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Simon talks about support networks for teachers

Filmed interview with Simon Humphreys who talks about Computing at School
Computing At School is a group of parents, teachers, academics, researches, industry professionals, anybody that’s got a passion for seeing excellence in computing in our schools. We fundamentally believe every child deserves excellence in their computing education in schools. We started in 2008, very much as a grassroots perhaps some have described it as a ginger movement, but bottom up. So it was teachers themselves saying, I need some help, or I think something needs to be changed here. I want to do more computer science in my classroom. Where can I go to find some help? I’ve got students who want to do computer science at GCSE, but there doesn’t seem to be a GCSE in computer science, as there wasn’t at that point.
Where can we go for help? And certainly the cry was coming up from individual classrooms, where teachers were saying, I feel powerless. What can I do? Well one teacher in their own classroom could probably do very little on a national scale. So it’s about connecting those teachers up with each other, networking them together, get them talking to each other, get them discussing, getting them sharing ideas, getting them sharing ways that they were introducing computer science into their classrooms, and connecting them, building this community of practice.
I, as a teacher of 25 years standing, fundamentally believe that if we going on courses, or wanting support, or wanting to help in our classrooms, well I think teachers teaching teachers is a good principle to be starting off with. I think that I shouldn’t be required to take a day out of my classroom to travel down to London, or Manchester, or Birmingham to get training. It should be on my doorstep, and if necessary on my doorstep when I finished work. Although I might be tired, well where can I go to for a couple of hours, have a cup of coffee, some sandwiches, meet other teachers, and share what we’re doing?
And the third aspect of it is that I think teaches are people people. We deal with people all the time. And I know I’m talking on this video for an online course, and I think online is certainly part of the jigsaw puzzle. I think being able to provide face to face opportunities for teachers to be together is fundamentally important. So following that, the first thing we started were a number of these regional hubs, run by teachers for teachers in their local community after school where they can just gather together and each bring something that they’re doing in their classroom that they’ve found has worked and share that with their colleagues.
So that you come along to a CAS regional hub and you can then take away a lesson plan, a scheme of work, an idea that another teacher has used, maybe even try out something that you wanted to introduce with your year eights next term. Well can I try this out on you as my friends, and peers, and fellow professionals?
Leading on from the regional hubs, it became clear that the informal networking is good, and it’s successful, and teaches appreciated it, but there’s also an opportunity here, we thought, to up the game a little bit and build on those networks to actually provide more formal professional development opportunities, particularly harnessing the expertise there is in the universities around the country who hold the keys if you like to computer science as a discipline, and also education departments in universities. And so we formed, back in September 2012 with support from the Department of Education, what we call the Network of Excellence, or the Network of Teaching Excellence for computer science. And this is the CPD arm of the computing at school network.
Again, fundamentally driven on the three premises that I talked about earlier. That it needs to be local by and large. It’s teachers teaching teachers and it’s face to face. The opportunity for teachers to come to courses, twilight courses, perhaps whole day courses, run by experienced teaches or run by university faculty members, whoever put their hand in the air and said, I think I’ve got something to give here. I can volunteer my efforts, and I can contribute in this way. One of the main thrusts of the network of excellence is the notion of the master teacher. I’m deeply conscious that the term is an interesting one. It doesn’t quite sum up what was in my mind when we formed the term.
It was much the terms the DFE were looking to move to as they began to remove advanced skills teachers, or excellence skills teachers, excellent teachers towards master teachers. So it’s not very gender friendly, and it also doesn’t come across as this idea, I want it to be peers connecting with peers. It’s not a master dispensing pearls of wisdom to apprentices, but it’s about finding those teachers who have been teaching the A level, they have got a computer science background, laterally, they’ve been teaching the GCSE and feel, I’ve got something I can offer my colleagues in this area. I’ve got the experience.
And it’s been fascinating to see how the work the master teachers have done, how that’s been received, how they themselves have gained in their own professional development and their own learning and career development, and the teachers who are attending those courses are pleased they’ve established a contact. And if they then have further issues, they know they’ve got this person they can go to for help and advice beyond just pitching up to a course. I’m fundamentally of the view that we don’t really want people to fly in, do the course, and then disappear again. It’s about establishing a network, establishing this community of practice. We have the regional hubs for the informal networking.
We have the network of excellence for formal delivery of CPD, but in each community there are these go-to people that teachers can phone up, they can email, they can go to their courses. There is somebody there that they can get help and support from.
In addition to the offline work that we do, to say I fundamentally believe in– inevitably, we have the technology. Teachers are accessing the web. They are accessing the internet. We are finding resources being published in a whole variety of different ways. And we started a couple of years ago an online community for exactly that purpose. Moving away from an old distribution list that we used to have in the early days of when CAS was starting, to a proper online community. It’s completely free to join. We don’t charge anybody anything. And what we do ask on the online community is that you identify yourself. It’s what I think is fundamentally important in a professional network. You sign on.
I’m signed on as Simon Humphries. You can talk to me there on the community. You can see my post. You can see my picture for what it’s worth. I don’t really want people signing on as Mickey Blue-eyes and we can’t actually find out who they are. It’s a professional embodied network. So you sign up, we do ask for you email address. We ask for your name. Really helpful if people could then provide their location, because it’s about building this community network, this community of practitioners. So you can see well, who else in CAS is in my town, is in my street. That’s ever so important. And there are a number of conventional online forums there on a variety of subjects.
You can talk about what’s happening is secondary education, what’s happening in primary education. You can talk about how you can get your school network running. The volume of traffic on there is large. It’s interesting, it’s diverse topics. My favourite forum there, I forget exactly what it’s called, but the idea is no question is to stupid, is the forum. I really want that to be such an important part of our role, as we have in our classroom. We want our students to put their hand up and say, I don’t understand what you’re talking about at the minute. We want the teachers to stand up on our forum and say, I really don’t know where to start. Can you help me?
And they will be treated there with respect, and they will get answers that will then be helping them in a supportive fashion. From those that are just beginning their journey into this new curriculum, and we’re delighted that involved in our community are some, as others have described, it’s the rock stars of computer science at the moment. And they’re willing to contribute and share their expertise as well. So we have the whole gamut of experience and background there to help and support. In addition we run a resource repository. So there’s now at this time of filming, something like 1,100 different resources, lesson plans, worksheets, ideas. The teachers have contributed, and we want teachers just to put up stuff.
It doesn’t have to be complete. They don’t have to feel as if it’s absolutely polished. It’s something that worked for you, and you just want to share it with the wider community. And then other teachers can take that, improve on it perhaps, adapted it, re-purpose it, post it back. But it’s very much a place where teachers can come and collaborate on what they’re teaching in the classroom, their worksheets, their ideas, their resources. All the events are published there as well. So the events the volunteers are running, the events that are happening as part of the network of excellence, through the master teachers, that is all there as well.
And certainly one thing I would, inevitably I suppose, recommend to everybody is join CAS. It is free, but you would then be accessing this wider network. And what you can gain through that online forum is of great value, I believe. And then hopefully out of that, if you only come across CAS through the online world first, well then explore what’s going on in the hubs. If you’ve come across to one of the hubs and you found us through your offline world, then join CAS and connect to that community there because we want you to be contributing, participating, and helping each other and learning from each other as we begin to support teachers going forward.

In this film, Simon talks about how teachers can go about furthering their professional development in computing.

Think about your own professional development needs in this area and consider the options Simon talks about – what do you need to do next?
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