Laura Hanna Learns and Solves Problems Alongside Her Students
We’re excited to introduce Laura Hanna, a computer lab teacher and robotics coach at Cordova Elementary Optional School in Cordova, Tennessee. She’s been teaching for 18 years in both middle school and elementary settings, and is a certified library media specialist and a National Board Certified Teacher in Early/Middle Childhood Literacy. Her outlook on education and coding is truly inspiring, and we are thrilled to feature her as an outstanding recipient of a grant for teachers in low-income or Title I schools, offered in partnership with Infosys Foundation USA.
Why Laura Applied For the Grant
Laura applied for the Infosys grant because she thought it’d be a “perfect opportunity to select a fourth grade class – students who have had experience with Tynker, but still have one more year at my school – and see them one extra hour per week, devoted specifically to coding with Tynker.”
The extra enrichment went very well! Laura recounted that she was able to watch her students grow in their abilities, from gaining a beginner understanding of coding concepts to “expanding their willingness to take on challenges and think computationally.” As the year went on, she saw an increase in her students’ confidence in their own problem solving abilities – and she found herself being asked for help less and less!
Laura’s Approach to Teaching (and Learning!) Code
Laura’s determination and understanding of the importance of coding led her to teach and learn simultaneously. She is fairly new to coding herself but has been teaching coding concepts in her elementary school’s computer lab for six years. Laura said, “I’ve stayed after school and used up precious planning time making my own games in Tynker – to teach myself more and go more in depth to better help my students, yes, but I’m not going to lie – it’s also wish fulfillment.”
We admire Laura’s teaching philosophy: she never assigns projects she hasn’t done herself. She completes the lessons and projects before teaching, so she has the ability to understand and help resolve any difficulties her students encounter while coding. Her approach allows her students to “choose their own pace and path through Tynker, collaborating with classmates when needed. “
When asked to give advice to other educators, Laura brought up an important point: “It’s not easy, because you aren’t only teaching coding concepts; you’re tasking children with creative thinking and solving problems that can have multiple answers.” To solve to that, she suggests teachers “accept a level of organized chaos” and recognize students may have to adapt to that type of thinking.
Why Laura Believes Problem Solving is Key
When asked why it’s important to teach computer science, Laura stated, “All jobs at some point require some use of technology, and I’ve never had a job that didn’t require the confidence to figure out a solution to a problem on the fly.” For Laura, developing problem-solving skills is a huge benefit of coding because “students have to think, make guesses, fail, and try again, and they find tangible results at the end of their productive struggle.”
Laura believes in teaching by asking questions and modeling thought processes, but she admits that she sometimes runs into roadblocks. “We relied on trial and error together,” she told us, “and if that didn’t work, I consulted the answer key with the student(s) and we shared that moment where we were like, ‘Ohhhh! OK, that makes sense.’” After working one-on-one to solve problems, she’d later see “those same students guiding others through the problem we’d struggled with.”
She went on to say, “I think [problem solving] is the biggest benefit of teaching computer and coding concepts to children. Students have to take a look at the options in front of them, use some trial and error, and come up with a solution to a problem.” We admire the way Laura is passionately preparing her students prepare for the future, reflecting her belief that problem solving is key to success in any career.
Why Tynker Makes the Difference
During the three years she’s been teaching with Tynker, Laura has seen her students become confident in their coding abilities and truly benefit from it. She acknowledges that coding isn’t easy for elementary school students, but she’s noticed that they “really enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make their ideas come to life” in Tynker, and that “a little help and encouragement can sort out the frustration and lead to results or creative adjustments.”
Laura beautifully summed up her experience learning and teaching code with, “Don’t be afraid to teach it just because you don’t have a background in computer science – anyone can learn with a visual programming language like Tynker.” Thank you for being such an active and enthusiastic proponent of coding in the classroom, Laura! We hope you keep teaching code – and learning more about programming along the way!