Making computing accessible for all

This series of posts aims is aimed at UK secondary school teachers to give some free ideas and resources in order to help make computing lessons engaging and inclusive in order to help attract more and more students to continue with the subject at GCSE and beyond.

When students are choosing their GCSE options they seem to love asking teachers why we chose to teach our subjects.

Often, I can almost see the cogs turning inside some of my students’ heads, weighing up whether they should choose Computing over Art; ticking off the benefits of each subject as they make the first real choice that might affect the rest of their lives.

Whatever they use to make up their mind – who teaches the subject / what their friends are choosing / what they’re good at / what they enjoy – there’s clearly a lot more that we can do to promote Computer Science as a viable, challenging, enjoyable and worthwhile option. The national figures show a pretty poor GCSE uptake of GCSE Computer Science compared to other eBacc subjects and an abysmal uptake by girls. Boys, whilst outnumbering girls at KS4 and beyond, are being outperformed by girls from KS2 onwards. So there’s definitely something not right there that needs addressing.

CAS include
CAS #include. Making computing accessible for all

I’ve been slowly working through the brilliant advice on the CAS #include site about how to ensure that my Computing lessons aren’t just catering for people like me and it strikes me that the way to be inclusive for all also looks and sounds like the way to be engaging and stretching for all. This post aims to share some of the mistakes I’ve made as well as some of the things I’m trying to put right to make sure that all students get the most out of their computing lessons, hopefully also boosting recruitment at KS4 too.

I’ve come up with 6 Cs to use as a checklist for planning engaging and inclusive computing projects:

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Read more about the article micro:bit Python Simulator
Scrolling text with python on a micro:bit

micro:bit Python Simulator

I’ve been following the hype around the BBC micro:bits since they were announced but it’s been notoriously difficult to get my hands on one. My Y7s have been waiting for their class set to arrive since they were promised in September and although I know there are plenty of schools out there who’ve received them, I’d pretty much given up hope this academic year.

Then, my lovely science technician told me she’d got some spare “computer gadget things” that came bundled in a in a kit that she wasn’t going to be needing and she wondered if some of my students would be interested.

Oh yes.

So, for the last week, I’ve set all sorts of different aged / ability students loose with the “computer gadget things” to see if they live up to the hype.

And they do.

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Making computing accessible for all (1/6): Creative computing lessons

This post is the first of six in a series with ideas and resources on how to make computing lessons engaging and demanding for as many students as possible. Click here for the original post.

Creative Computing

Ideas and resources for creative computing lessons

I think creativity is one of the most over-used words in teaching. Put a few fancy pictures on a worksheet and it’s described as ‘creative’; Involve some design or multimedia in a project and it’s suddenly ‘creative’; Set students an open ended challenge that keeps them busy for a few minutes and that’s ‘creative time’.

Only, it rarely ever is.

There are loads of definitions out there for creativity but I like the the literal translation: the art of using your imagination to creating something new.

Re-creating something that someone else has already made isn’t creative – it can be restrictive and frustrating. The step-by-step guides that are so helpful for us teachers can be great for getting students started, but if that’s all they ever follow then there’s a good chance we’re limiting their creativity.


  • Don’t always get students to follow step by step instructions. Use them to introduce new skills but ensure that there’s time and opportunity to explore beyond copying or following rigid instructions.

e.g. “I’ll teach you how to make a game that does x, y and z, then it’s down to you to add any two additional features”

  • Choose projects where students can customise / extend / adapt / create their own ideas.

e.g. “Create a game that will occupy a two year old for as long as possible. You can use any website / app / tool and base your idea on any existing game as long as it’s suitable for a parent to give to a 2 year old and isn’t identical to something already out there”

  • Creativity and imagination are closely linked and imagination is heavily influenced by our interests and abilities. Create opportunities for students to find an outlet for their interests in their work

e.g. “Last week we learnt how to create a webpage and style it using CSS. Today I want you to create a news headline webpage with an imaginary story. Celebrity been abducted by aliens? Football team relegated? You choose any three headlines as long as you keep it clean and don’t write it about anyone in this class”

Key questions:

Are students simply copying (from a video / from me / from each other / from a website) or have they been free (or forced!) to innovate and think for themselves?

Example activity: Random story generator

The above code generates a random fairy tale from three parts of three different stories. It demonstrates how lists can be used to store more than one piece of data and how to choose something at random from a list. Students have to master the python syntax to add their own fairy tale into the lists.

Research and further reading

This paper highlights the role of creativity in recruiting and retaining women and minorities into studying Computer Science. It rejects the idea of creativity for the sake of it as a tokenistic gesture but defines the core computer science concept of problem solving as inherently creative. The paper makes strong links between collaboration and creativity in order to dispel the image of a ‘lone code monkey’ and replace it with a pedagogy that allows individual students to become enthusiastic collaborators who take pride in their work.

Sarah Monisha Pulimood and Ursula Wolz. 2008. Problem solving in community: a necessary shift in cs pedagogy.
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