teachers collaborate with fellows during January workshop

Third Time’s the Charm

February 17, 2020
Constellations Fellow

At the end of January, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) computer science (CS) educators revisited the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing (Constellations) on Georgia Tech’s campus for their third professional development (PD) workshop this academic year. The first two occurred during September and November 2019 with the fourth session scheduled for March 2020.

In these workshops, the Constellations Fellows Sababu Chaka Barashango, Terry Foster, and Yolanda Payne and director of educational innovation and leadership, Lien Diaz, lead educators through a series of activities and discussions.  This cognitive and content-focused coaching is accompanied by easily implementable activities that are aligned with the College Board Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CS A) and Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) course frameworks.

Lien Diaz presents activities to attendees.

Past examples of previously presented activities include the Parrot Drone Obstacle Course, which incorporated problem-solving skills and Tynker’s block programming to enable Parrot Drones to complete different spatial challenges. Raspberry Pi kits were also introduced as a physical computing component that combines the Python programming language with hardware and sensors for tangible interactivity.

Some additional activities from the third PD workshop that can easily be implemented in the classroom included:

  • Sharing Secrets — Illustrating how cryptographic techniques enable persons to share information with others and still maintain a high level of privacy.
  • Modulo Clocks — Using customized clocks to solve problems that include the mathematical modulus operator. Code snippet challenges in Java, JavaScript, or Python were also administered, in which one had to use the modulus operator to determine remainders and draw different shapes.
  • Online Question Banks — Sharing online and mobile resources to use for review, formative, or summative assessment.
    • Poll Everywhere – Web and text-based audience response tool to change one-sided presentations into interactive ones.
    • Kahoot! — A web-based tool that engages the audience by turning multiple choice questions into an individual- or a team-based game with the option to download data reports.
    • Quizlet — A web-based tool that makes studying fun via various questioning strategies, flashcards, video and team-dependent games.

Teachers collaborate on solving problems they can implement in their own classrooms.
Teachers collaborate on solving problems they can implement in their own classrooms.

Building Teacher Efficacy

One of Constellations objectives with these workshops is to build computer science teachers’ efficacy through content building and pedagogical improvements. Thus, two of the educators were tasked with spearheading a portion of the PD. Lakiesha Fuller, a math and computer science teacher from Henry W. Grady High School, did an excellent job sharing several College Board resources that she incorporates in her classroom. Some of which are Class Audit, AP Classroom, and AP Teacher Community.

In addition, Marekus Fluellen, a math and computer science teacher from Frederick Douglass High School, did a great job giving an overview of the EarSketch curriculum framework which combines coding and music using JavaScript and Python scripting.

Teachers work together to solve problems

Enhancing the Teacher Community

The workshops themselves allow the teachers in our program to connect with one another, but we want to expand that community online and to teachers currently outside of our program.

To help us learn more about how to build and enhance our growing online teacher community, Melissa Rasberry teleconferenced into the workshop to facilitate a discussion on best practices for growing a virtual teacher community.

Examples included taking advantage of virtual online tools that meet the organization’s needs, contributing, questioning, and responding regularly, instead of just spectating, and following hashtags of interest-based content.

Rasberry is a senior educational consultant for the American Institute for Research and principal investigator for CS for All Teachers and it was wonderful to hear encouragement and her expertise in this area as we push forward.

We officially have three PD’s down, one more to go. Stay tuned for how we end the year with a bang!