The HOPE for Computing Education project was run by Open Lab to explore factors towards the development of High Opportunity Progression Ecosystems for improved education in the North East, through university-school partnerships centred around computing.
High Opportunity Progression Ecosystems (HOPEs) improve learner progression by considering the ecological system of a community and the educational impact upon young people.
A recommended area of development in this learning ecology is the creation of partnerships between multiple educational institutions. However, there is little guidance for how Higher Education can begin to work with schools to support computing education.
We explored the experiences of undergraduate students, schoolteachers and an educational broker from Newcastle University as they took part in the “Create, Learn and Inspire with the micro:bit and the BBC” initiative (CLIMB).
This process included recruitment, content development, and delivery of over 30 computing lessons by nine undergraduates using the BBC micro:bit and BBC media content such as Dr. Who and Springwatch.
The study presents a number of design considerations towards the formation of HOPEs for computing education, and outlines the role of technology in developing and maintaining university-school partnerships.
RECRUITMENT, CONTENT DEVELOPMENT AND DELIVERY
There was a mismatch of expectations between BBC R&D, the undergraduates, and the teachers in schools. Undergraduates expected feedback and access to resources from the BBC, and some teachers expected undergraduates to be involved in classroom management with limited training and experience.
In practice, the researcher acted as an intermediary to communicate expectations to the different groups, but this was often a difficult and time-consuming task.
Technology can be used to show what has been done before, and how to do it by creating a repository which includes previous successes, lesson resources and a catalogue of current projects and recommended workflows.
In providing a model for others to follow, this raises awareness of the expectations of participation in a university-school partnership.
Our findings demonstrate how the challenges of disruption, teacher and undergraduate workload, and undergraduate experience had the ability to influence the content development and delivery stages of the process.
The current format of CLIMB requires considerable commitment from undergraduates, who had to work individually to propose, design and deliver three hour-long lessons.
By promoting a cooperative model between the undergraduates, and positioning the teacher as an active member of this cooperative group, it would help both the undergraduates and the teachers develop relevant skills. The cooperative model would need a concrete workflow outlining key deliverables, roles and dates to help set expectations and deal with potential risks such as timetabling issues.
The amount of work incurred by the broker was considerable, as they felt as if they were “on-call 24/7, preparing for emergencies”. These included communicating expectations, partnering schools and undergraduates, supporting delivery of the lessons by resolving issues with scheduling and equipment, as well as organizing opportunities for participants to reflect and redesign the CLIMB process and distributing developed resources.
Brokerage amounted to a full-time role across the span of three weeks, and the broker felt that the current workload would be unsustainable for a single person to coordinate in addition to existing responsibilities.
Technologies like Basecamp could support the coordination of participants and provide processes for management of risk, and could help to broker new partnerships between schools, universities and undergraduates.
These technologies either support, or completely automate the activities conducted by the broker, yet we do not recommend that the role of the broker be eliminated from the partnership process. The need for a human element in the process was demonstrated by those involved. Instead, a balance of digital and human support is needed.
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