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!

HourOfCode

As in previous years, I decided to take part in the Code.org #HourOfCode with my classes this year. If you’ve not heard of the HourOfCode before have a look at the video below.

Through Twitter I got in touch with the Faculty Head of ICT at St Louis School of Milan who had ambitious plans to link international classrooms together during the HourOfCode week. After a few Google Hangouts to discuss the plans we were ready to go. We all made introduction videos which were to be played to the other classrooms at the beginning of the period, after this we had a live link up between the classes.

The students at my school were definitely a bit on the shy side compared with those in Milan, however they enjoyed answering questions from the pupils at St Louis, and were really interested to hear about the multi-national classes in Milan.

Our Google Hangout with Milan
Our Google Hangout with Milan

Having seen how seamless the Hangout was, I’ve now got big plans to extend the use of Google Hangouts in the school. My first step is to get the school signed up to a Google Apps for Education account and issue all pupils & staff with a Google Account. Once that’s done I’d love to have regular hangouts with classrooms around the world as well as experts in various curricular areas.

International Education

I recently came across this tweet from Ian Simpson, Head of Computer Science and ICT at the St. Louis School of Milan.

#HourOfCode is an initiave that I’d heard of, but never really paid any great attention to, partly due to the fact that programming is already pretty embeded into the Scottish Computing curriculum. It launched in 2013 and asked teachers, schools, even full districts to pledge to do a 1 hour long session of coding through a variety of different activities. You can find out more by watching the video below.

I decided that this year I’d give it a go with a couple of classes and contacted Ian; it seems like a nice way to push our International Education links – we already have existing links with schools in Tianjin, China and Donkorkrom, Ghana. You can read Ian’s blog post about the event over on his blog.

The classes that I’ve picked out seem really interested in the project, particularly with the chance to link up with a classroom in another country.

I’ll be sharing my experience of the event here after the live link up on the 11th of December and (fingers crossed) provided it all goes to plan I’ll be on the look out for other opportunities to link up with classes in other cities & countries.