How to Create a Free Computing Course

I qualified as a teacher in 1998, and the most obvious difference between teaching in the 90s and early noughties and now is the teacher's approach to creating a scheme of work or sequence of lessons. In those days the main focus of training and staffroom talk was creating courses - deciding what to teach, what to assess, and creating the necessary resources - essentially the part of the job that requires subject expertise. These days teaching seems to be more about buying a course and then using your time to track progress in a spreadsheet.

Hattie's Visible Learning tells of that buying (or using) someone else's scheme of work has a negative effect on student progress because it stops the teacher from thinking about the course as a whole and how the topics fit together. Creating your own more effective, free, computing course really isn't that difficult, though, if you follow these simple steps.

What is the Course For?

The first question to ask yourself is "What is Computing?" If you can't answer that question, then you'll struggle with the next step, so don't skip it. What are the key concepts? Is there a particular topic that is key to understanding the whole subject?

What Do I Teach?

The next question to ask yourself is "What does it mean to be good at Computing?" Make a list of all of the things that a top student in your subject would know. Those are the things that you're going to teach. You might even have ideas about what progress would look like and how to record it.

Do some of the things on the list depend upon other topics? Or do other concepts help to explain or link topics? Make a critical path of ideas to help you to sequence the topics - sometimes the order might not matter and you can sequence the lessons to fit around holidays, have the seasonal activities at the right time of year, etc.

Do I Need to Make or Buy the Resources?

No, of course not. In many ways the first step is the most important and the least laborious - you can do it in the shower or while you're driving. Resourcing the course is a lot more work, but it's a job that can be shared across the department once you've decided what's in the course, and it doesn't need to be done all at once - you can use a "just-in-time" approach and create the course as you go.

There are plenty of resources for KS3 Computing and GCSE Computer Science on this site, but if they're not for you - we all have different preferences - then check out the new resource database section of the site. It's a collection of links to free resources shared by your fellow Computing teachers that is categorised by topic and searchable. Feel free to use it to source materials, but also add any that you find elsewhere so that others can benefit.

There are, of course, other sources of free teaching resources. You can use Google's Advanced search (now moved to the cog at the top-right of the search page) and change usage rights to free to use share or modify to find resources shared under Creative Commons licences. Choose the free to use share or modify option because you'll almost certainly want to modify the resource to match your thoughts (and students). In fact, if you have a very specific idea of what you want, you might even find that it is quicker to create it yourself than to scour the web for, and then modify, something.

There are also sites such as TES Resources. Resources there used to be free, but as more teachers sell their resources the free materials are getting harder to find. One tip is to sort the resources by rating - the free resources are almost always better than the paid-for ones because they've been created by real teachers and refined in the classroom.

Finally, don't forget resources like OCR's Exam Builder for creating sheets of questions. And while you will most-likely be preparing your students to take exams with a specific exam board, there's no reason why you can't use questions from other boards for practice.

I've been teaching for nearly 25 years without ever buying any resources and you can do it too - why not give it a go? Your students will thank you, your school bursar will thank you, and I expect that you'll feel better about the lessons you deliver as you'll understand the point of them and see where they're going.

This blog was originally written in October 2021.