Subject Spotlight: Uncover the Secret of CS

Do you truly understand what to learn about computer science(CS)? How can we learn CS in a more interesting way? After reading this article, you will have a fresh angle and perspective on CS learning. 

What goes on in our classrooms? How do our expert teachers plan and deliver lessons that help students reach their full academic potential? Last time we posted our Subject Spotlights series of Business, English, chemistry, physics and drama and now let us look at computer science.

This time we interviewed Ms Wendy Yang, our CS Teacher, who gave us some insights into the CS Studies at our college.

Hello Ms Yang! Firstly, could you please introduce yourself and your teaching background?

I’ve been teaching IGCSE, A-Level, and IBDP computer science for more than 10 years. I graduated with MS in Computer Science from the National University of Singapore. Before moving to China, I taught IGCSE and IBDP at Overseas Family School, in Singapore. I also taught IGCSE and A level at Shenzhen College of International Education last year. I have passion for CS because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. It is very practical and realistic. You will know if it works after running the program and it can be applied to different situations to solve problems.

Could you briefly introduce the courses you teach at DCSZ?

I teach students from Year 9 to Year 13. For Year 9 students, they learn the basic knowledge of CS. For example, they learn html to create a webpage, binary system, and image editing. Currently, Year 9 students need to create a rock band’s webpage by using what they learn in class. 

For Year 10 and Year 11 students, they follow the IGCSE CS course. During the 2 years of IGCSE CS, the CS learning is divided into two parts: Theory and Program (Practical). In terms of theory, students will learn hardware and software knowledge, like the function and operation of software, and algorithm and problem-solving skills. In terms of Program, students learn python to solve problems. Both ways will lay a good foundation for students to prepare for IB CS. 

Then it’s our Year 12 and Year 13 students, who learn IB CS. They acquire java to organize data and understand the data structure. For me, CS, it’s like constructing a building. You have all the materials and all the data. But you have to know how to organize it to create a building.

Thanks for that introduction! Please tell us about a unit or lesson that you taught recently. 

Let’s take IGCSE CS as an example. In order to understand nested loop, I use an interesting topic for them to learn. (Please see the following picture.) They need to create their own Christmas tree if they truly understand the nested loop. What’s more, about the Year 12(IB CS), students are learning the student courses system which I will take them through. In this way, they will better understand decomposition and know how to break it down to solve problems. Students will face many different situations in the future. If they come across complicated problems, they need to break them down to actually solve them. That’s why I give them such a project. They will know how to break them down and the logic behind them. 

Beyond the subject learning, how did this also prepare students to Live Worldwise?

Learning CS is like solving problems and there is more than one way to do it. Hence, I usually ask students to try to find more solutions. Such a concept can be used in real life as well. We will encounter many problems in our daily lives but if we see things from a different perspective and try to find more ways, it will not bother us anymore. As a matter of fact, CS is a worldwide subject. No matter where you go or where you live, CS is everywhere, and it can be applied to different situations. So I will say CS is a subject that sharpens your mind and it’s a lifelong journey process. By learning CS, students will not only learn the programming, but also the logic behind it and thus put what they learn into real life.

What strategies did you use to support students’ learning in this unit? 

I respect every student’s way of learning. Usually, I will ask one of my students to help other students. This student is like a tutor. After I teach him/her how to solve the problem, he or she will teach other students who have the same problems. By doing so, students will know if they truly understand it. What’s more, for students who are not willing to communicate, I will personally come to their seats to see which parts they need help with. Every student has their own unique study habit. I will respect it and try my best to help them solve issues.

What can students do to keep improving their CS skills?

You must ask yourself,” why do you want to learn CS?” Knowing the purpose and goal of CS learning will help you to keep going and not give up. Then, you need to ask questions and participate in class as more as possible. Active participation in class is pivotal because it’s a good chance to absorb more knowledge and clarify your mind. What’s more, you can go online to practice more CS programs, such as the tutorial website. As you may see, now children learn programming at an early age. I suggest such students can learn turtle graphics and block languages to train logic as well. It’s never too young to learn CS and find your passion for CS.

Thanks to Ms Yang for introducing her recent units and explaining what CS learning is like at Dulwich College Suzhou.