Teaching Remotely with Tynker: Avi Gvili

Last Updated: April 17, 2020 5:25 pm
Teaching Remotely with Tynker: Avi Gvili

Teaching Remotely with Tynker: Avi Gvili

Avi Gvili teaches Python and JavaScript to his middle school students at the Elias Bernstein School in Staten Island, NY, where he’s found that his background as an author has heavily informed his approach to teaching them coding skills. “Computer science is about language, about text, the relationship between the reader and text,” Avi tells us. “You need to start working with the code and working with the language. Show students the relationship between reading Python and reading English. It’s very readable, once you get over the fear of the syntax.” 

 IS 7 Elias Bernstein School
Staten Island, NY

Avi has been making full use of his Tynker grant license as his school transitions to distance learning, and his students have completed thousands of lessons in just a few weeks! We spoke with Avi to get his advice for teachers starting to explore effective ways of engaging with students in a virtual classroom environment.

TIP #1: Take the time to learn the platform first before sharing it with your students

The first tip that Avi had for teachers new to remote teaching detailed the underlying technology: “I think teachers need to take the time to learn the platform first. [It’s important] that the teacher not be afraid of it, so they can be reflective themselves and realize that if they had difficulty their kids might have difficulty as well.” This is especially important during the transition to remote learning, as new technology and new platforms are becoming an intrinsic part of day-to-day learning activities. “I’ve made this mistake before,” Avi admits, “where you tell students ‘everybody use this’ but if you haven’t used the platform then you can’t predict difficult situations. If students meet too much difficulty it alienates them and that turns them off. Be very friendly, be flexible.” [Editor: Tynker offers many free web-based professional development options, both live and on-demand.]

TIP #2: Have a system for managing communication

Avi’s second tip had to do with supporting easy communication. Beyond regular calls with parents, which he recommends, he’s also had to manage asynchronous communication with his students so they can reach out for assistance when necessary. “Google Classroom is a good complement to Tynker,” Avi told us, when asked what tools he’s found most helpful with communication, noting that it’s recommended by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDoE). “It offers various ways to give feedback with comments that come directly to your Gmail. There’s a communication component that’s very useful and I can monitor it and see what is or what is not working.” 

TIP #3: Don’t assume young people are tech-savvy

Avi’s last piece of advice was not to overestimate student comfort levels with technology. “It’s a misconception that all young people are tech-savvy. Sure, they understand social media but new platforms and computer language can create a lot of anxiety. Once you get around the learning curve, it’s pretty logical and delightful. You have to make sure they become self-learners.” Knowing when the lessons are being understood is more important than ever now that kids are forced to learn remotely. Avi spoke at length about self-learning, which he says is critical to kids being able to complete their studies outside of school by discovering how to find some answers themselves. “If they realize they can Google a video on how to do something, that’s a resource for the kids,” Avi says. “That’s how to learn in the 21st century. Even using Google and YouTube is being a self-learner. A teacher isn’t the person who gives the answers anymore because often the answers are all around us. The teacher teaches them how to learn, how to think.”

Right now, Avi tells us his students are doing about one Tynker course per week. We found this impressive, but Avi told us, “I’m strict in terms of what I expect for them because they’re home, they’ve got a lot of time. You can do this, let’s not waste time driving our parents crazy. Parents are grateful because so many of them are having difficulties. I do predict it’s going to be progressively more challenging, but my students are going to become more confident in themselves. They won’t be stuck, they have a resource in me.”

 Enjoyed this blog? Get more great tips from fellow educators in our Remote Teaching with Tynker blog series.
Have a great tip you’d like to share? Write to us, we’d love to share your story with the 300,000 teachers in Tynker’s global community.

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Tynker enables children to learn computer programming in a fun and imaginative way. More than 60 million kids worldwide have started learning to code using Tynker.