Posted: Mon, 10/01/2018 - 12:51
Each month, we highlight a member of the CS for All Teachers community.
Name: Bobby Oommen
Occupation: Middle School Computer Science Teacher
Workplace: Latin School of Chicago
Years in education: 13.5
Years teaching computer science: 3
TEACHING COMPUTER SCIENCE (CS)
What interests you about CS?
What interests me about computer science is how interwoven it is with our lives today. As global citizens, we are experiencing a technology and information revolution that is moving forward at a staggering speed. As a result, it is critical for us to know basic computer science so we better understand the world around us.
How did you start teaching CS? Do you have a background in CS?
I graduated with an information systems major and began working as a consultant for Accenture, a large consulting company. I've been teaching for over 13 years. I began teaching CS only three years ago when my current school started a middle school computer science curriculum.
How have your CS students inspired you? What is your favorite CS project you have completed with them?
My students inspire me almost every time I am in class with them. Most often, I am inspired by their creativity. Sometimes their creativity is demonstrated in their solution to a problem we are working on in class. Other times, I see their creativity when they are working on a programming project. I wouldn't say I have a favorite CS project, but over the years I have really enjoyed how different students excelled at different projects. When a student finds something within a particular project that catches their interest, I have been amazed by how they ran with their idea to create something special. My favorite memories have also been when a student begins the class semester saying, "I'm not good at CS" or "CS isn't my thing" and over the school year, experiences success in a project, feeling proud of themselves.
How do you recruit students into your CS classes?
In my middle school, I don't have to recruit students into CS classes. All 5th and 8th graders have a mandatory CS class, while 5th-8th graders also experience CS through cross-curricular projects.
CS EDUCATION COMMUNITY
How do you get other teachers, administrators, and community members excited about computer science?
Teachers get excited about CS when I am able to show them a direct connection between CS and their curriculum, and how that connection can deepen the students' understanding of a topic. After hearing about the connection point, they then get excited when I come to the table with some ideas of how to flesh out that connection, ultimately giving them the choice of how to collaborate together. Administrators and community members get excited about CS when they see finished student work that highlights student creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
What excites you most about the current state of computer science education in the US?
What excites me most about the current state of computer science is that it is a relatively new subject in many schools across the country, which results in a lot of benefits for teachers and students. First, over 90% of parents want their child to learn CS (Pioneering Results in the Blueprint of U.S. K-12 Computer Science Education). In light of that kind of parent support, schools and teachers can focus on the best implementation of CS programs. Second, there are tremendous resources available to teachers who want to teach CS. Teachers don’t have to spend time writing their own curriculum when organizations like Code.org, Bootstrap, Exploring Computer Science, and many others have written and tested high quality curriculum for K-12 schools. Along with these curricula are a variety of manipulatives, robots, toys, apps, etc. that teachers can incorporate into their classroom. A third item to be excited about is the amount of free or relatively inexpensive professional development that is available for teachers who may be new to teaching CS. Teachers who have no CS experience have an opportunity to receive PD from organizations like the ones mentioned above, online courses, and even from local CS teachers. Plus, we can't forget CS for All Teachers and their monthly webinars! The last thing I’ll mention is that with the current state of teaching CS, people are just as interested in how to teach CS as they are what to teach. The focus on strong pedagogy ultimately will lead to student learning and also leave us energized as educators.
What do you enjoy most about participating in CS for All Teachers?
I am relatively new to the community, but I love having a place where people are willing to share resources, tools, tips, advice, and support so that we can all become better teachers.
Besides the CS for All Teachers community of practice, what is your favorite CS tool or resource?
My favorite CS resources are from the folks at Code.org. The professional development, tools, and curriculum are awesome.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to potential CS educators?
Two pieces of advice: First, find your local Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) chapter and get involved. It is so helpful to have a group of folks outside of your school building with whom you can share and learn. Second, be willing to take risks! Perhaps risk taking for you is enrolling in an online course or asking a subject area teacher to collaborate on a project. Whatever the risks are, identify them, and go after them! I have stretched and grown so much as a CS educator because of the risks I have taken.
TELL US MORE!
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
My proudest professional accomplishment was receiving the CSTA/Infosys Foundation USA Award for Teaching Excellence.
Write a poem or haiku describing what teaching CS is like.
Learning something new
Inviting students to grow
Love teaching CS
What do you do to recharge after a long day (or week, month, year, etc.) of teaching?
To recharge after a long day, I will either workout, watch sports, read, or listen to 80’s hair bands ;-)