with high-quality resources and CPD.

national centre for computing education

A powerful coalition

One of the things I am most excited about is the amazing coalition of partners that has come together around the plans. The consortium brings together subject expertise and knowledge, significant experience of creating brilliant learning experiences and resources, and a track record of delivering high-quality professional development for educators. But we can’t do it on our own.

For example, we’re working with the University of Cambridge team that created Isaac Physics to adapt and extend that platform and programme to support teachers and students of Computer Science A Level.

Our friends at Google have provided practical support and a grant of £1 million to help us create free online courses that will help teachers develop the knowledge and skills to teach computing and computer science.

national centre for computing education

We’re working with the Behavioural Insights Team to make it as easy as possible for teachers to get involved with the programme, and with FutureLearn to provide high-quality online courses.

We’ll also be working in partnership with industry, universities, and non-profits, pooling our expertise and resources to provide the support that educators and schools desperately want. That’s not just a vague promise. As part of the bid process, we secured specific commitments from over 60 organisations who pledged to work with us to make our vision a reality.

A woman and a man sit at a desk, evidently collaborating on work on a laptop. The woman is smiling and the man is grinning and making an "A-OK" hand gesture.

Get involved

Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing more about our plans. In the meantime, here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Check out the launch website for the National Centre for Computing Education and register your email for updates.
  2. Spread the word to teachers, school leaders, industry, non-profits, and anyone else you think might be interested. Send them a link to this blog, or share it on social media.
  3. Help us find amazing, talented people who can join the team to bring this all to life.

national centre for computing education

A message to readers outside England

Improving computing education should be a priority for every education system and every government in the world. This announcement is focused on computing in schools in England because it’s about funding that has come from the government for that purpose.

I am proud that the Raspberry Pi Foundation will be playing its part in transforming computing education in England. But our mission is global, and our commitment is that the resources and online courses we create will be freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world.

If you are a policy maker outside of England and want to talk about how we could collaborate to advance computing education in your country, please get in touch. We’d love to help.

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Happy birthday to us!

Post Syndicated from Eben Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/happy-birthday-2018/

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that today is 28 February, which is as close as you’re going to get to our sixth birthday, given that we launched on a leap day. For the last three years, we’ve launched products on or around our birthday: Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015; Raspberry Pi 3 in 2016; and Raspberry Pi Zero W in 2017. But today is a snow day here at Pi Towers, so rather than launching something, we’re taking a photo tour of the last six years of Raspberry Pi products before we don our party hats for the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

Prehistory

Before there was Raspberry Pi, there was the Broadcom BCM2763 ‘micro DB’, designed, as it happens, by our very own Roger Thornton. This was the first thing we demoed as a Raspberry Pi in May 2011, shown here running an ARMv6 build of Ubuntu 9.04.

BCM2763 micro DB

Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style

A few months later, along came the first batch of 50 “alpha boards”, designed for us by Broadcom. I used to have a spreadsheet that told me where in the world each one of these lived. These are the first “real” Raspberry Pis, built around the BCM2835 application processor and LAN9512 USB hub and Ethernet adapter; remarkably, a software image taken from the download page today will still run on them.

Raspberry Pi alpha board, top view

Raspberry Pi alpha board

We shot some great demos with this board, including this video of Quake III:

Raspberry Pi – Quake 3 demo

A little something for the weekend: here’s Eben showing the Raspberry Pi running Quake 3, and chatting a bit about the performance of the board. Thanks to Rob Bishop and Dave Emett for getting the demo running.

Pete spent the second half of 2011 turning the alpha board into a shippable product, and just before Christmas we produced the first 20 “beta boards”, 10 of which were sold at auction, raising over £10000 for the Foundation.

The beginnings of a Bramble

Beta boards on parade

Here’s Dom, demoing both the board and his excellent taste in movie trailers:

Raspberry Pi Beta Board Bring up

See http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for more details, FAQ and forum.

Launch

Rather to Pete’s surprise, I took his beta board design (with a manually-added polygon in the Gerbers taking the place of Paul Grant’s infamous red wire), and ordered 2000 units from Egoman in China. After a few hiccups, units started to arrive in Cambridge, and on 29 February 2012, Raspberry Pi went on sale for the first time via our partners element14 and RS Components.

Pallet of pis

The first 2000 Raspberry Pis

Unboxing continues

The first Raspberry Pi from the first box from the first pallet

We took over 100000 orders on the first day: something of a shock for an organisation that had imagined in its wildest dreams that it might see lifetime sales of 10000 units. Some people who ordered that day had to wait until the summer to finally receive their units.

Evolution

Even as we struggled to catch up with demand, we were working on ways to improve the design. We quickly replaced the USB polyfuses in the top right-hand corner of the board with zero-ohm links to reduce IR drop. If you have a board with polyfuses, it’s a real limited edition; even more so if it also has Hynix memory. Pete’s “rev 2” design made this change permanent, tweaked the GPIO pin-out, and added one much-requested feature: mounting holes.

Revision 1 versus revision 2

If you look carefully, you’ll notice something else about the revision 2 board: it’s made in the UK. 2012 marked the start of our relationship with the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales. In the five years since, they’ve built every product we offer, including more than 12 million “big” Raspberry Pis and more than one million Zeros.

Celebrating 500,000 Welsh units, back when that seemed like a lot

Economies of scale, and the decline in the price of SDRAM, allowed us to double the memory capacity of the Model B to 512MB in the autumn of 2012. And as supply of Model B finally caught up with demand, we were able to launch the Model A, delivering on our original promise of a $25 computer.

A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A

In 2014, James took all the lessons we’d learned from two-and-a-bit years in the market, and designed the Model B+, and its baby brother the Model A+. The Model B+ established the form factor for all our future products, with a 40-pin extended GPIO connector, four USB ports, and four mounting holes.

The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ — entering the era of proper product photography with a bang.

New toys

While James was working on the Model B+, Broadcom was busy behind the scenes developing a follow-on to the BCM2835 application processor. BCM2836 samples arrived in Cambridge at 18:00 one evening in April 2014 (chips never arrive at 09:00 — it’s always early evening, usually just before a public holiday), and within a few hours Dom had Raspbian, and the usual set of VideoCore multimedia demos, up and running.

We launched Raspberry Pi 2 at the start of 2015, pairing BCM2836 with 1GB of memory. With a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 clocked at 900MHz, we’d increased performance sixfold, and memory fourfold, in just three years.

Nobody mention the xenon death flash.

And of course, while James was working on Raspberry Pi 2, Broadcom was developing BCM2837, with a quad-core 64-bit Arm Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.2GHz. Raspberry Pi 3 launched barely a year after Raspberry Pi 2, providing a further doubling of performance and, for the first time, wireless LAN and Bluetooth.

All our recent products are just the same board shot from different angles

Zero to hero

Where the PC industry has historically used Moore’s Law to “fill up” a given price point with more performance each year, the original Raspberry Pi used Moore’s law to deliver early-2000s PC performance at a lower price. But with Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, we’d gone back to filling up our original $35 price point. After the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, we started to wonder whether we could pull the same trick again, taking the original Raspberry Pi platform to a radically lower price point.

The result was Raspberry Pi Zero. Priced at just $5, with a 1GHz BCM2835 and 512MB of RAM, it was cheap enough to bundle on the front of The MagPi, making us the first computer magazine to give away a computer as a cover gift.

Cheap thrills

MagPi issue 40 in all its glory

We followed up with the $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W, launched exactly a year ago. This adds the wireless LAN and Bluetooth functionality from Raspberry Pi 3, using a rather improbable-looking PCB antenna designed by our buddies at Proant in Sweden.

Up to our old tricks again

Other things

Of course, this isn’t all. There has been a veritable blizzard of point releases; RAM changes; Chinese red units; promotional blue units; Brazilian blue-ish units; not to mention two Camera Modules, in two flavours each; a touchscreen; the Sense HAT (now aboard the ISS); three compute modules; and cases for the Raspberry Pi 3 and the Zero (the former just won a Design Effectiveness Award from the DBA). And on top of that, we publish three magazines (The MagPi, Hello World, and HackSpace magazine) and a whole host of Project Books and Essentials Guides.

Chinese Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Visible-light Camera Module v2

Learning about injection moulding the hard way

250 pages of content each month, every month

Essential reading

Forward the Foundation

Why does all this matter? Because we’re providing everyone, everywhere, with the chance to own a general-purpose programmable computer for the price of a cup of coffee; because we’re giving people access to tools to let them learn new skills, build businesses, and bring their ideas to life; and because when you buy a Raspberry Pi product, every penny of profit goes to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation in its mission to change the face of computing education.

We’ve had an amazing six years, and they’ve been amazing in large part because of the community that’s grown up alongside us. This weekend, more than 150 Raspberry Jams will take place around the world, comprising the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend.

Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend 2018. GIF with confetti and bopping JAM balloons

If you want to know more about the Raspberry Pi community, go ahead and find your nearest Jam on our interactive map — maybe we’ll see you there.

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