By Kelly McNeil, Learning Experience Designer, Digital Promise | May 23, 2023
May heralds a wrap up season of the school year for many teachers. Testing is in full swing, final grades are due, and summer is around the corner. For the 2022-2023 Infy Makers Award Winners program cohort, we’re celebrating the past year of innovative and inclusive computer science and maker education led by educators and supported by a partnership between Infosys Foundation USA and Digital Promise.
Infosys Foundation USA has made a strong commitment to promote diverse and inclusive pathways to hands-on computer science and 21st century skills development through maker education. Likewise, Digital Promise is working to help schools and educators develop pathways to sustainable and equitable Powerful Maker Learning experiences for historically and systematically excluded learners. Together, Infosys Foundation USA and Digital Promise provided grant funding and the Making CS Inclusive professional learning cohort experience to 10 educators across the US through the Infy Makers Awards Program in 2022-2023. In monthly sessions, teachers gathered together online during live video calls to learn and share about making computer science inclusive within each project-based learning space spanning from kindergarten through high school. Teachers shared real examples and goals for promoting maker learning that is Personal + Accessible, Authentic + Challenging, Collaborative + Connected and Inquisitive + Reflective. Other professional learning highlights included reviewing computer science standards and mapping to specific curriculum contexts, sharing stories, successes and questions related to Making CS Inclusive and Maker technology tips and tricks with each other throughout the time together.
At Tulare Union High School in Tulare, CA, Eric York has been able to share the wonder of making with 3D printing and robotics. His students are learning critical thinking and problem- solving skills as inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. Eric recalls one of his students who recently moved to the United States and had never seen a 3D printer. She has become passionate and interested through the context of Eric’s robotics class and he shared a moment where she watched a 3D printed piece finishing while she exclaimed “I love robotics.” Eric’s class is learning about prosthetics and using 3D printing and electronics to solve real world problems in their class. Eric notes, “Currently, I am the only teacher on campus that integrates computer science topics in our curriculum. Thanks to the Infy Maker Award, we are partnering with the Introduction to Physical Science and AP Psychology classes to bring computer science maker projects to them!” Incorporating computer science topics to the other classes makes the learning experience inclusive and diverse.
Karie Huttner of Savanna Oaks Middle School, Fitchburg, WI, has been blogging about inclusive, creative and innovative STEM and maker education with elementary and middle school students for years. This past year she has shared the highs and lows in the classroom, finding joy in empowering middle school students as mentors for elementary students in 3D Design and focusing students on community impact projects with making. Karie shares, “A 7th grade group that has been struggling transformed into the most amazing group of thoughtful and caring mentors. To be able to see the connections and the impact that both the older and younger learner are having on each other's life is truly the "why" of mentoring.” Karie found a way to reach the struggling students through mentoring which made them feel included during the learning experience.
Nate Shilcosky at Forest Hills School District in Sidman, PA, has found a similarly positive impact with mentoring experiences among his kindergarten through grade six students, finding opportunities to integrate technology and computer science learning across the curriculum. Nate has guided teachers at Forest Hills combining younger student reading classes and older student STEAM classes to build a model electronic pioneer learning village for the whole school through cardboard modeling, electronics, and coding. “The kids all showed a great deal of enjoyment and pride in the collaborative project. I was very happy with how this first attempt to bridge STEAM and the regular classroom together went. I look forward to infusing more and more classrooms and content with the help of our younger and older students in the future.”
In Johnstown, OH, Laura and Brian Roberts at Northridge Middle School support their students’ growth with Maker technologies and entrepreneurship skills in service of their community. In one project, students learned project management, design and manufacturing processes while creating gifts for staff. In another project, students and staff collaborated together with planning and building for the community Veterans Day Program.
These are just a few of the stories of the amazing work these educators have accomplished with their students this past school year in the Infy Makers Award Winners Making CS Inclusive cohort. Today, the cohort will gather with Infosys Foundation USA and Digital Promise as well as alumni and other partners to share an end of season celebration. Educators will receive a goodie bag including micro:bit starter kits, Scratch Coding Cards, Merge Cubes and Nettrice Gaskins’ book, Techno-Vernacular Creativity and Innovation: Culturally Relevant Making Inside and Outside of the Classroom. The goodies were made possible by the generous donations and support from Infosys Foundation USA. These teachers will go on to join past alumni in this special Professional Learning Community as they continue to support their students and each other with innovative, inclusive teaching and learning in computer science and maker education.
If you’d like to learn more about this year’s Infy Makers Award Winners, please explore here. Infosys Foundation USA has multiple initiatives that advance computer science and maker education including the Pathfinders Summer Institute offering 20 virtual professional development courses from June-August 2023, free for K-12 public school educators. To learn more about Digital Promise work in Maker Learning, check out the Maker Learning Leadership Framework.