Abstract for IFIP TC3

Four Nations Panel

Chaired by Professor Alastair Irons (Deputy Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Abertay University).

Panel members:

  • Dr Parveen Samra (Associate Dean, Quality and Accreditation, Coventry University, England)
  • Dr Fiona McNeil (Reader in Computing Education, University of Edinburgh, Scotland)
  • Dr Ian McChesney (Senior Lecturer, Ulster University, Northern Ireland)
  • Professor Tom Crick (Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Civic Mission), Swansea University, Wales)

The development of the computing and computing science curriculum in and across schools, colleges and universities is an interesting, challenging and complex issue. There are many drivers, from developing the digital skill set for digital citizens to providing advanced capabilities for the technical innovators and systems developers of the future. There is a complex body of knowledge to be covered and an ever-expanding set of topics to understand and apply as computing continuously evolves.

The challenges in teaching computing and computer science are many and varied, from ensuring grounding in the subject through topic relevance and student interest in the school curriculum through to embedding up-to-date advanced theory, knowledge and practice in university curriculum. Added into this complex environment is the role of the computing professional bodies in supporting skills development of teachers, creating curriculum structures and accrediting programmes of study.

It is not just a case of creating an interesting and practical curriculum; there is the need to consider who is going to own the curriculum, develop the learning and teaching materials and actually teach the students and pupils. Additionally, there are challenges in staffing in schools, colleges and universities.

The situation in the UK is not uniform, with differences at school, college and university levels across England and the devolved nations (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales). There is significant work happening in all four countries in the UK – some in collaboration, for example, degree accreditation, and some devolved, such as the school curriculum.

In this workshop, the panel of colleagues across the four nations in the UK will discuss the opportunities and challenges from each country, particularly in Higher Education, and discuss the aspirations for the future from the perspective of each nation.  We will explore the different policy and implementation approaches of the HE sector in the four nations in the UK with regard to the computing and computer science curriculum and digital technology transformation.

We will also discuss the role of the British Computer Society (BCS), The Chartered Institute for IT in the computing curriculum environment, and the activities of the BCS Academy Board in ensuring that the national dots are joined together in operational and strategic developments.

Biographies for BCS Panel at IFIP

Alastair Irons

Image of Alastair Irons

Alastair Irons is Professor of Computer Science, Deputy Principal and Deputy Vice Chancellor at Abertay University in Scotland. Before coming to Abertay in July 2022, he was Academic Director for Digital Education at the University of Sunderland, having previously been the Dean for the Faculty of Technology. Prior to joining the University of Sunderland in 2008, he worked at ONE North East, Northumbria University and ICI.

Alastair became a National Teaching Fellow in 2010. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Cape Town, South Africa from 2013–2017 and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg. Alastair is Vice President (academic) of the British Computer Society (BCS) and is chair of the BCS Academy Board (recently re-elected for a second three-year term). He also sits on BCS Council and BCS Trustees, is a member of the BCS Academic Accreditation Committe, a founding trustee of the BCS Foundation. Plus, he is  the UK representative for IFIP and serves on the IFIP Board.

Parveen Samra

Image of Parveen Samra

With over 20 years experience in higher education, both in the UK and internationally, Parveen is a goal-oriented leader who excels at driving high-quality programmes, ensuring exceptional student experiences, fostering innovation and creativity, and effectively managing change. Parveen started her career working in industry as a database developer and completed her PhD entitled “A systematic method to develop work-based learning” in 2009. 

Parveen currently works at Coventry University as the Associate Dean for the College of Engineering, Environment and Science.  She is an assessor and Vice-Chair for the British Computing Society Academic Accreditation Committee and holds co-opted membership for the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC). She is an Assessor  an Independent Committee Member of the Office For Student’s Quality Investigations Committee  providing a comprehensive grasp of higher education and the discipline of computing in a broader context. 

Fiona McNeil

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Fiona McNeill is a Reader of Computing Education at the University of Edinburgh, where her research focuses primarily on access to computer science (CS) education for typically excluded groups, especially women and young people from socio-economically deprived backgrounds, and transitions into higher education.

She is a founding co-chair of the BCS Scottish Computing Education Committee and is a member of the BCS Academy.  She represents the BCS on the RSE’s Learned Society Group on STEM education in Scottish schools.

Tom Crick

Image of Tom Crick

Tom Crick is Professor of Digital Policy and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Swansea University and has recently been appointed Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport. His academic interests sit at the research-policy-practice interface, identifying and addressing domain problems with broad digital, data-driven and computational themes: CS/STEM education, AI, data science, technology governance/regulation, and skills/infrastructure for the digital/data economy.

Tom has been heavily involved in education and digital policy in the UK since 2013, especially national curriculum and qualifications reform in Wales. He chaired the Welsh Government’s independent review of the ICT curriculum (2013), the development of an innovative bilingual cross-curricular Digital Competence Framework (2015-2016), and led the development of the Science and Technology area (2017-2020) in the new Curriculum for Wales, which has been phased in since September 2022. He was also chair of the National Network for Excellence in Science and Technology (2017-2019), a £4m strategic investment by the Welsh Government.

Alongside his academic roles, Tom holds various board-level and senior advisory roles; he is a non-executive director of Welsh Water, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Wales, and Industry Wales. He has previously been an inaugural Commissioner of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (2018-2022) and a Vice-President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (2017-2020).

Michael McEnery

Image of Michael Mcenery

Dr Michael McEnery is Programme Manager, Digital and Assessment Sector for the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland. Michael is originally from County Kerry and his first teaching post was in London where he taught mathematics, computing/IT in both public and private schools leading to roles as head of department before returning with his family to County Armagh to work in a senior school leadership role with responsibility for curriculum.

Michael joined CCEA in 2015 as Education Manager with responsibility for a suite of STEM qualifications before becoming Programme Manager in 2019. Alongside his team, he was responsible for digital and technology specifications. He also led a project to develop a computer adaptive test solution for literacy and numeracy across Key Stages 1 to 3 (for 5 to 14 year old pupils).

Michael holds a Doctorate in Education from Queens University, Belfast and held a position as Chair of Governors in a 900-pupil primary school for 12 years. He is currently the CCEA representative on the Joint Council for Qualifications AI in Assessments, Private Candidates, and Digital Assessments working groups.

Expert Panel Opportunities and challenges for AI in Education: One year after ChatGPT?

Abstract for AI in Education: One year after ChatGPT?

The sudden availability of generative AI to everybody via ChatGPT alerted everyone to AI’s rapidly developing capabilities and massive potential. While generative AI, as one type of AI application, can create and edit a range of different media very efficiently, other AI functionalities that are useful to education include: conversational AI, predictive AI, speech recognition, robotics, computer vision, learning and assessment analytics and personalised feedback.

These functionalities can be combined with each other and with other technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality to create a wide range of opportunities. Typically AI functionalities are being embedded in most applications going forward. It is difficult to think of any human endeavour that could not be supported, enhanced or transformed through use of AI.

Education is certainly a prime candidate for transformation through the use of AI. At the same time AI is creating challenges for education. The wide availability of generative AI challenges all teachers to consider how they can increase their own productivity through its use. At the same time, generative AI comes with warnings regarding inaccuracies, hallucinations, bias, et cetera. More fundamentally perhaps, interacting with a large language model, could be a disconcerting or potentially damaging experience if the person does not realise the nature of that technology and just responds naïvely to its human-like characteristics. So teachers and schools also need to think about how they can mitigate these problems and limitations and how they should educate their students to understand and make best use of such tools.

Members of this expert panel will address the opportunities and challenges for AI in education considering some of the following questions:

  • What do teachers and students need to understand about machine learning and AI in order to evaluate its potential?
  • Which are likely to be the most important areas of education for AI to make a difference? – management, learning, assessment?
  • What are currently the most promising areas of AI application for learning that schools can make immediate use of?
  • Where should a teacher or school start in establishing its approach to developing the use of AI?
  • What safeguards to schools need to put in place to ensure that AI does not harm students or teachers?
  • Are safeguards needed for generative AI different from those needed for AI more generally? I.e. does generative AI pose a specific set of risks?

Biographies for AI in Education: One year after ChatGPT Panel

Dr Mary Webb (chair)

Mary Webb

Mary Webb is Reader in IT and Education at King’s College London. Mary is internationally recognised for her research on pedagogy across both Computer Science as a subject and the uses of new technologies for learning.

Mary's research has resulted in over 180 publications. Mary's research on AI in education started in the 1990s with her PhD on children building expert systems. Recent research has focused on analysing computing curricula, pedagogy for learning computing especially programming and for using digital technologies for learning especially in science education but also in other subjects, immersive learning environments including the use of haptics, chatbots for learning and formative assessment.

Mary's international collaborations have focused particularly on her work on the IFIP education committee executive and as a member of the Steering Committee of Informatics For All (I4ALL) Coalition For Europe. Mary also teaches on the Computing PGCE, teaches on MA education programmes about recent developments in digital technologies in education, and supervises PhD students on AI in education and aspects of learning computing. Previously Mary taught science and computing in both primary and secondary schools.

Julia Adamson

Julia Adamson

Julia Adamson is Managing Director, Education and Public Benefit at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT Julia’s mission at BCS is to give every young person the digital skills they need to succeed in life and work. Under her leadership, the Computing at School (CAS) teachers’ network has grown in influence and now has over 25,000 teacher members. BCS’s Barefoot scheme, which supports primary teachers with learning materials and lesson plans, has so far reached 3.3 million children across the UK.

Julia played a lead role in establishing and managing the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), an £84 million government-funded programme to upskill teachers to deliver world-class education in computing in schools.

In 2023, Julia was awarded an MBE, for Services to Education.

Julia is a Trustee of The Blackdown Education Partnership, a Multi Academy Trust, in Mid-Devon. Julia began her career in education 26 years ago as a teacher in Cheshire. In 2006, she joined the Liverpool-based company, MGL, developing her vision for technology in schools, and how it could transform outcomes for learners. She joined the Exeter-based South-West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) in 2009, supporting its work on online safety and education. Later, joining the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT in 2017, and after holding a number of leadership roles, she is now Managing Director, Education and Public Benefit.

Dr Caitlin Bentley

Caitlin Bentley

Caitlin Bentley is a Lecturer in AI Education, actively shaping the future of responsible AI through education. She is a member of the Delivery Team on the UKRI Responsible Artificial Intelligence UK (RAI UK) programme and co-director of the UKRI Safe and Trusted AI Centre for Doctoral Training.

She also serves on the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Hub Skills Committee, Syllabus Lab, and EDI working group, the UK Cybernetics Society council, and is a member of the IMarEST Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship SIG. Caitlin’s multi-disciplinary academic background includes includes a PhD in Human Geography, ICT4D, from Royal Holloway, University of London, a Masters in Educational Technology from Concordia University, and a BA in Computer Science from McGill University.

Caitlin is currently researching AI in the context of education for sustainable development, and is working to transform learning with and about AI in higher education.

Professor Angelos Stefanidis

Angelos Stefanidis

Professor Angelos Stefanidis is the founding Dean of the School of AI and Advanced Computing at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Entrepreneur College (Taicang). He is the former Head of the Department of Computing & Informatics at Bournemouth University (BU), UK.

Before that, he was BU's Associate Dean for Global Engagement. He is a member of the European Association of International Education (EAIE), a Member of the British Computer Society and a Chartered IT Professional, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK), and a Member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Part of Angelos’ research interests lie in the educational aspects of computer science, focusing on the issue of the alignment of academic curricula with industry needs. Recently, his interests have also included the development of frameworks to support the integration of AI into education.

He is also keen to explore the growing need to integrate AI tools and learning outcomes into non-STEM subjects and the development of guidelines for Generative AI (GAI) from a learning and teaching perspective by looking at several areas of work: integration of GAI into the curriculum, project-based learning, industry collaboration, ethical considerations; and continuous learning and adaptation.