Learning computer science gives students options, applications for Code.org cohort open

“It’s starting, in my opinion, to become a necessary basic skill, just like reading.” – Hannah Armenta, Teacher at Rhodes College and Career Academy

Code.org’s Professional Learning Program is an intensive, year-long learning experience for middle and high school educators interested in teaching Code.org’s Discoveries (middle school) or Principles (high school) courses.

Battelle’s Ohio STEM Learning Network is the Code.org Professional Learning Partner for Ohio. Every year, we train over 100 teachers on free computer science resources. Participants explore Computer Science curriculum and tools, experiment with specific teaching strategies, and join a local community of teachers using this curriculum.

Applications for next year’s cohort are open now, so we’re checking in with current participants to learn how they’re bringing Computer Science to their school. Learn more and apply here.

Hannah Armenta teaches 9th and 11th graders at Rhodes College and Career Academy in Cleveland, Ohio. This is her third year of teaching and her first-year teaching AP Computer Science Principles. This summer, she joined the Code.org Ohio TeacherCON cohort to prepare to teach AP Computer Science Principles. Read about her experience below:

Have you taught any computer science before?

I have not – but I run a “Girls Who Code” club, and last year during one of my math specials class I did a bootstrap algebra program for half the year.

Why is Computer Science important for your students?

I think it just gives them options as they move through their life. Especially in an urban school, technology isn’t always very accessible to my students. Many of them don’t have a computer at home. Most of them don’t even have Wi-Fi. So, when it comes to working on a computer or typing or doing anything, they are almost illiterate to those areas because they haven’t had the opportunity and the experience.

So, if we give them that opportunity and experience, it just opens up more doors for them. They don’t have to end up going into computer science, but it gives them options. It’ll look impressive on a resume, and it provides that access to them and to their families.

Did you have many expectations for this training?

I don’t know if I had really any expectations coming into it. TEALS recommended that I go to the Code.org training, and I was really excited because I’ve had my students do some stuff on Code.org. So, I was excited to see what the curriculum aspect of it would look like.

I really like how Code.org pushes the discovery first and letting students come to their own ideas before going back and explaining what the concept is. I think it just makes it more equitable for students who might not have any experience on the computer to go do an unplugged lesson too. It’s less high-stakes – and then you go forward to doing it on the computer.

What do you think about the PD?

It’s really nice to talk to other teachers in different areas, and to ask them questions about how it’s going in their own classrooms… I was able, in those sessions, to pick some brains about teachers who may have taught it before and what strategies they used for students who weren’t quite understanding the content.

What’s been the most challenging part of the year so far?

The most challenging part is definitely that, with the exception of two kids in my class of 33, no one else had any sort of programming experience. And for all of them, it is their first time ever taking an AP class. So, initially, they were very taken aback with the amount of work that they needed to do, as well as getting used to the new vocabulary.

They knew how to use their cell phones really well… but now they’re learning about how this stuff actually works.

What’s been the most rewarding part of the class so far?

I think just programming itself. They get really excited. They make something that works, and they’re running over with their computer and they’re like, “Miss, look what I just did!” You can just see their eyes light up because they’re so excited because they felt like they had been struggling so hard with it and then they finally get it.

What would you say to an administrator considering offering the class next year?

I would say – just do it! It’s such a valuable skill for students to have. I think whatever job pathway they go into, whether its college or trade school or straight into a career, just the fact that you have experience with programming on a resume is something that is so valuable. I know, for myself personally, in almost every internship that I got in college, that’s what caught most peoples’ eye – the fact that I did have programming experience. That, in their minds, opens you up to different possibilities that might not necessarily be in your job description.

Is there anything you would say to a teacher who is on the fence about applying?

I would say just do it. There are a lot of people in my cohort that had no computer science background at all. We had an art teacher, we had a lot of math teachers, a lot of science. And so, it’s a class that you can easily apply to any of those other classes. And, you’re going to be learning it first – so that gives you the opportunity to feel the perspective of a student, which I think a lot of teachers lack when it comes to their instruction.

Prepare to be frustrated with yourself and possibly your group mates – and come with a growth mindset. I know that there’s been times that I’ve had to check myself during this experience to make sure that I was being the most collaborative person that I can be.

But when you’re able to build that empathy for your students going through the curriculum, you’re going to be able to connect with the students more than if you had a degree in computer science.

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