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Mohamad Dajani

Technology Education and CS teacher at North Dorchester High School 

 

How did you get into teaching CS?

This is my eighth year teaching at North Dorchester High School. I teach Foundations of Technology and Computer Science (CS). During that time, I was the only technology teacher at the school and I was presented with this awesome opportunity to teach CS. Right before the pandemic, I was told that I was going to teach the subject even if I had no experience at the time. I took advantage of the extra time when the pandemic first started by figuring the material out and getting ready for the next school year. I also took the summer courses with Shane Wines, which helped me out tremendously. My own work ethic and ability to adapt really paid off during the pandemic and allowed me to take advantage of the moment. I really like how the curriculum is project-based and each lesson ties into the other. I noticed that the more work I did, the more I wanted to learn. I was really intrigued by the material, and to this day my goal is to learn something new. To be honest, I've learned a lot from my students and I usually keep their best work saved as reference. I like it when my students come up to me with new challenges that I don’t know how to solve yet, because I know it will be something new that I will learn once I look into their work. My students’ work has definitely made me better. 

 

Computer science became more relevant to me during the pandemic. A lot of people didn't realize how important computers were until virtual learning took place. I was glad to help out other teachers who needed assistance. Computer science is all about problem solving, debugging, creativity, and critical thinking skills.. There's a lot of value in it and I just wish the subject had existed when I was in high school, because I would have taken it then. I love teaching at the high school level, but if I wasn’t, then I probably would have taken a computer science route for a career.

 

Computer science became more important to me during the pandemic. A lot of people didn't realize how important computers were until virtual learning. I was glad to help out other teachers who needed assistance. Computer Science is all about problem solving, debugging, all kinds of modern and relevant stuff. There's a lot of value in it, and I just wish the subject had existed when I was in high school. I would have definitely taken it then. I love teaching at the high school level, but If i wasn’t, then I probably would have taken a computer science route and ended up doing something else with it.

 

What are some successes and challenges you’ve faced along the way?

Starting from scratch with no experience and building my way up. I think anyone who’s taught the subject for a while would agree that there's a lot of resources available now. For example, Code.org is a great platform, and there are many step-by-step tutorials available online that someone can watch and learn. What was discouraging to me at first was not knowing enough, and not knowing who to talk to. I didn't have another teacher to collaborate with or someone to help me out. Once I was guided in the right direction, then I just kept moving along.

 

What’s going well for you? What’s going on now that you’re excited about?

I’ve been teaching Computer Science Discoveries for the past couple of years, but next semester Computer Science Principles will be available for the first time. It will also be counted as an AP course, and I'm really excited to be teaching it.

 

Computer science is a great and growing field. I'm sure it's more popular in other areas than our county, but I’m pleased with how it's grown in the past couple of years. My goal is to eventually set up after school programs so the kids can either work on more projects or to simply work with students who need additional help. Also, I would like to have a field trip related to the subject.

 

Any advice or suggestions?

This advice applies to everyone: don't get frustrated and accept that mistakes will happen, but many valuable lessons will be taught from it. Everything that I know is either from a mistake made by the student or from myself. A strategy that’s helped me to this day is that I take a screenshot of a common mistake and add it to a special folder. If someone repeats the same mistake, then there’s a reference to look at. One thing I tell my students is that there's a ton of material with coding, so don't try to memorize the lines of code, just focus on understanding its purpose. If it’s written down somewhere, it’s easy to reflect back on it when needed. If students try to do their work based on just memorizing, then that's where the mistakes will most likely pile up, and they will just spend more time trying to figure out what's going on rather than doing what they’re supposed to.

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 http://cs4md.com
MCCE received initial support from the National Science Foundation, (MSP)2 Grant No. 0831970.