What’s the point in [insert lesson topic here]?

“Here sir, what’s the point in learning this?” is a question that I’m sure many teachers have fielded from pupils at one point or another; I remember asking it quite a lot in Maths & Physics when I was at school. As a classroom teacher looking back now I can see the progression from the skills learned and topics covered in S1-S3 through to National and Higher courses but many pupils in S2 learning to program must be sitting thinking “When will I ever use this?”.

I’m fortunate enough to have kept in contact with many of the people that I went to university with, who are now working in industry in Glasgow, London and beyond, and I quite often refer to the work they’re doing when introducing new units to the pupils. But I keep thinking surely this introduction would be better coming directly from them rather than via me?

Following my #HourOfCode meetup with the St Louis School of Milan, I started to think about curricular uses of video conferencing, Google Hangouts in this case. The most obvious links I could think of had nothing to do with Computing; connect to an international classroom and let our students practice Spanish/French, connect to an author and allow the pupils to ask them questions about the text they’ve been studying. Then I started to think about my own faculty; would app developers be will be to chat about how they go about developing a new app – showing the pupils that in the ‘real world’ the software development cycle is actually used, what about a systems analyst or tester describing their role in the process?

I think that schools are missing a fantastic (and importantly free!) opportunity to show our pupils that the skills they’re learning in classes can be directly transfered into the real world. The biggest difficulty that I can see beyond the technical requirements is finding the right contacts. I recently read about #MysterySkype, a guessing game that uses Skype to link international classrooms allowing the pupils to guess where the other class are. The pupils develop their teamwork, communication and internet research skills while talking to other pupils around the world. This lead me to register for the Microsoft Education Community which tries to link speakers with classrooms.

Whether through the use of Skype or Google Hangouts, I’m hoping to begin to introduce video conferencing to my pupils as soon as possible.

If you’d be willing/able to help out please feel free to get in touch!