Poetry and programming

11 September 2019

English teacher Julie Simmons has taken a new chapter in her career, moving to teaching GCSE computer science through the CS Accelerator course

Poetry and programming - that sums up my timetable! I have been teaching English at secondary level for several years, but a couple of years ago the school needed a computer science teacher and I moved into the role.

I have always been interested in technology, using computers in English lessons to create book trailers and to collaborate in real time. The computer science role marked a fresh chapter in my career.

GCSE computer science was a new offering and the school supported me with time for training. I discovered the Computer Science Accelerator Programme after taking a Python course at the National STEM Learning Centre in York. I had enjoyed the Python course – debugging code wasn’t so different from checking punctuation errors in English.

Learning using online tutorials, particularly the video-led ones was a challenge, but the collaboration with other learners in the comments section helped me to keep going. I found the tutorials easy to use and the scaffolded approach made progress and learning very accessible.

The first course I took was on object-orientated programming in Python; this was a difficult course which really extended my Python skills. I created my own adventure-based game learning how to use classes. Using the videos made it easy to go back and replay instructions.

Going with the Flowgorithm

Taking part in face-to-face courses was also a key part of the programme. In the course on Algorithms I learnt to use some useful software called ‘Flowgorithm’ to create a flowchart to represent a problem and test my solution. From there I could program in Python.

Following the course, I got the software installed at my school to use with the students. It was also useful to have an opportunity to ask the course leader questions about the modules on the course; I received support on teaching different units to my students. The course leaders were extremely knowledgeable and presented interactive methods and materials that could be used in the classroom.

All of the courses were free thanks to the bursary; my time out of the classroom to train wouldn’t have been possible without that. Computing needs skilled teachers as we educate learners for the future - who knows where technology will be then? A great start in programming is vital.

Rising to the test

Finally, I took the test - it was a challenge to answer all of the questions in the time given, but I passed. My favourite aspect of the course was improving my Python skills, in fact, I have carried on completing some of the other online courses because they provide great materials and ideas to use in the classroom. I’ve gone from strength to strength since then, writing a Python scheme of work that I was proud to present at computing education conference Exabytes19.

The hard work paid off and studying has made me feel confident teaching computer science. I’m now part of an exciting future.

Find out more about the GCSE CS Accelerator programme here.