Article December 7, 2023
Head of Computer Science talks teaching, tech, and preparing children for the future
December 6th to 12th marks Computer Science Education Week in the UK — an annual event around inspiring young people to learn about computers and looking at the impact technology has on our world.
To mark the occasion, we caught up with King's InterHigh's own Head of Computer Science, Carrie Preddy, to talk about her teaching, preparing students for the future, and life at an online school.
Meet Carrie Preddy, Head of Computer Science
Before joining King’s InterHigh, Carrie Preddy had been teaching ICT and Computer Science in secondary schools and Sixth Forms across Manchester since 2006. The renowned University of Manchester is where she got her start, but her thirst for knowledge didn’t end there. Most recently, she completed her Master’s degree in Education, which she described as “a delightful experience.”
“It allowed me time to reflect and review my own practice,” she explained, “[and] also allowed me to show my own students that the learning experience should be lifelong, not end when exam season is over.”
Today, Carrie Preddy leads the Computer Science department here at King’s InterHigh. We offer computer science as a subject choice right from the Primary years (where students aged seven to 11 can build their first undestanding of technology) all the way through to GCSE and A Level qualifications.
“I wanted to work for King’s InterHigh as it was an opportunity to engage with educational technology in a whole new way, which as a computer scientist was obviously a huge draw!” says Carrie. In particular, being able to embed cutting-edge tools like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) into her classes has been “a real bonus.”
The benefits of learning computer science online
Families who are new to online schooling are often surprised to learn how well subjects like art can transfer to a virtual environment, but the advantage of studying computer science in a more tech-based setting is clearer. King’s InterHigh students naturally become more comfortable with technology as they learn with us, while Carrie Preddy and her team of teachers work hard to use our virtual classroom environment to its full benefit.
How do you create engaging learning experiences in your virtual classroom?
Most activities are the same as you would see in any other classroom, but with a virtual spin. Some examples of this include:
- Students using the screensharing tool to share their work with the class
- Team collaboration through breakout rooms and whiteboard tools
- Checking student understanding through use of interactive games and quizzes
As a department, we focus on using educational technology to engage and inspire our students; for example, our use of a coding platform across Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 5 that allows us to see students high-level coding in real time, and allows teachers to interact with a student's work.
Would you say there are any benefits to learning computer science online?
King’s InterHigh is at the forefront of educational technology. Computer scientists are naturally inquisitive when it comes to new technologies, so our students are perfectly placed to fully utilise the best educational tools available to them to support their learning journey.
Preparing students for the future world
The world our students have at their feet is a lot different to the society of yesteryear, and that’s more apparent than ever in the careers market. According to the World Economic Forum, one of the leading authorities on global development, technology use and design are two of the biggest skills young people will need for 2025 and beyond. Others, meanwhile, predict that many of the jobs today’s children will enter don’t even exist yet.
At King’s InterHigh, we’re always looking to prepare our students for the bright futures ahead of them — and that’s particularly key to Carrie Preddy as a teacher of technology. But, you might be surprised to learn that there’s more to building future-readiness than learning to programme alone.
What are some of the most crucial tech skills for today’s young people?
So, the skills that I would say are most important are the ability to problem solve and decompose a problem. If a student has an inquisitive mindset alongside those skills, they will be able to effectively deal with any technology they are faced with.
We also work hard as a subject to develop students communication skills through peer programming tasks, group work, and class presentations on student projects. Most recently, Year 8 and 9 students created a hardware book in BookCreator [one of our many learning tools] to showcase their knowledge.
With technology becoming increasingly integral, what can all schools do to ensure students are ready for the future?
In my opinion, to ensure students are ready for the future, schools need to provide students with skills such as problem solving, communication, and collaboration, as these can be applied to any career path — and when paired with a growth mindset, enable students to tackle any scenario with confidence. This needs to be paired with effective integration of appropriate technologies, and why we use the tools we do explicitly shared with students so they can become discerning users of technology.
Is there anything parents can do to help at home?
Code.org, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and MIT's Scratch are all excellent starting points for studens aged 14 and under. For older students studying their GCSEs or A Levels, I would recommend 101 Computing or Khan Academy.
Life as a King’s InterHigh teacher
Virtual learning is a unique experience for our students and teachers alike. Here’s how being an online teacher has impacted Carrie’s daily life and experiences as an educator.
Are there recent teaching moments that stand out in your mind?
She came to the King‘s InterHigh Exam Centre in Abergavenny to sit her exams in the summer, where I visited before the A Level Computer Science exam for some last minute revision and general cheerleading. It felt like we‘d been on a real journey together over the course of Year 13, building her confidence up alongside preparing for the A Level exams, so it was great to have the opportunity to celebrate that success in person.
What's your life like behind the screen?
I love cycling (mainly flat routes, if I’m being honest) and anything to do with live music. The last band I watched was The Killers, and my playlists are all sprinkled with songs from musicals. My current favourites are Wicked and Six.
And what do you love most about teaching?
The infectious enthusiasm of our students.