Teaching Remotely with Tynker: Lily Turula
She’s a Sphero Lead Educator, a Girls Who Code Decision Maker, and Wonder League Robotics Camp Coach, but Lila Turula’s most important work is what she does every day as a computer science teacher at P.S. 133Q in Queens. With her deep background in teaching technology, Lily is someone we were so grateful to speak with about her experiences with Tynker this spring.
Lily shared so much advice and expertise when it comes to utilizing Tynker in today’s educational landscape, that it was hard for us to choose our favorites. We managed it though! Here are three tips that we know will be useful for educators grappling with distance learning.
Tip #1. Lower the Barrier to Entry
One thing that Lily stressed is making things as easy as possible parents and students alike. “I think some of the barriers to entry for most new teachers, as well as students and parents as end-users, hinges on the onboarding factor,” Lily explained. “For me, I utilized a single-sign-on (SSO) mentality for my parents. They already were familiar with the username and passwords for Google Classroom, so I did some of the lifting by onboarding all of them using the same emails and passwords.”
Lily explained that while this was a lot of work, especially for all classes in a K-5 school, it ultimately made a big difference. “Taking this load off the parents resulted in more adoption and usage,” Lily said. “Additionally, you could create a screencast to help parents navigate the interface as a walkthrough of their dashboard.”
Tip #2. Invite, Don’t Coerce
Lily made the point that right now there are countless demands on parents who are now working from home while managing their children’s coursework. Computer science, Lily thinks, can easily fall by the wayside. “By utilizing Tynker as an invitation, rather than a ‘must-do’, both parents and children are more likely to turn towards it as a fun way of applying computer technology skills.”
One tip that Lily has found helpful is to offer a suggested time range for completion of Tynker coursework, such as two weeks. Then, allow students to see how many certificates or lines of code they are able to complete, rather than giving them a target they must hit. “It triggers a healthy sense of competitive fun and achievement while creating a low-pressure, low-risk bonding time for both parent and child.”
Tip #3. Differentiate by Interest and Ability
“Educators need to also be savvy and recognize what their population is hungry for and what is developmentally appropriate,” Lily told us. “You may work in a gift and talented school and therefore can launch a higher-level course or maybe you teach 12:1:1 with emergent readers — the needs are varied. Students will naturally gravitate towards activities that give them experiences of success first.”
“The beauty of Tynker lies in being able to differentiate for your learners by both interest and ability levels,” Lily continued. “So you can scale up and wide… personalizing their learning asynchronously.” Lily gave us an example of her own first-grade class, where some students require a pre-reader option while others can handle harder courses despite being in the same grade level.”
Teachers across the country and across the world are all facing some of the same challenges, but every great challenge brings opportunities with it. Lily has found some silver linings about the need to use remote learning platforms like Tynker in this environment. “The most exciting thing is the way it has generated student independence and social interaction in a time of remote learning,” Lily told us. “Much of the work is done outside of our once-a-week live conferences. They regularly collaborate and some choose to form partnerships. Together they explore and come to conclusions as they debug amongst themselves and share their best practices they’ve developed by pooling their thinking.”
Ultimately, Lily finds that this experience has enhanced her students’ ability to harness 21st-century technology, which will continue to be a huge part of their lives going forward. “This way of using Tynker in my work has further developed my students’ 21st-century skills during remote learning,” Lily said. “It has refined their digital citizenship by norming what are respectful practices in video conferencing and chatting when synchronously learning together.”