Securing the Future: Expanding the cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) Project

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Electronic Eng & Computer Science

Abstract

Computer Science is facing an international crisis. For many reasons, the number of students applying to University to study the subject has been dropping for several years. There are too few Computer Scientists to meet the country's future needs. This problem was singled out as the most significant risk to the UK computing industry in the recent EPSRC International Review. The possible harmful impact to the UK economy is great. To overcome this requires urgent and major, long-term effort.A critical part of the problem is that many children and teachers do not fully understand what Computer Science is. Many do not see either the intellectual challenge or the relevance of computer science to the world around them and are largely unaware of the many subjects computer science touches on. To choose it as a career, students need not only to understand what it involves but must also be enthused. This kind of problem cannot be solved in a short project, but only through consolidated effort over a long period.The ongoing cs4fn project, that this proposal supports, combines a website, magazine and live shows on computer science research using a special off-beat style. We have already shown that cs4fn enthuses school children and helps them understand.This can be seen by the many positive comments of students and teachers we have received as well as, for example, from the numbers of people visiting the website and asking for the magazine. cs4fn has also helped successfully increased University applications locally.cs4fn tackles the significant problems in motivating school students to choose computer science as a subject to study, demonstrating for example the difference between school ICT and Computer Science. It also provides an effective link between school and university study, introducing university level topics through fun activities.cs4fn introduces its readers to the virtues of computational thinking. This is a key part of a computer science education, and many have argued it is the key intellectual skill for the 21st century, preparing students for a wide range of computing and non-computing careers. cs4fn makes readers think about ethical issues and the way new technology shapes society. It also provides a resource to excite students about science and engineering more generally, helping to deal with similar issues in other subjects.This proposal seeks funds to both continue and expand cs4fn to help solve these strategically significant national issues by creating a national marketing campaign around it. We believe that by providing this national resource the general level of applications can be improved across the UK just as we have already achieved locally.To have a wide and lasting impact it is vitally important that the project lasts at least 5 years, not only to reach successive years of school children, but also to reinforce the message both to those children and the teachers who advise them. This extended time is also needed to help other Universities build up skills in communicating the excitement of Computer Science to the public.The effect of the project over the 5 years will be independently evaluated and the lessons learned as to what works, and how, will be shared with others. A business plan for its continued stability will also be developed.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The cs4fn approach to public engagement in computer science is highly effective, gaining widespread praise from students, teachers, academics and industry. The approach of combining free physical resources such as the cs4fn magazines and booklets, with an online presence and physical shows based on unplugged teaching works extremely well as a way of engaging with children about the subject. Unlike many projects that do deep engagement but with only a few people, the cs4fn approach is a cost-effective way of doing large scale with flexible levels of public engagement reaching a global audience. It is possible for example to just read a single article for a few minutes or subscribe to the magazine and/or read web articles regularly. The physical resources are particularly welcomed by teachers and a large number of schools have requested additional class sets. The resources are used in a variety of flexible ways and for a wide range of students: both for gifted and talented groups and for 'challenging' students, for specialist computing classes and for general use. In the longer term we have found the resources are also of direct use by teachers as an effective way of doing teacher CPD and of raising awareness of the subject.
Exploitation Route Our resources are used widely in schools and by individuals globally. Teachers use them to enthuse students and as part of classroom activity. Individuals who are interested in computer science read them for fun and to help with their learning. The resources and the approach developed have also proved to be a powerful way of doing teacher CPD. The project is primarily a public engagement project and provides a wide range of free resources for use in schools. Universities across the UK and in Europe and North America and Asia have used cs4fn resources, including translations. We have published papers on the evaluation of our approach allowing others to learn from the experience.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.cs4fn.org/
 
Description The project (cs4fn) is a public engagement project. It has inspired and educated tens of thousands of students and teachers both in the UK and internationally. The resources developed have been used across over 160 countries. The project formed a core part of the movement that led to Computing replacing ICT in the National curriculum. Our resources are used in thousands of schools. They have supported teachers in encouraging students to take computing both at school and to university as well as raising the general awareness of the subject more generally. They have also encouraged students to take STEM subjects more generally due to the interdisciplinary nature, and supporting literacy. This has led to further work supporting the public engagement other research grants, and further grants to develop further similar resources for schools and to provide wide ranging CPD for school teachers. Our work also contributed to the change in the English national curriculum scrapping ICT and replacing it by a more rigorous subject of Computing. In 2018 the ongoing cs4fn project was named in #EDTECH50 as a project "shaping this dynamic and growing sector across the UK."
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description BBC Round Table Make It Digital
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The BBC Make IT Digital programme had UK wide reach in enthusing and educating school children about Computing. It included the development and distribution of the micro:bit to all year 7 students. The programme contributed towards raising the profile of the importance of Computing UK wide. It also supported teachers with classroom resources and CPD support. This is vital given the way Computing was introduced as a new subject in the UK curriculum without time for teachers who mostly have little background in the subject to gain sufficient subject knowledge and pedagogy.
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/makeitdigital
 
Description CAS Board
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Computing at School has been a key group responsible for the introduction of a Computing syllabus in the UK. It is also responsible for a national network of excellence for teachers and a training programme for teachers. This has lead and is continuing to lead to improved computing education across the UK.
URL https://www.computingatschool.org.uk/
 
Description Royal Society Computing Education Advisory Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/computing-education/
 
Description Royal Society Computing Education Report
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact The report as a whole contributed to the Government announcing significant money to support Computing Education.
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/computing-education/
 
Description Royal Society Machine Learning Report
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/machine-learning/
 
Description Computing at School Regional Network of Excellence (CAS London)
Amount £83,000 (GBP)
Organisation British Computer Society (BCS) 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 03/2018
 
Description DfE match Funding for Teaching London Computing
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for Education 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 03/2015
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2009
Amount £21,575 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Department Google Computer Science for High School
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2009 
End 03/2010
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2010
Amount £21,914 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Department Google Computer Science for High School
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2010 
End 03/2011
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2011
Amount £18,961 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Department Google Computer Science for High School
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2011 
End 03/2012
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2012
Amount £9,238 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Department Google Computer Science for High School
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2012 
End 03/2013
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2013
Amount £7,608 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2014
Amount £8,881 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2014 
End 03/2015
 
Description Google CS4HS Support for cs4fn: 2015
Amount $20,000 (USD)
Organisation Google 
Department Google Computer Science for High School
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2016
 
Description Google CS4HS support for cs4fn: 2008
Amount £37,983 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Department Google Computer Science for High School
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2008 
End 03/2009
 
Description Google Resource Translation
Amount £3,147 (GBP)
Organisation Google 
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 01/2012 
End 12/2013
 
Description LSEF - Teaching London Computing
Amount £450,000 (GBP)
Funding ID LSEF1094 
Organisation Greater London Authority (GLA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2013 
End 09/2015
 
Description LSEF Legacy Fund
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Greater London Authority (GLA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 09/2017
 
Description PAMBAYESIAN
Amount £1,538,497 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P009964/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 04/2020
 
Description TEMI (Teaching Enquiry with Mysteries Incorporated) - Science in Society - Coordination and Support action programme
Amount € 3,135,920 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2013 
End 07/2016
 
Description BCS 
Organisation British Computer Society (BCS)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Supported BCS work in engaging school students in computer science
Collaborator Contribution Provided networking support and sat on advisory committee
Impact cs4fn magazines, school talks and shows and research publications on the public engagement work done. Focus is on computing but interdisciplinary computing ranging across all arts and sciences at least in part.
Start Year 2007
 
Description Google 
Organisation Google
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Allowed further expansion of cs4fn resources (eg bigger print runs) to EMEA region including translation of materials as well as to do public engagement talks in schools to students and giving CPE talks to teachers.
Collaborator Contribution The money was a donation without strings through the CS4HS programme
Impact cs4fn magazines and booklets, teacher activity sheets through Teaching London Computing, talks in schools
Start Year 2008
 
Description HEA-cs4fn 
Organisation Higher Education Academy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supported their aim of encouraging school students into higher education in computing
Collaborator Contribution Sat on advisory committee
Impact cs4fn magazines, school talks and shows and research publications on the public engagement work done. Focus is on computing but interdisciplinary computing ranging across all arts and sciences at least in part.
Start Year 2007
 
Description Kings College Education 
Organisation King's College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We bring computer science and public engagement experience.
Collaborator Contribution They bring Computer Science Education experience.
Impact Computer Science and Education Website of resources for teachers
Start Year 2013
 
Title Jody Greig: Magic of Computing 
Description The approach of teaching school computing using magic and specific write-ups of magic tricks and linked computing lessons 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2011
Licensed Yes
Impact Teachers in Scotland being shown the approach to use in their classes
 
Description A bit of cs4fn 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A website on computer science research for primary school children. Aim to inspire and enthuse students (and their teachers) about computer science and electronic engineering using research topics. It has led to requests for copies of a new magazine being developed to complement the website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://www.abitofcs4fn.org/
 
Description Facing up to faces from perception to robots: Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This stall on Facing up to faces from perception to robots at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2011 teamed up the cs4fn team with a research team and led to a lot of interest in the stall.

INcreasing numbers of people went on to visit the linked cs4fn website and read the related cs4fn resources
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL https://royalsociety.org/summer-science/2011/photogallery/
 
Description Magic Book 2: Now we have your attention 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Created a magic book using magic tricks that lead to explanations of the work. Led to tens of thousands of downloads as well as requests for physical copies. Sparked a lot of interest in the use of magic to teach computing concepts and raised profile of usability especially in schools.

Led to teachers using activities as a way of teaching, as well as academics a round the world using the approach in their outreach
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
URL http://www.cs4fn.org/magic/
 
Description Magic Shows 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Created a series of magic tricks and developed in various versions of magic shows that involve doing a trick challenging the audience to work it out and then describe research linked to it. Ultimately it was also used as part of a Royal Society Summer Exhibition stall.

Has contributed to increase in interest in computer science in schools and at university. It led to lots of interest from teachers in the magic books to do tricks and later to grants to develop the resources directly for training teachers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
URL http://www.cs4fn.org/magic/
 
Description Royal Society CPD Session for teachers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was a talk about my research related to Machine Learning given as part of a CPD event for teachers run by the Education Outreach team of the Royal Society in February 2018. The day focused on evidence informed education and dissemination of scientific policy into the classroom. After the talk attending teachers split into groups and worked with facilitators to see how they can embed this input into their teaching to support the curriculum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/machinelearning/
 
Description Teaching London Computing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A website for teachers based on the cs4fn activities and resources, providing wide ranging resources and ideas for teaching computing as well as for inspiring students. In 2016 alone the website had 240, 000 views from 78,000 visitors, downloading 54,000 activity sheets and other resources
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
URL https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/
 
Description The magic of Computer Science: Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2009 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The magic of Computer Science was a stall at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2009 combining the cs4fn team with . It garnered a lot of interest and generated lots of discussion.


It led to large increase in activity to cs4fn linked resources and all the subsequent impact from that
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL https://royalsociety.org/summer-science/2009/photogallery/
 
Description cs4fn Twitter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact As of 2018 we have 2228 followers this has been used as a channel to publicise both new material and resurface original material much of which has led to repeated positive comments about the resources and further dissemination of them as well as indications of their use.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
URL https://twitter.com/cs4fn
 
Description cs4fn magazines and booklets including Audio magazine, ee4fn magazine, magic booklets and a range of other booklets 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The magazines and booklets have inspired tens of thousands across the world about computer science and led to them see its fun side. It has led to a large proportion of UK schools subscribing for copies and using it to inspire their students.

The materials continue to be downloaded and we have created a range of new materials as a result of further funding from a wide range of sources.

It has led to a greater understanding of what computing is and its interdisciplinary side. It has helped to increase numbers taking computer science at school and university and has supported teachers and so the movement to get computing on the national curriculum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,
URL http://www.cs4fn.org/
 
Description cs4fn website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A website on interdisciplinary computer science research aimed at children. Has had tens of millions of page views per year, leading to increased interest in the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
URL http://www.cs4fn.org/