Paul Curzon from @QMUL and @cs4fn has been making faces at #casneconf :)

Paul Curzon gave a talk at the Computing At School North East conference this morning and judging from the tweets (see below) it seems that people enjoyed themselves. Paul uses magic and audience participation to demonstrate fun and easy ways of introducing programming topics into the classroom and delivers a series of free workshops for London teachers.

(More tweets from the #casneconf below)

If you’re enjoying his talk and wondering about the resources then the links below should help. We’re posting out printed copies to our subscribers but anyone can download free PDFs of our booklets.

The Magic of Computer Science 3: magic meets mistakes, machines and medicine
magicbookcover3This book is published by cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) in partnership with Teaching London Computing (TLC) and CHI+MED. TLC is funded by the Mayor of London and additional funding from the Department for Education has enabled us to send copies to schools of this booklet beyond London. It is also supported by Computing At School. Click on the picture for more information.

“The cs4fn magic books are collections of easy to do magic tricks (mainly simple card tricks). The twist is that every trick comes with a link to some computer science too. That means that as you learn the tricks, you will learn something about what computer scientists get up to too.

Magic is a combination of a secret method and a presentation. A computer scientist would call the method an algorithm, and that is all a computer program is too. The presentation corresponds to the interaction design of a program. For a magic trick to delight, you must get both the algorithm and presentation right. The same is true for programs”

Computational thinking: searching to speak
Searching to Speak A5 blueThis booklet was produced as part of the Teaching London Computing activities and has been used in one of our free workshops. It highlights how computational thinking can help people, for example in speeding up tasks, but also focuses on remembering when it’s appropriate to use technological solutions and when it isn’t.

Computational Thinking: Searching To Speak is a glossy booklet that shows computational thinking in action embedded in a story about helping people with disability, even without technology. It shows how the separate elements of computational thinking combine in interdisciplinary problem solving. Along the way it teaches some core search algorithms. It is written by Paul Curzon of Queen Mary University of London based on the cs4fn approach.”

Click on the picture to download a copy of the PDF, or read more about it and also see how it’s used in the workshop.

The Create-A-Face activity

IMG_0942 - Paul Curzon at CASneconfIn the picture on the left (taken by Sue Sentance at the CAS NE Conference) Paul Curzon is instructing members of the audience to create a face whose expression can be programmed with simple instructions.

“Explore programming by making an affective (relating to moods and emotions) robot face out of card, tubes and students. Program it to react to different kinds of sounds (nasty, nice or sudden) and show different emotions (sad, happy, surprised). Then think up some other facial expressions and program rules to make the face respond to sounds with the new expressions.”

Download everything you need (apart from the cardboard tubes!) to recreate this in your classroom, from our Create-A-Face Activity page.

Tweets from the Computing At School North East Conference about Paul Curzon’s talk

The tweets above refer to the Searching to Speak booklet and the one below to the latest magic book. Most of the final tweets refer to the Create A Face activity.

Computational creativity – free PDF magazine (issue 18) from @cs4fn

From our sister project cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) here’s the latest issue (#18) of the magazine, which is all about Computational Creativity. Download your free PDF copy or read some of the example articles at the magazine’s microsite for issue 18.

cs4fn magazine is published by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and is aimed at school pupils. QMUL has partnered with King’s College London to provide CPD courses for teachers who are teaching the new Computing curricula at GCSE and A-level. Thanks to funding from the Mayor of London we’re able to offer a 50% discount (£150) on our courses for teachers in London. More about our funding here.

Our next two courses for Computing teachers are happening over Easter – one is a one-week intensive and the other is the same length but spread over a few days.

GCSE Easter

Surveying schools and Computing teachers – do they need training, and if so what format?

As part of the evaluation of the Teaching London Project (funded by the Mayor of London and the Department for Education to support London teachers who’ll be teaching the new Computing curricula) we have been asking Head Teachers about their perceptions of the need (or not) for training for Computing teachers. We want our courses to be helpful to teachers, as part of their CPD, and also to be available to them in a useful format (short courses versus longer ones, in-school hours versus out of hours classes).

We’ve conducted a study, with 32 respondents so far, and the summary of feedback is below, but we’re keen to hear from more teachers and head teachers in London about how schools are thinking about training needs for those teaching the new GCSE or A-level Computing.

Please visit to take part in our survey and pass this link on to colleagues.

In the text below ‘Computing’ refers also to ‘Computer Science’ as both terms are used in the curricula. The survey results were analysed by Nicola Plant, who also wrote the information below.

Summary Results of the Teaching London Computing teachers’ survey

We’ve had 32 responses to our survey so far.

1. Courses currently offered or planned

The majority of schools (60%) already offer GCSE Computing and a third of responding schools plan to offer the subject in the next two years with only a small proportion of schools opting not to offer the subject.

Updated graphs by Nicola

y-axis is the number of respondents, out of 32 in total

In contrast, the majority of schools (78%) do not currently offer A-Level Computing, of which two thirds plan to offer the subject in the next 2 years, and a third opts not to offer the subject. (This could be explained by the fact that the new GCSE curriculum has only recently begun to be offered and so there are no students past year 11 to continue).

2. Training requirements

31 of 32 respondents thought that teachers need subject knowledge training. For the GCSE Computing curriculum around half of schools expected that teachers would attend training both inside and outside of school time. A third of schools also expect teachers to pick up the subject as they go along.  For the A-Level perceptions were different, where only 5 schools expected teachers to pick it up as they go along, a third expected teachers to train in their own time, but half would have teachers training inside school hours. However, informal comments explained that cover is a problem as covered students don’t feel supported by cover teachers.

2 graphs

Click to enlarge

3. Format of training

There was no significant difference between GCSE and A-level Computing for a preferred format for training. Around a third to a half of schools (that would encourage staff to attend training) were split equally among workshops, shorter courses and longer CPD courses.

Schools rated staff time, course costs, choosing courses that offered subject knowledge, and choosing courses that offered knowledge of the curricula an equally important consideration for both GCSE and A-level Computing training courses. Just over 50% of schools would provide cover when staff were on training courses.

4. Recruitment

To teach GCSE Computing 40% of schools are looking to recruit more experienced staff but to teach A-Level Computing half of schools were looking to recruit more experienced staff.

5. A-level

Around 80% of schools do not offer A-level Computing because there is a lack of experienced staff and facilities.

‘Save Santa’ Christmas game in Scratch, shoot the bats that are trying to interfere with his gift delivering :) via @CompAtSch

Computing At School (CAS) is a free resource hub (with info about events and classroom resources) for computer science teachers in the UK. There’s a thriving community section in which people can share their ideas for activities, and one of them is this game ‘Santa Shoot’ game, from Conor Grimes. Players need to shoot down bats that are getting in Santa’s way.

It’s free to become a CAS member and once you’ve done so you’ll be able to access the Scratch game and play it in your classroom.

The game was written in 2012 but thanks to a comment posted more recently the thread has resurfaced.

Game details: Santa Shoot Christmas Game


Short description:
Simple Scratch Christmas Activity

Full description:
Key Stage 3 Programming Activity
Level: (Beginner / Intermediate/)
Duration: (1 – 2 Periods)
Teaches: (Basic Scratch programming)



Paul Curzon gave a keynote at the Keycit2014 conference in Potsdam today

Prof Paul Curzon of Teaching London Computing, cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) and chi+med* gave the keynote talk at the IFIP KEYCIT (Key Competences in Informatics and ICT) conference earlier today in Potsdam, Germany.

His talk / workshop “Unplugged computational thinking for fun” covered some of the ideas we encourage teachers to use when introducing computational thinking into the classroom. Paul included the Locked In activity, Invisible Palming (magic, with a computer-human interaction angle) and the Create-a-face activity – all of which are free to download, easy to use and highlight that computational thinking isn’t just about computers but about people too.

They are also part of wider thematic workshops, more information below:

The talk was recorded and we’ll share the video when we have it. Meanwhile others have been kind enough to share short video snippets of the free workshops for teachers that Paul does, and here’s a photo from his talk today.


*chi+med means Computer-Human Interaction for Medical Devices and is a project looking at ways in which interactive medical devices can be made safer.

Paul Curzon’s workshop at #CASconf2014 (Computing At School conference)

A couple of people have shared YouTube videos and photos of Paul’s workshop at the Birmingham CAS conference this weekend – thank you very much, we’re glad you enjoyed it and here’s a collection of the tweets below.

All the free resources that Paul mentioned in his workshop can be downloaded from our section on Inspiring unplugged classroom resources.

Paul has a few free workshops coming up in London: