I have a love-hate relationship with technology. With over 20 years of observations with digitality as a senior teacher, creative technologist and STEM programme manager, I’m interested in the human relationships with ever-increasingly hidden technology in the world today. Starting out as a Technology teacher, the drive for inclusivity took me down a path to become a SENCO and senior leader in an 11-18 setting in Leeds, later pivoting to a national role focused on teacher professional development programmes with Computing, Computer Science and Ed Tech. It was during that time as a part-time research assistant on a sabbatical that ignited a passion for research about computing and maker education in schools, and one that has helped me to fill in the blanks through philosophical underpinning. During 2017 I launched the Foundation for Digital Creativity with a collaborator and friend who encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a researcher. Now I’m literally living that dream of doing what I love, both in terms of development and contribution through academic research and working with teachers, children, young people and adults in the formal and informal education sectors.
My interest and the purpose of my research is to examine the lived experiences of teachers in relation to physical computing in secondary schools. The impetus for this study has arisen from working with schools and supporting their practice through the adoption of a new computing curriculum in England from September 2014 and a determination to examine physical computing in classrooms with teachers as co-researchers.
Physical computing is closely linked to constructionism in literature and in Mindstorms, Papert examined how the computer served as an ‘object-to-think-with‘ to enable children to realise their personal objectives and learning across any subject using the educational programming language of Logo. Constructionist learning is historically linked with computer science education and provides the theoretical framework to develop Papert’s ideas of microworlds and technocentric thinking, and the development of further programming languages for children has inspired the evolution of programmable devices to bring programming into the physical world. The focus now given to physical computing in the curriculum is interesting as a researcher with the shift back to theory-driven development of technology to teach children in schools. With the adoption and proliferation of more educational devices in England, teachers are sharing the challenges they face alongside embedding a computing curriculum with effective pedagogies and resources.
The goal of understanding what happens during lessons when a teacher has adopted physical computing is to illuminate and share transformative experiences and teaching practices to others. I see hermeneutic phenomenology as the most appropriate way to form a dialogue with experienced teachers of physical computing to interpret their lived world in education and share rich descriptions of the phenomena. Amplifying teacher voices from the computing classroom using language and highlighting themes that can link “the questions that people who conduct computing education research think are important, and the questions considered important by people who teach but do not conduct research” (Denny et al., 2019) will, I hope, make a valuable contribution to future research.