How Craig ‘n’ Dave were ahead of the game in going virtual
From computing teacher to Youtube star; Craig Sargent has found online fame as one half of the Craig’n’Dave duo whose video tutorials have attracted five million views. We talk to Craig who teaches at a Gloucestershire secondary school, about how their experience in the classroom has shaped their videos used by thousands of A level and GCSE students Victoria Temple reports:
In the world of Computer Science education, Craig Sargent is bit of a celebrity. He’s one half of the Craig’n’Dave duo whose series of educational Youtube videos have attracted almost 5 million views and 20,000 subscribers. Their expertise is now also available via Isaac Computer Science, part of the NCCE’s provision of online tools, resources and events for teachers and students. Their straightforward style is backed by innovative teaching methods, and it’s a combination which has won them many fans.
Craig Sargent and fellow teacher Dave Hillyard run Craig’n’Dave and the pair both teach computer science at secondary schools in Gloucestershire. It was their experience in the classroom and understanding of the demands of the new Computer Science curriculum which led to the pair setting up their Youtube channel and business.
“We founded the company because we looked at the new A level curriculum a few years ago, with its strong maths content and challenging content, and thought ‘this is hard!’,” said Craig. “Dave and I both have computer science degrees and have worked in industry, and we realised that if we thought it was hard, a lot of A level teacher must also be concerned.” Their Craig’n’Dave videos, and additional resources, are tailored to GCSE and A-Level exam board requirements. They’re organised in ‘playlists’ according to each exam board and curriculum requirements and are updated regularly.
Craig teaches at Stroud High School part-time, where he teaches the sixth form and helped to set up the school’s GCSE course just a few years ago. Craig was one of the original cohort of CAS master teachers way back in 2012 and went on to successfully apply to be one of their regional co-ordinators. He has worked closely with CAS since its inception, delivering training at local schools and sessions at CAS hub meetings. Craig was also invited to be part of the working group which helped write the new Computing national curriculum by the Department for Education.
Turning teaching methods upside down
Craig’s teaching uses the Flipped Classroom technique which turns traditional teaching on its head – and ties in with their videos. It’s a simple concept, explained Craig. Most teaching follows a traditional format: a teacher explaining a concept for 10 minutes or so; an exercise for students; followed by homework to consolidate learning. “The problem with this is that really you only teach a third of the class at a time. Around a third will be struggling to understand the concept, a third or so will have grasped it and be able to race ahead. “You’re then need to spend time going around the class, identifying who needs help,” said Craig. “Flip learning reverses that. Homework is done before the lesson and involves watch one of the videos and taking notes.”
The advantages of flipped learning is that teaching is much more tailored to the pace and ability of each student. “It means that when you walk in the classroom, the students have an idea of what they are going to learn already. “So instead of spending 10 minutes talking, we go straight into an activity. With a minute the whole class is working, and I’m also been able to identify almost immediately the students who need extra help.” Craig had taught in the “traditional” style for 13 years, before switching to “flipped classroom” pedagogy. “I realised that the new A Level was going to be so hard and started thinking I needed to try something new to improve how students learned. I’ve been doing it for five years now and not looked back. Once I did this, I felt liberated as a teacher.” Craig says the benefits are immediate - although it does mean he’s teaching more intensely.
“There is a common misconception that flipped classroom teachers are lazy and no longer teach, this couldn’t be further from the truth, I’m busier as a teacher than ever, from the minute I enter the classroom. I’m engaged and the students are engaged. “Some kids dive straight into the task, while others need support. And we also have the opportunity to delve deeper with the students who are up for additional challenges! Craig previously taught at a large comprehensive where the majority of GCSE and A level students were boys. Now he’s teaching at a girls’ school, with a mixed sixth form, and is pleased to see enthusiastic take-up of the subject.
Craig works alongside teacher Karen Morris, part of the small team at Stroud High School who have built a thriving Computer Science department. Indeed Karen, a former Geography teacher, before she became Head of IT at the school eleven years ago is so enthusiastic about the subject, and keen to develop it that she’s taking Computer Science A-level and is one of Craig’s students. “Karen’s enthusiasm is overwhelming. Her understanding of the subject is phenomenal. And of course, doing the A-level in the classroom setting and with the students is the ultimate CPD!”
Craig, and Dave were pleased to be approached by Raspberry Pi to provide content for the Isaac Computer Science platform. “It’s a really great platform – we’ve been very pleased to be part of it, and see how popular it’s become,” said Craig. Of course – now Craig’s teaching has shifted from the classroom to fully online, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. “In the current climate, I’m communicating with the students entirely online. It’s really helped to have the entire course online already. “I’m setting videos to watch and emailing activities. For my A-level students they’ve been able to carry on almost as if they were at school.”
The 800 or so Youtube videos produced by CraignDave are ‘no frills’ in style. They’re straightforward presentation with the focus on quality of content. “We’ve kept them very focused. They are carefully tailored to the requirements of the exam boards. There’s a high level of trust and it seems to work for us, teachers and students.”
- Get involved with your CAS Community, it’s a great way of sharing ideas and experiences
- Always think to yourself “How am I teaching? Why am I teaching like this? Is there a better way of doing it”, for everyone the answer is almost always yes! Teach -> Reflect -> Adapt
- Join one of the many social media groups for teachers of computer science. CAS Chat on twitter is a great way of keeping in touch, and there are also groups for each exam board. In the current climate teachers are sharing lots of tips and strategies on how to keep teaching exciting and manageable while working from home.
- Check out the Craig ‘n’ Dave teaching pedagogy page where they talk about how flipped classroom really works and some of its benefits