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The Computer Science for Fun Project: Evaluation

Issues 1-15 of cs4fn magazine

cs4fn Computer Science For Fun (cs4fn: www.cs4fn.org), based at Queen Mary, University of London, is the UK’s largest free initiative to excite students and teachers about computing. We produce colourful, accessible resources that introduce students to the latest research in technology and fundamental computing principles. Our cornerstone is the cs4fn magazine, in which we convey core subject knowledge through relatable stories that build on students’ real-life experience. Other resources focus on women in computing, links between computing and other science subjects, and the technical and philosophical challenges of artificial intelligence. We also make live appearances at schools and science festivals throughout the UK, and we were the first team to run a computing workshop at the Tower of London. Our approach favours creativity and play as well as deep subject learning: students participating in cs4fn workshops are likely to find themselves learning magic tricks that illustrate computing principles, or building a functioning neural network out of rope and toilet rolls. cs4fn is dedicated to promoting curiosity and excitement-driven learning about computing. We are funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) it is also supported by industry with particular support from Google. Here we overview the project and provide evaluation results about its success.

Evaluation Process

At the end of the 5 years of EPSRC funding for cs4fn, multiple strands of evidence have been gathered together into a final evaluation. Early highlights of several strands of evidence are given below to create a picture of the depth and reach of cs4fn accomplishments.

Final Evaluation Report

An executive summary of the final evaluation from October 2013 is available here. The full final evaluation report from October 2013 is available here.

External praise

Several external bodies have cited the cs4fn project as an example of best practice, including the Royal Society and an International panel for EPSRC:

Our activities have also been adopted by a range of other projects. They are, for example, included in the Digital Schoolhouse, CS Unplugged and used by Technocamps.


Magazines and booklets

We have published (to April 2013) 15 magazines on computer science, 2 on electronic engineering and physical computing and 4 on audio engineering. We have produced several specialist booklets including 2 magic books, and a 60-page booklet on women in computing and electronic engineering. We have also produced a series of posters and several puzzles. A full list is given here.

Research Publications on the evaluation of the project

We have published a range of peer-reviewed articles in international computer science education conferences and elsewhere. This includes papers and workshops presented at “The ACM International Conference on innovation and technology in computer science education (ITiCSE)” where Prof Curzon also gave an invited keynote in 2007, “Informatics Education Europe” and and “The ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE)”. A full list of research publications about our work is given here.

School talks, shows and workshops

We have given talks, shows and workshops based on our version of the "CS unplugged" approach to teaching computer science at schools across the UK. We have given talks to year groups to primary school groups (Year 5 and 6) and secondary school groups (Y7 to Y13).

Support for Teachers

We have undertaken a variety of activities to directly support teachers in addition to providing magazine resources and giving shows and lectures to their students.

"his teaching method was inspiring." - teacher watching a talk to students

An overview is given here.

Science Festivals

We have given talks and workshops at a wide variety of science festivals. An overview is given here.

International Reach

Our resources are used internationally and have been translated into German, French, Russian, Italian, Welsh, Portuguese, Greek and Slovenian. We have had subscribers to physical copies of the magazine from over 80 countries and our website is accessed from all over the world. We have university partners who use our magazines in their outreach in the USA, Canada, Germany and Norway. We have also given workshops at the Genoa Science Festival in Italy for several years.


Feedback from teachers about our talks

Feedback from teachers about our talks and shows has been overwhelmingly positive. 100 percent of teachers surveyed after we had visited their school said the talk had met their needs and 100 percent said they would recommend us to other teachers. 71 percent agreed or strongly agreed that as a result of the talk students were more likely to take computing subjects further at school. Non disagreed.

"I am sorting the Sixth Form options for next academic year at the moment and there has been an explosion of interest" - teacher after one of our talks

Further detail from the teacher survey of our school talks is given here.

Feedback from teachers and librarians

Feedback from teachers about our various resources and activities has been overwhelmingly positive. In a survey of teachers conducted in 2012, 98 percent rated cs4fn magazine either 'excellent' or 'good'. 77 percent agreed that they could use articles or ideas from cs4fn in their lessons. Example feedback includes:

"This has to be THE most inspired bit of literature/content for getting youngsters switched on to Computer Science!" - teacher about the magazine

More representative feedback is given here.

Feedback from students

Feedback from students about our various resources and activities has been overwhelmingly positive from a wide range of age groups and abilities.

"This magazine... It's simply awesome." - student about the magazine

"not just thinking out of the box - tearing it up" - student after an Artificial Intelligence show for 'Gifted and talented' students

"The best day at School ever!!! P.S. SUPER COOL!!!" - primary school student after an Artificial Intelligence workshop

More representative feedback is given here.