Embracing the Unknown: From Nervous Novice to Coding Educator


Embracing the Unknown: From Nervous Novice to Coding Educator

“Nervous. Excited. Hopeful. Overwhelmed.” These are the words Michele Yocum, a veteran K-4 STEM specialist at Black River Elementary School in Sullivan, Ohio, used to describe her feelings as she embarked on her journey into the world of coding and robotics with the Ohio STEM Learning Network.

Despite her apprehensions, Michele embraced the challenge to bring the world of computer science to her rural district. She speaks to the power of stepping out of your comfort zone.

You too can embark on this transformative journey. The Ohio STEM Learning Network is accepting applications for a range of courses, including Computer Science Discoveries, Computer Science Principles, and Computer Science A. Elementary teachers can also apply for the Computer Science K-5 Program. Applications will be accepted through May 21, 2024, as space allows.

Read on to discover Michele’s journey from a technology-frustrated teacher to a confident advocate for coding and robotics in the classroom:

Nervous. Excited. Hopeful. Overwhelmed.

These were just a few of the emotions I was feeling as I began my week-long training as a Code.org cohort member and a Computer Science teacher.

I’m a veteran teacher and this was going to be my third year as a STEM specialist K-4. I knew I really wanted my students to experience the world of coding and robotics. I had minimal experience last year using Scratch to introduce coding to my 3rd & 4th graders. The only robotics I had for the classroom were leftovers from Camp Invention but nothing close to a classroom set or robotics that could be coded.

The nervous feeling I had headed into the training along with the overwhelming sensation by the agenda ahead quickly depleted when I met the warm facilitators. Right out of the gate, they reassured everyone that they too were classroom teachers themselves and that they would be sharing what they had learned in their own journey both the successes & failures. I was hopeful that this sometimes technology-frustrated teacher would gain the confidence & skills to open the door of Computer Science to our rural district.

I became very hopeful when I realized I didn’t have to have all the answers, I had to be willing to come out of my comfort zone and try. The PD was slow paced in that the facilitators would adjust their agenda to give more opportunities for the class to have a hands-on moment(s) and/or converse with others in our group. Daily we had the opportunity to put on our “student hat” and relate to what an elementary student would experience. It was helpful to collaborate with colleagues in our groups as well. They each were able to share their personal experience in how they have incorporated Code.org in their classrooms and the robotics they currently use.

The excitement continued as we had time to experience Code.org and discover the enormous amount of teacher friendly options at our fingertips. I did not realize that Code.org is cross curricular. We had the time to bounce back & forth between the teacher and the student page. We cruised through different grade levels noticing that the options allow for many different ways to differentiate to meet the needs of students.

There were many perks to our week of PD: delicious meals, break time, yummy snacks, prizes from our facilitators, & more. Our leaders created a “padlet” that allowed a designated area where we were able to access websites, ideas we shared, lesson plans, etc. A one stop shop so to speak. We also learned of the options available through the OSLN Grant opportunities and how to access the application, tips, & due date. Another perk was we tried multiple robotics throughout the week and had the time to create games/lessons that would connect with multiple grade levels. We were introduced to different literature and how it connects to coding. There were many great options and suggestions of books to purchase to increase my library.

I truly have to share that this was by far the best professional development that I have ever attended. I say that because even though our facilitators do not know, they gave a veteran teacher the confidence to “try coding and robotics” with my classes with the reassurance it’s okay to mess up, the students won’t know and the mistake will provide a way for everyone to problem solve together.

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