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Getting started with computing education projects

If you are starting your third year undergraduate project in computer science education, here are some useful resources to help get you started with your project and keep you going throughout the academic year. You can link directly to this document using the shortcut git.io/computinged

“Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education”

... can you work out which political leader said this and when?

Joining in

If you haven't already, join Computing At School (CAS). CAS is UK network of teachers of computing in primary and secondary schools with lots of free resources available that you can re-use and extend, see computingatschool.org.uk/sign_up. The University of Manchester is a CAS Regional Hub, so you've got some expert teachers in the Kilburn building who can help you, Dave Ames, Sarah Zaman and Carol Murray.

Computing at School

It is important to get DBS cleared which can take time, the earlier you apply the better, then you won't be waiting around at the beginning of term for your clearance before you can get stuck into your project. When you are DBS cleared, schools can be more confident that it is safe for them to let you work with children and young people (e.g. you are not a criminal). One of the easiest ways to do this is sign up as a STEM ambassador

Planning and thinking about your project in advance

Like many research projects, your final year education project is open-ended. Unlike lectures and exams, you have much more scope for driving the project in a direction you want, with help and guidance from your academic supervisors, the teachers in your school and the students and pupils you are working with. In previous years, undergraduate student projects have typically been one of the following kinds:

  1. DEVELOPMENT FOR STUDENTS Creating an artefact or artefacts (e.g. software, hardware, lesson plans & resources) to help students understand different aspects of computer science
  2. DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS Creating an artefact or artefacts that helps teachers to teach and assess computer Science including what they have understood or misunderstood
  3. RESEARCH ON PEDAGOGY Evaluating different methods for teaching, known as pedagogy. For example, you might want to find out which kind of language is best for students learning about loops. Are text-based languages (like Python or Java) better or worse than block based languages (Like Scratch from MIT and Blockly from Google) See the new research in computer science education 2015-2017 via Sue Sentance at King's College London & Neil Brown at the University of Kent

These categories are not exclusive, so you might do one or several of these together using the same tool.

Essential reading and resources

You really need to look at these:

Using novel and unusual hardware

Taking hardware into the classroom that students may never seen before is a good way to spark interest. Try experimenting with new hardware that you could use in the classroom, we have lots of kit you can use in the hardware library like:

Unplugging: Computing without computers and cross-curricular links

Fancy hardware and gadgets are great ways to engage children, but you don't always need it. You can inspire people's imagination about computer science without using a computer at all, or by using computers in different settings Some good examples:

You can also demonstrate the breadth of computing by building cross-curricular links via art, music, physics, chemistry and geography etc

Education, education, education

We don't provide any formal training on how to become a teacher because that is a qualification and skill in its own right, known in the UK as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). The teacher is responsible for behaviour management and classroom management, because this is what they are expert on. We expect teachers to do manage the classroom, so that you can concentrate on your subject and how you teach it. However, if you'd like to learn more.

Even if you are working primarily with secondary school students, it can be beneficial to visit a primary school (for example, one that feeds into your secondary school) to get the bigger picture on education as a whole. For primary specific resources take a look at Code Club, barefootcas.org.uk and QuickStart Computing

Further reading

--Duncan Hull, June 2017