In this interview, meet Tina Götschi, Principal of the Sixth Form at Ada, the National College for Digital Skills in London.
Tina, what brought you to be one of the founding teachers of Ada National College for Digital Skills in London?
I met Mark Smith and Tom Fodgen, Ada’s founders, in early 2016 when they were looking for someone to lead on the development of the Sixth Form (years 12 and 13 in the UK education system) at Ada. Mark and Tom had been working since 2013 to bring the idea of a specialist college, which gives students the necessary digital skills to build their potential and help them begin a successful career in tech, to life.
I was teaching Computer Science at the time, but looking for my next challenge, and Ada’s vision and mission were what I was looking for. I joined full time in September 2016 to lead the teaching of Computer Science, the core component of our students’ curriculum, and have been principal since September 2020.
What is the college’s mission and how do you make it real?
Ada’s mission is to educate and empower the next generation of diverse digital talent. We aim to impart to our students the knowledge and skills, and instil values that will ensure they are able to pursue a fulfilling career in the digital sector. We do this by building their knowledge of computing, including programming, business applications of computing and the ethical awareness of technology, and related academic subjects.
Ada’s project-based learning through industry projects led by our partners including Deloitte, Bank of America, Salesforce and King, give students extensive experience of the reality of working in the digital sector. It also gives them insight into solving real world problems and develops their diverse set of skills and values, which are core to success in the digital sector.
Students at Ada National College can take different pathways; can you tell us more about them?
Sixth Form students at Ada choose one of three pathways: Pioneer, Innovator or Creator. Core to every pathway is Computer Science, delivered through the Level 3 BTEC National Diploma in Computing and making up two thirds of students’ 3 A level equivalent qualifications.
Pioneers also study an A level in Mathematics or take the triple BTEC Extended Diploma in Computing, Innovators and A level in Psychology or Business Studies and Creators an A level in Graphics or Media Studies. Students graduate with the qualifications and skills required to progress to a Degree Apprenticeship in Technology, to universities to study Computer Science or related digital fields, or go straight into work as junior software developers.
You are teaching digital skills and technology to students, also making sure they understand the side effects of using these technologies. Why and how do you make sure this is part of their curriculum?
Every learner has opportunities to connect their academic learning to real-world situations with industry engagement. They are also ableto apply their theoretical understanding in authentic contexts and develop the critical thinking, teamwork, time-management, and problem-solving skills they will need to excel in tech.
We prioritise developing core skills of communication and self-reflection, as well as the Ada Values of Creativity, Curiosity, Collaboration, Resilience and Rigour. These are essential skills, not only to realise their academic potential, but to make a constructive contribution in the digital workplace, and to society at large.
Do you have any big news to share with us?
Yes, we do have really big news! In 2023 we will be expanding and moving to a new home in the heart of London Victoria. Our base in Tottenham has served us well over the first 6 years of our life, but we’ve outgrown the space due to the number of students that want to enrol and take their first step towards an exciting career in the tech sector.
Our new premises are purposely designed to deliver cutting-edge digital education in a vibrant and inclusive environment for learning. The new building will mean that Ada is able to offer even more places for sixth form students and apprentices, enabling us to grow from just under 500 learners to over a thousand in the next 4 years.
You are participating in the LearningPlanet Festival; what will your event be about?
I’m very excited to take part in this festival in a panel in the Futures Action track on learning with Next-Gen AI, specifically Open AI’s ChatGPT. We’ll explore how AI technologies can be used to enhance learning and teaching. We will also discuss the potential benefits and challenges of incorporating AI into education, as well as the ethical and societal considerations that come with it.
I think there are amazing benefits for educators and students to use this as a tool to learn, but also many pitfalls. We have to understand that this AI does not *understand* anything – it simply uses data out there, and as Brian Christian points out in his book The Alignment Problem, that (my paraphrasing) AI is simply a reflection of society, and if society has ethical problems (like racism and sexism) AIs will simply mirroror amplify these problems.