By Brian Packham
District Instructional Technology Coach
Meadow Lane Elementary, Anderson Heights Elementary, and Anderson Middle Schools
Cascade Union Elementary School District
As a graduate of the California Maritime Academy with a degree in Nautical Industrial Technology, a minor in computer science, and a 3rd Mates license in the Merchant Marines, I am well aware that the knowledge of technology is a key component of virtually every profession and a necessity for our future. Unfortunately, this was quite a rude awakening for me when I entered the Academy, since I didn’t start learning about computer science until then!
After a few years in the Merchant Marines, I decided to use my acquired knowledge of computer science to go into teaching. I received my teaching credential from CSU Chico and started my teaching career in 1990 teaching computer science. I taught in a Title 1, low-income school, in a lab outfitted with 30 Franklin computers. I taught 6-8 grade students keyboarding, word processing, and programming using Logo. As the years passed, I also went on to teach computer science to adults at Shasta Community College and then future teachers at Simpson University as an adjunct teacher.
Fast forward 25 years, I am currently the Instructional Technology Coach for Cascade Union Elementary School District in Anderson, CA. I have the pleasure of teaching CS to TK-8th grade students and training educators of all backgrounds on multiple programs and the use of new technologies in the classroom. I have found the more I teach, the more I need to know. I am continually adding to my repertoire of CS by gaining degrees and certifications. I started in the 90’s with a certification as an Apple Educator and have recently completed the Deep Dive Training in Code.org CS Fundamentals - my learning never stops!
As a Computer Science Fundamentals Facilitator for Code.org, I have used the free Code.org curriculum very successfully with all of my students TK-8 in a district of over 1,000+. I have seen an increase in the students' ability to think logically and to persevere. When working through a program that they are struggling with in the Code.org curriculum, they now have the skills and rigor to persist in the task and try different approaches to solving the problem. I have been able to train new and seasoned North State teachers how to implement the Code.org curriculum and other technology in their classrooms.
Teachers have expressed to me that their students are more successful in other areas of their education due to learning CS fundamentals. Recently, a teacher assigned a writing project, when one of the students finished, the teacher looked at the writing assignment and noticed that there were errors in the paragraph. After telling the student that there were errors, the student responded, “So, I need to debug the paragraph?” That student made a great observation of how the coding that they are working on in CS correlates with their other subjects.
We are now seeing how teaching Coding has helped students achieve greater success on our state testing as well. Our students have become more proficient in their ability to type and respond. Students are tending to write much more on the free response questions and with more succinct paragraphing. Students are able to read and understand instructions better and finish more tasks while taking the tests. This is due to the fact that during their Code.org lessons they need to read the directions in order to complete each task in order in a course.
Code.org has helped students become better learners and put the fun and computer science back in education. I am very pleased that CS is finding a place once again in most school districts. And, I feel very privileged to be part of the necessary and continuous training through Code.org.