Hints and tips - 3 minute read
Ceredig Cattanach-Chell, OCR Computer Science Subject Advisor
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on education, and the world in ways I have never seen before. It is unprecedented and certainly something that will probably enter history books in the near future.
The overriding message has to be ‘Keep calm and carry on’. I am not trying to trivialise the challenges we face, this is a reflection based on seeing many social media threads, speculation and misinformation.
Our foremost priority at the moment is to help not only Y11 examination students, but also try to ensure that learning for other year groups is as stable as possible.
Many teachers have set up virtual classrooms. These can work really well. Software such as Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and Zoom help us to communicate with our students.
There are challenges. Discussions around child protection and your own safety is certainly something that each teacher will need to review with their school first.
Another challenge is classroom control. Tips such as muting people’s microphones, limiting video and restricting pupil’s access to features within the software can help to maintain some level of control.
Many of the resources we use day-to-day are great in the classroom. Some of these will need updating to ensure they can be used remotely. How do you have discussions? Interactions will be different. It will feel quite strange talking to people when you may not be able to see them.
Supporting pupil absence, self-protection and building up a library for the future. Recording your sessions will give you all of these. Many online meeting environments allow for the recording of the sessions.
If a pupil is absent, they can then re-watch the recording. If any incidents happen, you have a log. If this happens again in the future – you then have some pre-recorded lessons that you may use.
There are a range of ‘unplugged’ and practical ideas that students can carry out. These may make things more interesting for them, and boost engagement.
I saw a lovely website that promotes poetry for computer science. Maybe you can team up with the English department and team-teach some curriculum.
What about playing ‘eye-spy’ around the house? Can they find a device that uses a WiFi connection or the weirdest thing in the house that uses an embedded system?
STEM learning has a page with 20 unplugged activities – try them out!
Teaching programming during this time may seem like a challenge. There are many online courses that students can follow. Codify by Raspberry Pi, for instance, has a range of language tuition options. Using team working tools such as Repl.it allow pupils to view each other’s coding and support each other.
Don’t be afraid to allow some students to learn to program independently. Set your more able coders personal challenges to ‘report back next week on’ with check-ins along the way. This may give you more time online with a smaller group of students to really support as needed.
As always, social media has come to the fore. There is a Facebook Group (not OCR oriented) to support educators who are using distance/online learning. With 117,000+ members, there should be plenty of support through here, as well as the usual OCR channels.
Hopefully you will find these ideas useful. As ever, if you do have queriers, please do email or call in. We are here to support you, and your students as best we can through these challenging times.
If you have any other resources you’d like to share, tell us about your suggestions in the comments below, or over email firstname.lastname@example.org or @OCR_ICT on Twitter. Do sign up to our subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Ceredig Cattanach-Chell - Subject Advisor - Computer science
Ceredig joined OCR in September 2015 incorporating his breadth of experience from education to support the reform and development of the new GCSE (9-1) Computer Science and Entry Level R354. A keen advocate of the challenges faced within the classroom, Ceredig led on the concept and delivery of teacher delivery packs, which have become one of the flagships for the new GCSE’s success with teachers. Prior to joining OCR, Ceredig had eight years of education and teaching experience across a wide range of schools, including primary, secondary, academies and SEN sectors. Ceredig has a degree in Computer Science from Liverpool University and Post Grads from Liverpool Hope and Cambridge Universities. Outside of work, Ceredig is a keen modeller/painter, gamer and all-around geek. From wildlife to war games, his varied hobbies ensure that he is never just ‘sitting down watching the box’.