Congratulations to Prof Paul Curzon (@cs4fn) who is this year’s recipient of the Booth Education Award medal ^JB

We’re delighted to report that QMUL’s Prof Paul Curzon is to be awarded the Taylor L. Booth Education Award medal for “an outstanding record in computer science education” for his work on the CS4FN and Teaching London Computing projects.

Thanks to Simon Peyton Jones of Microsoft Research for giving us permission to repost his comments about Paul’s win (see link at end).

If you teach computing at a UK school and would like our free magazines please visit our sign-up page where you can also sign up to hear about courses, events and our other resources. The book mentioned in Simon’s post below can be found on Amazon and is available in hardback, paperback or Kindle in English, or as paperback or Kindle in German.


Paul Curzon has made outstanding contributions to the rebirth of computer science as a school subject. He has gone far beyond simply being an effective educator in his subject: he has made a qualitatively new contribution to his nation. Moreover, Paul is an internationally-leading computer science academic, in the field of human-computer interaction

Paul’s 15-year long project, cs4fn, short for “Computer science for fun”, created with Peter McOwan, is an enormous collection of ideas, insights, and resources that demonstrate and showcase the clever ideas from interdisciplinary computer science research, aimed primarily at school-age children. He brings these ideas out in several forms:

  • The cs4fn magazine is used by thousands of schools, and has done more to improve the image of computer science in the minds of teachers and children than dozens of weighty reports. Personally written, edited, and produced by Paul, it is a free physical publication with the quality of a professional magazine. It is available online also for free, and is sent in print form to over 2,000 UK schools, as well as many others abroad. The original magazine was for secondary school students, but he has more recently created a popular free magazine for primary school students too. [Note that print copies are available in the UK only, but PDFs of all back issues are available worldwide – Jo]
  • The development of inspiring activities: His focus is on engaging activities away from computers that inspire people about interdisciplinary computer science whilst giving deep understanding of concepts in fun engaging ways: through games, puzzles, role play activities and magic tricks. He both performs these and makes them freely available to others. Over the last three years for example around 200,000 downloads of his activity sheets. They are used by teachers worldwide and have been incorporated into schemes such as BTs Barefoot resources, as well as similar resources in other countries.
  • The cs4fn and Teaching London Computing (TLC) web sites are a tremendous online resource for teachers and children alike. Resource web sites are easy to conceive of but extremely hard to sustain. They need a constant stream of new material to keep the site vibrantly alive and Paul, with his late colleague Peter McOwan, has done just that. They have written thousands of articles and activity sheets for hundreds of activities. Between 2008 and 2013 there were over 1.5 million visits to the cs4fn website with almost 900,000 downloads.
  • Teaching London Computing (TLC) is the sister web site of cs4fn. While cs4fn is article based telling engaging stories about research for young people, TLC provides a resource site specifically for teachers. It is based on material from cs4fn (and much more) but rather than presenting them as articles to read, TLC provides them in the form of activity sheets and explanations of their use in classrooms. It has visits from all over the world too, with now over a million visits since 2015 and 300,000 visitors. Downloads and visits to his websites come regularly from over 180 other countries.
  • Computing Education research. The on-the-ground impact of cs4fn is impressive enough, but Paul has consistently drawn on this experience to learn principles, and explore hypotheses, and perform critical evaluation. That is, cs4fn is not simply a successful exercise in changing attitudes to computer science; it is a unique research platform, and Paul has published a number of research papers that build on this platform.His team has also used social sciences methodologies to investigate the way primary school children are taught to write programs, drawing on a comparison with the way they are taught to write English. This showed the importance of teaching design from the outset. This very recent work has been incorporated in to Continuing Professional Development courses for teachers and is already helping improve practice.

The raw material for all of this educational work is Paul’s seemingly endless stream of ideas on a huge range of topics, drawing on research in the sciences, engineering and arts and humanities. Every single one uses a compelling context to motivate the underlying idea (hence the “fun” part). Examples include:

  • magic tricks (each with an explanation for how they work and how they link to computer science such as algorithms, human-computer interaction, formal proof, …);
  • paper-folding puzzles and hexaflexagons (illustrating computational thinking, usability and formal methods);
  • colour-by-number puzzles to teach primary school children a variety of concepts around image representation, with links to ancient history and the history of art;
  • artificial intelligence (a typical one is “Let’s build a brain out of some pieces of paper and a length of string that can actually play Snap” …);
  • anthropology (how techniques used to study gorillas in the mist can improve medical device design,…);
  • cell biology and epidemiology (predicting cancer cures, games to study the spread of disease, understanding brain cells, …);
  • medicine (machine learning in healthcare, avoiding medical error, …);
  • animation (algorithms for doodling plants and CGI, animatronics, motion capture, …);
  • robots (robots teaching sign language, why are robots naked?, creative robots, soft robotics, …);
  • art (interactive art instillations, creative computers, …);
  • music (eg ’How Madonna crashed the Internet’, how autotune works, music compression, ….);
  • communication (e.g. how can someone with “locked-in syndrome” communicate? …); and
  • astronomy and Space (planetary networks, robots controlling telescopes, finding stardust, …).

Paul has also placed a strong emphasis on diversity, providing a very large number of stories of the research of female role models through the magazines and website, as well as through posters. The special issues of the magazine he produced on women in computing led to a large number of requests for talks on diversity. He is currently extending this work to computing role models for the Black, LGBT+ and disabled communities.

Internationally, cs4fn is used in many other countries, and as a project is regarded as a world leader that others watch with envy. Only Tim Bell’s “Computer Science Unplugged” (from New Zealand) comes close and Paul is a major contributor to the unplugged movement too, as his Teaching London Computing resources show.

As an independent cross-check I consulted Tim Bell himself, who told me: “In the 25 years that I have been involved in computer science education, Paul Curzon’s work has been the most practical and accessible resource that I have used for helping school students and teachers to engage with the big ideas in computer science. Our own resource, Computer Science Unplugged, has picked up many of Paul’s ideas, which he has been generous in making available. Our Unplugged resources, along with our other resources we have developed for teachers, often refer to the CS4FN website. His work and my discussions with him have influenced my thinking on the subject. The UK is very fortunate to have Paul as a champion for the discipline, particularly during this period that schools are adopting the new computing curriculum.”

cs4fn aimed to both inspire students about interdisciplinary computer science worldwide, and educate school students about topics beyond the school syllabus, giving them a taste of the real academic discipline. The impact of the cs4fn magazine was seen immediately in a way that showed it really did inspire more students to take computer science. In the year immediately after the first issues were sent to schools across the UK applications to do computer science degrees at QMUL increased by 70%. They increased by a further 70% the following year and increases have continued for many years since.

Paul’s published book based on cs4fn material with McOwan has now been translated into German, Chinese and Russian. Cs4fn material has or is being also been translated, at the request of, or by others, in to German, Italian, Welsh, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

Paul, we salute you!

Further reading

 

Free family fun: come to @QMUL’s Festival of Communities weekend on 12 and 13 May 2018.

QMUL Campus-1200x800

The text below is from QMUL’s page on the two-day festival. Prof Paul Curzon will be have a CS4FN stall at the festival so come along and say hello.

Our main campus building is the Queen’s Building on Mile End Road next to the People’s Palace. Buses: 25 and 205, nearest tube Stepney Green (Mile End a little bit further away, but not much).

Festival Programme 2018
Sat 12 and Sun 13 May 2018
The Festival of Communities returns on 12 and 13 May 2018. Get hands on with Queen Mary research through games, sports, crafts and other activities at the Festival of Communities. [Facebook]

Over two days, you can:

  • Trek over a tooth using Virtual Reality and meet the brain scanner made of Lego.
  • Jump on a bouncy castle, or Trial a new computer game
  • Get your face painted or play a life-size game of operation
  • Encounter the women who explore harsh Arctic environments for their scientific research and marvel at the award-winning images of life all around us.
  • Play with puppets while contributing to Queen Mary research or find out if your taste buds can predict whether you will get cancer.
  • Discover how 3D printing a new set of teeth can revolutionise healthcare, or find out just how much sugar is in your favourite fizzy drinks.
  • Share your wish for Tower Hamlets in our wishing tree and test your football skills or take part in the basketball hoop challenge.
  • Discover what’s under your skin by looking at your own skin cells under a microscope, and find out who will win in the slime races.
  • Build a musical instrument out of paper or strut your stuff in Britain’s next scientist top model
  • Explore how trauma affects the body in a game of giant jenga and design the ultimate blood cell
  • Become a bioengineer for the day or go on minibeast safari

…and much more to be added!

 

 

Please make sure you’re following @CS4FN / @cas_london_crc for updates about our resources

CAS London

Teaching London Computing (TLC) is a resource hub from the CAS Regional Centre London (‘CAS London’) and we are regularly adding free activities and other resources here. TLC’s initial role was in providing CPD support to London computing teachers, which we continue to do through CAS London by supporting Master Teachers.

Although this website will remain we won’t be updating the @TeachingLDNComp Twitter feed (the feed will still be public though as people may come across our resources while searching for related things on Twitter).

The CAS London Regional Centre is one of several university-led regional centres in the UK. Ours is run by King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London (exactly the same people in fact behind Teaching London Computing!) and CS4FN is the flagship schools computing magazine and website from Prof Paul Curzon and colleagues at QMUL.

Please make sure you’re following –
@CS4FN to hear about newly uploaded activities and resources on this site
@cas_london_crc to hear about other support and events for London computing teachers

Thank you!

Woohoo! Our Ada Lovelace issue of the @cs4fn magazine is here :) #lovelaceoxford

We’re delighted to introduce the 20th issue of cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) magazine. The latest edition celebrates Ada Lovelace and her lasting influence on computer science today.

Download a free PDF copy of the magazine (see also the magazine’s homepage on cs4fn).

cs4fn 20 cover Ada Lovelace issue2015 is the 200th anniversary of Ada Lovelace’s birth. Famous as ‘the first programmer’ her vision of computer science was far wider. To celebrate, issue 20 of cs4fn magazine explores her life, her ideas and where modern research has taken some of those ideas. Women’s research is also still at the forefront of interdisciplinary computer science. We will look at what other Victorian Computer Science was around at the time and also see how her work linked to the very modern idea of computational thinking.

The magazine was written by Paul Curzon and Peter McOwan from Queen Mary University of London, Jane Waite of QMUL and CAS London, and Ursula Martin of the University of Oxford.

We’re grateful to the EPSRC, Google, the Mayor of London and Department for Education’s for funding support, and cs4fn is also a partner in the BBC’s Make it Digital programme.

To celebrate I’m giving away TEN copies (ie one copy to 10 people) of the magazine to anyone in the UK who fills in the form below. Non-UK submissions will be ignored and the form will (or at least should!) stop accepting submissions once 10 people have filled it in. Your information won’t be used for any other purpose and will be deleted once I’ve posted the magazine(s).

Summer School 2015 at @Ri_Science, for children 7-12, w Prof Paul Curzon on the magic of computer science

The Royal Institution (21 Albemarle St, London W1S 4BS) hosts public science events for all ages and is currently running a Summer School over the next few weeks with a range of science topics including maths, computing, cryptography, engineering, biomechanics and acoustics. The full programme covers workshops for children aged 7 and above with workshops for different year groups up to and including adults over 18.

Prof Paul Curzon, who has delivered many engaging workshops on the magic of computer science for teachers, will be delivering two workshops for school children on Tuesday 18th August.

The morning session will be for 7-9 year olds and the afternoon one for 10-12 year olds.

“When you learn to be a magician, it turns out you are learning the skills needed to be a great computer scientist too: computational thinking. In this workshop Paul Curzon will demonstrate some real magic tricks and teach the group how they are done so they can do the tricks themselves. Students will then use the magic to learn the linked basics of computer science and see what computational thinking is all about and how both magicians and computer scientists rely on it.

There will be a short break during the workshop and a drink and a small snack will be provided. Students should bring their own snack if they have any allergies.”

Morning workshop (Sunley Room)
The Magic of Computer Science with Prof Paul Curzon
Age group: 7-9 year olds – £30/27 (Faraday members)

Afternoon workshop (Library)
The Magic of Computer Science with Prof Paul Curzon
Age group: 10-12 year olds – £30/27 (Faraday members)

Financial assistance
The Potential Trust may be able to offer financial assistance to enable children to participate in Ri events and activities if this would otherwise be difficult. Please contact Anna Comino–James on 01844 351666 or email her at thepotentialtrust@gmail.com.

New free activity: The Emotion Machine – ready to download and print, with instructions

Computing teachers might find this useful, newly published on our website.

Emotion Machine bThe Emotion Machine

Age group: 7 – 12
Abilities assumed: None
Time: 40-60 minutes
Size of group: 1 upwards

Focus
• Programming
• Sequences
• Low-level code and high-level commands
• Compilers and interpreters
• Abstraction
Summary
Students create and program a 2D robot made of card to show different emotions. They create a table that can be used to translate emotions (high level commands) into low level machine instructions.

robot pdf

Click to download the PDF. Click the link above to visit the info page for instructions.

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

Paul Curzon’s doing two free workshops next Friday afternoon (20th) for Computing teachers in London cc @cs4fn

Paul Curzon’s free workshops, held at Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End campus, are fun and informal and support teachers who want to introduce programming concepts and computational thinking into the classroom in an engaging way. Each workshop is accompanied by downloadable classroom activities (also free) – these can be downloaded from the links below.

Next week’s (Friday 20th February) is a double session but you can choose to come to one workshop, or both.

The first workshop is at 2pm then there will be a half hour break with the second starting at 4pm, we aim to finish at 5.30pm.

Do I have to be a London computing teacher to attend?
The workshops are aimed at those who are currently (or who are about to begin) teaching the Computing curricula (particularly GCSE and A-level, though the information in the workshops has been used with younger children). As we’re funded by the Mayor of London we prioritise those who are currently teaching in London schools. The workshops are not suitable for school pupils though as the events are about how to introduce computing concepts into the classroom. Contact Jo Brodie (j.brodie@qmul.ac.uk) for further information.

Biography
Paul Curzon is a Professor of Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London. He runs the cs4fn ‘Computer Science for Fun’ (cs4fn) project, www.cs4fn.org. It aims to inspire school students about computer science through a series of free magazines, website and school shows. He regularly gives such shows around the UK as well as continuous professional development talks to teachers about the cs4fn approach to teaching. He is Director of the Teaching London Computing Project. He was made a UK National Teaching Fellow in 2010 in recognition of his excellence in teaching and outreach, was a finalist in the 2009 Times Higher Education Innovative Teacher of the year award and has twice won the student nominated Queen Mary award for excellence in teaching.

Workshop A:
Programming unplugged: learning programming without computers

2.00-3.30pm (free Eventbrite tickets)

Overview
It’s easy to assume that programming is something you have to learn at a computer but if you want your students to deeply understand programming concepts, rather than blindly getting programs to work then unplugged techniques can work really well to get students started. We will see how to program a robot face that is made of students, look at a simple way to give a deep understanding of how variables work by making them physical, and see how to compile programs onto your class instead of onto a computer.

Session material This session will cover:

  • Inspiring ways to introduce programming away from computers.
  • What is a variable?
  • How does assignment work?
  • Programming simple objects
  • Introducing flow of control and if statements

Workshop B:
Computational thinking: it’s about people too

4pm-5.30pm (free Eventbrite tickets)

Overview
Computing is not just about technology, it is about understanding people too. When we solve computing problems we are solving them for people. Computational thinking is the general group of problem solving skills that students learn as a result of studying computing. Often this is equated with algorithmic thinking – a direct result of learning to program. However it just as important to make programs usable by people – or they won’t be used. We will see how magic gives a fun way to introduce these ideas and how a simple game demonstrates why graphical user interfaces are effective.

This session is in collaboration with CHI+MED: an EPSRC-funded project about making medical devices safer.

Session material This session will cover:

  • computational thinking: understanding people
  • human computer interaction
  • why GUIs are better than text-based interfaces
  • The importance of data structures