INTERVIEW: Paul Goodwin bids farewell to the tech club he created nine years ago

Issued: Thu, 23 Feb 2017 14:57:00 GMT

On rare occasions Science Connects will come into contact with individuals who join us as STEM Ambassadors but who've been doing things in their community without ever having firstly heard of the STEM Ambassador Programme. Running clubs, tutoring, mentoring or even putting on events without any outside assistance – just because they felt they wanted to help out. 

Paul Goodwin, ICT Network Administrator at Dalry School, is one such character. A STEM Ambassador since 2015, he's been running a technology club for nine years. This year, however, he’s decided to finally hang up his tech boots and take a well-earned rest. We spoke to him about the legacy of the club and his plans for the future:


  1. Hi Paul, can you tell us a little about Dalry School and why you decided to start a technology club there?


Dalry is a very small through school in a rural location for ages 4 – 16 with around 60 primary pupils and 60 secondary.  I began working there in 2007 as ICT Network Administrator and soon realised that there was very little for local children to do outside of school hours – no youth club and at that time only one after school club for gardening.  I know from experience that new and emerging technology does not find its way into classrooms for several years at least so I thought that an after school club based around recent and emerging consumer technology would be popular.  An informal chat with prospective club members, teachers and parents indicated that need is greatest in the darker winter months so the club began in Oct 2008 and initially ran until Easter – it soon became obvious that support and attendance fell off after the Feb mid-term as nights got lighter so subsequent seasons have run from the Oct break until the Feb half term. 

The club has always been most popular with P6 to P7 with around half of pupils in those years choosing to attend but we also get a few from P5 and more recently S1 and S2 plus the odd parent and teacher drop in.  Quite a few of the club members do not have access to much technology at home both on the grounds of family income and also because of lack of broadband/3G phone network in many locations.  Membership has always been a pretty even split between boys and girls and I have talked each season about some of my computing heroes which have a good few females amongst them. 


  1. Could you ever have imagined that it would run for nine years?


Not in a million years. I wasn’t sure it would make it to the end of the first season.  I think the key to its success is that each week I tried to introduce or ‘teach’ about a particular topic before then breaking up into a more practical hands-on session which inevitably devolves into a slightly anarchic generally fun ending to the session.  One week might be 3D printing starting with a quick explanation, a couple of very short video extracts, downstairs to watch the school’s 3D printer in action and handle the produced sample then back for perhaps a final 20 minutes in Minecraft on the computers. 


  1. Can you tell us why you’ve decided to bring the club to an end?


I will be 64 years old at the start of what would be the next season and my assistant for the last few years leaves school this year.  I have always believed in keeping things fresh and usually move on to a new challenge after 3 to 4 years so taking it to 9 seasons is already exceptional for me.  For various practical reasons, I would not see me doing this after retiring from my day job in the school so it was always going to end now or next year.  I think that this year with final closure is much preferable than lingering on and leaving the future in doubt.


  1. Are there any particular memories which stick in your mind concerning the impact of the club


Two come to mind, one quiet young girl was a member for the first two years (when she was age 10/11) and I thought no more about it.  I occasionally saw her around the school but never really had any contact with her until one day when she was in S4. I was in the Art classroom fixing something or other and I mentioned to the teacher that I ran the technology club.  Suddenly this lass came out with a really enthusiastic recollection of the club, “oh my god’, it was so cool, I learnt how to set up a wifi extension at home, we made videos” etc.


A parent that I know also had a daughter at the club in the early days (she’s now at college).  The mother told me that the club caused a big change in her daughter, making her a confident user of technology and, although technology is not her chosen career path, in a mixed group she is confident when technology subjects come up in conversation so the grounding she had has given her life skills.


  1. You’ve also had some help I believe?


One lass (Emily Biggar) who joined the club in the third season and has been coming ever since. She was one of the first to come along as a senior and I began asking her to help with some of the younger club members or to provide assistance to individuals or groups and she was happy to do so.  For the last three seasons she has been my assistant and has gained in confidence working with younger children and groups.  The strange thing is that, although she is an early adopter of technology (tablets, smartphones and apps, etc) she does not see her career heading this way. She’ll likely end up in the physical education world as she sails competitively at a high level.  Because of her continued, reliable assistance I entered her for a Saltire Award for voluntary work and she was the first in the school to receive one. Everyone was really proud of her.


  1. What are your plans for the future now you’ve hung up your tech boots?


Well I don’t like to plan too far ahead but although the club has come to an end I will continue as a STEM Ambassador, at least for the next year or two.  I expect to continue with the occasional STEM activity in the school – Introduction to geology, plant propagation and perhaps assistance with Astronomy or photography in the Primary part of the school).  But outside of STEM I have research to complete and a book to write about the War Memorials and men listed on them in the local area.

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