Step outside, please.

Until recently, I’ve felt uneasy about “industry”. There was a lot of comment from “industry” about our curriculum. A curriculum I’d developed in my own school for a long time, and a curriculum I truly believe in. I am friends with, and have worked with a number of people from computing industries. They’ve made some cracking comments to me over the years like “of course, what you teach is 20 years out of date”. I’m not sure what they are basing this on, none of them have read my SoWs, or seen an IT lesson, and in some cases haven’t spoken to any teenagers since they were teenagers themselves. I am learning that these opinions are not entirely representative!

Over the last couple of years, my opinion has begun to change. I’ve been actively seeking links with industry for kids in my department, and I’ve been blown away by the generosity, and the eagerness to get involved with promoting Computing to school students.

IBM have been particularly generous with their time and expertise. They have mentored our girls through IBM MentorPlace, and have come into our school for two after school Java courses which lasted several weeks. Both times they invited us back to IBM for tours and for challenges. They have provided experts when we requested specific talks, most memorably “Routes into Computing” to my GCSE class. They are local now to most areas, and many of their centres have contacts for school liaison. I am reliably informed that owing to the interest generated by the changes to the curriculum, they are offering Python programming courses.

Several kids I teach chose Computing work experience. Two particularly successful examples stand out. One went to IBM, where he had a splendid week coding, RFID tagging, and learning about data farms. When I spoke to him on day two he told me “MISS! You know all that stuff you told me in Computing? Well it’s actually real!” It concerns me that there might be others who think that I am lying…….. I think the value of a real world context can be underestimated. I find I forget that whilst what I teach is obvious to me, it’s news to my students. The second student spent his week creating a two Rasberry Pi sorting machine which he coded with Python. He blogged his whole project. The week gave him the time to do a protracted project without distraction, which in schools we don’t always have the luxury of time for. His mentor is keen to work further on Raspberry Pi projects with our digital leaders.

I’ve enjoyed making these links, and seeing my students benefit from them, and I’ve enjoyed having the chance to show workers from CS industries what we can do in schools, and what our students are capable of. I’d say whilst we are building our new CS curricula, working with industry is a must.

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