CS in Schools Published Paper

We recently published a peer reviewed paper describing our work at CS in Schools in 2019. The paper will appear in the proceedings of the 2020 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE’20). Only 28% of submitted papers were accepted, so we’re both proud and excited that our important work at CS in Schools was accepted for publication.

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You can download the paper here. We want the paper distributed as widely as possible, and it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike International 4.0 License. Feel free to share!

Here’s the abstract of the paper:

Digital technology is compulsory in schools in most states at most year levels in Australia. However, a recent survey of over 400 Australian schools in 2019 found that 96% have had difficulty hiring qualified technology teachers and 39% of schools have reduced the amount of technology education they offer. We have observed that there is a shortage of teachers who feel qualified to teach coding.

To address this problem, we launched CS in Schools, a successful in-class professional development programme for teachers that helps schools build a robust digital technology capability in their students. Our programme matches pedagogy with content expertise, by matching a volunteer computing professional with a secondary school teacher, and helping that teacher develop their coding skills in the classroom over a six month period. This experience paper describes the approach we took in piloting our programme with 10 teachers in 8 schools who taught over 1,100 students in 2019. We also describe our current scale-up in 2020 to work with around 60 teachers, around 40 volunteers, over 25 schools, and more than 6,000 students. Our goal is to work with hundreds of schools in 2021.

The paper can be cited as follows:

Hugh E. Williams, Selina Williams, and Kristy Kendall. 2020. CS in Schools: Developing a Sustainable Coding Programme in Australian Schools. In 2020 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE’20), June 15–19, 2020, Trondheim, Norway. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3341525.3387422

If you take a read, we’d love to hear what you think!

Summer 2020 Update

We had a terrific first term at CS in Schools, and we’re ready for the coronavirus imposed challenge of delivering our coding programmes mostly online in term two. If you’re a school or teacher that’s struggling to put together a digital technology programme for your school for the next term, drop us a line and we’ll figure out how to help. Our programmes are entirely free and open, so there’s no catch.

In term one, we helped almost 60 teachers from across Victoria teach coding to their Year 7 and 8 students. Around 45 volunteers supported the teachers in their classrooms, and well over 1,000 students learnt how to code in the first few months of the year. We’re now getting ready for term two, and working hard to build more resources to help teachers successfully deliver the programme remotely to their students. We’ll have more to announce on that front in the next couple of weeks.

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Teachers and volunteers at our pre-term workshop at Toorak College

Before term one kicked off, we had a terrific workshop at the beautiful Toorak College. We brought together most of the teachers and many of the volunteers for a weekend of learning. The teachers focused on learning about our materials, computing careers, and practiced coding. The volunteers learnt about schools, teachers, classrooms, and working with students. Our favourite teacher feedback was “Absolutely fantastic 2 days, I was hating on the fact that this was over the weekend, but I was totally blown away”. If you’re keen to learn more about the workshop, it has its own page and you can also sneak a peak at the slides and video here.

We released version 3 of our Year 7 materials just before the year began. We learnt from feedback in 2019 that we’d been too ambitious in what we covered, and we simplified our materials and built in more structure and support. If you’ve not seen our materials, start with the simple quick start guide or just dive into the lessons themselves. There’s six core lessons, two lessons to work on a text adventure assignment, and a library of six supplementary lessons to optionally weave into the programme. If you’re interested in how the materials map to what’s required nationally in the curriculum for Year 7s, this page helps you learn more.

We are currently testing a new Year 8 programme with a few schools. So far, it’s been going well, with a few teething challenges around using robots in the classroom. If you’re interested in a sneak peak, the quick start guide for the Year 8 programme is here. We will be opening up the Year 8 programme to all schools in 2021.

I’ll be back soon with an Autumn update and a few announcements too.

Cheers, Hugh (on behalf of Selina, Kristy, Toan, Zach, and Jacqui)

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).