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Local Teachers Try Their Hands at Coding & More

September 13, 2017

Teachers coding

While many schools and districts are still trying to figure out how computer science (CS) activities and courses fit within the educational landscape, teachers are seeing the future and showing high interest in and enthusiasm for professional CS learning opportunities. This was certainly the case over the summer when KCI conducted two Computer Science Crash Course for Educators programs in June and July. Funded by Google’s CS4HS initiative, an annual Google grant that supports CS professional development for educators, the program was offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and both sessions filled rapidly with 60 teachers coming from across the Bay Area for the 4-day, 24-hour experience.

Aimed at middle school and early high school teachers, the Crash Course included lessons in bloc-based coding, along with non-coding components of CS such as computational thinking, algorithms, computing systems, data, networks, and the impact of computing. The goal is to prepare teachers to integrate computer science into their curriculum (for example, science teachers can add a unit aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards), or prepare them to teach CS as an elective. In this hands-on program teachers learned both content and pedagogy to successfully integrate CS into their curriculum and to reach all students in their classrooms.

By the end of the four days, teachers could code a variety of projects, integrate coding and computational thinking into their current curriculum, implement basic coding projects in their classrooms, and potentially teach a computer science class. Those interested in teaching computer science were in a better position to take additional CS courses. At the end of the program, 97% of the participants felt more prepared to teach a CS-related lesson. One participant commented, “I came with very limited knowledge of computer science, and I’ve learned so much! I feel like I’ve cleared the hurdle of getting started. Now I can’t seem to stop, even at 1:00 in the morning!”

The Crash Course is designed and taught by local computer science teachers, with Sheena Vaidyanathan as program director. This experienced team hailed from the Los Altos School District, Gunn High School, Castilleja High School, and The Nueva School. One of the program’s strengths is that it is designed and taught by teachers who are active in the classroom, adhering to the KCI philosophy of teachers training teachers. This best practice yielded great results. One participant commented, “Not a wasted moment! The course was very informative and engaging. The mix of listening, small-group discussion, whole-class sharing, and individual, self-paced learning was perfect.” When asked if they would recommend the workshop to others, 100% of the teachers responded with a resounding “YES!”

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