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Tim Dixon

Elementary CS Consultant for MCCE and PGCPS



How did you get into CS? 

I became interested in CS after taking a few computer science classes in college. I struggled through a class in COBOL and a class in Basic. After graduating with a Master Degree in Technology Integration, I kept pursuing ways of engaging students in learning through technology. I found soon after it was launched and was amazed at how receptive students were to learning CS skills through the activities and puzzles. I also worked with Scribbler robots and was amazed at how receptive students were to learning basic coding commands to get their robot to draw shapes. 

The more I learned about CS and experienced students' interactions with and other instructional tools, the more I realized how important CS concepts were to their futures. 


What are some successes and challenges you have experienced along the way? 

Successes include having students with no English language skills coming to my class for the first time and, with a little support, being able to complete puzzles by the end of class. It's wonderful seeing students who struggled in other classes work so intently to complete the CS challenges they encountered. 

I was able to get other teachers interested in CS integration in the elementary curriculum through word of mouth, facilitating workshops, and helping design county integration models.

Right now I'm working on our county’s partnership with Loyola University to develop a cohort of ESL teachers to be introduced to CS concepts. The intent is for the ESL teachers to develop CS “Best Practices” to share back at their schools. 

I work now facilitating workshops that help counties in Maryland integrate CS into their elementary students' curriculum.


Challenges include helping peers and administrators understand what CS is and why it should be taught in elementary school, continuing to stay up to date on CS best practices, and understanding CS at a deeper level. I work to keep learning about new tools and how to best integrate them into instruction along with making cross-curriculm connections with CS.


What do you find compelling about CS?

How the basic concepts of algorithms, decomposition, sequential order, patterns, working collaboratively and debugging translate to all content areas and are basic life skills. I believe students innately understand the importance of these skills as they are exposed to them through project-based learning and solving real world problems in CS instruction. I never get tired of or take for granted the enthusiasm and inspired thinking students bring to a puzzle, Scratch project or Micro:bit activity they attempt to complete with a partner. 


What's going well for you now? 

Getting to support CS elementary integration strategies with some of the counties in Maryland through helping facilitate workshops. 

Opportunities to learn CS integration, pedagogy and “Best Practices” from CS leaders in Maryland and outside Maryland through MCCE and CSTA workshops, monthly meetings and other opportunities.


Do you have advice, suggestions, or resources you would like to share with people who are teaching or learning CS? 

The Big Book of Computing Pedagogy is a very meaningful book for CS instructors because it helps the reader make pedagogical connections to other content areas. Instructional tools are nice, but making sure students understand the concepts behind them is more important.


Any other thoughts? 

As an elementary school teacher, the difference CS exposure has at an early age on people’s lives always continues to inspire me. Two people in particular always stand out to me. Neither was a student of mine, but I have known each one for over 30 years. One person went on to be a Project Manager on the Hubble Space Mission at Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, and the other completed their Masters Degree in Cyber Security and works for a government contractor in Northern Virginia. Both are very humble and would have been easy to overlook at school. You just never know who might be in your class.

Dianne O'Grady-Cunniff, dogrady at usmd dot edu
Director, Maryland Center for Computing Education

Dr. Megean Garvin, mgarvin at usmd dot edu
Director of Research, Maryland Center for Computing Education

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Maryland Center for Computing Education
3300 Metzerott Rd. Adelphi, MD 20783
MCCE received initial support from the National Science Foundation, (MSP)2 Grant No. 0831970.