School News June 28, 2018

Computer science offers a view on many different ways of thinking

In co-operation with TechSpark Academy the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz is offering in summer 2018 a new program called “Digital Skills”:

  • Coding with one of the world`s leading programming languages Python or
  • Learn about robotics with Arduino

Gabriela Evrova, instructor at Tech Spark Academy and student at the EPFL in Lausanne, tells us why she loves teaching at TechSpark Academy, how she has realized that computer science offers a view to many different ways of thinking and how schools can encourage girls to get involved into coding:

What do you like about teaching at TechSpark Academy? What do you learn from the kids you teach?
What I like the most is sharing my knowledge: I enjoy discussing computer science concepts with younger students; it is fun and engaging because they get really creative with the questions. It is never easy to explain something to the pure basic level to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. During the TechSpark academy camps, I am amazed how creative the students can be and I learn many new things, starting from what the bird of Paradise eats, to what it means to be a child again and the importance of patience, no matter what we do. The students also remind me of how important it is to ask questions, sometimes I forget that at university!

Apart from learning how to code or programme a robot which skills do kids learn in the Tech Spark Workshop?
In the TechSpark academy camps I have been teaching Scratch (programming with visual blocks), Python and Digital Photography and Film. We do not focus on teaching a programming language but rather concepts that go along with that language. We teach the way of thinking and problem solving through a game, which motivates every kid. The students at the end have a complete project that they have created and every project is different in a way as the students add their own ideas. On the other hand, for me it is very important to be able to explain your work and be able to present it clearly to someone else. On the last day of our camps, I always allocate time for presenting the projects in front of the parents and the other students. My students love this because they are able to share their happiness and enjoyment of what they were able to do. What is also important when it comes to teaching children, is to teach them that it is ok to do mistakes (especially when programming). Patience is also an important part of the learning process and I always try to laugh with them if they have done some simple mistake or make them see that getting frustrated why the code is not working will only introduce more bugs into it. We are always teaching in small groups, which helps dedicate more time and attention to each student and remember when someone struggles with some task or needs more attention. I would ask a student whom I have already explained something, to explain the same thing to their classmate. So eventually what they learn is patience, how to present their work, helping their classmates and working in a team and to be creative and add their own ideas to the projects that we are working on.

When did you get interested in computer science and why?
I got interested in computer science during my last year of high school. Back then, I had a clear idea what kind of phenomena are studied in physics, chemistry or biology, but not for computer science. The computer science curriculum in my high school was not well structured and we were learning more about tools rather than concepts. The fact that the computer science field was a bit unknown to me, combined with my love towards mathematics, motivated me to explore it. Before starting my Bachelor studies at EPFL, I completed the Cours de mathématiques spéciales (CMS) during which I realized that computer science is an open door for many of my ideas and creativity and offers a view on many different ways of thinking.

How can more girls be encouraged to study computer science?
I think more girls could be encouraged to study computer science if they are given a more clear idea of what computer science is during their early years of education and see that it is not only a male area of work. I believe that the influence of stereotypes could be greatly reduced in this way. The schools should help in erasing this gap by updating their curriculums and finding people from the computer science field to help them. At EPFL I was an instructor for the “Internet pour les filles – Internet for girls” course, where we were teaching the basic tools necessary to work on a computer to girls aged 9-12 years. Most of the children have never worked on a computer before and I think the class gave them more confidence with anything to do with computers in the future. So these kinds of classes organized by different educational institutions can be of great help.

Thank you, Gabriela!

Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz

The Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, founded in 1904, is a Swiss international boarding school set in spectacular alpine landscape near St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Lyceum campus occupies an extensive…

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