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 secondary 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 Australian schools.
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, Carsales, MessageMedia, and TEALS. It is founded by Professor Hugh Williams, Selina Williams, and Kristy Kendall who work part-time in an honorary capacity.
CS in Schools helps teachers develop confidence and competence in teaching computer science to Australian school children.
CS in Schools is focused on:
- Continuously developing and improving a professional development programme to help teachers to competently and confidently teach 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
CS in Schools is volunteer-based programme. Computing professionals volunteer side-by-side school teachers in the classroom, helping the teachers develop coding skills and support their students.
CS in Schools provides lesson plans, assignments, software, and hardware where required. CS in Schools provides training for volunteers and teachers, support for schools and teachers, and runs the evaluation of the programme.
The programme was successfully tested with ten teachers, fourteen volunteers, and eight schools in 2019. The programme aims to work with 100 teachers in 2020.
CS in Schools has developed twenty hours of coding lessons that can be used in a Year 7 subject. In most cases, this subject is delivered in schools at two contact hours per week for approximately ten weeks (although other models have been tested successfully).
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 the most-open creative commons license.
Volunteers are computing professionals who want to give back by spending time in a secondary 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 to cover their expenses.
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 helping 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
- Volunteer coordination and selection
CS in Schools is now open to all secondary schools across Australia, and plans to work with 100 teachers in 2020.
In 2019, CS in Schools worked successfully with:
- Three schools on the Mornington Peninsula: Toorak College, Mount Erin College, and McClelland College
- Two schools in Sale: Gippsland Grammar School and the Sale Catholic College
- Three suburban schools, Greensborough College, Eltham High School, and Haileybury
There were eight schools, ten teachers, and fourteen volunteers in 2019. The number of students in their classes was over 1,000.
Schools do not pay for the programme and it is intended that it remains free or near free into the future.
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.
Funds are spent on research, curriculum development, hardware, stipends for volunteer computing professionals, and other programme expenses. The founders and volunteers provide their time free of charge.