Living the computing dream

18 September 2019

After more than twenty years of teaching science, Spencer Organ took part in, and proudly passed, the Computer Science Accelerator Programme, helping him gain the confidence to teach GCSE computer science

I have been teaching science for 22 years, after completing my degree in chemistry and education in 1997. Like many teachers I have taught outside my area, when required to by the school, and I currently teach all of key stage 3 computer science (CS) but I really wanted an opportunity to teach GCSE.

I first started programming at a very young age and I have never lost my early love and passion for computing and programming. I have been involved with the Raspberry Pi Foundation since day one and completed Picademy as both a delegate and as a trainer. From that I took lots of the ideas into school, both in my Raspberry Pi club and running workshops in local schools.

Many schools (my own included) face a shortage of skilled and qualified CS teachers, which is reflected in the curriculum schools can offer. Currently we only have CS / IT lessons for students in year 7 but we are aiming to offer GCSE CS next year, which is why the Accelerator course was so important for me.

Breaking down barriers

There was excellent communication from NCCE when booking and attending courses, they really wanted to help remove barriers to success!

I really enjoyed the course and the structure fitted well with the day-to-day routine of school and teaching. I started my journey by using the NCCE diagnostic tool which helped me plan an effective route through the course, helping me to think about the gaps in my knowledge and understanding. I also cross-referenced this with both a GCSE specification and a past paper.

On the course itself, I was really impressed with the online components. The FutureLearn platform is really useful for studying in your spare time. The resources were good quality and the feedback from the writers as you complete tasks was very helpful. I was also pleased with the support from FutureLearn.

School’s in for summer

I had to complete the face-to-face elements of the course during the summer holiday, due to having a very full timetable at school. The face-to-face courses were presented by a diverse range of teachers who had excellent subject knowledge, but were also able to relate everything back to exam questions and the exam specification.

It was brilliant being able to meet and chat to other teachers (quite a few maths and science teachers amongst them) who all seemed to be in a similar situation to me and I came away feeling less alone.

I really enjoyed the object-orientated Python unit. I kind of went overboard and developed my final text-based adventure into a much more rounded and developed game. It was quite exciting to create my own libraries.

I was so keen to complete the course that I took the test immediately after driving home from the final face-to-face day. I was really pleased to get a result of 76% on my first attempt.

Having done the course at the start of the summer holiday I had another five weeks to reflect on the training and think about how I can incorporate it into my teaching. I definitely plan on taking up opportunities for further development, and I’d even like to be a trainer on the course!

Prior to the course I was sure that I had the subject knowledge to deliver the GCSE course, but not having a degree in CS I always lacked the confidence to apply for CS teacher jobs. I now feel much more confident to both plan and teach CS.

Graduating at Google

Endings can be hard but the graduation event held at Google London felt very much more like a new beginning. Google’s hospitality was amazing and there was a really nice atmosphere, which promoted networking. It was lovely meeting up with people who were on the face to face days and seeing how they got on with the test!

The opening remarks by NCCE chair Simon Peyton Jones and Chris Skidmore MP both served as a well done for the progress made, but also as a call to arms for moving forwards both in our local schools and wider afield as the certificate continues with further participants.

Google HQ London was a great backdrop for the celebration and the introduction by Google program manager Liza Belozerova laid out the wider aspirations of the NCCE and computer science teaching in school, to prepare young people for the future.

Find out more about the CS Accelerator programme here.