January Update

CS in Schools officially launches in less than two weeks. Our founding volunteers will soon be in the classroom helping teachers develop their skills in teaching coding to students, and our evaluation of the programme starts this weekend.

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As always, we remain focused on two priorities for 2019:

  1. Helping teachers become confident and competent in teaching coding in schools
  2. Evaluating our programme to understand what works and how to scale it in 2020 and beyond

Every month at CS in Schools is an exhilarating whirlwind. In that respect, we’re like every other startup! Plenty has been happening:

  • Our volunteer workshop is this weekend. We’re excited to be bringing together 15 amazing volunteer CS professionals with a group of experienced teachers. The experienced teachers will be helping our volunteers understand what it’s like to work alongside a teacher in a high school classroom. We thank Kristy Kendall in particular for the enormous volunteer contribution she’s made to putting together the workshop
  • Our lesson materials are almost ready. Toan Huynh, who’s the Head of Digital Technologies at the John Monash Science School has been working closely with us over summer to build engaging lessons for Year 7 students
  • We’ve made progress on evaluation of the programme, and we’re working with Jeff Brook’s team here at RMIT to study how effectively we can improve the confidence and skills of teachers through our unique in-class professional development approach
  • We have a very nice logo (there’s alternate versions below too)

As always, we’re still looking for opportunities to pitch for more volunteers and to get tech companies involved in our work. Ping us if you’re interested, and you can volunteer directly here. And we always need financial support of what’s a philanthropic initiative — please reach out if you can help.

Programme

The programme hasn’t changed substantively, and so I’ll skip the details this time around. Read this blog post if you’d like a summary, or read this if you’d like to learn more.

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Volunteering

We are very thankful to have 15 amazing “founding” volunteers in the CS in Schools programme. Thank you to all of them!

Much of the past two months has been about recruiting volunteers. We had enormous support from SEEK and MessageMedia in particular, and many of our 15 volunteer CS professionals are from those two organisations. We thank them profusely. We also thank Ento, CultureAmp, Carsales, Edrolo, and REA for their engagement. We thank all the employers for letting their staff spend their time in a classroom during working hours!

Our focus with the volunteers is getting them ready to be in a Year 7 classroom supporting a teacher who’s keen to learn how to teach students to code. To that end, we’re running a workshop this weekend to help get the volunteers ready. Topics that are covered include:

  • Working with students
  • How to explain coding
  • Presentation basics and preparing for class
  • Classroom scenarios
  • Successful partnerships with teachers and schools

Most of the sessions are facilitated by an experienced school teacher or school executive who’s expert in the topic, and the presentation basics session is facilitated by a professional presentation coach. Our goal is to give the volunteers an appreciation of what it’s like to be in a classroom, and to help them be effective mentors and coaches to teachers.

We owe enormous thanks to Kristy Kendall for the contribution she’s made to putting together the workshop.

There’s more information about volunteering here, and details of our training workshop for volunteers can be found here.

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Lessons

We’ve been working hard over the holidays on our first module at CS in Schools. It’s a ten week programme that is roughly two hours per week and aimed at Year 7 students. We’re not quite ready to release the materials, but we will do so in the next two or three weeks under a Creative Commons license. Our goal is to have teachers independently teaching students how to code, and we believe an open license is the best way to achieve that goal.

We thank Toan Huynh, who’s the Head of Digital Technologies at the John Monash Science School, for spending much of his holidays working with us on the lessons. He’s helped build slides, worksheets, interactive projects, and videos.

The lessons are designed to help teachers teach students how to write code. Students will develop real Python programs in an editor, debug them, and build their own software. There’s two final projects, one of which includes writing code to compete in a Sumo Challenge using an Edison robot. We can’t wait to see how our classes are received.

Our lessons aim to cover critical hard-to-teach parts of the Victorian DigiTech curriculum at Levels 7 and 8. It’s up to schools to decide what materials to use, and whether they’re meeting the Victorian requirements, but it’s our goal to give them a head start and some great materials to build from. In any case, we hope that schools will be able to say that their Year 7s have learnt how to code using the most popular programming language. If we’ve succeeded, there’ll be a trained teacher at the school who can continue to deliver that outcome into the future!

We know from experience that actually teaching coding is the hardest step in delivering the Victorian curriculum. We’re excited to launch the lessons soon!

Evaluation

It’s early days in evaluation of the programme. We plan to administer surveys of teachers and volunteers pre- and post- their experience with the CS in Schools programme. We’re working with others at RMIT to build a robust evaluation, and we plan to submit a paper for publication in a refereed venue in the middle of 2019. I’ll share more on this topic in a future blog post.

Thanks for reading all the way to here. Cheers, Hugh.

 

 

Published by

Hugh E. Williams

Search engine guy, Engineer, Executive, Father, and eBay-er.

One thought on “January Update

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