Lecturer at Urban Teachers and Johns Hopkins University School of Education
How did you get interested in including computer science in your education program?
I taught math and computer science (CS) for nearly twenty years as a classroom teacher. When I began, CS wasn’t taught in many schools, and there really wasn’t standard coursework outside of the AP course. It didn’t take long to notice this was at least partly due to CS being mystified throughout various educational contexts. Sociocultural dispositions in broader society produced false ideas about the work of CS. This, coupled with a lack of first-hand experience with it, led many administrators and teachers to believe that it was beyond their capabilities and, therefore, the capabilities of many students. I had a background in CS and knew how engaging it could be and how it could support students’ creative problem-solving development.
Additionally, I believed that computational literacy was a foundational twenty-first-century skill that all students should be able to access. In response, I decided to work within my building to create new CS courses, which we housed within our Magnet program, but opened up to any student. I began recruiting students and, with the introduction of the Hour of Code a few years later, was able to fill multiple sections of introductory CS courses. Unsurprising to me, students were not only excelling in CS but also becoming interested in pursuing it further. I also saw many students in these courses transfer their success to their other studies, namely mathematics. Creating and innovating through problem-solving in their CS tasks supported their development as effective problem-solvers in other disciplines.
It is this experience that has motivated me and others with similar experiences to meaningfully integrate CS and computational thinking into teacher education programs. JHU will be starting a program in the fall that will prepare new teachers to effectively teach in Baltimore City Public Schools. To do this, specifically in STEM, new teachers need to have the foundational understanding and experiential knowledge to authentically integrate CS and/or computational thinking into their curriculum. When teachers have these skills, they can become leaders in the advocacy for learning experiences that translate into modern literacy opportunities for their students.
Describe an interesting project you have participated in related to CS Education
What do you wish that others knew about your education program at JHU?
One of our recent participants was excited about using CS in her mathematics class but was admittedly “lost” when it came to programming, etc. With her classmates' and the instructor’s support, she explored the many CS resources available and tried activities out with her peers. She made it a point to use CS and/or computational thinking in the applied projects she created for class, eventually trying them out with her students. Not only did the activities engage her students in new and exciting ways, but they also made teaching those lessons more fun. This teacher has now become a leader in her building, encouraging her colleagues to try computer science in their classrooms. Additionally, because of the excitement she facilitated among her students, she was able to start a robotics team at her school that has grown to almost 30 students in less than a year. This is in a school that, just last year, didn't have a computer lab beyond the portable laptop cart.
This is the type of joy we all aim to include in our educational programs. It is inspiring to see that joy reach students, the school community, and potentially further. Those are the types of learning experiences that change students’ lives.