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I Belong Computing Camp: Transforming attitudes with AI

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Students and teacher at the Easter I Belong computing camp.

Earlier this year, the local Computing Hub for All Saints RC School in York coordinated the first NCCE Computing Camp at Selby High School. Featuring Computing Ambassadors, Teach Computing facilitators, and school teachers and leaders, together they delivered a successful, AI-focused programme tailored for twenty Year 8 girls over the Easter holiday, mapping to the school's digital learning and AI strategy.

Post-camp survey results revealed a significant shift in the students' attitudes towards computer science. Two-thirds of the students expressed a heightened likelihood of pursuing computer science at GCSE, attributing their decision to their experiences from the four day camp.

"The Easter STEM camp was a fantastic success and increased our computer science profile. Throughout the event, the girls demonstrated creativity and problem-solving and used digital technology to program with many applications, including AI. This supports our evidence for the I Belong programme and The Computing Mark", Craig Walton, Computing Lead and Director of Digital Learning at Selby High, said.

Creative computing

Activities on the day included text-based programming for music composition using the Earsketch platform and integrating machine learning aspects into physical computing, as the students trained data models to recognise sounds and movements. Everything was linked to the host school's priorities, which were identified before the camp and included:

  • Evaluating how culturally relevant pedagogies and creative computing can increase students' sense of identity and belonging and change girls' perceptions of computer science as an option in key stage 4.
  • Demonstrating to students the possibilities of digital technology, AI, and application of computing concepts, including the progression of programming, ideally using Python as a text-based programming environment.

Student feedback

One student described how Earsketch had changed her perception of programming in Python. She enjoyed composing music with it and could relate to it by recognising how it would help her in programming lessons when she returned to a regular timetable.

Asked to tell us about their favourite session, more students said:

  • "I liked using AI to generate images and stories and then putting them together, as well as everyone coming in to talk to us."
  • "Using the micro bits."
  • "The AI session. I liked it because it helped make my ideas into real things."
  • "Earsketch and making the song covers."
  • "Music; it was fun, plus we had pizza."

Increasing family engagement

Home-school links were strengthened through an online portal sharing the daily 'AI Pioneer' award, recognising students for their projects, and generating positive feedback. Families were enthusiastic about the recruitment efforts, expressing pride and excitement during parents' evening over their daughter's selection.

Each day, an 'AI Pioneer' was celebrated, placing the girls at the centre of the narrative and showcasing their achievements through the portal. By restorying traditional computer science narratives, the camp empowered students to question the norm of 89% GCSE CS students being boys and to further shape their identities in the subjects of computing and technology.

Feedback from families

"She thoroughly enjoyed the experience and gained valuable skills and knowledge during her time there. As a parent, it's incredibly rewarding to see my child engage with educational opportunities that pique her interest and provide a supportive and enriching environment for learning. The camp has undoubtedly sparked her curiosity in computing and technology, and she's already eager to continue exploring these subjects further."

"It was really good to see my daughter engaging in the subject. She really enjoyed the AI image generator!"

Careers and future pathways

Collaboration with STEM Ambassadors has helped embed career opportunities into the computing curriculum. A Cisco Computing Ambassador has already returned to Selby High to work with Year 10 students, and more activities are planned. 

Before the camp, the most recognised career was that of a computer science teacher. Embedding career options into the four-day camp, alongside home-school liaison efforts, significantly increased students' awareness of educational and career pathways.

Has your school enrolled on the I Belong programme yet? Check out our page for more information on how you can start your journey towards empowering more girls into computer science.