Teaching Remotely with Tynker: Jasmine Thomas
Before Jasmine Thomas began teaching, she studied engineering and had a career in the tech industry. So, when looking for the right coding platform to engage her students, she was understandably pretty particular. “What’s thrilled me about Tynker so much is that there’s so much there we’re still busy learning,” Jasmine tells us. “Our students are tech-savvy, they get the world of coding and blocks. It’s second nature. This means that we can get through content very quickly but, to my delight, we have not hit the end of Tynker! The volume of content that’s here is a sheer thrill for a teacher like me.”
At BASIS Independent Fremont, Jasmine teaches computer science to students as old as ten and as young as four. “I appreciate that there’s content that 4-year-olds can get,” she told us. “The Tynker Junior app has been a life-saver for me, teaching 4-to-7-year-olds. Tynker has thought it through, they don’t have to deal with the challenges of navigating a mouse or touchpad. There’s a touchscreen interface, drag and drop, it’s very intuitive. They take to it very well. Kudos to Tynker for thinking out the natural psychology of how kids that young learn. You give them a lot of wins first, the design is just pure genius.”
We asked Jasmine for some ideas to help teachers looking to better connect with students in a remote learning environment and we’re excited to share some of her tips!
Tip #1: Game the System
During our talk, we were pretty impressed with one idea in particular that Jasmine’s school has implemented. Using Tynker lessons and certificates,
BASIS Independent Fremont has set up coding competitions between each grade to encourage students to collaborate and work to excel. “I’ve been able to use this in a huge way,” Jasmine told us. “We’ve created a leaderboard with all the grades competing against each other. Tynker gives me feedback and I can see the certificates earned per grade. We’ve turned each grade into its own team. They chat and ping each other, and work together.”
Jasmine referred to this as “gaming the system” in our conversation. Tynker already emphasizes the fun in learning to code, but by turning the completion of Tynker lessons into a fun competition between different classes and grades, Jasmine has found a unique way to game-ify Tynker even more. It’s kept the kids in contact with one another and has helped make what could be a very isolating experience into a more communal one. “I monitor to make sure the competitive spirit doesn’t go too far,” Jasmine noted with a smile. “But the students are taking care of each other and learning from each other.”
Tip #2: Identify Leaders
Because of the inherent challenges of teaching in a remote environment, one thing that Jasmine has found particularly beneficial is identifying the natural leaders in her classroom, “Teachers are good at that,” Jasmine explained. “Tapping into natural leaders in their pack who rise to the occasion. Teachers can partner with them and leverage what they know. We can work through it together because we’re all here to learn together,” Jasmine told us.
Trusting the natural leaders in her class also made implementing the competitive leaderboard system that much easier as it incentivizes them to reach out to their fellow students and help them with things they’re not understanding. “It’s created a welcome exchange between the students,” Jasmine said. “It’s led to much better dialogue.”
This is an intimidating moment in time for all of us, but ultimately Jasmine pointed out the resilience of children, and how in some ways they may be naturally better equipped to deal with this situation than us grown-ups. “They’re coming into this with some fear, but one of the blessings of kids that young is they don’t know their limits,” Jasmine says. “They don’t have preconceived ideas of what they can or can’t do. You can throw all sorts of things at them, and they’ll run with it!”