PS 65 Aces Innovative Learning with Tynker
Posted in Coding in the Classroom, College and Career Readiness, Featured School, Ideas and Tips, School, Teacher Feature
PS 65 Aces Innovative Learning with Tynker
PS 65, The Academy of Innovative Learning, just celebrated its 10th year of being open to students. Located near the historic St. George district (known for its famous Victorian style mansions with winding, tree-lined roads that overlook the NYC skyline and harbor), the school is just a 20-minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry. This guest post was written by Victoria Patanio Stuto, Technology/STEAM Teacher for PS 65. You can follow PS 65 on Twitter @ps65si.
We believe it’s necessary to not only show our students how to utilize technology the safe and proper way, but also allow them to explore and understand how technology works. Coding encompasses all academic subjects, but what really attracted us were the conditional statements and logic. While completing lessons, the students are challenged and are required to think – they problem solve and specifically understand the concept of cause and effect, if-then statements, etc. This naturally leads to higher order thinking. They are learning real-world skills from the earliest grade of kindergarten. They are then transferring these concepts into their daily life and back in their classrooms when they are faced with a challenge or problem. One of the main things that coding teaches is that it is OKAY to fail, and it encourages you to revisit the problem and modify the algorithm. My classroom philosophy is to 1-IDENTIFY your goal. 2- DEVELOP an algorithm to achieve your goal. 3- TEST out your algorithm. 4-MODIFY your algorithm if you come across any obstacles. 5- REVIST your goal and REPEAT until achieved. The applies to every subject and every task that is required of the students in and out of school. Coding fits this philosophy perfectly.
The PS 65 Difference
Our district Field Support Team, SIBFSC, has been such a huge help in jumpstarting technology programs which have led to STEM and STEAM programs as a result. They offer endless PDs to really educate the schools on all aspects of STEAM and how it is incorporated, and I truly think that’s what made our district really successful with these programs. I know for our school especially, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today without them and their support. It’s hard to take on a STEAM/coding program at first because many don’t think they have all the qualifications. I know I was unsure at first. I had the Technology, Art, and Math components, but I wasn’t confident enough in my knowledge of Science and Engineering to go full force into it. It wasn’t until I took the plunge that I realized that everything I have been teaching already includes the S and E, it just wasn’t written out. I think people are afraid of technology, afraid of change, and many think it’s just adding more onto their already full plates, and I totally get it! The truth is, it may seem like a lot at first, but the use of technology saves so much time in the end and is one of the most useful tools as a teacher. Especially when it comes to coding – as I stated earlier, it encompasses almost every concept from every subject area.
“There is just so much room for creativity in the coding world that it brings out the best in every student…”
We believe that every student is a child of promise and that every student has the ability to learn. We do not believe there is one way to teach children, and I would think most schools feel this way as well. Our students need to be exposed to the ever-changing world we live in, and they need the experience to be successful. It is crucial for all people, adults included, to know the safe and proper way to use technology so they can be prepared for future success. According to ISTE’s website, 65% of children entering grade school will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet. It is our responsibility to prepare our students the best we can so that they have the foundation and tools they need to succeed. Along with the simple fact that these skills being learned via coding aren’t only beneficial in the CS Field, but in every situation in life.
How does Tynker fit in?
Tynker has truly been an incredible program and resource. For someone who has a background in the arts – primarily right brain – Tynker has allowed me to weave the left and right sides of my brain seamlessly. Every lesson has concrete Learning Objectives AKA Learning Intentions AKA Goals. It gives students little hints of information, but allows the exploration and thinking to happen on its own. It has an educator guide as well, with a ton of information, but I tend to let the students go at it on their own, and then we tackle some of the obstacles as a team. However, what I noticed most throughout this past year is that many of my students figure it out before I have to work with them. I then encourage those students to share their strategies and findings. It’s been quite magical if you ask me. My students have taught me more about coding than I have taught them, and I thank Tynker for that. We learned together, and this gave all of them the confidence they didn’t know they had in addition to the skills that they will continue to hone. In a world full of tutorials, we are able to incorporate our art into informative tutorials via coding. There is just so much room for creativity (right brain) in the coding world (left brain), that it brings out the best in every student while still giving enough challenge to develop higher order thinking.
I am currently the only teacher in my school using Tynker, but I do service the whole school, so I am able to expose all my students to coding. Once we get more devices and our teachers a little more comfortable with the idea of technology integration, we will incorporate coding lessons that link with their academic units. As far as students go, they have never been more excited to come to my class. I know the idea of using technology is a no-brainer when it comes kids – most kids – but the fact that they are so excited to continue to challenge themselves and share their knowledge with each other is the magical part. I am excited to see how they advance this year.