“Once (students) come into my classroom, it doesn’t matter where you came from before – it’s time to code.” – Lydia Carter
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 Computer Science Fundamentals (elementary), 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.
Lydia Carter worked in Human Resources for Columbus City Schools. Three semesters ago, she was hired at Sherwood Middle School as a teacher. This summer, she joined the Code.org Ohio TeacherCON cohort to prepare to teach Computer Science Discoveries. Read about her experience below!
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Why is Computer Science important for your students?
Because they need to understand what I’ve learned here. Coming from HR with a business background, I know how to teach kids to use Word. I know how to teach them to use Excel. But I don’t know how to make them learn for themselves. I can show them what to do and then I can look at their work and say, “Did you do it? Did you learn it?” But I still taught it to them.
This workshop taught me how to let them learn for themselves, and I never knew how to do that.
I think getting them to understand that they are capable of learning Computer Science for themselves will give them a different perspective of what they can do in and out of the classroom, how they can act, and how they feel about themselves.
What were you hoping to get from the summer training?
Skill. When I read that you didn’t have to know anything about computer science, I was not convinced, but I knew this program was for me. I couldn’t not be here; my students needed me to be here. So, I’m like – “Okay. Just go. Learn what you can and then find resources to fill in where you need it.”
You have one semester of teaching this course under your belt – how has the experience been?
With one semester under my belt, it is a lot clearer for me to see how my students benefit from what I have learned. For example, it was really rocky for me to get started with the course because it was all about going by the book.
Throughout the semester… we found the things that we could work through together to complete the course. In the end, my students and I felt that we had done something that we were proud of. The students didn’t like it in the beginning – but through their persistence and determination – they were the only ones, and the first ones, to complete it at our school.
What do you think of the ongoing professional development?
The key piece of these month-to-month trainings is networking. I came into the program knowing very little to nothing about this subject and doubted my ability to wholeheartedly teach this. To come back, be around your colleagues, and have them confirm some of the struggles you are facing in your classroom was very enlightening. Realizing that we all face the same issues helped me… Having them praise some of my ideas and taking them back to their classrooms was uplifting and confirmed that I was doing the right thing.
What do you wish you could tell a teacher or principal who is considering offering computer science to their students next year?
There is no reason I wouldn’t tell someone to take part in this program.
The kids learn to collaborate. I have students that started the class flashing gang signs, but they know that once they come into my classroom, it doesn’t matter where you came from before – it’s time to code.
You have to sit with your partners when you work, so I assigned the groups to make sure the students were working outside of their normal friends… I had one student that would come into class and sit and do nothing at all until I was able to pair her computer to another student’s computer; then she came to life.
Would you say anything to convince teachers on the fence about applying for the cohort?
Oh, I would just use myself as an example. Anyone who really knows me that’s on the fence would know that I have had no Computer Science experience.
I know that I am capable of teaching the kids what they need to know. Maybe not all of it right now – but with the resources available here, I’m not that anxious about teaching computer science anymore.