I was frustrated.
I was angry.
I get it. I work in a Title I school with overcrowded classes where not every teacher is blessed to have their own room, especially new teachers. I was fortunate to have my own room for my first year of teaching. I already tasted what it was like to have my very own space, which is why it was that much harder to give it up. Year two I would roam.
It wasn’t easy to hear the bad news from the principal, especially because it dropped at the beginning of the first week of school. It’s moments like these when you feel unappreciated, devalued, and sometimes you want to quit. The thought of traveling to six different classrooms throughout the day made me feel defeated from the start. Six different rooms. That meant six different seating charts, six different classrooms to set up, six different offices, six different teachers to negotiate with, and the list goes on. As predicted, I had a miserable first week of school, but my despair ended quickly. After that first week, I realized that roaming as a second year teacher would be beneficial to my growth as a professional.
I tried something new this year: integrating coding with algebra. This was quite the challenge. With all the pressure for students to meet state standards, how would I introduce coding without sacrificing valuable algebra content?
I dedicated myself to search for that balance between algebra and coding, ensuring that one wasn’t prioritized over the other. I wanted coding and technology to be tools for enrichment that would help kids to understand algebra. This year was all about trial and error, succeeding and failing, experimenting and hypothesizing. It certainly took courage to try out something new, but taking that extra step toward the unknown was absolutely rewarding.
My students loved coding. I started the year with a “sandbox.” They were free to be creative and build whatever they wished. The creativity got them hooked. Once they built something, they were itching to build more. However, it only took a few days for them to realize that there were limitations. They didn’t understand enough coding to build more complex things, which of course stirred their curiosity. That’s where it all started, with the big essential question, “How can I bring my imagination to life?”
There’s an urban legend in education that says new teachers will begin their careers as “roamers,” or traveling teachers, in overcrowded high schools. I suppose I was an anomaly. I had my own, beautiful classroom for my first year of teaching, but the glory was short lived. I became a “roamer” in my second year. Traveling to five different classrooms — one for each passing period — isn’t exactly thrilling. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to be displaced.
Was I really going to let this little setback ruin my year? Of course not!
Rather than looking at my new situation as a problem, I used this experience as an opportunity to try something brand new; something completely outside the box. I would redefine classroom. I would build a mobile app — a “mobile classroom” to fill the void.
Teaching is an art. And as part of mastering that art, we put in much effort to improve our instruction and meet the needs of our students. Fortunately, with technology we’re now able to explore exciting new possibilities when it comes to enhancing and expanding instruction.
Technology at its best promotes innovation and allows us to add to our already-long library of strategies for differentiation. Technology — used well — allows us to be more creative, adding more colors to our instructional paint palette. Part of the issue, though, is knowing what to use, how to use it, and for what purpose.
Why teach coding?
Simply put, coding can change and impact people’s lives.
The effect technology — as a result of computer code — has on this world is incredible. What used to be thought of as impossible is now made possible. What’s more amazing is that our technological accomplishments always open up new realms of possibilities. Cellphones, for instance, didn’t stop at phone calls — they led to streaming music and eBooks and brain teasing games and the ability to map the night sky.
This suggests that learning technology and its underlying language — coding — is extremely powerful.