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I Belong in computer science: Helen

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A photograph of Helen in her classroom in front of the board.

We recently caught up with Helen, who has supported her school to complete our I Belong: Encouraging girls into computer science programme, to see how she got on, and why she thinks it's important more students study computer science.

Hi Helen, why do you think it's important for girls to study computer science?

Girls, in particular, bring another dimension to computer science. I find in the classroom they are far more creative and adaptive than boys on the whole and are far more resilient when code doesn’t work. They are more natural problem solvers.

Why did you choose to participate in the I Belong programme?

I think it’s really important that in the world of technology girls are represented. Historically this is not the case and computer science is still seen as a ‘boys’ subject, with girls having a similar attitude to computer science as many people do to Maths. There is a tendency for students to say "I don’t do computers" and give up.

What aspects of I Belong have resonated with you the most?

Empowering girls and creating bespoke opportunities for girls through projects such as the Enthuse partnership have been amazing. Having a STEM Ambassador who takes the time to provide training and advice in encouraging girls into the subject was really inspiring, and is something that I will continue to reflect on.

What about the Teach Computing Curriculum do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy that the resources are written by experienced teachers and scaffold difficult concepts so that every student can access them at every level. There are a variety of theory and practical lessons to embed knowledge and create real world applications and links.

How has the I Belong programme shaped your future aspirations for teaching computer science?

I really try to ensure girls don’t feel left out or that the subject is for boys. Self-efficacy is something that I want to promote and I am starting to see, with the right encouragement, girls are particularly motivated and independent. They now feel empowered in Computer Science, which will hopefully lead to more girls taking the subject in future.

How does the Teach Computing Curriculum contribute to increasing students’ sense of belonging?

Our students can now see their future involves Computer Science; they are now part of the computing world, particularly around AI and its impact on their future careers. In particular, our Year 7 students have been so interested in networks and how the internet works. There is a definite buzz around computer science in lessons and how important it is. We have also seen that parents are beginning to realise how important the subject is and are supportive of their children, encouraging them into the subject.

What has been the biggest impact of I Belong for your school?

I have a group of year 8 girls that are excited there is now a computer science club just for them. In a boy-heavy school, this to them feels like a safe space to make mistakes and be creative and show their skills.

You have previously mentioned that “when hobbies become relevant in the classroom, progress is accelerated”. Could you please tell us more about what that means for I Belong in your school?

I was teaching a unit on Blender and in the first lesson so many students said that they had been experimenting with it at home but didn’t really know how to use it. Within the first lesson I had students who usually plod along accessing the explorer task and moving at an accelerated rate, buying into that feeling of empowerment and promoting self-efficacy. The same applies to E-sports. The skills in E-sports are massive, including teamwork, hand-eye coordination, leadership and these students are doing these things at home. Bring it into the classroom and suddenly there is a connection, students see the ‘bigger picture’, computer science becomes more relevant and students learn quicker as they are practicing away from the classroom. This is exactly the same as learning a language or playing an instrument.

How does I Belong serve as a catalyst for shaping future aspirations?

I Belong: Encouraging girls into computer science shows students the paths they can take, the opportunities that exist, and that there is so much more to computer science than just programming.

What would you tell someone who is considering signing up to the programme?

Do it! Show you’re an advocate, committed to making women in tech not a minority.

Thanks, Helen!

Check out our page for more information about how you can encourage more girls into computer science in your school.