One Maine Teacher's Code.org Experience
February 27, 2017
1. Could you share your teaching background and why you were initially interesting in participating in the Code.org professional development?
I come from a Humanities background, teaching both English and History. My first year in a classroom, I found myself drawn to educational technology and attended conferences, learning how to bring technology into my Humanities classroom. Fast forward many years, and my passion for technology spread to computer science. I introduced a coding club at my school and found students ready and willing to do more. I discovered Code.org while searching for training to bring computer science to Maine Central Institute. Knowing that I didn't have a background in computer science made many training programs feel intimidating - I didn't experience that with Code.org. Instead I found a training program that equipped and empowered me to make a difference in the lives of my students.
2. What can other teachers expect when they attend TeacherCon? What were your highlights?
TeacherCon was the best professional development I've ever attended. The days were full of useful, hands-on activities, discussions, and reflection. We were placed in small groups based upon our regional locations, and with these small groups we dissected curriculum, each teacher acting in roles both as a teacher and a learner going through many of the key lessons from Code.org's Computer Science Principles curriculum. This gave me the confidence to know that I could teach this material and I would have support if I needed it. In the evenings, there were optional activities to explore the city and get to know other teachers. I gained an invaluable network. Many of the teachers who attended were just like me - teachers who did not have formal computer science training. Another highlight was going through the AP audit process with the help of the Code.org team. By using the Code.org's CSP syllabus, the process was painless and quick.
3. How much do you need to know about computer science before attending TeacherCon?
The most important thing for a teacher attending TeacherCon is to have an openness and a willingness to learn. The CSP curriculum is designed in such a way that a teacher who has had no formal computer science training will be able to successfully teach computer science.
4. Which computer science courses did you implement at your school? How was the Code.org curriculum helpful?
After attending TeacherCon, I implemented AP Computer Science Principles courses at my school in addition to a beginner level computer science class and several programming electives. The code.org
curriculum helped immensely while preparing for the AP course. The audit process went smoothly, I used the scope and sequence to plan out my year, and I was able to read lesson plans and watch videos ahead of time which built my confidence. Any time I have had questions, my TeacherCon network is there to help me out. The Code.org curriculum writers have really thought of everything. There are sample videos for how to teach tricky bits, background information for each lesson, and links to additional resources which are handy if you have extra time with your students.
5. Would you encourage other schools to implement computer science courses? What would you suggest as the first steps?
Absolutely! It's so very important to bring these opportunities to our students. Computer Science should be accessible to all students, regardless of background or location. Schools that are interested in bringing computer science to their students should explore Code.org and reach out to their regional partners who have a wealth of information specific to the needs of their local community. The best part is the cost: free! All these resources and training are available at no cost. Teachers who are interested can check out the curriculum on Code.org and apply to attend TeacherCon.
6. How do you stay connected with other computer science teachers in Maine?
I stay connected with computer science teachers in Maine largely through social media. The geography (and weather) of our state dictates the need for online communication, but we also run into each other at various conferences and events. There are groups on Facebook, Twitter, and Slack. I never have to wait long for an answer to a question that I post - we have a very active community of teachers who are ready and willing to help each other succeed.
7. Do you have any other comments or suggestions for Maine teachers?
Go for it. If you are thinking about bringing computer science to your school, Code.org and TeacherCon can help you make it happen. We have an opportunity here in Maine to bring computer science to all students, particularly those who might never have thought of exploring the computer science field due to lack of exposure. Through the many free resources that Code.org has to offer, high schools can bring AP courses to these students, setting them up for the jobs of today and tomorrow in Maine.
Thanks to Hannah Walden, Computer Science Teacher, MCI, Pittsfield, Maine