Wick and the surrounding towns—whose primary schools feed students into the High school—are relatively remote. Inverness, the nearest large city, is about two and a half hours away by car. Educators are acutely aware of the need to equip students with skills that are attractive to employers; hopefully teachers can also inspire students to remain in the region after leaving school.
“A lot of our young people leave as soon as they’re done with school—the cities are a bigger draw,” says Chris Aitken, computing science teacher at Wick High School and himself a former student there. He believes local schools can help to reverse this trend not only by preparing students well, but also by seeking opportunities to showcase students’ skills to local employers. Hands-on technology experience is a way to provide students with the skills needed for new economy jobs, Aitken says.
Toward this goal, the high school adopted Google Workspace for Education in 2014. However, students could only work in Google Workspace while in the school’s two information communication technology (ICT) labs outfitted with desktop computers. “We never had much flexibility,” Aitken says. “To teach a class with computers meant booking the ICT room, shuffling everyone there and performing setups. It was very inefficient.”
In his own computer science class, Aitken discovered other limitations. Physical computing, or combining hardware with coding, plays a key role in his teaching. However, to use Raspberry Pi , his preferred device for teaching basic coding and programming, he had to gather a keyboard and mouse for each one, a process that cut into actual instructional time.
In addition, since the school’s desktop computers were centrally managed, teachers couldn’t easily request or install software based on their classwork. They had to request such tools and then wait for approval.
“If you write a curriculum on a coding language like Python but you can’t install it, it constrains your teaching,” Aitken says. “A teacher may want to experiment but then have to wait two months for it. You lose the impact and the drive to teach something in that moment. We spent a lot of time designing workarounds.”