Sherri Harris Gibbs
Baltimore City Public Schools
How did you first get interested in computer science?
My background is in special education. I started working at a special needs school with students ages birth to 21 with all levels of disabilities. Then I went back to school and got another degree in Instructional technology. I worked supporting assistive technology. In those days, we were learning about technology integration and not much about CS, but I have always been curious and interested in learning more.
When I started working full-time in the IT department for the city schools, I did everything from multimedia, tech support, and tech integration to supporting teachers with basic computer skills before coding was even a buzzword. What really got me into CS for teachers was when I attended the Maryland CS Summit in Glen Burnie and I met many people who were passionate about CS. Now that I am working with content specialists and supporting K-8 computer science teachers, I serve as a technology coach and mentor to support teachers and colleagues to develop meaningful integration of CS (focusing on existing curriculum) that emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving.
Recently, I got curious about Artificial Intelligence (AI) after taking the Intro to AI class, and I have really invested myself into learning more about this critical area that is affecting- and will continue to affect us- in so many ways. It's really important that people understand how technology impacts the decisions that affect our lives. The ethics part of AI is important; people need to pay attention to the impacts of these new systems that are changing the world.
I'm still learning how all this connects and how all the players work together to support CS education across MD. I've been leading professional development and hybrid learning for years, developing those kinds of opportunities for teachers. Moving to online learning can reach more teachers, and can model effective ways to work with students both in person and online so that we hear all of the voices and interact with students. I believe in hands-on experiences and the importance working with all learners. We have the tools and resources to do that.
What keeps you going to learn more and do more to support teachers in CS?
I love seeing a teacher have an a-ha moment. It's also satifying to see people from across the state becoming part of a bigger support system. Doing PD design and thinking about how to present this to teachers so they can share it with students is interesting, exciting, and so satisfying. I really encourage every teacher to take the Introduction to AI course, just to see what is new.
Our Career Readiness team supports high school computer science. They take the 2nd Friday of each month for Career Friday where they have professionals come in to speak to students virtually and answer student questions. For the Hour of Code I organized a panel to present to students. 42 schools participated, with almost 140 students. We also sent out the video (video and a summary with links at the bottom of this article.)
What are some of the challenges?
There’s a lot of red tape to bring all facets of CS to students. I did an informal survey of teachers, and many are interested in AI. But it's discouraging when you get filled with enthusiasm and it takes a long time to go from a great idea to actually making it happen. It's important that we align our personal goals with district goals. I want to see things happen quickly! There's so much to do!
I was discouraged when the Maryland bill to support computer science education was passed with a focus on high school. I understand why, but I think that high school is too late to start. These children in our schools now will be taking care of society, and taking care of us, and we need them to be successful. In order to give them everything that they're going to need, we can't limit their learning opportunities. So I'd like to see our ability to teach them about computing and new technologies move very swiftly. I love that everybody's thinking about incorporating it across all content areas. That's the long-term goal that we are looking at. CS is everywhere.
Careers in Computing Video December 2021
Learn about careers in computing from the Baltimore City Schools and Code in the Schools Hour of Code special event. (1 hour 2 minutes total) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKY1NS8q6oE . Featured speakers:
- Marissa Bush; Site Reliability Engineer Google
- Ashley Baich, Cybersecurity Senior Analyst at Accenture
- Steven Mitchell, Tech Teacher at City Schools and Creative Director of Blue Rain Water
- Shaun Truelove, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Johns Hopkins University
- Di Zou, Manager of baseball systems for the Baltimore Orioles
Index to the sections by topics:
- What is your favorite part of your job? https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=714
- What made you decide to pursue your career? https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=1017
- What education do you need for your job? https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=1207
- What are some ways to get started in your field? https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=1519
- How did you pick a particular field in cybersecurity? https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=1677
- Share a challenge that you had along the way and how you pushed through. https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=1913
- Who or what had an impact on your career choice or supported you? https://youtu.be/GKY1NS8q6oE?t=2383