3 Research

My research interests are in Computer Science Education and pedagogy. (Fincher and Robins 2019; Biggs and Tang 2011; Fry, Ketteridge, and Marshall 2014) I’m interested in methods that can improve learning and student experience using techniques like coding your future, journal clubbing, industrial mentoring, live music, working with schools, editing Wikipedia and more.

Too many educational practices are not backed up by good evidence that they actually work. More evidence is needed to support many of the claims made about effective pedagogy. Wikipedian Protester cartoon by Randall Munroe at xkcd.com/285 published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

Figure 3.1: Too many educational practices are not backed up by good evidence that they actually work. More evidence is needed to support many of the claims made about effective pedagogy. Wikipedian Protester cartoon by Randall Munroe at xkcd.com/285 published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

3.1 SIGCSE

Computer Science has only been taught to undergraduates in the UK for 50 short years (Brackenbury 2005; Hawthorne et al. 2019), so there’s lots of open questions about how to teach the practical, theoretical and professional aspects of the subject. To that end:

3.2 Industrial mentoring

Since we started the industrial mentoring scheme for software engineers in 2015, more than 1000 students have been through the mentoring scheme with 250 students taking the course every year. We are very grateful for continued support from our industrial partners in making this happen.

Mentors meet with a group of six second year students for two one hour meetings and do some gentle code review of their gitlab repository, as they start to fix bugs and add features to a large open source software project. You don’t need to be an expert in the tools students are using (Java, Eclipse, Jenkins, Git, JUnit and Ant) it is more about the general process (and politics) of building and testing high quality software in large and distributed teams, than the specifics of the stendhalgame.org codebase we happen to be using. Mentors are typically software engineers, both junior and senior.

3.3 Coderdojo & Code Club

I’m a volunteer at coderdojo.com (Ward 2016). Coder dojos are local community engineering clubs for young people; with several other volunteers I help out at CoderDojo North West. We meet once a month to help young people broaden their digital and computational horizons.

Previously I lead an after school CodeClub as part of a global network of free coding clubs for 9–13 year olds. (Smith, Sutcliffe, and Sandvik 2014) As with coderdojo, the aim is to have fun using Scratch, (Resnick et al. 2009) python and other interesting technology we can get our hands on including Raspberry Pi, (Halfacree 2020) Micro:bits, (Sentance et al. 2017) LEGO® MINDSTORMS®, (Papert 1980; Klassner and Anderson 2003) Oculus Rift, Sonic Pi (Aaron, Blackwell, and Burnard 2016) and CodeBug etc.

3.4 Wikipedia

Wikipedia and wikidata.org (Vrandečić and Krötzsch 2014; Turki et al. 2019) are powerful tools for improving both digital skills and communication skills, regardless of your age or level of computer literacy, (Proffitt 2018; Reagle Jr. 2010; Littlejohn et al. 2019) particularly in the following areas:

  • Literacy generally, the ability to read and write in any natural language. The literacy skills of some engineers and scientists leaves plenty of room for improvement, but literacy has many overlapping dimensions including:

As an experienced and long serving editor of Wikipedia since 2004, I organise and participate in Wikipedia training events which recruit new Wikipedia editors. Some recent examples include:

  1. 2020-06-24 Wikipedia: Women, War and Peace run in collaboration with the Imperial War Museums’ War and Conflict Subject Specialist Network, with support from the Arts Council England and Art Fund.
  2. 2020-02-26 Wikimedia in Education UK Summit, Coventry University #wikiedu20
  3. 2019-11-22 Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop, University of Glasgow
  4. 2019-10-19 Learn to edit Wikipedia with Ada Lovelace, Sackville Street Building, University of Manchester (Mohammad-Qureshi and Hull 2019)
  5. 2019-10-12 Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon with Zebra Hub HQ, Pankhurst Centre, Manchester
  6. 2017-10-13 Physiology Friday, Hodgkin Huxley House, Farringdon, London (Hull 2017)
  7. 2015-09-02 First Wikipedia Science Conference #wikisci, Wellcome Collection, London, NW1 (Hull 2015; Hodson 2015)

More information on past and future events like this can be found at:

3.5 Tuning complete

Tuning complete are a musical collective from Manchester, Lancashire 🌹, named after the famous Computer Scientist Alan Tuning. We use his eponymous Tuning machine to make music which is quality assured using the Tuning test.

The founder members of Tuning Complete were Jez Lloyd, Steve Furber, Justin Timberfake and yours truly.

Figure 3.2: The founder members of Tuning Complete were Jez Lloyd, Steve Furber, Justin Timberfake and yours truly.

Our membership is fluid but our founding members, some of whom can be seen in figure 3.2 include:

Theoretically, we are a Turing Complete band. (Turing 1937; Brailsford 2005) Artistically, this means that what we lack in youth, good looks, fame, fortune, fashion sense, fanbase and back catalogue we compensate for with:

🤓 Musical geekery (Fauvel, Flood, and Wilson 2006; Harkleroad 2006)
🤓 Mathematical geekery (Rosenthal 2005)
🤓 Computer geekery (Aaron, Blackwell, and Burnard 2016)

We played our debut gigs to packed theatres of over 200 second year & first year undergraduate computer science students in the autumn of 2019 and are currently planning future live events while writing a (hopefully) lucrative hit single, working title: #LivingTheDream. If you would like to book our services for your next event, hackathon, wedding, bar mitzvah etc, please contact our agent Mrs. Kilburn shown in Figure 3.3.

Mrs. Kilburn is our manager, booking agent and promoter. She is the power behind our boy band throne, so all bookings must be approved and scheduled by her office. Please do not approach band members directly with gig requests or offers of marriage, we are all answered for!

Figure 3.3: Mrs. Kilburn is our manager, booking agent and promoter. She is the power behind our boy band throne, so all bookings must be approved and scheduled by her office. Please do not approach band members directly with gig requests or offers of marriage, we are all answered for!

3.6 Publications

Informal publications can be my lab log:

Formal peer-reviewed publications can be found on DBLP, ORCID, Google Scholar, the ACM Digital Library, Wikidata etc:

According to Google scholar, my most cited papers are on:

  1. Apache Taverna, published in Nucleic Acids Research (Hull et al. 2006)
  2. Another Taverna paper, published in Concurrency and Computation (Oinn et al. 2006)
  3. A paper on modelling human metabolism, published in Nature Biotechnology (Thiele et al. 2013)
  4. A review of tools for managing large bibliographies, published in PLOS Computational Biology (Hull, Pettifer, and Kell 2008)

The first paper for which I was formally acknowledged was on simulated environmental change in the subarctic published in New Phytologist (Potter et al. 1995). I was a humble field assistant, not a co-author, one of the absolut best summer jobs I’ve ever had!