• I get bored pretty quickly with things and always want to do the best possible job I can do. I am the type of person that if I hear about some new teaching theory, I immediately want to try it. There is a rigorous vetting process, of course, since I tend to be a skeptic of anything new I read or hear about, but if the idea is sound, I more than likely take the responsible risk. Each year, I try to add at least one new thing to my repertoire. These new things continue to accumulate where sometimes I find myself at a loss for trying something new.

What I Currently Am Up To
  • So far, these are the things that I have implemented and continue to implement in my courses as they relate to curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
    • Curriculum
      • Cutting the fat
        • Fewer topics with deeper focus
        • No standard = not covered
      • Balanced Aspects of Rigor
        • Procedural Skills/Fluency
        • Conceptual Understanding
      • Application/Modeling
    • Instruction
      • Relationship-Focused (most important)
        • Pressure is great, but only if there is care behind it (see Care vs. Press Graph below)
        • Students take more risks, embrace failure/growth, ask more questions when they respect and trust their teacher
Care vs. Press Graph
      • Balanced Rigor Aspects on Assessments
        • Procedural Skill/Fluency
          • Presenting fluency in new ways, but also ordinary ways
        • Conceptual Understanding
      • Application
        • To authentic non-routine problems and real-world situations
      • Evidence-Based Reporting (aka standards-based grading)
        • No points
        • No averaging
        • How a student finishes dictates their grade
        • Simple rubric that students can understand and apply
        • Self-assessment
          • All formative assessments are self-assessed
          • Students understand how EBR works by following the same rubric I would use on their work

What I Changed This Year
  • This year, my new change involved teacher-led in-class discussions in my Computer Science Principles class. The class is taught in a way that is self-paced, guided inquiry through the use of activities, ultimately leading to an open-inquiry project of their choice that is related to each section.
    • For example, the first unit involves creating algorithms (instructions that computers follow). The first section of the unit involves students creating a game using the programming language Scratch. First, the students learn how Scratch works through those guided inquiry activities (usually 4 or 5) before starting their open inquiry of making a video game however they want.
  • Because the class is so individualized and/or small group-focused, I wanted to add something to it that makes the class come together through some commonality. In this case, the class would be coming together around an interesting topic that I think at least a large portion of the class would enjoy. You cannot always win all of the students over obviously. This process led to me seeking the guidance of an instructional coach which I bounced ideas off of to refine the process. On different days, I presented on the following three topics:
  • Eventually, I got the idea that instead of me coming up with these interesting topics, why not have the groups of students co-lead a discussion with me? This eventually then led to me asking students if they even wanted me to co-lead with them or if they wanted to lead the discussion themselves. Only one group wanted me to co-lead with them. Some students suggested I “chime in” when applicable.
  • These discussion topics are completely chosen by the students and refined by themselves and their peers. The instructional coach I worked with introduced me to a protocol she read about in a book that we modified to fit our class.
  • So far, we have had groups discuss Chinese surveillance technologies, DeepFakes, digital sound, self-driving car, and cryptocurrency. While I chimed in from time to time during the discussions, the discussions are all on the students.
  • In order to promote a more discussion-based approach (rather than a presentation), students were required to make any visual aids include fonts that are at least 100. This forces students to focus on keywords rather than reading off of a slideshow. The slides are meant to be conversation starters than a script of what to read.
  • The focus of the discussions is on the AP Big Idea of Global Impact (see description from AP in the graphic below).
    • Global Impact is generally looked at as the "missing piece" of CS curriculum since there is not a focus on it. This project focuses on filling in this gap while also having students learn about something they find interesting.
    • Connecting computing with its social contexts and implications helps to motivate students to learn even more about computers.
From CollegeBoard
  • There was no “accountability factor” for the audience. There were no assessments on whether or not the audience was listening. This is something I struggled with. If a discussion interests a student in the audience, then they will generally listen more intently. If not, that’s okay too. Thus far, the topics have been interesting enough that it seems as though all the students are interested (although I am biased). Post-discussion reflections will determine whether or that is true for each group among other things. The focus is more on the learning rather than engaging in the content for the sake of a grade.
Next Year’s Possible Additions
  • Social Blocks
    • Inspired by how bosses take their employees out for happy hour (or have food catered for them)
    • Early ideas involve once a month social with food involved and a focus on me connecting with students and students connecting with each other
    • Purpose is to generate a positive environment
    • Many teachers think that socializing with students is nice, but not a critical part of our job. Some view it as a waste of the valuable (and not plentiful) time we already do have. I understand why people think this. However, teaching is also about inspiring students to do their best work. Students tend to want to do their best work for teachers they like and trust. One of the best ways to get students to like and trust you is to spend relaxed time with them rather than just giving orders.
    • Professional relationships matter and connecting with students might help them be more honest with teachers about how to help them learn better.

  • CSP Discovery Projects and Creation Projects (inspired by the CTE Showcase at our school this year)
    • The Discovery Project will be an extension of the discussion project that students did this year. Next year, the goal is to promote a stronger student focus on:
      • the media being used and the artifact produced
    • Ideally, I would want students creating videos or other multimedia for students to send to the class for them to watch and then later have a discussion about.
      • students connecting online with industry professionals via Twitter or other means
    • The Creation project is based on the open inquiry project students are already doing, but with a focus of spreading those concepts and learning from others. Next year, the goal is to promote a stronger student focus on
      • the media being used and the artifact produced
      • more interconnections with other students as part of the agile development process
Agile Development Process
Future Growth
  • I am always looking for new ideas so if you happen to have read this entire thing and want to give me some guidance on what I can add, please share your ideas with me. Our students will benefit greatly from it and it will continue to help me grow as a teacher.
  • Always learning, always growing...
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