Design Think with Computer Science Week

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As you probably already know, code.org puts on the Hour of Code week each December in hopes of students and teachers spending a bit a time during the week coding. While students and teachers at my school have participated to some degree for the past couple of years, it was not until the 19-20 school year where we truly highlighted Computer Science week – with big thanks to Stefan Fritz and his Computer Science students. Very proud with what they were able to put together. Below will highlight what was accomplished and the journey that it took to get to where we are.

Coming Up with the Idea

Back in May 2019, I attended a Forward: Massachusetts event at Google Cambridge. Google invited Leslie McBeth and Diane Rutherford, from Future Design Schools, to help school leaders and educators dive deep into ideas/concepts that they would like to see changed back at their own school buildings. Leslie and Diane walked us through their Design Thinking process. I absolutely loved the process. It was challenging, exciting, stressful, insightful and fun. What I appreciated about the process was the ability to come up with ideas and think things through. My take away? Empathy! In order to make positive change, you must fully empathize with those involved.

The idea that I worked on throughout the day was “How might we obtain support for Computer Science/Tech in public schools?” In other words, how does my high school expose pockets of Computer Science to all students – outside of taking a CS course. In past years, I would share out an email of resources and ideas that teachers could do with their students, typically around Hour of Code week. Some teachers implemented shared activities while others did not.

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Interview Results

After we came up with an “How Might We…” statement, we interviewed other attendees to mimic the empathy stage to see how people feel about the topic at hand. You will see what “Suzie” shared in the interview. This was a great exercise that made me realize I have not necessarily done this in the past with other ideas that have already been implemented.

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Crazy 8 Activity

I absolutely loved the crazy 8 activity where we had 30 seconds back to back to sketch out 8 different potential ideas. Talk about a fun and stressful activity! From there, we determined which three of the 8 ideas we liked the best. Next, we were given time to explain those ideas on paper, as detailed as possible, for others who had no previous insight. During the ‘no talking phase’ other attendees in my group voted on each idea via stickers. The idea behind this was to help guide me into which direction I should attempt to implement. Once instructed, we were able to chat about what we saw and liked about each others “How might we…” statements.

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Gallery Showcase

At the end of the day, all attendees presented their “How might we…” statements to the larger group. Lots of interesting ideas were shared. It was a fun filled day for sure. (As a side note, absolutely loved the food that was provided throughout the day at Google Cambridge).

What was the idea that came from the day? Instead sharing out an email of activities to teachers each year in December to implement with their students in their classes, have Computer Science students lead CS activities in core classes to expose other students to the world of Computer Science. Students can, and should, learn from their peers. This idea also takes away pressure from the non-CS teacher as they don’t need to come up with the activity. Rather, those teachers just need to be willing to devote time away from their curriculum and learn from the students.

Planning Phase

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Logo created by Stefan Fritz

I liked the concept that came about from the day. I connected with Stefan Fritz, the Computer Science teacher, after the event to see if he would be interested in implementing the idea. Wouldn’t you know, the district even gave Fritz the opportunity to work on this concept over the summer, paid of course. Throughout those 3 summer days, as well as during several planning periods throughout the first quarter, we were able to formulate a plan together. All of the activities can be found on the BHS Computer Science website.

Computer Science Week

CS week (Dec 9 – 13, 2019) was broken up into three different elements:

  • Classroom Visits
  • Lunch Block Activities
  • Computer Science Panel

We wanted to make sure we not only were providing opportunities for non-CS students but also for our CS students.

Classroom Visits

AP Computer Science students worked in groups to come up with different hour of code activities that could be showcased in Science, Math, Humanities and Skill Based classes. These students lead a 30 minute activity in the classes. 11 different classes benefited from this experience. Stefan Fritz and the CS students came up with the activities – very creative ideas/activities. I particularly enjoyed how students used Spheros to showcase a conversation between two different characters in a humanities In Writing course as well as students modeling our planet’s in our solar system by rotating around the sun in the Math Modeling course.

Lunch Block Activities

While we knew not every student would be exposed to a CS activity in their classroom during the week, it was decided to have different CS challenges for students to participate in during their lunch blocks. For four days, students could learn how to program Spheros as well as explore around with different challenges with Turing Tumbles. (If you have never heard of Turing Tumbles, you must check them out!) What were the lunch block challenges you ask? Again, Stefan Fritz came up with the activities that students could explore around with.

  • Monday: Trace the Shape with Spheros
  • Tuesday: Dodge and Slam with Spheros
  • Wednesday: Obstacle Course with Spheros
  • Thursday: Paint with Spheros

Computer Science Panel

A panel of four Computer Science experts were brought in to meet with all students who were currently taking a CS course. These four individuals each tackle CS differently in their day to day roles. This different perspective helped our students see that Computer Science is not just about learning how to code. Our visitors were given about 7 minutes time to explain what they do in their roles and what CS looks like for them. Q & A followed immediately – some great conversations came from this! Shortly after, students determined which breakout session they would like to attend. Our speakers were asked to either demo a project they were currently working on in their jobs or have students participate in a CS activity. Our only concern was that students were involved in some sort of hands on activity during the 25 minutes together.

Reflecting

It takes a lot of planning and time to put a week like this on. But…it was worth it. It was really cool to see students who have a passion for Computer Science step up to help inspire and teach their peers. Students can be great teachers. This week has been another reminder of how thankful I am that I work with such great peers who are willing to push themselves to try something new and different as well as students who are willing to rise to a challenge. Be sure to check out the CS website for further details and pictures from the week. I cannot wait to see what is accomplished next year.

And that is my Spiel…

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