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Togetherness in teaching computing

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Venetia Howard reflects on how far she has come as a teacher and the sense of purpose and community she enjoyed at the CS Accelerator Google graduation

It’s not often that you get an afternoon or evening of no marking or planning, certainly not often at all this time of the year. So going to my CS Accelerator graduation event at the Google offices in Central London was a real treat for me!

I had time before the event for a quiet cup of tea and some reflecting back to when I started teaching computer science, as a new, recently re-trained PGCE. I came from a linguistics academic background, and had never worked in a school in the UK, though I had been a language and linguistics teacher for a few years, before I
re-trained to teach ICT.

I remember the panic quietly taking over when I realised that not only did I have no time to gain experience and confidence teaching my new subject, but I had to become a teacher of computer science as well, in no time at all.

Fast forward and the change in confidence and attitude could not have been more dramatic. I consider myself lucky to be teaching a subject that constantly evolves and keeps me on my academic toes, continuously learning and challenging myself to acquire new skills and levels of understanding.

FutureLearn and many other online learning resources played a part, along with CAS, TES, TED talks, PiXL, network meetings late on a Wednesday, subscriptions to countless tech sites and tutorials, reading about content and pedagogy, trying out different ideas that others had found useful, and developing and piloting resources.

What the NCCE did for me

What the NCCE has done for me was to re-focus all this commitment and engagement into specific areas of interest, explored in depth over a concentrated period of time. This took the edge off any anxiety, by placing me in a community of fellow teachers who strived to achieve similar goals: namely richer more meaningful subject knowledge and pedagogy that can inspire and motivate learners. I did not feel alone.

The graduation ceremony was a celebration of the ‘togetherness’ that Simon Peyton Jones (pictured with me above), the chair of the NCCE, talked about in such encouraging terms in his speech at the graduation. There is a communal determination to overcome the ups and downs of a routine school week; the highly aspirational job of encouraging, inspiring and engaging our students with the liberating, empowering potential of digital technologies feels feasible when you are one of many committing to it.

Being able to visit the Google London offices brought the child out in me. Camera in hand and excitement imprinted on my face, I absorbed the experience and came back to tell all to my older students, the ones closer to choosing a career path. My pre-planned programming lesson with the year 10 was scrunched up and left behind, replaced by a discussion of the Turing Test, the Loebner Prize, and intelligent chatbots, followed by their own programming exercise, that I had difficulty stopping, as they were so absorbed they did not hear the end-of-lessons bell. Today, day three post Google graduation, the enthusiasm and positivity hold strong. Long may they last!

Find out more about the CS Accelerator course here.