1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

PGCE Computer Science student wanted (one that can actually code).

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by doradora17, Sep 24, 2017.

  1. doradora17

    doradora17 New commenter

    Hi,

    I'm a HOD and I'm looking to mentor 2 PGCE students this year. Unfortunately, the Universities won't let me interview candidates. They simply send me someone and I get to say yay or nay. The last PGCE student to pay me a visit was lovely (albeit, rather quiet) and the kids warmed to her, but she couldn't code. It's rather like doing a French PGCE and being unable to speak French. I appreciate that the PGCE's also mention ICT in their course titles, but the current GCSE syllabus is 60% coding (1 coding exam worth 40% and a coding project worth another 20%), so it's essential. A PGCE Computing/ICT student with zero coding skills is no use to me (or the kids).

    My 1st question is, are there any PGCE students who can ACTUALLY code out there? And I don't meant HTML. Preferably Python, as 90% of schools choose to teach that language at GCSE and KS3, mainly because of it's simply syntax and expandability.

    My 2nd question is, would it be fair of me to give these prospective PGCE students a programming test? I heard of one school which made SCITT candidates sit a 90 minute GCSE paper!
     
  2. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter


    1. "The last PGCE student to pay me a visit was lovely (albeit, rather quiet) and the kids warmed to her, but she couldn't code."

    Finding a PGCE student that knows how to code, is one thing. Finding a PGCE student that the pupils will accept, is another thing. I suspect that finding someone to fit both bills will not be easy.

    I had experience of programming with VB and HTML, whilst on my degree course ("Business Information Technology"). I left it too late to secure a place on a PGCE Computing course, and ended up doing one in Adult Literacy.

    On taking up my first post, as a lecturer in Level 3 Computing, I had to deliver unit content on a number of topics I had never covered in my degree or my PGCE, including things such as Logic Gates, Assembly Language, and Maths for Computing. In my last three years I also delivered a PHP Server Side Web Scripting unit, having taught myself from scratch.

    My point is that the right student should be willing/able to take on something they haven't encountered before, and be able to make a decent job of it. It would be far easier to take someone who hasn't done the coding before, and bring them up to scratch, than taking someone who knows how to code really well, but is unable to gel with the students, or control a classroom.

    2. "...are there any PGCE students who can ACTUALLY code out there? And I don't meant HTML. Preferably Python, as 90% of schools choose to teach that language at GCSE and KS3, mainly because of it's simply syntax and expandability."

    I have recently started learning Python, and my first impression is that although things such as printing a string out on screen may appear really simple, it begins to get a little more demanding once you start to ask for something more advanced. Some of the Coding Challenges I have worked on are fairly straightforward. But there are others that are laced with 'gotchas' for a novice user.

    One area I found annoying is the availablity of information aimed at first time users of Python. The Python documentation is extensive, and the compiled help manual contains a _'Tutorial'_ section, which is quite a lengthy introduction to many of the features Python offers. However, beyond that, I think students may have mixed success in locating the specific content they want, amongst the mass of information the Help Manual contains. The manual was never really intended as a 'beginner's guide', and with the exception of the 'Tutorial' section, is not really written with the complete beginner in mind.

    I have actually been working on a guide for anyone who is in the position of having to deliver, or support, the use of Python in the classroom, based on the fact that so many schools now need someone capable of delivering it, but may only have staff for whom programming is not their subject specialism. This would include:

    Newly Qualified Teachers
    Teaching Assistants
    Learning Support Assistants
    Teachers asked to provide cover for colleagues
    Supply Teachers

    I am not a 'Python expert'. I have done some programming before, but before I started out producing this guide I had never used Python, and I have been learning as I go along. This guide is essentially 'a beginner's guide, written by a beginner, from a beginner's perpsective'.

    The guide is not intended as a silver bullet, and will not turn someone into a Python guru overnight. But hopefully, it will (a) give then the confidence to begin using Python in the classroom, and (b) give them sufficient grounding in Python to allow them to support the students in their projects etc.

    Contents covered:

    Running Python
    Creating, saving, and running scripts
    Creating and using Variables
    Data Types: Strings, Numbers, Boolean
    Data Structures: Lists, Sets, and Dictionaries
    Program flow: If statements, Loops, and the range() function
    Creating and using Functions
    File input and output
    Using Databases
    Troubleshooting


    "My 2nd question is, would it be fair of me to give these prospective PGCE students a programming test? I heard of one school which made SCITT candidates sit a 90 minute GCSE paper!"

    As part of my sandwich degree, I had to complete a Placement Year. A couple of the 'selection days' for different employers included written tests under 'exam conditions', on things like Visual Basic and SQL, to weed out candidates, so I don't see anything wrong with the idea of giving them a "test".

    But again, that depends on the importance you attach to their ability to code well, in relation to their other qualities.
     
  3. doradora17

    doradora17 New commenter

    elder_cat - thank you for your reply, especially regarding being less selective. I agree gelling with the students and having good potential beats programming experience every time. As for the test, again, thanks for confirming.
     
  4. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter

    A couple of afterthoughts. Firstly, if they are going to benefit your learners, then any students you take on need to be able to handle the "Computational Thinking" element. In my own experience as a "noob", syntax errors are not a major issue, as they get flagged up by the IDE and you're able to fix them before "going to press" with your scripts. Similarly, accounting for, and catching, exceptions is fairly straightforward. Most of the issues I've encountered, were related to the logic of the script. Being able to help with the CT element of the design of a script, and the ability to recognise the root cause of a specific error message, will be a big help for the kids. Perhaps you could structure any tests you gave them, so that they gave an indication of their ability in those two areas.

    I guess what I'm saying here, is that as long as they are able to help the kids with the design, and troubleshooting aspect, then actually picking up the syntax and usage is not such a big deal, regardless of whether they have used it before or not.

    The one caveat I would attach to that, is that the level at which you want them to deliver Python is an important consideration. Would it be GCSE, A-Level, or both ?

    For GCSE, although Python is an object-oriented language, I don't think that in itself means it needs to be a major stumbling block. The kids can still produce scripts that utilise those objects, without really having an in-depth understanding of the mechanics of how those objects function. It ought to be sufficient to know that "if I use method a, of object b, and I feed it parameter c, then it will let me do x".

    I suspect that for your A-Level pupils, you really need someone with experience of using an object-oriented language (although not necessarily Python specifically), and some experience of integrating a user interface (Tkinter?).
     
  5. dog_walker

    dog_walker New commenter

    Short reply: no

    Most programmers don't learn what we teach in school.... They have to relearn programs..

    People in industry want people who can program in lower level languages.

    Why do a years extra uni. get all the grief and then start on 22k when you can earn more as a programmer? Unfortunately the ones that do are in short supply.

    I do OCR c/s there is a large portion that isn't directly programming, and is theory based, the main part you need a language for is the NEA. The rest is transferable once you understand how to program.

    If you want a PGCE student, you might be stuck sorry, it isn't the Uni's fault.. it isn't the students fault.. it's that the government scrapped the ICT thinking that all kids could access C/S
     

Share This Page