AI in CS education at the Craig'n'Dave and Friends conference

Amazing insights, great conversations and the coolest people!

On 3rd July 2024, Bromsgrove School became a centre of innovation as Computer Science educators, innovators, and thought leaders gathered for the Craig 'n' Dave 'n' Friends Conference. Heck, we were there so you knew this was going to be a good event. With over 200 educators gathered in one place we shared, paired and cared about where the future of coding education was going and the conversation was very much dominated by AI and even going so far as to ask the question "What does assessing code even look like in a world where AI is your pair programmer?"

The absolute highlight of the conference was Professor Miles Berry's keynote address on Generative AI in Computing, as someone who is active in ITT in this area his insight comes from a place of training the next generation of educators on best practices.

🎤 Professor Miles Berry on AI in Computing

Professor Miles Berry captivated the audience with his presentation on Generative AI in Computing, offering a comprehensive look at the integration of AI into the English computing curriculum. His presentation was a treasure trove of insights, painting a vivid picture of AI's role in modern education and giving some fun and enlightening examples of generative AI tools and where they could - and sometimes shouldn't - be used 😅

Professor Berry in full flow

🌟 Key Highlights from Prof Berry's Presentation:

  • Foundations, Applications, and Implications:
    Prof Berry emphasised three core elements: understanding how AI works, its practical applications, and its broader implications. He gave us some truly fantastic examples taking AI all the way from its roots in the world of autocomplete to scaling that up to an actual large language model; even exploring what it looks like to build an LLM only trained on Jane Austen.
  • Programming and AI:
    Prof Berry sparked a thought-provoking discussion on the future of programming, suggesting that traditional programming might become obsolete as AI systems evolve to create code more efficiently than humans, and it's more than that - if students are expected to step into a work of employment where coding expects an element of AI support then what does that mean for those of us having to teach them to code without it to meet the requirements of exam rigor?
  • Ethical Considerations:
    Addressing the limitations and ethical aspects of AI, Prof Berry highlighted that AI is not a person, nor does it truly understand or think. He stressed the importance of using AI responsibly to enhance, not replace, human capabilities. I directed a question at him exactly about this exact thing because we've seen at Mindjoy just how amazing AI can be at applying a markscheme or analysing learning - so just how much is it understanding? His response was fascinating: how do we measure understanding? Can a student who summarises what they've learned be deemed to have understood? Thought provoking stuff, and lines up with the emergent properties we're seeing from LLMs.
  • Educational Transformation:
    AI's potential to transform education is immense, from generating lesson plans to providing personalised feedback. Prof Berry's vision included AI as an assistant that makes learning more accessible and engaging, I personally think that it's the personalisation of learning that has the most potential - well, I'm a Mindjoy believer so I would think that - but it seems that whatever time savings teachers get on admin always, always finds a way to be redirected elsewhere, whereas watching a student grasp a concept because of the individualisation of the teaching is a greater thrill, and undoubtedly has more impact.

🥡 Key Takeaways:

  • AI's Versatility:
    AI can support creative and engaging teaching methods across all educational stages. From early education to advanced levels, AI helps tailor learning experiences, making them more interactive and personalised. We've seen this in the adoption of Mindjoy from the Primary to University level and just how much engagement is possible at all levels.
  • Future of Programming:
    The future of programming lies in AI-generated code, making coding more accessible to a broader audience. This shift could democratise programming skills, allowing more people to benefit from technological advancements. Personally the advent of AI assisted programming for someone who can program has extended my reach - I can build much more, and more quickly, than I ever could. The question remains how we train our students with this technology in a world that assesses based on individual contributions.
  • Ethical Integration:
    Ethical considerations are crucial for integrating AI into education responsibly. Prof Berry emphasised the importance of understanding AI's limitations and ensuring it is used to complement human teaching rather than replace it. This too is something that vibes with us at Mindjoy, we view AI as the ultimate augmenter, the tool to 10x your teaching impact, not as something to stick in a classroom and save a salary.
  • Transformative Potential:
    AI can transform the educational experience by assisting in lesson planning, providing personalised feedback, and fostering a more interactive learning environment. This potential can help educators create more effective and engaging learning experiences. I mean just this week we released our Discussion simulator that gives students the experience of being a part of a structured, moderated discussion in a diverse group - that's something that we would have struggled to do 18 months ago.
  • Teacher Empowerment:
    AI tools can empower teachers by reducing administrative burdens and allowing them to focus more on student interaction and personalised teaching strategies. This shift can enhance the overall quality of education, teachers become more impactful because many of the time-rich jobs of a teacher can be reduced and the focus can be placed on the experience of learning. I always say this: AI tutors give you the chance to be proactive in your interventions, not just needing to be reactive for the length of your lessons.
  • Student Engagement:
    AI's ability to personalise learning can significantly boost student engagement. By adapting to individual learning styles and needs, AI can make education more relevant and interesting for students, fostering a deeper love for learning.

Mindjoy in the Marketplace

For the vast majority of the day we spent time in the marketplace talking to educators and showing off some of our impactful AI tutors. (We also had some fun highlighters and stickers to give away, but shh!)

We even ended up getting a visit from Professor Berry himself - where we got to talk a little bit more about emergent properties of AI, how well AI tutors perform at analysis and assessment tasks, and what this means going forward. When you have a good grounding in what LLMs actually are it's fascinating to see how they actually perform real world applications, I'm not sure I'll ever be stop being impressed and astounded by the versatility of a technology that claims to fundamentally be 'fancy autocorrect'.

It was a fantastic experience to be able to spend the day talking to customers, interested experts and to introduce many people to the teacher superpowers that Mindjoy can bring to your classroom.

Maybe next time we'll ask Dave to take a selfie stick 😭

The conference was a resounding success, underscoring AI's role in the evolution of education and giving us a lot to ponder on the way home.

Stay tuned for more updates and join the journey to embrace AI in your teaching practices. Let's create the future of education together. 🚀📚🌟

David Morgan

David Morgan

Cardiff, UK