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Erin McGrath

Teacher, Foster School

Describe your experience as a computer science fellow.  

My experience as a computer science fellow has been a positive one.  I have really enjoyed participating in the professional development, collaborating with colleagues, and working with my students as we develop the CS curriculum. 

 

How has the professional development enriched your teaching?

I have learned how to use several apps in the professional development sessions.  The professional development has given me new tools to assess my students’ learning.  It has helped me think of new and creative ways to engage students.

 

What new skills or tools have you learned?

I have always had an interest in technology, but had never really had the opportunity to learn about coding.  I’ve learned a lot just by using the Scratch, Jr. app.  I’m learning right alongside my students, which is great because it shows my students that you can continue learning new things even as an adult.  

What does computer science integration “look like” in your classroom?

Computer Science looks fun and engaging in my first grade classroom!  Often people think that children using technology will be isolating and not allow them to socialize.  I have found the opposite to be true when integrating CS in my classroom.  My students work on our iPads in partners and have great conversations when planning their projects.  They help each other to troubleshoot when something isn’t working.  Students often seek out others that are more talented in this area who may be able to help them when they encounter an issue that they cannot solve.  I intervene to help when students are really stuck and unable to move on, but usually my students are able to work it out together.   

 

Describe a favorite CS lesson that you have tried with your students.

My favorite CS lesson is our “Journey on the Mayflower” Scratch, Jr. lesson.  I developed this lesson with Charlotte Bessoud (first grade teacher at Foster and a CS fellow).  In this lesson, the students code two scenes in Scratch, Jr.  The first scene is at the dock in England.  Students code a character to choose a tool from our social emotional learning Toolbox program.  They choose from the patience tool, breathing tool, quiet/safe place tool, and personal space tool.  After choosing a tool, they record their own voice giving a reason for choosing that tool. For example, they might say “I chose the patience tool because it is a long trip across the ocean.”  Finally, they code their character to get on the Mayflower ship.  In the next scene, they create a background using a map of the Mayflower journey from England to America.  They must then code their Mayflower ship to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to America with their character in it.  

 

How have students responded to the new computer science lessons?

My students this year and last year have responded very positively to the CS lessons.  They love being able to show what they have learned in ways that don’t involve just pencil and paper.  Using apps like Scratch, Jr., Stop Motion, and Book Creator to demonstrate knowledge allows students to be creative and be digital producers rather than just digital consumers.