Computing and ICT Open Evening Ideas
Open Evenings are an incredible way to boost enrolment numbers in schools and colleges. However they can also be very time consuming and fall down the list of priorities, meaning that the same activities are recycled year after year.
When creating open evenings it is important to be able to “wow” parents and pupils, but at the same time you need to also be able to have the ability to keep your hands free so that you can concentrate on answering some of the taxing questions that parents may throw at (“what are this departments results compared to results compared to the rest of the school / national benchmarks!?”). I would always recommend utilising student ambassadors, not just because they can free up your hands, but they also offer a valuable insight into their own experiences of Computing / ICT.
Below are some ideas for innovative Computing and ICT open evenings. Feel free to adapt and share them as you see fit.
First suggestion is a mini computing museum. Funding is required, but these “artefacts” are reusable and can also be used in a classroom context. The beauty of these items is that they can also draw parents towards your area to reminisce about items they interacted with when they were at school. This is especially effective if you can get working versions of the that can actually be used on the night (you can also cheat by purchasing the reinvented “mini” models of older games consoles!)
Raspberry Pi Workshop
If your school / college already has a set, or at least one Raspberry Pi then why not put them to good use at your open evening? The key with this is really to get your student ambassador to work with a potential student to connect all of the components, which at the start of the activity are completely un connected. After all of the components are connected the Raspberry Pi should then do something interesting to a young person (Minecraft?), illustrating to them that they have created something impressive from very inexpensive materials. For more Raspberry Pi resources please check out the Computer Science Resourc es Raspberry Pi hub page.
Virtual Reality Experience
This is possibly the most expensive suggestion on the list, but perhaps it is also the most effective. VR has taken massive steps in recent years and has dropped considerably in price. It is important to distinguish that for an open evening we are not recommending budget VR, such as the devices which allow you to turn your mobile phone into a VR headset. Although the aforementioned devices certainly have their uses in an educational setting they do not quite deliver the jaw dropping experience that dedicated VR equipment does.
Persuading the budget holder to part with a scarce resource will always be challenging, which is why I would possibly recommend the Oculus Go, which is a standalone device and does not require a PC (with adequate graphics capabilities). However if the budget allows, I would highly recommend purchasing a department a full Oculus Rift or HTC Vive and gaming PC capable of running its applications. The hook for this purchase should be that you would like to develop some kind of lunch or after school club where students can design their own game (in a free program such as Unity) and then delve into their creation in Virtual Reality!
Makey Makey Games
Certainly a budget parent attractor, the Makey Makey is certainly a great way to impress parents and pupils (and even some middle managers!). Essentially this device enables the use of conductible materials to be used to create peripherals for your computer. This may not sound exciting, but imaging controlling Super Mario using a banana, and tapping on a piece of cake to make him jump! There is a wide range of activities that can be created, and they can be integrated with Python or Scratch to fulfil coding criteria. Best of all though is the super low price! For more ideas like the Makey Makey please visit the Computer Science Resources Kinaesthetic hub page.
Subject Mini Library / Resource Bank
The final suggestion on the list relies heavily on resources that your department may already have, but of course could also be complimented by additional suggestions. This extremely budget idea involves organising and presenting some of your more engaging or challenging tasks in an attractive way. I’m a big advocate of the idea of each subject area having a mini library of literature, even if it is a small book case or book shelf that can be referred to. On open evening these could be displayed around the room, and laid out to encourage participation with any tasks. This could be especially useful for any parents who do not see value in the subject, or who have little knowledge of the subject, as all parents see the value in literacy and the ability to read. Please see some suggestions below for computing fiction books or visit the Computing Literacy page for more suggestions.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and find some of the suggestions of use. If this is the case then please feel free to share to colleagues you may feel will also be interested.