Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Spotlight on networking for schools

June 22, 2018

Cisco NetAcad helps teachers demystify networking

Helping educate the educators

More than 300 school teachers recently gathered at the University of Birmingham for the Computing at School (CAS) 10th Annual conference.

Our hard-pressed teachers need all the help they can get – perhaps especially those specialising in constantly evolving fields like computing, and having given up their precious Saturday after a long week in the classroom, we were really pleased to offer our support by sponsoring this event.

With our Country Digital Acceleration programme in full swing and schools continually looking for tools and resources to help them enhance the quality of lessons and support pupils as effectively as possible, it gave us the perfect platform to showcase our Computing for Schools programme.

Spotlight on networking

Kicking off the day was Cisco’s very own Nuno Guarda, who set the scene regarding the ever-increasing importance of teaching networking in schools.

The UK Government Digital Strategy acknowledged that there is a significant digital skills gap and estimated that an additional 1.2 million technical and digitally trained experts will be needed in the UK by 2022. Achieving this goal will necessitate a greater emphasis on STEM training, both at school and beyond, which is where initiatives such as our Computing for Schools and NetAcad programmes can help.

It was great to see the positive reaction of teachers as they learned how easily accessible and freely available Cisco networking courses are – as well as reassuring us that we’re succeeding in developing programmes that place teachers and pupils top of mind. And with networking representing one sixth of the National Computing curriculum, attendees were pleased to learn that the Computing for Schools tool includes courses in this very important area.

Demystifying networking

Next up was Birmingham City University’s Senior Technologist/Lecturer Duncan Maidens, whose stripped-back presentation took us back to basics by introducing a very simple method teaching networking using our Computing for Schools courses.

Duncan’s entertaining approach to ‘telling it as it is’ had teachers engrossed as outdated text books were discarded and networking myths put to rest.

Duncan explained that ‘breaking down’ a network enables students to actually understand and appreciate how messaging travels through it – an approach that really appealed to the teaching audience. Traditionally a problematic area of the Computer Science curriculum, our Computing for Schools resources represent an easy-to-use set of classroom tools for audience members seeking a hands-on way to tackle a complex subject and help pupils develop their understanding.

Packet Tracer – making networking fun

The afternoon brought two workshops hosted and ran by Duncan with the support of Semyon Ovsyannikov from NetAcad’s technical team, which offered a taster of our best kept secret; Packet Tracer. This hands-on simulation tool lets users virtually build their own network as if it physically existed, and allow to create and explore multiple Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios.

In just 50 minutes, each session brought networking to life, allowing teachers to build and configure their own network using the Packet Tracer tool; a major component of the Computing for Schools programme. The Packet Tracer demonstrations not only showed that teaching networking can be fun and engaging, but participants left the event knowing better a learning tool which is easily transferable to the classroom.

Find out more

For us, the day was a great collaborative experience that brought together schools, higher education and industry. And focusing on an area of the curriculum that generally receives less attention than programming and other areas of computing, it was great to see networking take centre stage.

Computing for Schools Programme is free of charge – any school or teacher can join the programme, so contact us at to find out how or visit

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