Monday 13 November 2017

Scott Turner

A professor at the University of Northampton is calling for county schools to collaborate more with the institution’s computing department, so that young people are better equipped with effective digital skills.

Dr Scott Turner’s call was sparked by a Royal Society report, After The Reboot, which was published on Friday 10 November. The report reviews the government’s computing curriculum in schools and identifies the next steps needed to support the growth of the subject.

In his blog, Dr Turner, who is the University’s Associate Professor in Computing and Immersive Technologies, outlines the partnerships the institution has with schools before inviting schools to collaborate further.

Dr Turner’s blog is reproduced below.

 

“There are a lot of great conclusions in the After The Reboot report and I think many computing science groups within universities would welcome an even greater opportunity to work with schools. Across the UK many computing departments are trying to help, for example, here in Northampton we do the following:

  • We are part of a team which runs a schools’ coding competition that started locally for Northamptonshire but has grown outside of the county. Like many universities we are working with organisations such as Code Club, working to get staff and students as volunteers. This brings mutual benefits including developing employability skills for our students.
  • One staff member is an active participant in computing at school activities such as the weekly twitter chat #caschat, including guest hosting, because they want to help if they can.
  • Members of the computing team have even co-written a chapter within a book on teaching computing in primary schools.
  • Run projects where simple robots are built in schools or provided to schools
  • Run a virtual reality project with a county school.

 

Can we do more? Yes, and please ask us. I know I want to work meaningfully with schools and authorities, but there are other reasons why we want to collaborate:

  • We like our subject: Computing lecturers like their subject and have skills, insights from research, consultancy and industry.
  • Recruitment: A slightly more mercenary reason is we want to have students coming from local schools to their local University who are even more engaged in computing.

 

Chapter five of The Royal Society’s report is concerned with improving computing education through research. This is an area that university computing departments can certainly help with greater collaboration with education departments within university – let’s do this. The report rightly points out that all of the research in computing education has been around university-level teaching (myself and many of my colleagues have published in this area). So let us get together and see how the insights we have gained can be applied in schools and, equally importantly, how insights gained from schools can be used to inform university teaching. This is not a one-way relationship – I believe we can all learn from each other. In the report, in the context of educational researchers, “Teachers can have insights that researchers may not have”. I couldn’t agree more, but perhaps this should also include those of us who are interested in how computing is taught in Higher Education and allow the discussion to flow in these directions as well. Let us all learn from each other – I have learnt a lot from talking to teachers on how they teach computing.

The report also highlights ‘currently, there are few incentives or opportunities for those in taught Higher Education courses in computer science to adopt a more interdisciplinary position’. Though this a generalisation, and may apply to some institutions more than others, personally I believe greater interdisciplinary understanding would benefit the employability of computing students; so let us start then with computing and education producing solutions to real problems and providing a potential social good at the same time.

I think there is a potential bright collaborative future in which schools and computing departments team up to address their common goals – we want students’ knowledge and experience of computational thinking, at every educational level, to be enhanced. Let us do this together.”

Follow Dr Turner on Twitter.

Get social with @uninorthants