Transitioning from a Latin teacher to a computer science teacher was not always easy. I worried often that my computer literacy would not be up to par or the technology would fail during class. During my very first experience teaching computer science, the tech tools, in fact, did fail and I had to figure out a way to teach my students. Fortunately, the class turned out to be successful, but that wasn’t the first time technology hiccups had occurred.
As a Latin teacher at The Williamsburg Charter High School (WCHS), I had designed my course using the textbook version of the Cambridge Latin Course. I expected my students to use the textbook as a resource and turn in their assignments on paper. The classroom only had a Promethean Board, on which I broadcasted my PowerPoint slides. After my third year, I started using the more interactive functionalities of the Promethean Board, such as writing with the Promethean pens. The board was unreliable so I had to troubleshoot often, especially when it came to recalibrating the board with the pen. Even worse, I sometimes forgot how to use a certain function. Luckily, my school has been using Promethean Boards for years and my students knew what to do to help.
As a Latin teacher, I also struggled to assess students through digital artifacts, since I was used to pen/paper assessment methods. I soon discovered that some of the tools I used while taking NYCDA’s Website Development 100 and Front-End Website Development courses were very helpful in overcoming this challenge. We turned in assignments on a learning management system known as Canvas. I also tried out other useful tools, such as GitHub, cloud9, JSBin, and PopCode. Students wrote code on these interactive development environments (IDEs) and turned their assignments in so that I could assess them. [NOTE: Teachers must have a knowledge of GitHub to use JSBin and PopCode so I suggest going through GitHub’s tutorials first.] I also began asking students to use flash drives for their files, which could then be collected at the end of each class.
Some of you may still be feeling fearful about plunging into teaching computer science, but it does get easier to teach the more you do it. Transitioning from a Latin teacher into a computer science teacher was and still is a learning curve, but I learned how to teach successfully through resilience and perseverance. As I transition into a Code.org teacher who teaches APCSP, I’m hoping I can use some of these experiences to make it a successful experience for both me and my students.