When Given the Chance

by Michaela Durand | 9/19/2017

As a Technology Integration Specialist at Madison Middle School in Trumbull, Connecticut, Michaela Durand @MrsDurand_TIS works in a school district which believes in the potential of educational technology. In this role, which she has held for 4 years, Michaela helps support 86 teachers and 870 students use new technology to improve learning.

For the past two years I have been very fortunate to co-facilitate a club called S.W.A.T. (Students Working towards Advancing Technology) with two colleagues. Thanks to DonorsChoose.org we have been able to get projects fulfilled, and we’ve been able to purchase a GoPiGo, MakeyMakey Arduino, and Raspberry Pi kits, and a PancakeBot printer. Providing students with opportunities to use these resources made me realize two important things. One, that students, and not just the S.W.A.T. students but the entire school population, are amazingly eager to learn more about computer science when given the chance; and two, that I had absolutely no idea how to best and most effectively help to foster this love.

Last autumn I introduced various websites and apps to Madison’s students and realized that so many kids still believed that if they weren’t “good at math,” then they simply couldn’t be good at computer science. This opinion, combined with our lack of female students in our S.W.A.T and Coding Clubs, as well as our lack of a computer science curriculum, made me realize that I needed to work harder to change this. Through the help of Code.org I found speakers to come talk to our middle school students during Computer Science Education Week. Many students were shocked when our presenters told them that computer science is a field that requires talents of all kinds, and that so many of today’s jobs require computer science skills. By the end of the week, both myself and our students were feeling inspired to learn more about computer science, but still, I was left asking myself - where do we go from here?

Then one day last spring I came across an email from Donors Choose explaining that they were offering CS PD opportunities. I immediately applied for the project but wasn’t sure that my project would ever get funded. Thanks to Infosys Foundation USA, my dream of attending a Code Interactive Summer Program came true.

The program I participated in this summer empowered me to feel prepared to teach computer science. It gave me confidence in dealing with computer science principles. By far the most amazing part of this opportunity was spending time with teachers from across the country who believe in the same things that I do. I loved sharing ideas and hearing about how they implement computer science into their school settings. Speaking with these teachers got me so excited about the possibilities of a fresh school year. I spent my hours riding the train from CT to NYC writing to our local congressman, registering for hackathons, and reading Stuck in the Shallow End. I gained valuable insight when we teachers had to take on the student role for a series of lessons. We participated in computer science lessons that our peers taught us straight from the Code Interactive curriculum. It was amazing for me to see how many unplugged activities existed and how they laid such an important groundwork for the course.

Above all else, my Exploring Computer Science with Code Interactive Program made me thankful that I work in a school district that already believes in the importance of computer science. It made me realize that perhaps now I have the full recipe for computer science success: a supportive administration, an eager audience of students, and the knowledge I need in order to implement and succeed.