Isaac Computer Science: one year on
07 September 2020
A year ago today, we launched the Isaac Computer Science programme to bring free, high-quality computer science resources to teachers and students around England.
In this article, we celebrate the achievements of the past year, hear from some of the teachers who joined our community, and take a look at what’s in store for year two. Before we do that, we want to start by celebrating you: the teachers and students who make our programme possible.
Since September 2019, over 2000 teachers and 18,000 students have joined the Isaac Computer Science community. We are humbled by the confidence you have shown in us, and consider it a privilege to be able to support you in these uncertain times. Thank you. We will continue to improve with your help!
“Isaac Computer Science became a feature of our A level teaching right from the start of the academic year. As the platform has grown in quality and quantity, so has student engagement with it. My students find the gameboards and assessments highly engaging, and, during the virtual school we ran due to the Covid-19 situation, they really enjoyed the platform much more than they did with other resources. They were happy to see the full course content and found this extra content accessible and extensive which meant Isaac really minimised any disruptions to their learning.
We have also found it has added value to our Year 11s who are transitioning onto our A level classes next year. I was asked why they didn’t have this at GCSE on more than one occasion. I can’t recommend Isaac Computing highly enough for A level computer science teachers. No other subject area has a platform this knowledge rich, this accessible, and this enjoyable.”
– Lee Willis, Digital Technology Lead at North East Futures UTC
Our platform launched with only a few curriculum topics last year, but we’ve since gone on to upload 39 topics that contain 434 self-marking questions. We also teamed up with online learning legends Craig ‘n’ Dave to create 213 question hint videos. The result is a bank of free learning resources that covers the full A level computer science specifications for AQA and OCR.
We also continued to improve the platform’s functionality and have added a range of new features and tools, including:
- The ability to customise and build your own boards of questions as a teacher
- Launching different types of questions, such as Parson’s Problems
- A ‘My Progress’ page where students can track their progress
- A fully integrated event management system for event providers
- A news section that publishes our monthly Computer Scientist of the Month and Everyday Hero articles
“Isaac Computer Science is the one platform that eased the challenges of teaching and learning during school closure. The website is easy to navigate and includes multiple forms of assessment resources to track progress of students. The team at Isaac Computer Science made it possible for me to focus fully on feeding back to my students, ensuring that no individual was left behind.
I am very much looking forward to fully embedding Isaac Computer Science into our curriculum here at Exeter Maths School, and am excited at the prospect of being able to share our experiences with colleagues from other schools. Isaac Computer Science can help any department to close the attainment gaps revealed in recent months and I highly recommend any teacher to explore the full range of courses offered.”
– Melanie Dennig, Lead Teacher of Computer Science at Exeter Mathematics School
Our events have been a great way to give teachers opportunities for free CPD training which were previously scarce for A level computer science. We also ran our first Discovery event in Cambridge, where NCCE Chair Simon Peyton Jones gave a keynote and we were joined by some great guest speakers from the worlds of industry and academia. It was lovely to give students the opportunity to learn about the amazing directions that a career in computing could take them.
We ran four Discovery events, six student Masterclasses, thirteen teacher CPD events, and had just run our first two student Booster events before coronavirus forced us to rethink our whole delivery model in March. This was a tough time for everyone, and we certainly felt it too. However, our transition to running remote, online courses has proven very successful. There were moments where we’d post an event and immediately fill it; we couldn’t keep up with the demand! Our Events Manager Fergus Kirkpatrick did a great job organising our subject experts to run these remote sessions. Bravo to our amazing training delivery team!
Student Rewards Programme
Our Student Rewards Programme launched in February and has given away 1000 Pi 4 Desktop kits this year through the three different competition strands. We are currently changing the way students can enter the programmes to make them even more accessible this year.
So what does the future look like for Isaac Computer Science? We will leave it to our Programme Lead Eirini Kolaiti to tell you about what’s in store for this year:
“Having all the A level curriculum mapped and up on the platform, we are now focusing on making Isaac CS more accessible and engaging! We are supplementing the content with videos, adding more questions organised as topic gameboards, and also embedding quick questions that students can try out on their own before revealing the working out.
Next, we are incredibly proud to have just released our new Isaac Computer Science workbooks in September. With over 300 questions covering all of the A level computer science topics, these low-cost textbooks will provide excellent extra support for students and are a great companion to the content on the platform. You can also apply to get them for free if you are a priority school.
We also just launched our new “Explore A level computer science with a Raspberry Pi” competition! This initiative will engage students in an exciting project that links the A level curriculum with a practical coding activity, using Raspberry Pi 4s, that the students get to keep after they complete the project!
Overall I am really proud of what we've achieved this year and look forward to sharing all these exciting new developments with teachers and students very soon!”