The Difficult Second Album: Why We Must Start Teaching Computer Science In Secondary Education Again

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In this paper we present a qualitative assessment of the pedagogical effectiveness of a number of computing related educational outreach activities undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast in partnership with a number of Northern Irish Secondary Schools. Outreach activities included: a Computer Science Teacher Upskilling Programme, a Code School and a Sphero Challenge. Each activity has provided thought-provoking pedagogic experience for academics, teachers and students alike!
The Computer Science Teacher Upskilling Programme (CSTUP), is a Department of Education (DE) funded programme, run by the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EEECS) at QUB. It aims to upskill teachers to deliver qualifications with programming elements in schools to meet DE’s strategic objective ‘to provide a curricular framework that reflects the needs of the economy of the future’.
Code School is a six week after-school club arranged at local schools, supported by QUB EEECS staff and students. It has engaged more than 120 school pupils aged 11 - 14 who due to socio-economic background may not have considered further education as an option or indeed have little knowledge of STEM subjects and careers. The programme encourages pupils to learn how to code, develop apps, programs, games and explore technology.
The Sphero Challenge a problem-solving challenge, in which a wireless programmable robot is controlled using a tablet computer. QUB sets several challenges for both primary and secondary school students.
Each activity has excelled its initial targets of out-reach to School teachers and pupils. Sphero Challenges have promoted the development of problem solving skills. Code School has specifically targeted girls to help reduce the recognised gender divide in students choosing to study or work in the Software industry. The CSTUP has been successful but also identified that the two-year programme has not been long enough and continued support is still needed.
We reflect on our ongoing research into the effectiveness of computing-related outreach activities in the context of primary and post-primary education. The paper contributes to debate surrounding the ambition of the UK government to see a move away from Information communication technology (ICT), and toward computing subjects, in the classroom. It will be of interest to academics and practitioners seeking to uncover the most effective way that Higher Education institutions can support primary and secondary schools in this transition.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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