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Patranjali Bhattacharya – University of Reading

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  • Patranjali Bhattacharya

    Bringing Industry into Teaching

Patranjali Bhattacharya

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Patranjali had worked in industry as a computer programmer for years and had a master's in computer science .

After having her daughter, she took a break from industry for three years. She then decided it was time to rethink where she wanted to position herself after her sabbatical. Teaching seemed like a natural choice.

Patranjali was very passionate about teaching something she loves and there was never a question in her mind whether teaching computer science was the right path for her.

 

"I loved that I was going to have a chance to bring all of my industry experience into the classroom. It was amazing to think my teaching could one day inspire and develop a new generation. Individuals that in turn would be able to innovate and do the kind of things I would have loved to see happen when I was working in industry."

When Patranjali was looking for a PGCE Secondary Computer Science programme she heard that the University of Reading had an excellent reputation in teacher training and applied straight away.


Patranjali said that when she first started the course she had very little knowledge about education in the UK having come from India and gone straight into industry. The course was a massive eye-opener and she discovered that education in the UK is very different to India, especially in terms of the number of females opting to go into STEM. Though it was a steep learning curve, she found learning about pedagogy very interesting.

When speaking about the course leader Dr Yota Dimitriadi, Patranjali said:

"Yota is absolutely brilliant. She showed me such interesting teaching resources to bring into the classroom, for example LightBot which is a puzzle based on coding. My students find it so exciting and it's the kind of thing that helps with lateral thinking and teaching a high level of programming without students even realising it."

She continued:

"Yota gave me confidence. As someone from a different country who was being thrust into a secondary school I was a bit worried about whether I'd fit in and be respected by the students. Yota quashed these fears instantly and I won't forget that."

In terms of placements, Patranjali went to two schools. She found being in contrasting schools gave her a balanced understanding of how schools work. Both were highly instrumental in shaping the direction of her practice going forward and her expertise in behaviour management.

When asked about assignments that really stood out, Patranjali remembered her project on wait time in questioning. This was the idea that children can't always answer a question when asked for an immediate answer. To give the best answer they need to be able to pause and absorb the question and process an answer. Patranjali is now seen as an expert on questioning at her school.

She also recalled her enrichment period which saw her take a whole year group of Year 8 girls to participate in a computing day. Here they were able to strengthen their computational thinking through playground activities with a computing twist.

Patranjali was offered her first teaching position during her NQT year and is now Head of Computer Science at this same school. Eight years in she still loves being in the middle of the action and mentoring future teachers most of whom come from University of Reading.

Patranjali and her students now participate in some amazing computing activities and competitions including winning prizes at Microsoft DigiGirlz and CyberFirst, a programme founded by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The latter saw four girls from her school beating 4,500 girls from across the UK to win the whole competition, for which she and the girls were featured on the BBC, visited Buckingham Palace for tea with the Duke of York, and also had an audience with the Queen.

In the future Patranjali plans to continue to embed a love of Computer Science in students as young as 11 so that they can see what an ever changing and dynamic subject it is and that they could go into something that reaches across every aspect of our lives from 3D drawings to cyber security.

She continued:

"The current emphasis on trends like Big Data, IoT and AI, has prompted the industry to move away from traditional programming paradigms. So, instilling my students with the ability to think outside the box and problem solve continues to be my aspiration going forward. I want to embed curiosity in my students at an early age so that they go on to make an impact. For me, success is being a part of their success, training future leaders in the field and seeing the innovations they will come out with."

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