The Inspire Critical Thinking Programme

Welcome to the Inspire Critical Thinking Programme!

On this page, you can find details of this year’s Inspire Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11: Visions of the Future.

Starting from Wednesday 5th January 2022, new classes will be released every four weeks until Wednesday 30th March. All classes will be sent to registered participants by email, and will also be available on this page in two formats: as a downloadable PDF magazine, and a plain-text web version on Inspire Digital.

Responses to the challenges and activities in each of the classes can be sent to us on the Share With Us page, with all work submitted during the programme being entered into a monthly prize draw to win Amazon vouchers.

Course outline

Class 1 (Wednesday 5th January 2022)

In the first class, we’ll be looking at some of the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has affected our world and the technologies we use, from vaccine-development to diplomacy, international relations, and digital theatre. We’ll explore the technologies that lie behind some of the key areas of change in the 21st century such as Artificial Intelligence and new sources of clean energy. And, we’ll step back from the modern to get a historical perspective on ‘the future’, with articles on the ancient origins of computing, and on the notion of what it has meant throughout history to be ‘modern’ at all.

Subjects covered: Computer Science, Geography, Classics, Earth Sciences, Medicine, English

Class 2 (Wednesday 2nd February 2022)

In our second class, we’ll be continuing to dig deeper into some of the topics we’ve already explored in the first class. We’ll take a look at some ways in which computers and new technologies are continuing to revolutionise a wide variety of fields, from zoology and conservation, to medicine, psychology and genetics, including an examination of the exciting (but controversial) new technology of gene-editing. And in the humanities, we’ll continue our exploration of the ancient world and attitudes to the notion of ‘progress’ in Greece and Rome, as well as leaping forward to the 20th century to a pivotal moment in the history of modern art in post-war Britain.

Subjects covered: Psychology, Ancient History, Biology, Biomedical Sciences, History of Art

Class 3 (Wednesday 2nd March 2022)

In the third class, we will continue our exploration of artificial intelligence, both in the context of its uses in the medical profession, and in the context of one of the core philosophical questions that AI raises: what, exactly, does it mean to be a person? We’ll also learn about two developments which have the potential to revolutionise modern science: quantum computing, and nanotechnology. We will also be turning to geography to examine the question of how technology has affected the way we see and represent the world, before returning once again to the ancient world, and a surprising relationship the Ancient Greeks’ scientific knowledge and their political development.

Subjects covered: Medicine, Biochemistry, Geography, Philosophy, Physics, Classics

Class 4 (Wednesday 30th March 2022)

In our fourth and final class, we’ll conclude our exploration of some of the key applications and issues around artificial intelligence: we’ll find out about how AI might help us tackle the climate crisis, and we’ll dig deeper into some of the ethical dilemmas raised by the use of AI in medicine. Then, turning back from our current era of rapid and radical change, we’ll step back in time to see how past societies have responded to periods of disruption, with a timely look at how medieval societies responded the Black Death pandemic of the 14th century. And finally, we will look further at how the use of computers can aid and enhance our knowledge and understanding in a number of fields, from mathematics and psychology, to the use of digital modelling in the Humanities.

Subjects covered: Earth Sciences, Ethics, History, Mathematics, Psychology, Ancient History

Summer School

The Inspire Programme Virtual Summer School is an opportunity for participants on the course to continue their participation through virtual lectures and workshops, videos and all-new interactive activities. The Virtual Summer School is entirely free to participate in for all participants on the programme.

In addition, the Residential Summer School is an exciting opportunity for Year 11 pupils on the course to visit St John’s College, Oxford to experience life as an undergraduate student. You will attend lectures and workshops led by current university researchers, meet Oxford undergraduates and participate in fun trips around Oxford.

Inspire Travel & Digital Assistance Awards

The programme is free of charge to all registered participants. We can also cover costs of travel to the summer school for pupils who are eligible for free school meals or are in care. Additionally, students who may have limited access to digital resources will be eligible to apply for Inspire digital assistance support grants.

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