Returning to teaching via the CS Accelerator programme

09 June 2020

Fiona, a returning teacher, recalls her experience with the programme and how it has increased her knowledge of the subject having been away from the subject.

How did the programme impact on your return to teaching?

I'm looking to return in September 2020 following a break to raise my young family. The start of the year felt like the best time to refresh my subject knowledge and understanding of the new Computer Science examination series released in April this year and the CSA programme had been highly recommended to me by John Lamb, a subject matter expert in computer science from the North East region. I started the course before the Covid-19 lockdown, however, I was able to continue as the face-to-face courses were available remotely.

I was previously a Head of Computer Science and ICT at a secondary school. Since starting teaching in 2008, courses taught have been largely creative and have followed a more business application approach. I am pleased to see the reintroduction of more computing specific units and qualifications to offer a broader experience for our young learners.

I received first-class awards for Computer Science modules at University, so being able to refresh my subject knowledge remotely and pick and choose modules from my analysis has been fantastic. Some content I was secure in my understanding. However, as technology advances at such a speed, I have been able to select modules for newer theoretical concepts which is why I found the CSA diagnostic tool really helpful and this helped me focus my action plan.

I have found working through the units independently excellent; some sections I've been able to fast forward….and others I've been able to work through, and revisit at my own pace….with great support from the community group and feedback from the course leaders. I feel this allows for more personalised learning and if some concepts aren't clear, coming back to it after a break has helped….something traditional CPD sessions don't offer.

How important do you find CPD as part of your teaching career?

CPD is essential in Computer Science as technology advances so quickly. Yes, the fundamental concepts are static, but students are often ahead in their experiences and use of technology. To inspire them and share their enjoyment, it is great to share innovative teaching and learning practices.

Speaking with other teachers about the common misconceptions their students have with certain theoretical concepts has been great. In many instances we've been able to share activities that help learners build the foundations of their understanding, avoiding common pitfalls and the associated frustrations. Some of the ideas I'll definitely be incorporating into my lessons.

How was your experience of distanced CPD?

Personally, I found the remote sessions perfect. I have been able to control and concentrate in my own environment where I feel I learn best.

I have been able to interact with the course leader and participants just as well as I would have had I been in a training/conference room. I didn't experience any technical challenges, and each session had tech support ready on hand to resolve any problems with connectivity or access to materials.

The resources for the sessions were shared electronically in advance and I found the use of interactive tools, such as the chat, feedback menus, and polls during the sessions really helpful. It was great to be able to print support materials and save completed activities for review later.

In each of the remote sessions I felt really supported in my learning, the facilitators were more than helpful and paused to answer questions patiently. The chat facility allowed us to pose questions without interruption to the facilitator, supporting the overall flow of the session. Some participants felt more confident in sharing discretely that they were struggling in their understanding, without the pressure from a traditional CPD setting. This also gave reassurance to others I'm sure.

All facilitators were very polite and offered opportunities for further discussion in the community groups. The knowledge shared was significantly more valuable than any revision guide/textbook. I learned so much from the industry experiences from the facilitators.  These conversations gave a greater depth of understanding and I will certainly be sharing these examples of 'real-life' with my students. Thank you!

How did you decide the CSA programme was right for you?

I learned of the CS Accelerator programme from a colleague who now co-ordinates and leads sessions. I've really enjoyed completing the online courses at my own pace. Having a young family means I often work in the evenings, and the flexibility of learning online has been fantastic.

The course resources are comprehensive and differ in the form to support different learning styles. Admin communication is excellent upon joining a module, and you have an opportunity to introduce yourself to the other learners ahead of the start of the course. I have since joined working groups on social media for specific exam boards, programming languages, and key stages following recommendations from other learners. My experience with Teach Computing has supported my networking with other professionals in education around the UK.

The facilitators are brilliant, experts in their field and it has been a pleasure to have them share their knowledge and experiences. There is lots of support available, many learners are at different stages, some have little to no experience and some are simply refreshing their knowledge. I have felt confident in asking for support both from other participants and the facilitators directly. I have lots of new resources, both subject-specific and for teaching and learning.

The CPD reflection documents are comprehensive and effective. I felt these supported me in structuring my action points and helped me to reflect on my learning to inform further CPD sessions.

I am looking forward to the next stage of my professional development as I work towards the Outstanding Teacher of Computer Science programme accessible on completion of this qualification.