YRS, EPQ and the Return of the King (of Code)

For those of you who are not in the know (where have you been?), last week was the festival of awesomeness known as Young Rewired State, where in centres across the country children under 18 gather to make apps, with the aid of mentors from companies, universities and a few rogue nosey teachers like me. The standard of the projects was phenomenal and we all spent a very happy Saturday at the Custard Factory in Birmingham whilst the projects were showcased. For a full list of all of the hacks, see the YRS hacks website.

Attending YRS as a mentor really opened my eyes to two things. Firstly, the types of project that were achievable by kids of <insert age>, which I already wrote about on an earlier post. I thought after 6 years of teaching I had a good idea of what different age groups are capable of – I don’t. Teaching a lesson (Paul*) is very different to getting a small group of interested kids together with awesome mentors for a week’s worth of work, but it has certainly shown me a thing or two about what is possible given the right conditions and the motivation. In my centre we had two teams – one of 10-12 year olds and one of 16-17 year olds – and both teams worked so hard to produce both an excellent piece of software and a top notch presentation of what they had achieved.

Hang on a minute…

Computing Extended Project?
As well as wearing my hat as Head of Computing, I have also been a supervisor for the Level 2 and Level 3 Extended Project Qualifications (but for Science) for about four years. For those not familiar with the Extended Project, hereafter known as EPQ, it is a GCSE (level 2) or A-Level (level 3) equivalent level qualification which involves creating a piece of work, either a large referenced and researched essay, an artifact or a performance, and then presenting what you have achieved to the examiner before answering questions about your work. Is this not what the kids have just done at YRS?

Perhaps we should be running a Computing EPQ at both levels that works exactly like this – it would alleviate the problem of the boring coursework write up, and would allow very gifted and talented students a chance to gain some recognition in the form of juicy UCAS points for something they would probably have been doing anyway! What do you think?

This is the other thing that really hit home during YRS. One fateful day in 2004 when I should probably have been writing my dissertation, I instead made an entry on Urban Dictionary which I have now lived to regret. The entry was as follows:

Back in 2004 when I was still at university, my CompSci crew contained a particular person who had earned this slightly dubious title because he was not very good at coding but thought he was pretty much a coding ninja and knew all the cool stuff. YRS has awoken me to a horrific realisation – I AM NOW THE KING OF CODE!!

Working in a school it is very easy to lull yourself into a false sense of security that you are pretty good at coding just because you are probably better than everyone you work with. Whilst this may be relatively true, in actual terms you probably totally suck, and you won’t realise this until you spend a week in the company of proper developers. As an experience, I highly recommend it 🙂

* If you don’t get the joke, you have probably never watched the Fast Show


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