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Join Tynker at Pathfinders Winter Institute!
“Teachers are some of the most inspiring people to be around. ” -Kate Maloney, Executive Director, Infosys Foundation USA
Imagine an environment where a teacher, for the first time, gets to make a robot dance. Or where teachers feel confident that they can teach their students how to code a micro:bit and make a maze game. This and much more is what happens at the Pathfinders Institute, a program sponsored by Infosys Foundation USA. The goal of the Foundation is to make Computer Science and Maker education accessible to students all across the U.S. The Pathfinders program helps achieve this by giving teachers an immersive experience in Making and Computer Science curriculum.
We’re excited to share that in 2020, the Foundation is hosting the Pathfinders Winter Institute, from February 16-20 in Providence, Rhode Island! We had the opportunity to speak with Kate Maloney, Executive Director of Infosys Foundation USA, and Smita Kolhatkar, a CS teacher and Tynker PD facilitator at Pathfinders, to learn more about why this program is so valuable for teachers. Read on to learn more about how you can apply to participate in this life-changing experience and learn how to teach coding with Tynker!
What is the Pathfinders Institute?
Started in 2018, the Pathfinders Institute is a program where teachers from around the U.S. gather to learn more about bringing Computer Science and Making to their schools. The program gives teachers an immersive learning experience as they participate as students in sessions led by professional development (PD) providers.
The sessions vary—in the summer of 2019, participating PD providers included programs like Everyday Computing, which helps elementary teachers integrate computer science into their mathematics instruction, and Tynker, which helps teachers of all levels bring coding into any subject. Whichever PD teachers choose, they’re sure to learn exciting new lesson plans and curriculum to bring to their students.
After participating in the Tynker track at the 2019 Summer Pathfinders, several teachers commented on the learning environment during the sessions: “The facilitators let me know there was no shame in pulling back or even challenging myself and moving ahead,” one teacher mentioned. “I loved the workshop time because we could work on what we wanted to learn more about. Being given that choice was a powerful and intentional way for us to take ownership over our own learning.”
What Happens at Pathfinders?
“There is something very special that happens at Pathfinders,” Kate Maloney, Executive Director of Infosys Foundation USA, told us. “It’s watching a spark of confidence happen among teachers. It’s a secure environment that allows a teacher to experiment and push their limits.” We asked Kate what she’s heard from teachers about their experience, and those responses all carry the theme of empowerment: “Some of the teachers said, ‘I never thought I could do this,’ and by the end of the week they are making a robot pick up a can of soda and drink it. It’s an amazing transformation that happens. I’m seeing that, yes, they’re learning the technical pieces that they’ll bring back to the kids, but what’s more is their own personal discovery–that burst of confidence to bring something new and fresh to their students.”
Smita Kolhatkar is the Director of Technology and Innovation at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School. Fun fact – She was also the teacher in whose classroom Tynker was first beta-tested in 2012! When it came time to find expert teachers to help create and teach the Tynker PD curriculum for the Pathfinders Summer Institute, Smita was an obvious choice. She wrote curricula for three modules–text coding, unplugged activities, and how to promote equity in Computer Science education.
Smita told us about some of the great things that happen at Pathfinders–from making binary necklaces to using knitting as a way to teach computational thinking, foster fine motor skills, and build students’ concentration. Teachers also had meaningful discussions about the need for equity in Computer Science and Making education. Smita says that one of the biggest value propositions of Pathfinders is the confidence that teachers go home with: “That growing of confidence, the ‘Yes, I can do this when I go back to my classroom,’ that to me was the biggest reward, that everyone in the Tynker PD class was taking something back.” According to Smita, several factors contribute to this confidence that teachers develop, including the quality of the content and the continuing support after Pathfinders, such as the Facebook group where teachers can ask questions.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for teachers to learn and meet other teachers from all over the country,” Smita noted. “Even if they feel they know nothing about computer science, Tynker’s an easy and fun way to get started.”
Tynker will be attending the Pathfinders Winter Institute in 2020 as a PD provider. When you apply to be a Pathfinders participant, be sure to indicate your interest in Tynker’s Master Educator PD!
Who is Pathfinders For?
Attendees of the Pathfinders program reflect the Foundation’s commitment to promoting inclusion in computer science education, as Kate explains: “We are pushing for equity in the computer science space, so we’re really trying to make sure we have a diverse teacher population when we’re offering professional development.” Using a framework of criteria, the Foundation selects teachers who, if accepted into the program, would likely make a significant impact in their school or district. Generally, teachers are selected who work with students in underrepresented communities and high-needs schools, are new to computer science or maker education, or who work in districts that are able to send multiple teachers to Pathfinders.
The Foundation funds 70% of the program, and participating teachers need to contribute the remaining costs through options such as district funds or a crowdfunding page on DonorsChoose.org. Learn more about how the program works
Remember to indicate your interest in the Tynker PD session when you apply! We can’t wait to see you at the Pathfinders Winter Institute!
Read about Brittani Gordon, a teacher who attended the Pathfinders Summer Institute in 2019, who plans to use Sphero robots and Tynker micro:bit courses with her 2nd grade students!