Jennie Reynolds is thrilled to be teaching the first year-long computer science (CS) class at Union Middle School this year. While she does not have an extensive background in CS (she took Basic C as an undergrad to fulfill a math requirement), she embraced the words of her master teacher - if you are a good teacher you can teach anything. She realized the truth in this when she taught a Minecraft class four years ago. Initially Jennie was terrified that she did not know enough about the program to effectively support the class. Instead, she learned that she often had to get out of the way of her students - they were passionate about their work and the learning was naturally embedded in the process as they brought their ideas to life.
She attended a training over the summer that was hosted by Code.org, which was geared toward teachers who were just starting to teach CS. The free 6th-10th grade curriculum provided by Code.org, Computer Science Discoveries, has been fantastic. The first two weeks were completely unplugged and students focused on problem solving and culture building to instill patience and perseverance.
All of her 7th and 8th grade CS students are in it together regardless of skill level, and they are always collaborating to support each other’s projects. They embrace the idea that even a student with more experience in CS can learn from everyone else in the class by working together. When they presented their websites last week, every single student had someone else to thank for making their designs work.
With the recent release of the new California K-12 Computer Science Standards, Jennie is grateful for the opportunity to pilot this class. It is designed to introduce students to many of the key areas of CS and it will give them enough experience within each to understand what a career in any of these fields might entail. To further support this, Jennie will bring in guest speakers throughout the year, including a panel of women in software engineering from Salesforce and a genetic science graduate student from UC San Francisco. Her students are looking forward to the rest of the year, which includes work on animation and video games, empathy-based design challenges, the use of data in society, and physical computing.
Follow Jennie on Twitter: @ReynoldsMath
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