CAS 10th Annual Conference (Bham)
"Brilliant! As a first timer to the conference I picked up a huge amount of things to take with me back to my school teaching."
"Thank you for being such an amazing community to be a part of."
Just over 300 people gave up a valuable Saturday to gather at the University of Birmingham for the 10th Annual National CAS conference. It felt like a milestone had been reached with the 10th year so this made a good opportunity to focus on our collective journey and ambition as well as pointing towards the future alongside the usual array of workshops to support computing teachers of all phases.
For those travelling to Birmingham the night before there was a reception and Speed Geek session with 15 different stations at attend. A wide variety of ideas were on offer for all key stages and whilst it's tough on the presenters to repeat some 15 times it's such a good way to get close up with some new ideas for the classroom.
The main conference day on Saturday provided over 40 workshops sandwiched between two plenary sessions. The full spread from 4-18 was provided and included a variety of sessions for both "beginners" and the "more experienced" and included sessions on computer science theory and practice as well as classroom management and tools. A rich variety and something for everyone but choosing which to go to is always a challenge!
The CAS hubs are the foundation of the CAS community of practice and it was great to celebrate the work of the hubs and the several hundred hub leaders throughout the country with our Hub Leader Awards. Our friends at VEX Robotics provided ten kits for the winners and the kits will be winging their way to the following over the coming days:
- Cambridge – Peter Gaynord
- Cheltenham – Lindsay Evans
- Stockport – Matt Ellis
- Hammersmith – Nic Hughes
- Walsall – Dawn Walker
- Bedford – Jackie Samosa
- Derby – Matthew Parry
- Durham – Ben Garside
- Three Counties – John Palmer
- Northants Primary – Kim Avery
Many congratulations to our winners and other nominated hubs. They're such a valuable support network in our community.
We were delighted to welcome our friends from Cisco to the event this year to give a particular focus in our plenary session to an area of the curriculum that seems to get less attention than say programming: networking. Cisco, with Duncan Maidens (Birmingham City University) have developed a course, available through its Cisco Academy programme of which CAS is a part. The course centres round the fabulous Packet Tracer software which allows pupils to build a variety of different network topologies and then investigate how they work. It really brings the network to life for both pupils and teachers.
The workshops are always a highlight of the CAS Conference. This year over 40 were on offer covering all school years: (KS1: 9; KS2: 19; KS3: 20; KS4: 23; KS5: 15). There seemed to be a rise of sessions offering machine learning and artificial intelligence as well as several sessions taking us deeper, conceptually, into the pedagogy of our subject. The majority of the sessions were run by CAS Master teachers and Hub Leaders i.e. those at the hard edge of delivery in our classrooms. All presenters have been asked to upload their session resources to CAS online. If the one you're looking for has not been uploaded why not send a polite reminder to the presenter through the forum?
The day ended with Julia Adamson (Director of Education, BCS) providing an update on the proposed National Centre for Computing Education. There will be some £100 million for the whole of the UK, with £84 million committed to England the rest for the devolved nations. This is a significant uplift in funding from central government, recognition that more needs to be done. the funds will go to building on the CAS/DfE project "The Network of Excellence" by creating 40 Computing hubs based in secondary schools in England under the auspices of the National Centre, a training programme for teachers of GCSE Computer Science, resources of A Level pupils and teachers and research into the gender imbalance in the subject. The funds are subject to a procurement and tender process with the results being announced in early September.
Finally, we were treated to Roger Davies (Director of IT, Queen Elizabeth school, Cumbria) who is well known to most of the CAS Community through his work on the CAS magazine "Switched On". Roger reflected on the landmarks of Computing and IT Education from his 30+ years teaching the subject in secondary schools and how CAS has contributed, uniquely, to the development of both the subject and the support network available through the community activity.
"At heart, CAS' strength is rooted in teachers walking the walk and sharing their insights as they go. If children learn best by doing, the same is true for teachers."
This philosophy is at the heart of the CAS Community and the annual conference is a wonderful exemplar of that view. I'm grateful to all who committed a valuable Saturday to attend and take part. We look forward to the inevitable changes that the new term will bring but together we can make a difference to the lives of our young people and the CAS Community is well placed to continue to drive our subject forward.
"No one working in school today can pretend the current climate is easy but if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful" (Roger Davies)
I'm deeply grateful to Prof Achim Jung and Helen Whitby of the University of Birmingham School of Computer Science who, with their terrific team of student ambassadors, ensured the day was set up right from the start and ran so smoothly. Thank you!
Photography by Maria Ruan (MSC Computer Science, University of Birmingham