A few weeks ago, I was asked if I’d be interested in running a workshop for year 12 students as part of the ESRC* Festival of Social Science. This was organised as part of the University of Southampton’s Learn with US (Outreach) programme which I’d quite like to do more work with in the future. The theme of the workshops was looking at how technology, and mobile phones and devices in particular, are being used in social science research. As part of my research, I’m looking at networks and network (or graph) theory, so I thought I could have a go at teaching that. I find networks fascinating, AND I knew I had some excellent resources that could be adapted for use with students, so why not?
I’m also really keen on promoting the idea that a) computer science is for women too, b) web science is an excellent way of combining the social sciences with computer science, and c) age is no barrier. A teacher who was accompanying a group of students also told me that, as well as being a role model for girls, I was also showing students why being able to write code was so important as it could have a real practical benefit.
I really miss being in the classroom. Why will be the subject of another blog post, but suffice to say that, for me, there’s something exhilarating about putting things together (in this case, a PowerPoint and some handouts to guide students the through some actual hands-on work) so that I can deliver knowledge in a way that I hope is interesting. I like being in charge, in my own space, directing my own personal show. It’s also a really good chance for me to consolidate my own learning, which is one of the benefits of teaching.
The students were, of course, excellent. They were made up of groups from several schools – one or two local, others from further afield. It was really interesting to observe how different as groups they were from one another, which I assume reflects both the socio-economic background they were drawn from (and is almost certainly directly related to the catchment area of the school) and the ethos of the school itself. The interactions between them, them and their teachers, and with me was markedly different from session to session. Having only taught in one school before (and not really being detached enough to just observe), it was a fascinating experience for me. It was, though, overwhelmingly positive and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I’m sure they left with a positive view of the University of Southampton, and I hope they were inspired by my workshop, and the others they attended.
By the way, the resources I used were borrowed and adapted from the ‘Power of Social Networks’ MOOC** that has just finished on Futurelearn. It’ll be repeated though, if you fancy a dabble into the world of social networks.
*Economic & Social Research Council
**Massive Open Online Course