Wow, I had a busy weekend! I am currently on a plan on my way back from New Orleans. I attended Code.org’s Facilitator’s Summit, where over 400 people came together to make a commitment to computer science education. Which is something that I am very passionate about. Not only did I have a great time in the city, but also I finally found a community for computer science education.
Pre-Summit Travel, Exploring, and New Friends
I am a person that gets very stressed out by traveling. It really isn’t travelling; it is more of thought of travel. I cannot explain it, but it is only going to places not from. I am weird I know. But I was really excited about going, but I had a hard time figuring out what I was going to do about exploring the city.
This is the part of the story where God really looked out for me. I get off the plane in New Orleans and two women are standing watching people get out and one of them asks me, “Are you Kyle?” I started feeling a little famous, and a little worried out people already knew my name. It turns out they saw the school name on the back of my shirt, and they worked for the school district (that I work for). So instantly get seven new friends and great start to the summit!
So that morning, I went with them to explore the city. I had the awesome crawfish and shrimp omelet for breakfast on Jackson’s Square, saw the Mississippi River and went to the Market. I even found the book “Hello, New Orleans” for my daughter to go with book I brought back to her from my last trip to Washington, DC.
Day 1 – Finding New Community
After taking a look at the city, we were off to registration! Registration was easy, and I got this awesome nametag for when I do training this school year. I haven’t had one of those since I worked at Circuit City and it is small, but I was excited.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I entered and finally saw the 400+ people that are all here to expand computer science education I was excited! This is also when I found another teacher I work with that was already a Facilitator for another program there. She told me about the facilitator program and all the work she put into it. I have a very high level of respect for her and excited to see her there!
Then we went! When everything started it seemed like someone just pushes you in a pool. Not a very deep one, but one where you have to hit the water swimming. We started to each learn our roles and what the plan was for us this weekend. However, it was a lot of information thrown at us. But once we had enough and getting to the point of overwhelming, we left for dinner.
This was a busy day. After dinner, some awards, and drinks I went upstairs and feel asleep. Yeah, first night in New Orleans and I was in bed at 9:30. (Well 10:30 EST which is what my body is going on)
Day 2 – Learning How To Teach Teachers
The next day, I woke up and went to the wrong session. It was ok, because they were talking about the differences of the APCSP curriculum. Which is something that I have been researching for a while and while I haven’t taught an entire course with Code.org’s curriculum, I have used it in my lessons. I would have never volunteered to be a facilitator without having a general understand of what they want me to do. Faith in the product is something I must have, and something I need to have to recommend it to others.
But I am getting side tracked. So I went to that and it seemed pretty good, and we then started talking about how they wanted thing delivered to teachers using the Teacher-Learner-Observer model. Which was pretty good, but I am not someone who likes roleplaying, which is what I got from them explaining it to me. (It is funny given that I used to play Dungeons and Dragons way back when.) Then we got to see it in place while we did a few activities. It was interesting watching other teachers as they interacted with the materials. You could really see which ones where opening Code.org’s Studio for the first time, and how much they wanted to focus on the curriculum and not the question at hand, “how do you teach teachers?”
This is one of my favorite parts of this summit. It showed me how to be a more effective leader within my own PLCs (for non-education people, that stands for Professional Learning Communities). I felt that I could bring this back to my AP Computer Science A PLC or my department and it would be just as effective. It isn’t something that I would need just computer science for.
Once the learning was over, it was time for some fun. We took a huge picture of everyone, had a few drinks, and then we did a ghost tour of New Orleans! It was pretty fun walking around and seeing all the old buildings. The most interesting thing I found was that all the buildings, but one, in the French Quarter are of Spanish design. I didn’t fact check this, so I could just be spreading bad information, but the French buildings were made of wood, and when the fire came through and burned everything down they rebuilt with bricks, but the Spanish were in control of the city.
Then, we went around the city looking for something to eat because New Orleans stops serving food at 10 p.m. That sucks. So we looked all over looking for a place to each, and then I found this awesome oyster po-boy sandwich. It was awesome.
We got back to the hotel around midnight but after watching a little TV I fell asleep watching some stand up comic on TV. Something I did every night when I was in college.
Day 3 – The Trek Home
Today was the last day of the conference. I woke up and really wish, I could just sleep another two or so hours. But I couldn’t and there was learning to be done. So I got out of bed, did my thing and got to listen to how we are working with different partners.
The morning was then packed with a workshop after workshop. Sluggish, I we through each activity, and I was glad that each workshop wasn’t as involved as they were yesterday.
At 2:10 I had to make my way to the airport for my way hope and I said goodbye to New Orleans. But not before I got to see my UCF Knights logo in the airport in New Orleans. But it was only because Tulane is playing them in football this year.
I think my biggest takeaway is the sense of community I am starting to feel. There are more than just one or two tracks. There is an elementary track, a middle school and high school people are working together to make computer science education into a real thing.
I love my new friends within the district, and I cannot wait to work with them to build computer science education within Central Florida.