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Spring 2019 Update

This is the first of our new quarterly updates on the CS in Schools programme. If you’d like to receive this as an email every quarter, shoot me an email.

It’s been a terrific, busy, impactful three months. A few highlights:
  1. We’re almost finished with our recruiting for the 2020 programme and we are about to match nearly 50 volunteer computing professionals to nearly 60 teachers for next year’s programme; for most teachers and volunteers, the programme begins in the classroom in February
  2. We’re running our two-day workshop on 31 November and 1 December for the 100+ new volunteers and teachers who are joining the 2020 programme
  3. We had a terrific awards night to celebrate the 2019 programme. The picture below shows Stella Ramos, a teacher from Greensborough College, receiving her award from Kristy Kendall
  4. Every school and teacher in the 2019 pilot is returning for 2020. Most of the teachers will be part of the pilot testing of our new Year 8 programme

 

CS in Schools award night
Stella Ramos (right) receiving her award for completing the CS in Schools programme from co-founder Kristy Kendall. Stella is a teacher at Greensborough College

Our successful 2019 programme is drawing to a close. We helped 10 teachers develop their skills in teaching coding and, through those teachers, we supported 8 schools and taught over 1,050 students to code. We couldn’t have done that without the support of 14 volunteer computing professionals, their supportive companies, RMIT University, and the school executives we’ve worked with. In particular, we couldn’t have done it without the philanthropic support of Leigh Jasper, Martin Hosking, and Adam Lewis. Thank you to everyone who made our first year a success.

In 2020, we will be developing the skills of between 55 to 70 teachers, with the support of around 50 volunteers. There will be at least 22 schools in the programme, including at least 10 government, 10 independent, and 2 Catholic schools. We estimate almost 6,000 students will have the opportunity to learn to code through the programme in 2020 and, because we’re building teacher and school capability, this impact can continue in 2021 and beyond.

Carsales have the lead in the volunteer stakes with 15 software engineers volunteering for 2020, followed by SEEK with 12, MessageMedia with 7, and 4 each from Xplor and CultureAmp. Thank you to all the companies that generously donate the time of their employees to the programme. In particular, thank you volunteers — if there’s no volunteers, there’s no programme, so you make it happen!

We have a world-class Year 7 programme ready for 2020. After testing for four terms in the classroom, we’ve made it simpler and shorter, and we’ve focused on creating new supplementary materials that make the programme more flexible. We’ll be spending much of our workshop explaining the programme and its materials to our new teachers and volunteers.

We’re starting work on a new Year 8 programme, which will be piloted by all of the schools and most of the teachers who were in the programme this year. We will roll out Year 8 at scale in 2021.

Thank you to those of you who’ve been part of CS in Schools in 2019, and helped give the awesome teachers in our programme support to teach their students to code. This will change Australia for the better.

Cheers, Hugh (on behalf of Selina and Kristy and the whole team).

CS in Schools Awards Night 2019

We celebrated our 2019 founding teachers and volunteers on 28 October at The Capitol at RMIT University. Congratulations again to everyone who’s been involved in the programme and thank you for your support!

Leigh Jasper delivering the keynote speech at the awards night. Leigh called on schools to help students develop their coding skills early in high school.

We were lucky to hear from RMIT University Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Bean CBE and Aconex founder and former CEO Leigh Jasper. Martin shared the key message that coding is a critical competency for this generation and that he believes that CS in Schools’ model is the most effective he’s seen for developing teacher skills. Leigh spoke about Australia’s shortage of digital workers and the need to address this through giving students the chance to learn how to code in secondary school. Both were thankful to the founding teachers and volunteers, and thanked their schools for having the courage to drive change.

CS in Schools award night
Professor Martin Bean CBE, the Vice-Chancellor of RMIT University, opening the awards night. Martin’s key message was that coding is a critical competency for this generation and that CS in Schools is the best programme he’s seen in the space.

Kristy Kendall, who’s a co-founder at CS in Schools and the Principal at Toorak College spoke on behalf of the CS in Schools team. Kristy shared that our work with ten teachers this year has helped almost 1,100 students including more than 600 girls learn how to code. She shared that next year around 60 teachers will work with as many volunteers in the programme, and create the opportunity for over 6,000 students to learn how to code.

CS in Schools award night
Teachers, volunteers, and supporters of CS in Schools mingling before the awards night presentation.

Kristy also shared the exciting news that every teacher who participated this year and all teachers in next year’s programme are eligible to receive the Coding for Teachers credential from RMIT University. For 2020, as with the rest of the programme, this is completely free. The credential is equivalent to one course in a Masters programme, and is resume-building evidence that a teacher can teach coding.

CS in Schools award night
Mark Bennett (Haileybury), Natalie Heath (Eltham HS), Stella Ramos (Greensborough College), Phil Carew (Toorak College), Justine Isard (McClelland College), and Sam Webster (Mount Erin College) receiving their awards. Absent were Ineke Viljoen (Catholic College Sale), Edward Wilson (Gippsland Grammar School), Stuart Bush (Toorak College), and Gus McLean (Greensborough College).

Every volunteer and teacher was celebrated on stage and received a hand-crafted award recognising their contribution. We asked local artist and woodworker Claudio Mantuano to create a robot that uniquely marks the 2019 cohort. We will have a new robot in a similar style for every participant in the 2020 programme.

CS in Schools award night
Toan Huynh (John Monash Science School), Zach Wingrave (CS in Schools), Jacqui Shadforth (REA), Julian Choquette (Messagemedia), Jeff Plumb (Haileybury), Bryce Kelly (SEEK), Jonatan Castro (Messagemedia), Darren Beukes (SEEK), Michele Playfair (YOW!), Helen Giapitzakis (SEEK), Kevin Forster (Messagemedia), and Ben Jervis (SEEK) receiving their volunteer awards. Absent were Nancy Do (SEEK) and Jack Jordan (SEEK).

We concluded the night with a viewing of a light show in the renovated Capitol. It’s an incredible space that was rescued from near ruin by RMIT University, who spent around $18 million on the renovation.

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Our robot awards were crafted by local artist and craftsman Claudio Mantuano, see http://alleycatfurniture.com/.

Well done again to everyone involved in the 2019 programme, and thanks for celebrating with us. Thanks to Martin Bean and Leigh Jasper for speaking on the night, and thanks to everyone else who attended and gave their time to help us this year. We’re looking forward to an amazing 2020.

CS in Schools award night
Wrapping up the night with a light show at RMIT’s The Capitol.

It’s not too late to get involved. If you’re a teacher or a school, learn more here. If you’re an experienced coder and you’d like to help a teacher, learn more here. If you would like to financially support us, we need your help — please email me at hugh@csinschools.com.

See you next time.

Hugh (on behalf of the CS in Schools team).

September Update

We’re deep into planning our 2020 programme for CS in Schools, and spending our time building new curriculum, recruiting schools and teachers, and recruiting volunteers to support them. We’re close to full-up on teachers for 2020, but we’re very keen to hear from potential volunteers: learn more and apply here.

We’ll be working with somewhere between 60 and 80 Australian secondary school teachers in 2020, and helping them develop their professional skills in teaching coding to their students. By training 60 teachers, more than 6,000 students each year will have the opportunity to learn how to code in 2020. If we reach 80 teachers, our impact will be at least 8,000 students. Of course, since our programme develops teachers’ skills, those teachers can continue to help more students learn coding in future years.

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Mount Erin College teacher Sam explaining indentation to his students

As of September 30, we have committed to work with 54 teachers from 25 schools across Victoria and we’re talking to around 10 more schools (including two in New South Wales and one in Queensland). We still have the bold aim of working with 1,000 teachers across Australia in 2021.

Our volunteer recruiting is moving into full swing for 2020. We’ll need between 50 and 70 volunteers to support our teachers. If you’re an individual and you’re confident that you could help a Year 7 teacher and their students, you can learn more and apply here. Having said that, the biggest impact you can have is inviting us to meet your tech team at your workplace — email hugh@csinschools.com if you can help. We’d love the chance to work with more companies.

The teachers in our programme this year have taught our Year 7 curriculum for three terms, and they’re readying for a fourth term. We’ve been through two revisions of the materials, and we’re currently revising the materials for a third time: they’ll be thoroughly battle-tested and ready for our 2020 teacher and volunteer cohort. If you’ve not seen our materials, and you’d like a sneak peak, then head over here: http://year7.io.

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Volunteer Nancy Do from SEEK helping in the classroom

Speaking of teachers in the programme this year: we’re excited to share that every teacher is returning to CS in Schools next year. They’ll all be teaching our new Year 8 beta programme that extends our Year 7 programme, and continuing to develop their skills in teaching coding. Of course, that means that every school in the programme is continuing with us in 2020. Most returning schools are adding at least one more teacher to the programme; one of the schools is expanding from a pilot of one Year 7 class to twenty-three classes!

There’s more to share, but I’ll save some news for our October update. Stay tuned!

Cheers, Hugh (on behalf of Selina and Kristy and the whole team).

 

July Update

It’s been a fantastic first half of the year for CS in Schools. Our amazing fourteen volunteers have helped eight schools and ten teachers master the skills needed to effectively deliver coding classes to over 500 Year 7 students! The teachers are now beginning Term 3 without the need for our in-class support, and they’re all feeling confident teaching their students how to code. At the end of 2019, over 1,000 students will have had the chance to learn how to code! Of course, this also means that these teachers can help another 1,000 students next and every year in the future too.

We thank the classroom volunteers for their dedication to helping teachers and students: thank you to Ben, Bryce, Darren, Helen, Jack, Jeff, Jonatan, Julian, Kevin, Michelle, Nancy, and Zach. We also thank Jacqui, Toan, and Zach for their work outside the classroom. Last, we thank the employers who’ve generously allowed our volunteers to spend time in a classroom each week: MessageMedia, SEEK, Xero, and YOW!.

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CS in Schools volunteer Julian from MessageMedia helping students in the classroom.

To get a sense of what a student can accomplish in a term, it’s worth playing this game that was built by Holly, a Year 7 student from Eltham High School. Click on the link above or on the code image below, and then press “Run” at the top of the screen, and play the game on the right hand side of the screen. If you die a horrible death, press “Run” again. You can see the code that Holly’s written on the left side of the screen.

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An example of a student’s work from a Year 7 class at Eltham High School. Click on the image to play the game.

Holly’s game shows you how the building blocks of coding can be used. The CS in Schools Year 7 lessons help teachers and their students learn the fundamentals of coding: input and output, variables, branching and conditionals, and loops. This is enough for students to be incredibly creative, and our major assignment is an adventure game built in the Python programming language.

We’ve completed most of our work in the classroom for 2019. We’re now focused on expanding the CS in Schools programme. We plan to work with 100 teachers in 2020, and we’re now accepting applications from teachers and schools to join the programme that commences in February 2020. We’re concurrently expanding our volunteer programme and seeking new volunteers for 2020. We remain focused on Year 7 and we’re now accepting applications from all states in Australia. If you’ve got contacts in a school that should have our programme, please get in touch.

To help with recruiting, we’ve recorded two videos. Here’s our video that’s aimed at schools and teachers:

And here’s our video that’s aimed at volunteers:

Thanks to Adam, Amelie, Ella, Jack, Karen, Kristy, Mackenzie, Nancy, Phil, and Sam for their patient participation in our filming. Thanks also to the students and staff of Mount Erin College and Toorak College for hosting us and the film crew. It was a ton of fun!

Thanks for reading the latest, and we’ll be back soon with more.

Cheers, Hugh (on behalf of Kristy and Selina).

 

February Update

(If you’re new to CS in Schools, I recommend reading this page before this update.)

Term one is under way, and our volunteers have been in the classroom helping teachers and students throughout February. It has been incredibly smooth sailing so far — we are pleased to report that the teachers and volunteers have helped our first cohort of students from across Victoria successfully write their first Python programs!

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CS in Schools volunteer Nancy in the classroom.

Prior to term, we had a successful training workshop for our volunteers. Our goal was to equip them with skills to explain coding to students, understand how a classroom operates, offer tips on how to work with teachers and schools, and develop their presentation skills. Kristy Kendall from Toorak Collage brought together an experienced team of school educators to help our volunteers, and the feedback from the workshop has been extremely positive.

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The Founding Volunteers at CS in Schools graduating from our training workshop.

Just in time for the workshop, Toan Huynh and I completed a “beta level” version of the lesson materials. Since then, we’ve been refining them, and we’re getting close to what we’d call a v1.0. Another amazing volunteer, Jacqui Shadforth, has been building a visual style guide and applying it to our materials, and we’re thrilled with how they look too. Thanks Jacqui!

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Our lesson materials are looking good!

Selina and I have just begun visiting schools to learn from teachers, volunteers, executives, and students about how our programme is going. We were in Sale this week visiting the Catholic College Sale and the Gippsland Grammar School. It was an amazing and humbling experience to see students soaking up the materials, teachers developing their skills in coding, and our volunteer Zach in action. We’re looking forward to personally seeing all of the classrooms in action.

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One of the students at McClelland built his own Homer Simpson from ASCII art in Python

I’ve been working with RMIT University on the evaluation of our programme. We need to know that the programme we’ve built actually helps teachers become competent and confident in teaching coding. To that end, we’re helping RMIT design a study into the efficacy of our programme, and they’ll be starting their work soon. I’ll share an update on that topic next time.

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Grab yourself a slick CS in Schools robot on some merch from Redbubble!

Last, if you’re up for some merch, you can grab our logo on a ton of different products at Redbubble. You can choose black, white, or our coloured robot. All of our artists’ cut goes back into the programme. (Disclosure: I am a member of the board of directors at Redbubble.)

Thanks for reading all the way down here. We’ll have more next month!

Cheers, Hugh (on behalf of Selina too).

 

 

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.