CCITE update 5th April 2020
Delighted to report that the Royal Society has invited the Bourne Community College to be one of the few schools to give presentations at its Summer Science Festival - well-deserved recognition. Sadly this may have to be postponed if the coronavirus restrictions stay in force. Also that Edward Vine at Hockerill Anglo-European College has been awarded one of the 15 new Innovation awards from Nesta, and also been invited to give a presentation on how he has developed the iSTEM+ approach in an IB context.
Meanwhile the Rother Valley Cluster of 15 small, rural primary schools North of Chichester also continues to innovate. This term I have been working with Heather Coleman, former Head of Northchapel Primary School, on Monday afternoons with their Y 3/4 class. Helen has been introducing them to programming in Scratch 3 on iPads. I was invited to start up a new KS2 Engineering Club for 7-11 year olds running for an hour after school. The ARM School Program kindly donated micro:bits so that the teacher and the 11 Club members could each borrow one throughout the term. We have been working in groups of 2 or 3 to invent, code, build and test a variety of useful systems mostly involving sensors. We had planned to fit in 12 sessions, concluding with a demonstration to parents, staff and other pupils, but the viru and school closure put an end to that after 9 sessions.
CCITE update 31st December
On 17th December I visited the Bourne Community College in West Sussex. They have a partnership grant from the Royal Society to develop a data-logging project using BBC micro:bits with model planes created by the students. They will shortly open a new engineering block.
On 16th December I had the last of 5 Monday afternoon sessions with the Y5/6 class at Harting Primary School in West Sussex. We have been learning to write programs in MakeCode for BBC micro:bits for sensing and control. We have also been developing a range of practical tools controlled by micro:bits, including using radio for remote control. Several of the class had already persuaded their families to buy micro:bits, and many were hoping for them as Christmas presents.
On 13th December, the day after the election, I went to meet members of DfE STEM Policy Team at Gavin Williamson's invitation. Delighted to meet Alissa Lamb who has a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge and who went to become a primary school teacher before joining the Civil Service. There are many rumours currently around about radical reform in the Civil Service, so it will be very interesting to see how they will impact on education and skills.
On 11th December I met the Head and staff at Easbourne Primary School, Midhurst, who are very keen to start introducing micro:bits, MakeCode and Scratch 3 into their KS2 Computing curriculum. I left them with a c£300 shopping list to get underway with kit.
On 6th December I met the Executive Head, Georgina Mulhall, and her Assistant Head, Chris Willis, at the Gosport & Fareham MAT. They have already started designing a Community Curriculum based on several themes to help prepare learners to contribute fully to the local curriculum. One of these is STEM and Careers. GFM has now been designated as the lead school for the East Solent Careers Hub. I have been asked to help the Careers & Enterprise Company to be more proactive in supporting STEM in schools, so this was a valuable opportunity to tap into best practice. Recent changes in the Ofsted framework for inspections are causing many schools to review the content, design and implementation of their curriculum. Schools like Gomer Junior can help support others in doing this effectively: see the planning sheet here.
CCITE update 20th September
The "2019 has been a hectic year" blog below covers the period from January 2019 up to the recent changes in Government. This blog updates news since then on the ministerial changes, on a new resource for tinkering with micro:bits and Lego, on our joint bid with BIS for a space project around Exomars and up to date news on the Bloodhound car.
New ministers in the Johnson government
Following the departure of Anne Milton as the Skills Minister at DfE, the skills portfolio was to be shared between the Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, the HE/Science minister Jo Johnson and the incoming Minister for Children and Families, Kemi Badenoch., MP for Saffron Walden. Unfortunately Jo Johnson has already resigned. But Kemi Badenoch brings a different skills set to the DfE ministerial team, as she has a degree in Computer Science and a successful career in IT. One of the key Government Departments which is a consumer of digital and STEM skills is Health & Social Care. Its Secretary of State is Matt Hancock who served at DfE as skills/FE minister, at DBEIS as Industry Minister and as Treasury Secretary until Mrs. May appointed him as Digital Minister at DCMS replacing Ed Vaizey. She promoted him to Secretary of State at the renamed Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. He replaced Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, working with Social Care Minister, Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport. We are very lucky to have Caroline as an active supporter of the iSTEM+ approach. A very interesting new appointment in the Heath & Social Care team is Nicola Blackwood as Minister for Innovation. As former MP for Oxford North, she was chair of the Commons Science & Technology Committee and helped CCITE with iSTEM+ contacts in OxLEP. She is now the youngest member of the House of Lords where she also leads on all Health & Social Care matters. Her website is at: https://www.nicolablackwood.com/ .
GFM Education & Business Partnership Forum Sept 14th
On Friday I attended a meeting of the Business & Education Partnership Forum which the Gosport & Fareham Multi-Academy Trust recently established. Encouraged by the new Ofsted inspection framework, they are in the process of designing a new theme-based curriculum in which digital, STEM and careers have a significant presence. They are also developing new management structures to support students' personal development as well as widening links with local community: https://gfmat.org/. I am delighted to be STEM Adviser to GFM, and now to have joined the Education & Business Forum.This is large group with representatives from the LEP, Borough Council and C&EC. Also from local employers including Airbus Defence & Space, BAE Systems, NATS, QinetiQ, the Royal Navy and STS. A key local focus is on Watersports and Marine, for which GFM is bidding to develop a Centre. Student STEM Ambassadors from Gomer Junior and Bay House had visited London the previous day to meet Boris Johnson at the Marine UK event alonside HMS Belfast: http://gomerjuniorschool.co.uk/2019/09/when-the-gfm-met-the-prime-minister/ !
Gomer Junior School has embedded its own cross-curricular iSTEM+ approach in its gSTEM curriculum: http://gomerjuniorschool.co.uk/gstem/
Bloodhound Education Ambassador Conference 8th September
In 2008 the then Science Minister, Paul Drayson, gave the go-ahead for Government sponsorship for the Bloodhound Super-Sonic Car project led by Richard Noble. The car was intended to shatter the world land speed record by travelling at over 1000 mph on a South African desert, driven by Wing Commander Andy Green. Unfortunately the project ran so far over time and over budget that major sponsors pulled out and the project went into receivership last December. It was dramatically rescued at the last minute by a Yorkshire based entrepreneur, Ian Wadhurst: : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-46591860
The project is now renamed the Bloodhound Land Speed Record, and the car has just been packed off to SA for high speed testing next month. The picture above shows it in its new white and red colour scheme: http://www.bloodhoundlsr.com/. A couple of years an independent charity called Bloodhound Education was set up. I carry on as a Bloudhound Ambassadoe and was delighted to be invited to be invited to a conference at the new Bloodhound Education Centre in the University of Gloucester's campus at Berkeley, on the Eastern bank of the River Severn last Sunday. Bloodhound Education developed the very successful "Race For The Line" RFTL model rocket car competition for schools. I have had great fun working with teams from the Gosport & Fareham Multi-Academy Trust GFM, and Park House School Newbury which reached regional and national finals.
Joint BIS/CCITE bid for an Aurora Project on space outreach
Four years ago we worked with the British Interplanetary Society on the development of a cross-curricular Space Science & Technology A-level. The development group was chaired by Stuart Eves and had a £40k budget from the DfE approved by the infamous Dominic Cummings, then Michael Gove's adviser. BIS has approached us to make a bid to the UK Space Agency's Aurora Education & Outreach programme for funding to develop projects for schools simulating the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Rosalind Franklin mars rover using tethered helium balloons. If successful the project will be based in schools in Maidstone Kent, Southbourne Sussex, Gosport Hants, Newbury Berks and Banbury Oxon. The bid was submitted on August 9th and we await the decision. If favourable we should receive additional funding from the European Space Agency, too.
New resources for tinkering with micro:bits and Lego
I guess it's pretty apparent that I am a converted fanatic to the power of the BBC micro:bit and the MS MakeCode blocks editor as a catalyst for engaging STEM practical activities. In 2015 I was a researcher on the Royal Academy of Engineering's `Thinking Like An Engineer project' for schools. Part of that project was based in a group of primary schools, supported by a few secondary schools, in Manchester. Their work was around `tinkering': building structures and coding Raspberry Pis: https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/tinkering-for-learning.
My resource brings this approach up-to-date using Lego for the structures and micro:bits for the coding for sensing and control. There is a video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt3vZV0RyaM . I call my crawler Boris because that's how I imagine him hurrying to board the next Brussells flight! The pdf is available on the CAS website: https://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/5962/single
2019 has been a very hectic and positive year for CCITE and iSTEM+ so far.Reports on events and activities from January to July 2019
In October 2018 the Design & Technology Association DATA launched its EEGC funded project Engineering Solutions: Bringing Design & Coding to Life to introduce BBC micro:bits into 10 primary schools in Stoke-on-Trent with Year 5/6 classes using them for sensing and control, aka physical computing. This was supported by the Micro:bit Educational Foundation MEF. It came to a successful finish in June with a Celebration Event in which pupils demonstrated what they had achieved and teachers reported on their new found confidence with IT.
In December, Graham Hastings hosted a meeting at St John's College School in Cambridge with Tony Houghton from CCITE, John Beer from Downham Market's ESTEAM Centre and me, to discuss building on the Stoke experience with under-privileged rural and coastal primary schools supported by ARM's Schools program and the Computing At School Group CAS, using a scheme of work devised by Graham. This project is now under way in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. ARM is also sponsoring the development of the STEM Centre in Downham Market which had a soft launch, supported by RAF Marham, in May. Since January we have also been working with the South African XinaBox company on exciting new developments in data-logging equipment for schools either free-standing or using Raspberry Pi or micro:bit technology.
Last July the gSTEM team at Gomer Junior School in Gosport, Hants, won the TES STEM Team of the Year Award 2018. The school also hosted visits by the then DfE's Skills' Minister, Anne Milton, and the Schools' Minister, Nick Gibb. Gomer is part of the Gosport and Fareham MAT which is one of the 15 national pilot centres for the Tomorrow's Engineers' Enthuse Partnerships with STEM Learning.
At the beginning of the year I was asked to help a small rural primary school in the Sussex village of Funtington to help them improve STEM opportunities for its pupils. We decided to start with BBC micro:bits at Year 5/6 along the lines of the Stoke and East Anglian models. Our local BetaPlus Computer Club donated £300 to the school to buy a set of micro:bits and kit. We decided to start a micro:bit Code Club to train up a group of six Year 5/6 pupils to be in a position to act as classroom student teaching assistants to introduce micro:bits to the whole class after the Summer half-term. The group quickly developed skills in writing programs for micro:bits using the MakeCode blocks editor.
Just before Easter I introduced them to the ELECFREAKS Ring:bit car kits which they built and learned to program by themselves. They developed a synchronised disco-dancing group of cars, and also used them with felt tip pens to create geometric drawings. They also learned how to use gestures with hand-held micro:bits to remotely control the cars. I bought them a set of Joystick:bits which they also learned to use. The Code Club now has its own website and YouTube channel, and has started to teach lessons with micro:bits to their peers.
On July 3rd the group was invited to be one of the 5 UK schools presenting their STEM projects at the annual Celebration event for the Royal Academy of Engineering's Connecting STEM Teachers CST UK network. Their dancing cars demo was warmly applauded and appears on Twitter as a video clip. They were presented with certificates of Achievement by the IET's Head of Education, David Lakin. They were also thrilled to be given a guided tour of the Royal Society's Summer Exhibition in the afternoon.
I have been working with RAEng's Education Programmes Manager, Scott Atkinson, to set up a new CST network for Sussex which was launched in the Autumn at the University of Chichester's newly opened Tech Park in Bognor Regis. We had a very well attended meeting on February 27th were I talked about the Stoke project, demonstrated micro:bits and MakeCode and offered to run free on-site workshops in Sussex primary and secondary schools. Among the attendees were a group of Heads and teachers from the 15 rural primary schools in the Rother Valley cluster who took me up on the offer.
I have been given the great opportunity to teach the whole Year 5/6 Beech class at Northchapel Primary School for three half-days this term (about 7 hours) finishing last week with a session on using servos for model railway level-crossing gates, as well with the Ring:bit cars, which they learned to program both as autonomous vehicles and using a second micro:bit for remote control. On 25th October I have been invited to lead a half-day Professional Development session with the staff of the 15 Rother Valley Primary cluster schools on micro:bits as catalysts for cross-curricular STEM activities.
On June 4th the RAEng organised an Inter-school challenge day at the Bourne Community College in West Sussex. I was asked to run a practical activity with the Ring:bit cars as part of a circus of stands which the schools were scheduled to visit. The Bourne has a very active STEM Club and a great group of Student STEM Ambassadors, some of whom were allocated to help the circus leaders. I was allocated a great pair of Year 10 girls. They watched me struggle with our first 20 minute session, and then polish it up for the second. I was then able to ask them if they felt like running the nest couple of sessions by themselves – which they did with aplomb.
One of the upshots from these sessions was that both the Gosport & Fareham MAT and the Bourne have ordered sets of 30 Ring:bit cars which they have already introduced at KS3. We are now planning to work with some of these local schools on an international project, code-named SMILES (Schools Making Inspirational Learning Environments for STEM) using XinaBox, micro:bit and Raspberry Pi technology.
I am actively involved with the IET’s Solent and Sussex networks. We have been piloting a new scheme of KS2 Engineering & Technology Masterclasses in two West Sussex primary schools: 20 students from Rose Green Junior and 12 from Funtington Primary. The 90 minute sessions are held one afternoon each week in normal timetable time. We have learned together how to use a range of free, powerful, STEM tools including GeoGebra, Algodoo, Tracker, Logger Lite, Scratch 3, MakeCode and TinkerCAD.
First they learn basic use of the tool. Then they use it to tackle some problems I set them. But most importantly, they then have ample time to find creative use of the tools using their own imagination. Initially they ask me for help, but quickly realise that (a) I may well not know the answer and (b) I cannot give each individual the personal attention they might like in the time available. So together we form a learning community, helping each other, and using their IT skills to seek answers to our questions.
We are very much putting into practice the thinking behind the RAEng’s `Learning to be an Engineer’ work and its Engineering Habits of Mind (EHoMs). The IET has kindly presented certificates of achievement to the Masterclass students at both Rose Green and Funtington.
On July 12th I was invited to give the opening keynote on Technology-enhanced STEM learning Activities (TeSLA) to an FMSP conference in Cardiff of 100 Welsh maths teachers. I was able to draw on the experience and tools from the KS2 Masterclasses and to show progression in how the same and similar tools can be used at KS3/4/5 as well.
I represent the IET on the parliamentary Digital Policy Alliance, and its 21stC Skills Network. We had a round table meeting, chaired by Lord Ralph Lucas, in the House of Lords on July 17th. Digital skills has rather dropped from the agenda in the political turmoil before today’s change at Number 10. We await with interest to find who will be the members of new ministerial teams at DBEIS, DDCMS and DfE, and to offer them advise on providing better digital, STEM and 21stC skills opportunities for all learners. We are also hoping to discuss with Ofsted ways in which the new inspection framework could help that provision. A draft position paper is available here.
The developments started in East Anglia, and now being developed in Hampshire and Sussex, for improving STEM education and skills, as well as raising aspiration, in rural and coastal communities are very exciting indeed. They match well with the Digital Access For All DAFA initiative led by the Learning Foundation and the Nominet Trust. I am now a member of the GFM Business Forum helping that MAT develop a new curriculum for the 21st Century including themes such as Careers & Employability, Sports & Well Being, STEM & Business, Arts & Culture and Artificial Intelligence.
Rose Green Masterclass IET presentation
Code club at RAEng