Overview

Many of the most important and best paid jobs of the next generation will require computational thinking and coding skills. By 2022, it is thought that an additional 81,000 workers will be required in the Australian IT sector. To help Victorian school students be ready for these jobs, Digital Technology (DigiTech) is now compulsory through to Year 10 in Victorian government and Catholic schools.

CS in Schools is a philanthropic initiative at RMIT University focused on helping teachers confidently teach computer science to high school students in Victoria. CS in Schools exists because schools often find it challenging to teach Australian DigiTech curriculum, and find teaching coding particularly challenging. There are almost no computer scientists who are practising teachers, and there is a chronic shortage of teachers from related fields who feel qualified to teach computing. Coding is a critical skill in the modern world.

We believe that today’s teachers can effectively teach coding if they’re supported through in-class professional development. Microsoft’s TEALS programme has shown it is possible in the United States. CS in Schools is a volunteer-based programme that is similar to TEALS, but aimed at teachers of Years 7 and 8 in Victorian schools.

In 2019, CS in Schools is piloting a Year 7 programme with eight schools, and studying how successfully teachers can ramp-up their skills when they are coached and mentored by in-class volunteer computing professionals. Success is defined as being able to demonstrate with academic rigor that teachers can be effectively trained in the classroom to be confident and competent at teaching coding using this programme. The programme is free to schools and staffed by volunteers in the classroom.

If the programme is successful, the goal is to launch CS in Schools broadly in 2020 in partnership with government and industry. In 2019, the programme is expected to change rapidly, and adapt, invent, and discard tools, techniques, and methods while it searches for the right approach to helping Australian teachers.

CS in Schools is a philanthropic initiative at RMIT and is funded in 2019 by generous donations from Australian technology leaders, and supported by SEEK, Real Estate Australia, MessageMedia, and TEALS. It is founded by Professor Hugh Williams, Selina Williams, and Kristy Kendall who work part-time in an honorary capacity.

Purpose

CS in Schools helps teachers develop confidence and competence in teaching computer science to Australian school children.

In 2019, CS in Schools is focused on:

  • Developing a professional development programme to help teachers to competently and confidently a Year 7 coding subject
  • Developing lesson plans, assignments, and all other materials required for a Year 7 subject
  • Delivering the programme to train teachers
  • Providing follow up support to trained teachers
  • Measuring the programme’s effectiveness
  • Engaging RMIT staff and students in the programme

Success is defined as being able to demonstrate with academic rigor that teachers can be effectively trained in the classroom to be confident and competent at teaching coding using this programme.

Programme Overview

CS in Schools is volunteer-based programme. Computing professionals work side-by-side with school teachers in the classroom, helping teachers to become confident and competent at teaching coding and computational thinking. CS in Schools provides  lesson plans, assignments, software, and hardware where required. CS in Schools provides training for volunteers, support for schools and teachers, and runs the evaluation of the programme.

The programme is working with ten teachers, fourteen volunteers and eight schools in term one, 2019. The programme will repeat across terms two through four in 2019.

Subject

CS in Schools has developed twenty hours of coding lessons that can be used in a Year 7 subject. In most cases, this subject will be delivered in schools at two contact hours per week for approximately ten weeks. Typically, every student in Year 7 at a partner school will participate in the programme.

The materials are provided free of charge, and schools and teachers have perpetual access to the materials under a creative commons license.

Volunteers

Volunteers are computing professionals who want to give back by spending time in a high school classroom helping teachers become confident and competent at teaching coding and computational thinking. Volunteering is a substantial time commitment. There is a small stipend paid to each volunteer.

Volunteers spend approximately 20 or 40 hours of teaching time in the classroom (2 hours per week for 10 weeks, usually for 2 terms). In addition, they must attend a training programme before working in a school, and participate in a post-term debrief.

More information on volunteering in the classroom can be found here.

There may be other volunteer opportunities at CS in Schools. These would typically be for trainee teachers or RMIT students. Opportunities may include:

  • Web design and maintenance
  • Marketing, PR, and communications
  • Curriculum development
  • Administration
  • Volunteer coordination and selection

Schools

CS in Schools is a pilot programme in 2019. Therefore, it is important to trial the programme with teachers in different contexts. Such contexts include:

  • Public, independent, and Catholic schools
  • Large and small schools
  • Metropolitan and country schools
  • Lower socio-economic schools and areas
  • Different teacher backgrounds, including diversity of training and experience

In 2019, the pilot schools are:

There are eight schools, ten teachers, and fourteen volunteers in term one, 2019. The number of students in their classes is over 1,000.

Schools do not pay for the programme in 2019, and it is intended that it remains free or near free in the future.

Financial Support

CS in Schools is supported by generous donations. The three significant supporters are Adam Lewis, Martin Hosking, and Leigh Jasper. To continue the programme, we need the support of more donors — please consider contacting us if you’re interested in supporting our work.

CS in Schools is part of RMIT University, and RMIT University is a Deductible Gift Recipient, which is an advantageous status for donors who wish to donate from their private ancillary fund (PAF).

Funds are spent on research, curriculum development, hardware, stipends for volunteer software engineers, and other programme expenses. The founders and volunteers provide their time free of charge.

Scaling the Programme

Assuming the pilot is successful, CS in Schools will begin scaling. Success is defined as demonstrating that teachers in the programme can be trained to confidently and competently teach computing. Our goal will be to work with 100 schools in 2020. Our aim is to eventually provide the programme in all Australian schools, across all high school year levels, to all teachers who want to participate.

We plan to extend the programme beyond a compulsory Year 7 subject. We plan to launch a compulsory Year 8 programme in 2020 that operates under the same model. In future years, we plan to build an optional Year 9 and Year 10 programme. We would eventually like to help drive substantial change to the Years 11 and 12 computing subjects, making them more relevant to contemporary industry jobs and contexts.

We plan to move beyond Victoria. In 2020, we will likely continue to focus only on Victoria, and hope to move beyond Victoria in 2021. It is possible we will move internationally, likely into South-East Asia in the future.