How Craig‘n’Dave were ahead of the game in going virtual

27 April 2020

Craig ‘n’ Dave’s videos for students and teachers of computer science have come into their own in this new era of home teaching. Victoria Temple spoke to one half of the dynamic duo.

In the world of computer science education, Craig Sargent is a bit of a celebrity. He’s one half of Craig 'n' Dave whose series of educational YouTube videos have attracted almost 5 million views and 20,000 subscribers.

The pair both teach computer science at secondary schools in Gloucestershire and their straightforward style is backed by innovative teaching methods; it’s a combination which has won them many fans. It was their experience in the classroom and an understanding of the national curriculum for computing which led to the pair setting up their YouTube channel and business.

Their Craig 'n' Dave videos, and additional resources, are tailored to GCSE and A- level exam board requirements. They’re organised in ‘playlists’ according to each exam board and curriculum requirements and are updated regularly.

Their expertise is now also available via Isaac Computer Science’s hint video, part of the NCCE’s provision of online tools, resources and events for teachers and students. They were pleased to be approached by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to provide content for the Isaac Computer Science platform.

“It’s a really great platform – we’ve been very pleased to be part of it, and seeing how popular it’s become,” said Craig.

Turning teaching methods upside down

Craig’s teaching uses the Flipped Classroom technique which turns traditional teaching on its head – and ties in with their videos.

It’s a simple concept, explained Craig.

“Most teaching follows a traditional format: a teacher explaining a concept for 10 minutes or so; an exercise for students; followed by homework to consolidate learning. The problem with this is that really you only teach a third of the class at a time. Around a third will be struggling to understand the concept, a third or so will have grasped it and be able to race ahead.

“You’re then need to spend time going around the class, identifying who needs help. Flip learning reverses that. Homework is done before the lesson and involves watching one of the videos and taking notes.

The advantages of flipped learning is teaching is much more tailored to the pace and ability of each student. It means that when you walk in the classroom, the students have an idea of what they are going to learn already.

So instead of spending 10 minutes talking, we go straight into an activity. Within a minute the whole class is working, and I’m also able to identify almost immediately the students who need extra help.”

Craig had taught in the 'traditional' style for 13 years, before switching to 'flipped classroom' pedagogy.

“I realised that the new A Level was going to be difficult and started thinking I needed to try something new to improve how students learned.  I’ve been doing it for five years now and haven't looked back. Once I did this, I felt liberated as a teacher.”

Craig says the benefits are immediate - although it does mean he’s teaching more intensely.

“There is a common misconception that flipped classroom teachers are lazy and no longer teach, this couldn’t be further from the truth, I’m busier as a teacher than ever, from the minute I enter the classroom. I’m engaged and the students are engaged.

“Some kids dive straight into the task, while others need support. And we also have the opportunity to delve deeper with the students who are up for additional challenges!

Providing Inspiration

Craig works alongside teacher Karen Morris, at Stroud High School, who have built a thriving Computer Science department. Indeed Karen, a former Geography teacher, before she became Head of IT at the school eleven years ago is so enthusiastic about the subject, and keen to develop it that she’s taking Computer Science A level and is one of Craig’s students.

“Karen’s enthusiasm is overwhelming. Her understanding of the subject is phenomenal. And of course, doing the A level in the classroom setting and with the students is the ultimate CPD!”

Of course – now Craig’s teaching has shifted from the classroom to fully online, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the current climate, I’m communicating with the students entirely online. It’s really helped to have the entire course online already.

“I’m setting videos to watch and emailing activities. For my A level students’ they’ve been able to carry on almost as if they were at school.”

The 800 or so YouTube videos produced by Craig ‘n’ Dave are ‘no frills’ in style. They’re straightforward presentations with the focus on quality of content.

“We’ve kept them very focused. They are carefully tailored to the requirements of the exam boards. There’s a high level of trust and it seems to work for us, teachers and students.”

Get involved

Check out the Craig‘n’Dave teaching pedagogy page where they talk about how flipped classroom really works and some of its benefits