Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to present on the work I have been doing with implementing Computer Science and Coding principles in elementary buildings. The STEMtech Conference is sponsored by the League for Innovation, and one of the main goals of the conference is for “community college and university partners to create a shared, outcomes-based framework by which students transfer seamlessly and receive supports at both institutions to ensure persistence.” While the focus of this conference was a bit outside the realm in which I teach, it was useful and fulfilling to hear about the needs and challenges higher education face. Additionally, it is always good to network with others and forge connections with educators in all aspects of formal education.
While our session was not as highly attended as we had hoped, my colleague – Sarah Stevens – and I felt proud of the work we shared. The attendees who were there reinforced the importance of teaching Computer Science and Coding skills to younger learners. One of the comments from an audience member was that our economy is saturated with engineers because we continue to teach that process over and over again. And, he went on to say, while that career path is an important one, there are other areas of STEM career-fields that require different skills. Another attendee who teachers Computer Science at a community college mentioned that many students come to him without the background knowledge or mindset to learn how to program.
Our experience in presenting at various conferences throughout the country has reinforced the idea that teachers – at all levels – find computer science a valuable and useful task. This is uplifting as only a couple of years ago, there was a lot of debate as to the value of it at all. This second year into our implementation of an after-school coding club we are learning better ways to present the information to students, how to better support them, and our students are learning valuable tasks and having fun doing it!