This year we have introduced the (pilot) OCR GCSE Computing course. It was entirely optional, but available to most students.
In Year 10, we have a class of 19 students (all boys). In Year 9 (we now have a three year Key Stage 4) the class is bigger, and has one girl! The gender balance is something I hope to address in the future (very open to ideas on how to achieve this!).
In the first week I asked students to sit the specimen exam paper. This was incredibly unfair considering how specialist this course is. Oh well : )
The idea behind the early mock exam was to give students an opportunity to see what the paper will look like, and also for me to identify areas where students had existing knowledge or misconceptions (Assessment for Learning). I was pleasantly surprised how well the students did overall.
What I didn’t expect was for many of the students to go home and teach themselves how to count in binary and hexadecimal (one of the exam questions)! I think this is a good indicator of the interest that students have for this subject.
More recently I have been using Scratch to teach the basics of programming, asking students to recreate the arcade classic Pong using these excellent videos from David Phillips. There are three main problems to solve; the paddles, the ball and the scoring system. I allowed three lessons to complete the task, but many students were so motivated after the first lesson that they had completed the entire game on their own by the next morning (and I didn’t even set any homework)!
Overall a very positive start to the course, now the challenge is to convert this natural enthusiasm into good GCSE grades for the students and the school…