Teacher Spotlight Guest Blog: Making Global Connections by Allen Tsui

Making Global Connections

It was truly wonderful to meet with Suzie and Kasey from EarthEcho during their first visit to the Association for Science Education 2023 Conference and Exhibition and to be able to share my story of how the school I work for in East London uses learning from their Science and Computing lessons to show their support for more sustainable living.  The school has a tradition of applying classroom practice to sharing environmental concerns as the partnership with the world famous Whitechapel Art Gallery and international Peruvian artist, Lucia Monge to create a video artwork in 2018.

As an act of positive community engagement, the school have also collaborated with charitable UK based organisations called the Woodland Trust and the Conservation Volunteers to plant British species of trees in the park nearby to the school, with permission from the locally elected authority, who—in the UK—are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of public parks and gardens.  

However, not every learning opportunity are such positive or creatively artistic acts.  During the hottest Summer in the UK since meteorological records began, the drive thru burger restaurant near to where I live in North London decided to do some maintenance works since they had previously frequently experienced flooding from torrential rainfall.

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The maintenance works to their site appeared innocuous when the works began in July when the tree line was looking like this:

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However, within days, the perimeter of the drive-thru restaurant had been reduced to:

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With the local elected authorities responsible for establishing environmental and sustainability strategies for their neighbourhoods, the residents of the neighbourhood attempted to address this catastrophic act by making written appeals to the company as well as the Council.  However, the chain of correspondence was met with such verbal platitudes, the residents decided to take direct action by protesting outside the restaurant on one of the hottest and sunniest Saturdays in early August 2022.

As a teacher who specialises in Computer Science teaching, I show children how to create and code very simple and inexpensive digital thermometer devices using Twitter: @microbit_edu.  Taking the digital thermometer and leaving it momentarily on the newly laid artificial, plastic grass revealed a surface temperature of 41 Celsius.  Sharing this experience on social media attracted mainstream press attention including supporting endorsement from the very highly respected British television broadcaster and environmental campaigner, Chris Packham. 

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 Inspired by this experience of being involved in direct action, in 2023 I will be working with all the classes I teach (from 4 to 11 year-olds) to use the Scratch block coding programming platform to create their own animations and share their concerns and understanding of the need to protect our planet.  With nearly 700 children working together on this project, the aim is to have each very short segment of animation edited into a feature length production which will be given a red-carpet big screen premiere screening at a cinema local to the school in Summer 2023.  Such examples demonstrate how learners of today have the capacity and know-how to not just be passive consumers of technology, but content creators with real world purpose.

About the writer: Allen is a school teacher who have lived and worked in London all of his life.  Before becoming a teacher, he was an Administrator for a Government Department for nearly 24 years.  During that time, he oversaw the technological transformation of the workplace from standalone monochrome PCs using floppy disk drives to backup data to the installation of an 8,500 terminal connections Wide Area Network.  Allen has been a teacher since 2012 and became Head of Computer Science at the schools he works for in September 2020.  He is passionate about using technology for teaching and learning across all school subjects.  Connect with Allen via Twitter: @TsuiAllen