Inside Hillview School for Girls

Turinglab at school

This week we spoke with Teresa Boag, Head of Computing and ICT at Hillview School for Girls.

Teresa has been teaching for over 16 years and has been using Turinglab since mid-2020 when the pandemic hit. Students started learning online, but with the return of in school teaching, they have enjoyed using the platform in class too.

Teresa and four of her colleagues use the platform to teach 728 students from Year 7 to Year 12, and together they have clocked up over 1,600 hours on the platform.

Spiral Curriculum

At Hillview, Teresa and her team use a ‘Spiral Curriculum’ which means that students can start learning on Turinglab in Year 7 before returning again each year in Years 8 to 12. For the younger students, the platform is used to help introduce core concepts whereas older students use the platform as a warmup and as revision.

Highly visual

“Farmbot and Smart Cities are beautiful - not the old dry biscuit we are used to”

We asked Teresa what it was about Turinglab that she liked. “Farmbot and Smart Cities are beautiful - not the old dry biscuit we’re used to” a comment that chimes with our own experiences seeing students respond better to highly visual materials over the traditional boring console based projects many are used to.

Also “It’s peppered with theory,” she commented, referring to how each unit highlights core terms before encouraging students to use newly learned theory to solve a problem. Learning by doing happens to be one of our core pedagogical principles.

Farmbot: Missing-Code with Blocks Farmbot: Missing-Code with Blocks

For the whole class

“Miss, are we learning with the game today?”

Teresa says, quoting one of her Year 7s. It was nice to hear that this Year 7 class in particular has benefitted, with a large proportion of SEN and lower-ability students, the platform has given them the opportunity to start coding without worrying about the risk of getting things wrong.

Carefully gamified

In the platform we have been highly selective about how we ‘gamify’ the learning experience: we don’t penalise mistakes and everyone gets to hear a satisfying ‘ding’ when they get things correct. Early on, tasks are kept really simple allowing students of all abilities to build momentum and get that great sense of achievement. Creating materials that work for the whole class is something we’re passionate about, and it’s great to see this working with Teresa’s classes.

“The best resources I have ever used”

Last year Teresa used some of our old content and commented that they were the best resources she has ever used, and this year with the launch of Python Fundamentals Program, she commented on the huge improvement since then. Since last year we spoke to lots of teachers, listened and made changes. We now enable students to run code in our widgets, we provide simpler feedback and have made projects even more visually appealing.

Good on a Monday morning

On Monday morning, shortly after period 2 we received an email from Teresa saying “I’ve just had the best lesson of my life, and it’s thanks to you guys”. Later Teresa also mentioned that Turinglab “has really made me rethink my curriculum”. Feedback like this is the reason we love what we do.

“I’ve just had the best lesson of my life, and it’s thanks to you guys”

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