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Teacher-to-Teacher: Take a Chance, Code a Cookie


Dear #CSEdWeek Community,

When I’m asked how I came into my role as an Instructional Technology Specialist, my response typically includes the facts that my mother is teacher and my father is an engineer. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house filled with books, school supplies, computers, electronic bits and pieces, and tools. I remember taking things apart with no expectation of ever putting them back together as originally intended.

I also have vivid memories of using technology throughout my educational experience. I spent hours messing around with Banner Mania and Print Shop Deluxe, making my own icons. I remember the first time I got the Logo turtle to make a square, then a triangle, then a circle when my middle school math class visited our school computer lab. Later in college, I remember messing around with digital media creation tools in my film classes and trying out every type of filter in Photoshop and Illustrator to push my artistic expression in a digital art class. These experiences shaped my perceptions around the purpose of computers, for the better.

I believe that all students should have even a small taste of the playful side of programming and technology. I recognize that I was fortunate enough to have several adults in my life who valued using technology in creative ways. My experiences have shaped my vision of how I would like to see education embracing technology in the classroom. I see creative computing as a way to provide exciting, engaging, transformational, and memorable educational experiences for both teachers and students.

As an Instructional Technology Specialist in Cambridge Public Schools, my days would be rather uneventful if it weren’t for teachers’ willingness to try something new. We do trial runs, pilots, beta testing, revisions, and then repeat, over and over again. Oftentimes, teachers learn technology tools on their own or in one-on-one sessions with one of our technology specialists. There always seems to be a shortage of time for teacher learning.

These past few weeks we’ve tried to create time for teachers to experience some creative computing—the kind you can taste! In collaboration with our Library Technology Specialists, we’ve asked teachers to step out of their comfort zones and try their hand at what we’re calling “Code A Cookie.” Yes, the word “Code” is used loosely when you look at the activity, but the idea is to open up their ideas of what coding can be.

During prep and lunch periods, teachers and staff are invited to come together in a common space to decorate a cookie. A cookie has been pre-decorated, and their task is to follow the pseudocode directions to see if their cookie matches up. Participants also have the option of decorating their own cookie first and then writing up their directions–or code–for others to follow. In addition to cookies, we provided lesson plans, unplugged computer science activities, and Hour of Code websites to encourage teachers to learn more about integrating computer science into their classes.


 

It’s been messy, colorful, and playful — everything I would want in a programming experience. Would I categorize this activity as creative computing? Absolutely.

 

While I don’t expect all the participants to become as excited about computer science education as I am, I have been encouraged by the conversations that have come out of the event. A foreign language teacher learned about switching Scratch into their language and creating dialogue between sprites. A social studies teacher remembered doing a similar peanut butter and jelly sandwich activity when he was younger. A teacher spoke about wanting to do an activity inspired by “Code A Cookie” with their students as a way to learn rotation, degrees, and directionals. Many teachers discussed the importance of following–and reading–all instructions in order to be successful!

 

 

As new opportunities arise for us as teachers to share computer science and creative computing with our students, I hope we all continue to embrace a tinkering mindset—experimenting and revising so all students can have a chance to see themselves as computer programmers. It starts with teachers being willing to learn something they might not be an expert at, but see the value in sharing with their students.

Know that there is a very large and passionate community behind you, encouraging and cheering for you as you take that chance.

What will you do to encourage taking chances?

Sincerely,
Ingrid Gustafson

Ingrid Gustafson is an Instructional Technology Specialist with Cambridge Public School District in Massachusetts. Ingrid also co-organizes and facilitates Boston ScratchEd Meetups.

In celebration of #TeacherLearning this #CSEdWeek, ScratchEd shared a letter from a teacher to the #CSEdWeek educator community each day, on the theme of “Creative Computing: What? Why? How?”
You can still join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, using #TeacherLearning!

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