Computing, Schools and Robots

Thursday 20 February 2014, 5.30pm - 7.30pm

Room 7140, Stoddart Building, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, Sheffield, S1 1WB

Dr Pete Collingwood, Subject group leader in software engineering, graphics and multimedia - Sheffield Hallam University


In the Autumn of 2011, following pressure from organisations such as Microsoft, Google, NESTA and the BCS, concerned with a potential skills shortage in the IT industry, Michael Gove announced that Computer Science would return to the UK Schools Curriculum.

There have since been various slight modifications to the meaning of that term, but the essence is that Computing is now a compulsory part of the National Curriculum, 'Computer Science' will be part of the English Baccalaureate performance measure from 2014 and the Russell Group's "Informed Choices" guide to pre-University study now lists Computing/Computer Science as Essential or Useful A-level qualifications to study Computer Science at University level.

Underpinning this though are some fundamental issues to be addressed. In nearly all schools, Computing is associated with a subject known as ICT. However, surveys clearly demonstrate that nearly all ICT teachers do not have a background in Computing. Further, as a consequence of this, school children (who are already extremely computer-familiar) are actually unaware of the opportunities offered within the IT-field. It is perhaps shocking to realise that a Year 8 child was born in 2000-2001 - truly a child of the 21st Century! The vast majority have not existed in a world without the internet or mobile phones!

The challenge of re-introducing Computing as an academic discipline in schools should not, therefore be underestimated.

In this talk, we will report on the efforts being made jointly between the Departments of Computing & Teacher Education are making to address that challenge. It will include a (hands-on) demonstration of a robotics programming class we run and other robots that are used to 'inspire' and 'motivate' the schoolchildren and an assessment of the effectiveness of those efforts.