Making computing accessible for all (6/6): Compassionate computing lessons

Making computing accessible for all (6/6): Compassionate computing lessons

This post is the last 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.

Compassionate computing
Ideas and resources for compassionate computing lessons

I know. If I read this, I’d be questioning the sanity of the author too. How can computing possibly be described as compassionate? More importantly, why should Computing ever be compassionate? If we define compassion as a warm fuzzy feeling that we experience when we see cute-looking-cats or an uncomfortable guilt we try to ignore when we see bad news on TV then we’ve missed the point. Some of my students have volunteered with a fabulous charity whose founder – who established the charity on seeing a room full of children with learning difficulties left to rot in the dark, in their own filth – defines compassion not just as sympathy or empathy, but as empathy with action. When we see the broken world around us, the big question is not “How do we feel about that” but also “What are we going to do about that”.

Whatever you may think about Microsoft, it’s hard not to be moved by the aims (and achievements) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by Microsoft’s founder to ‘invest’ his wealth helping to alleviate some of the world’s biggest problems. Whether you think Mark Zuckerburg and other billionare tech philanthropists give away money for tax reasons, for their own benefit or because they’re genuinely ‘good’ people is irrelevant. The fact is that they are able to give. Their skills have enabled them to be successful. Their success has enabled them to accumulate fabulous wealth. Their wealth has enabled them to setup, support or save charities around the world to make a difference on their behalf.

Students are often idealists. They want to change the world around them but feel powerless to make a difference. It can be both liberating and hugely empowering for them to realise that the skills they learn in computing can be put to good use now and in the future, not just to make money but also to support the causes they are passionate about.

Ideas:

  • Invite a representative from a local charity to come and speak to your students about how they use technology and social media to raise funds and raise awareness. Contrast this with the dangers of using social media as part of a lesson on eSafety.

    e.g. “Go to the BBC news web page and see if you can work out how to change one of the headlines to “Cure for cancer found”. Our visitor today works for a charity that is working hard to make that headline a reality. They’re going to explain today how your computing skills can help

  • Discuss and research current events with your students. Take time to get them thinking about how technology can help or hinder any big news item (e.g. refugee crisis / terrorism / poverty / conflict)

    e.g. As part of our web design unit we’re learning how to use HTML tags to make our own web pages. Today I want you to use <h1>, <img> and <p> tags to make a newspaper headline

  • Create a display full of ideas of how students can use the skills from each project / topic / unit of work to make a positive difference to the world around them. Students can help with ideas.

    e.g. “Today is our last lesson on game design. As homework I want you to choose between: A) find a game that promotes or advertises a charity or B) Think of an idea for a game that could promote a charity. e.g. The UNHCR is the United Nations charity in charge of refugees. They could have a game where you have to rescue refugees and catch people traffickers.

Example Activity: Obesity crisis

This activity teaches students how to use 2D lists / arrays in python. Use the above code to plot a map of obesity in different countries. Use the link in the code to find out and add the obesity stats for more countries. Discuss with the class how technology might be to blame for obesity in some countries and how technology can be part of the solution.

Then, get students to write the code for turning a BBC micro:bit into a pedometer that can encourage people to take more exercise:

Making computing accessible for all

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: