Connecting educators: Raspberry Pi hosts a CAS hub

One of the challenges I always found in teaching is that at times it can be quite isolating, particularly when working in a small department. You spend most of the day with your classes, or planning for them. You catch up with your colleagues in weekly meetings, but opportunities to share and reflect can be limited.

During my time in teaching I’ve always sought to connect with other teachers and share ideas (and gain reassurance that I was doing it right), and this became increasingly important back around 2011-2012 when things were starting to change in computing education. Many ICT teachers who were concerned about the lack of computing and problem-solving skills in their subject started meeting up in local CAS (Computing at School) hubs. I attended a few meetings and got a chance to connect with others who shared my concerns and gather some great ideas for lessons.

In the past few years CAS hubs have spread all over the UK and beyond, and are an opportunity for educators, developers and industry experts to meet up regularly, share ideas and participate in workshops. Last week, we hosted a CAS hub at our office in Cambridge for the first time. This event was aimed at secondary teachers, and we were delighted to have over 20 educators attend.

Our first meeting focused on physical computing, something we’re really passionate about here. Teachers shared their experiences of physical computing, we discussed hardware options including Raspberry Pi and others, and we ran a hands-on workshop with our Sense HAT add-on – topical at the moment, because two Raspberry Pis with Sense HATs are soon to fly to the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission.

Astro Pi poster: Your Code in Space!

To find your nearest CAS hub, training event or CAS Master Teacher you can use the CAS interactive map, by clicking the image below.

Map of CAS hubs in England and Wales

We had a really great session with teachers, and we’re looking forward to hosting future hub meetings as well as other events.

If you’re a teacher, educator, IT professional or just interested in computing education, visit the CAS community site and take part. You could attend or host a hub meeting, or see what training events are going on in your area. Let’s help support our educators who are teaching the next generations of engineers and developers.

7 comments

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I’m not sure what’s more depressing … The fact that there are only 5 CAS sites outside England and Wales, or the fact that the Foundation thinks so little of supporting Scotland and Northern Ireland that you decided to cut them out of the map image used in the article.

Sure, you all undeniably do awesome work, but it’s incredibly disheartening to see the Foundation attending events and supporting the USA (see yesterday’s article) more than it attends and supports those of us up in Scotland – Indeed, searching for Scotland on the foundation site returns 6 results, USA 122 … Speaks volumes really!

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I don’t think it’s fair to slam the RPF over the B&N activities. So far as I know, only *one* RPF employee did anything at a B&N Mini-Jam, and that was Matt Richardson, the RPF rep for the entire US. He’s based in San Francisco, and the Mini-Jam he was at was in Emeryville…just at the other end of the Bay Bridge from SF. So far as I know, *all* of the other Mini-Jam work was done by local volunteers.

From what I read in the blog, the CASHubs are organized *by* teachers. If the Hubs are rare in Scotland and Northern Ireland, doesn’t it come down to the teachers in those areas to organize their own Hubs, rather than complaining that some outside entity (like the RPF) didn’t come in and do it for them? Now if a group in Scotland with a CASHub invited/asked the RPF to show up, I’d say the odds are pretty good that they’d step up and help.

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I merely used the article from yesterday about the B&N event as an example. The Foundation have been asked to come to Scotland before, but haven’t done so, yet manage many trips to the USA.

What’s inappropriate is the Foundation’s continued lack of any formal support within Scotland. Noting from the Trustee’s Annual Report from December 2014 that one of the three key objectives for the year was “Support and enhance both informal and formal education of computing particularly (but not
exclusively) in the UK”, and yet no activities North of the border.

Now, I appreciate that this notes “not exclusively” in the UK, but it very strongly implies that the ‘primary’ activities of the organisation will be in the UK – and last time I checked (shortly after we voted ‘No’), Scotland was part of the UK … Perhaps if we’d voted ‘Yes’ we’d have gotten an official visit!

The Foundation’s regular support in developing countries I fully and wholeheartedly support – but it’s not appropriate to overlook Scotland (or Northern Ireland for that matter) in favour of other developed countries which can fully support their own educational aims locally.

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CAS hubs are setup and run predominantly by teachers for teachers, and many of these Hubs are run or attended by our Certified Educators, across the UK. If you see an area with a need I encourage you to join CAS and lead a hub. It’s a great way to get involved and support educators.

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Hmmm, this could easily be misconstrued as an official Foundation response of “Go and do it yourself, we’re not coming to Scotland” … which I *really* hope isn’t the Foundation’s official view.

While I’d love to take you up on the idea of getting something set up here, I’m not qualified to do so myself. Despite 18 years in ICT, being a Linux user since 1995 and a Pi user since as close to Day 1 as was possible, I never completed my BSc (Computer Science) – One coursework short of the degree, but had to walk away for financial reasons. Hardest choice I ever made … but it does mean that what I can do now in terms of being an educator is somewhat limited.

Yes, I can volunteer and assist in areas where there is already something set up by educators locally – but I can only realistically assist from ‘outside’ the system. The Foundation has the power and resource to assist from ‘inside’, and yet when it comes to Scotland it chooses not to. There are free Picademy resources for the USA – and yet the furthest North an official event has been held in the UK seems to be York.

Don’t get me wrong – the Foundation is awesome, and has done amazing things with limited resources. It’s sparked a complete revolution in Computing / ICT education in England and Wales. The Foundation truly has done amazing things, and long may that continue – all I’m asking (and I know I’m not alone!) is “don’t stop at the border, but help up here in Scotland too”.

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Mike, you do know that there is a Scottish counterpart of CAS don’t you? See http://www.cas.scot for the details. CAS Scotland is very active and has just hosted an extremely successful conference in Dundee.

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