Computer Science Department Chair/CS Curriculum Developer/CS Teacher,
The Salisbury School
Computers have always been a part of my life.I was around circuit boards and ribbon cables since I was little, my dad was an electrical engineer and these were everyday items at our house. I was the only one of my college roommates to move into college with my own computer, and not just a word processor.Dating myself, I know!My real passion for teaching with computers began when I took the fifth grade teaching position at my current school, The Salisbury School.I wanted to incorporate technology into my lessons but didn’t know where to begin.A Google search for some ideas and some creative thinking gave me a start. What I found was that my kids got so excited when we did these types of activities in our computer lab that I couldn’t stop.Their excitement got me hooked!A 1:1 Chromebook program was started in our middle school and I got a class set of them as well.It was like the best teacher gift ever!I knew that I had to utilize them to their full potential, so I began taking as many online classes as I could fit into my schedule.I pretty much became a self-proclaimed Google Geek and was providing some sort of PD for my colleagues just about every month. I’ve always been a learner and get bored when I’m not learning something new, so I wanted to learn how to code.This fueled my computer craze even more and I wanted to teach this full time.From the fifth grade class, I transferred to our middle school and revamped our computer science program, and began lobbying for more computer science classes as well as AP courses and an Honor Society for our high school. Now I’m working on elevating our elementary school program and teach CS from third through eighth grade.Yes, you could say I’m quite passionate about computer science!
What are some successes and challenges you have experienced in getting to where you are now?
I’m thrilled that I have created a program that is supported and respected, by parents, students, and administration here at my school.I’ve been working lately on grant opportunities to bring Sphero and Lego robotics, as well as 3D printers to my middle school classroom. Being in a private school, finding funding for “extra” materials can be challenging, but thankfully there are ways to get the “toys” I want for my students.It makes the whole experience so much better with hands-on activities!The hours of working on grant proposals are worth it when your kids are knocking each other over to get in the door for class.We’re currently working on making individual hieroglyphs for each student as part of a school-wide study of the country of Egypt.They’re researching and writing about different symbols of their design in English class and then bringing their design to life on Tinkercad so we can print them out and use them to stamp on the “papyrus” that we’re making.Seeing the creative side of the quieter kids come out makes my heart happy and it’s been a great cross-curricular experience.
The biggest challenge I faced when I began rewriting our CS program was getting others to buy into the need for the integration of technology.I’ve heard, “I’ve always done it this way,” more times than I care to admit.That might have worked fifteen years ago, but times change and we need to ensure that our students are prepared for what may come in the next fifteen years.I simply keep a smile on my face and continue to share ideas, web programs, iPad apps, and such.When I’ve done PD sessions at school, or at conferences, I always tell folks to start with one thing. Don’t try and take on a bunch of new things at once.That’s too overwhelming!Try one thing, if it works see where else you can incorporate it.Then when you’re comfortable with that new tool, try something else.If it was a flop, no worries!There are a million other tools out there to try next.Before long you’ve got more experience using new tools under your belt than you thought and that instills a whole new sense of confidence.The moral of the story is don’t give up, be the little engine that could, little by little gets you to the goal!
What's going well for you now?
I’m very proud of the fact that our little school has become quite computer and technology friendly.When prospective families come through for tours I love being able to share with them all the things my colleagues and I do on a daily basis.My 7th and 8th graders are learning text-based code, while my third through sixth graders work on block code.My kids know how to use the Google suite of tools as well as Microsoft by the time they leave middle school along with a myriad of other web tools and programs.They’ve had opportunities to work with robotics and 3D printing, as well as create projects that fulfill the needs of other subjects.These folks usually leave my room with their heads spinning and smiles on their faces.I know that it sounds like I’m bragging, but isn’t that what any good mom does when her children accomplish amazing things?
As I look back on what I’ve done in the last 5 years or so I smile, but I also have an eye towards the future.I’ve been very focused on building up the middle school program, but now I want to shift that energy towards my little people.They come into my room and see all the fun things we’re working on and their eyes just light up in wonder and amazement.I want to get more printers and different robotics so that I can work with all six grades and not worry about run-down batteries in the Spheros or having robotics that are beyond their skill level.Plus I’d like to see about finding different tools that my girls will find interesting and keep them interested. I want to network with other elementary school teachers and talk to them about what works for them and then bring that to my students. I know it sounds ambitious, but without ambition, there can be no achievement. So to anyone out there thinking about starting up robotics or 3D printing, go for it!I’m here to support you and cheer you on!