With a background in the IT industry and almost 20 years’ teaching experience behind him, Andrew is a firm advocate of the in-depth knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for a subject that only a specialist teacher can share.
Currently computer programming/coding classes are offered to all students at ACG Strathallan, from Year 1 up to Year 9. The emphasis of these classes is not only based on educational outcomes, but on the critical thinking and problem-solving skills students develop.
“We must look to help our students understand how to use the computer as a problem-solving tool. It is not good enough to take our existing teaching material and put it on the computer. Computers offer us so much more than that,” Andrew explains.
“There is also a national (and worldwide) shortage of teachers who can write code and teach students to write code. Consequently, in New Zealand the digital technologies strand of school curriculums can become very process heavy. It often has students focusing on process rather than skills.”
“One key advantage we offer at Strathallan is the focus on skill and academic ability. The skill of problem-solving takes precedent over process. Our students receive a lot of critical thinking practice and, over time, develop the ability to solve some quite complex problems.”
Andrew believes this approach ensures students develop proficiencies in Computational Thinking – the ability to take a problem, break it down into its constituent parts, understand it and then solve it or create a solution.
“At Strathallan, students ‘do’ Computational Thinking rather than talk about it. As they get older, they can talk about it and look at it in a more academic way, but while they are young, we want them to develop smart thinking and problem-solving skills.”
This policy provides Andrew with the ability to structure content to meet the changing needs, growing skill-base and increasing confidence of each class of computing scholars.
“As the new generation of students that are being taught Computational Thinking come up through the years, I’m finding that it is important to change our teaching programme to match the ability of the students coming in,” he says. “What was suitable at Year 9 is now required at Year 8 and it filters down from there. We have the flexibility to do this and respond quickly to our students’ needs.”
In addition to his teaching duties, Andrew has been running Strathallan’s computer club since his arrival at the school a decade ago. Offering additional learning and support for students with an interest in technology, next year the club intend to display their skills in their first programming competitions, where a series of interesting problems need to be solved by writing computer code.
To find out more about our specialist teachers and subjects, join us on one of our weekly Guided Tours.