Laura Smith’s Mission to Ignite Learning
“[Tynker] meets [students] where they are and gives them something they can be proud of accomplishing!” – Laura Smith
| Trinity Lutheran Christian School
“Agent Laura Smith,” as her website and Twitter handle are both called, is ‘challenging the matrix of traditional, boring education’ (as her Twitter bio declares) through technology! As the technology specialist at Trinity Lutheran School in Joppa, Maryland, Laura is a Jane-of-all-trades: In addition to teaching all of the K-8 computer classes, Laura is the first line of teacher tech support, manages audiovisual tools for events, and so much more! That’s one reason Laura appreciates Tynker: “It’s really nice to have a program where I can tell the kids, ‘Ok, just log in, click on this.’ My time can be spent circulating in my classroom and helping students solve the programming challenges.” Read on to learn more about this fantastic Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator!
Laura’s discovered that Tynker helps students who may struggle academically to get excited about learning: “We have some students with IEPs or other various special needs. I find that they actually enjoy it more because it’s something that they can get their hands on. It meets them where they are and gives them something they can be successful at and feel confident and proud of themselves for accomplishing.” Laura told us about a particular instance to illustrate this very point: She has a student who struggles with emotional issues and doesn’t like to do typical classwork. Laura recalls: “But when I introduced Tynker to [the students]…he was just so excited to get in there and start. I love to see him so motivated and excited about learning.”
Coding facilitates unique opportunities for collaboration among students across grade levels. At Trinity, there’s a buddy system where students of different grade levels pair up to do work. Laura’s group is the sixth and second graders. While working on a Tynker assignment, students took turns and the second graders helped the sixth graders solve coding problems. As Laura says, this kind of collaboration is “a cool way to see kids connect on a different level.”
Laura originally decided to teach coding to her students because she knew it would help them develop key cognitive skills. And when her students showed interest in learning to code, that provided a further impetus to include coding in the computer class curriculum, as Laura explains: “[Coding] develops critical thinking and process-oriented thinking. They have to think ahead of time what they want to do. And then they have to take a step back and figure out the skills to get there…Students are seeing coding apps out there. They want to learn how to make the games that they enjoy playing. Programming applications like Tynker are great for them to get an introduction to it.”
We’re so excited to have Laura as part of our Tynker Blue Ribbon Education community, and we’re sure that her example of using technology to get students excited about learning will continue to benefit students and educators at Trinity!
Read our previous post about Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator Sean Arnold, whose innovative approaches like robotics and virtual reality to support special needs students!