Link back to the real world

Tony Harkins

In response to your article "Computing science students tap into teaching" (TESS, 13 July), at St Aloysius' College in Glasgow we decided to take on a student because we wanted pupils to see real-world applications of the tools and techniques that we use in school.

We learn about the software development process but produce very short, simple programs; the university students are able to show us and tell us about much more complicated and sophisticated programs they have produced using the same techniques.

The students are excellent ambassadors for the university and for computing science. They are positive role models for our pupils and offer an insight into higher education in general and computing science in particular. This year we had a female ambassador, Bobbie, and she was an excellent example of a talented computer scientist for our female pupils who, too often, are outnumbered by male pupils but are frequently the top- performing pupils in our classes and external exams.

By setting such an example, we hope to encourage more pupls, male and female, to consider computing science as a possible option for further study. We also had a student who worked closely with our Advanced Higher pupils to support them in their project work, offering advice based on his recent experiences at university.

The Computing Science Inside program has produced, and continues to produce, excellent workshops and resources for schools. They have a focus on active, workshop-based resources and these are freely available online. The presence of the ambassadors encourages teachers to use these resources and to apply the active learning philosophy to other areas of our courses.

Overall, the scheme places motivated and enthusiastic computing students in classrooms to deliver lessons in a lively and engaging manner. They are well prepared before coming to the class and, during their placements, produce resources that can benefit many other schools and pupils.

We look forward, next term, to welcoming a former pupil of our school back to our department as part of the program, further strengthening the links between school and university and setting aspirational targets for our pupils.

Tony Harkins, head of computing, St Aloysius' College, Glasgow.

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Tony Harkins

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