Computing at School (CAS) conference 2018 – highlights and links

A CAS conference is always a pleasure to attend, writes Peter Lillington, London CLC’s computer teaching and learning consultant, and this year’s 10th anniversary event in Birmingham was no exception.

Having been to the London conference in the spring I knew that CAS is fantastic at bringing together academics, teachers, industry and business, enthusiasts, consultants and experts all keen to share their knowledge and expertise. Here’s a summary of just some of my highlights, with links to explore further.

Speed Geek

The Friday night of the conference featured a Speed Geek session – 15 presenters at tables across two rooms with five minutes or so at each table, energetically masterminded by Nottingham University students.

The presentations varied widely, from the serious – Wendy Barker from the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit discussed a programme to prevent young people getting sucked into cybercrime (or re-offending) by offering positive diversions – to the fun, with Joek van Montfort presenting a way into coding through embroidery with Turtlestitch. Paul Curzon and Jane Waite suggested ideas to introduce logical thinking and problem solving into different curriculum areas, such as in literacy with Phonics Kriss Kross, the Computer Science for Fun magazine and the new primary focused Moving from primary to tertiary, Norwich University of the Arts offered an enlightening presentation on its Creative Science BScs in UX design, interaction design and games development.

The main part of the conference included keynotes, workshops and seminars and you can access many of the session materials at the CAS website. The sessions below were particular highlights for me.

Packet Tracer

Duncan Maidens’ plenary demonstrating how to use Packet Tracer resource to teach networking and aspects of cybersecurity to KS2 and above captured the attention of many of us – watch a demo. You can see Duncan’s Scratch animations (KS3-4) and enrol on a free short online Cisco course to use Packet Tracer.

Ten Tier Transition to Text

In Cathryn Armer’s Ten Tier Transition to Text workshop she demonstrated a logical sequence to guide students from block-based languages into text-based in an accessible way. It was handy to try out RoboMind, which allows you to control an on-screen robot via a simple button interface but also using text commands – access the Hour of Code version (sign up required).


Ken Kahn’s workshop introduced the AI aspect of the EU-funded ecraft project, You can access the pupil and teacher materials that are being developed in Snap! on GitHub.

Concept maps

Mark Dorling is undertaking doctoral research that takes a rigorous look at using concept maps to develop understanding in computing. True concept maps follow certain rules and are distinct from more general spider diagrams, mind maps, or similar.

Real world computing challenges

Julia Briggs, from Somerset LA (ELIM), led a workshop that exemplified how to exploit meaningful open-ended real world challenges to develop better computing assessments. Examples included an Amazon rainforest trip, advising a potential new local business on what it should stock and managing a school vegetable garden effectively. Worth a look.

Apps we liked

I’ll be recommending some of the apps we liked at the conference in the Give it a Try section of our weekly newsletter. Sign up to our newsletter to get these recommendations plus free resources and edtech news and views in your inbox every Thursday lunchtime.


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New to subject leadership in primary computing: Session 1

This programme is designed for primary teachers who have recently taken on responsibilities and leadership for technology and computing. It will cover curriculum planning, tools and resources, methods for supporting colleagues and progression and assessment. Colleagues will be expected to attend all three sessions. The third session will be held in a school and will include classroom visits.

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Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
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Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

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