By Amy Box
Head of Schools Liaison
How many times have you sat in front of a parent at parents’ evening and heard, “Rita is never off her laptop, she loves computers, I’m not surprised she’s doing well” or words to that effect? If I had a pound for every time I heard that, I would, erm, have a few pounds at least...
But seriously - in a world where tech moves fast and is so widely used and far reaching - how do you keep up, even as a computer science teacher and supposed expert? It’s not a question I claim to have the answer to, but definitely something worth considering. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m not always entirely up to date with the latest trends. I am, however, constantly curious, (read nosey) and have had recent conversations with students along the lines of - “what is this snapchat all about anyway?” and “so… you’re a youtube vlogger, what does that even mean?” Who knew that filming yourself taking trainers out of a box then putting it on the internet was actually a thing? (a shout out to my GCSE ICT class for that one).
The reassuring thing to bear in mind is that whatever new tech is ‘cool’, whatever the latest trend, or coding language to learn - the principles and concepts behind computer science don’t actually change. The skills involved in thinking computationally, including thinking logically, breaking down problems, taking out unnecessary details, coming up with repeatable steps, evaluating, and much more, don’t alter. They have been the same throughout history, and will continue to be so. So if you arm yourself with this invaluable set of teaching and learning skills you should be good to go, right?
Well, kind of. It still leaves us, in reality, in a position where we, as teachers sometimes feel like we are one step behind. So are there any strategies we can use to help us get ahead?
Here are some ideas I have come up with:
- Taking an interest in whatever the latest tech ‘in’ thing is amongst the kids in your class/school - they will love to tell you the details (if not - I find listening in to conversations provides me with lots of interesting info - if not always on topic!)
- Staying up to date on social media - twitter, facebook, and maybe to a lesser extent instagram and pinterest provide amazing opportunities, ideas, networking, company contacts, access to events and more.
- Attending as many CPDs as you can get away with - granted, not always easy in an age of budget cuts.
- Attending events like BETT, again a great opportunity to network and get amazing ideas.
Teaching yourself! Learning to code or learning a new computing skill in your own time will increase your confidence in the classroom. Codio supports teachers studying for the BCS certificate in computer science
- Get involved in local networking events such as Computing At School hubs or Coding Evenings
- Invite industry mentors in to your school - STEMnet run an amazing ambassador program. Stemettes will also work in partnership with your school.
- Lots of big tech companies also run community and schools outreach programs, a quick web search should point you in the right direction.
- Run a club like CoderDojo - another way of getting industry expertise into your classroom.
I am sure that this is not an exhaustive list and that teachers at the chalkface have loads of fantastic strategies and resources to make sure their tech game is ‘on point’. Please let me know your thoughts - I would love to hear from you (but please don’t snapchat me…)