Coding Amplifies Skills in Reading, Writing, Thinking, and Problem Solving

by Takia Toomer | March 09, 2017

Takia Toomer @toomerstitans is a 6th grade teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Hyattsville, MD. During the summer of 2016, Ms. Toomer was able to attend an intense teacher training in computer science, made possible by a matching grant from Infosys Foundation USA (facilitated through DonorsChoose.org). Here are some personal reflections on how this training has enhanced her classroom and students’ learning.

As a 6th grade teacher, teaching Computer Science (CS) enables me to see kids achieve goals that they never dreamed of and/or knew that they had. I love how fast this generation catches on to new technology. Seeing my students think outside the box is very rewarding and I enjoy seeing their many achievements. For my students, successful CS education means making mistakes and learning from them, collaborating with others to brainstorm on how to make successful changes, rereading, redoing, planning, taking notes, critical thinking, problem-solving and of course a lot of hard work.

Takia (L) at Bootstrap Training with classmate Maribel

Last summer, a matching grant enabled me to attend free Bootstrap teacher training in Los Angeles. Bootstrap is a full, in-school curriculum and software package that teaches children to program their own videogames using purely algebraic concepts. I attended this intensive, meaningful 5-day Bootstrap training and since the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, I have incorporated Bootstrap into my classes. Bootstrap training taught me different ways to expose my students to a new language they knew nothing about.

After returning from Bootstrap, I passed out applications for students to join the STEAM and Robotics Clubs. I received 45 applications, but only 5 were female applicants. Upon seeing this, I spoke to my three classes and asked all the girls why they hadn’t applied. Their response was that these clubs would be boring. Seeing is believing so I had all of the students log into BootstrapWorld.org and complete a few lessons where students used code to create shapes and change the colors. Fortunately, this introduction to coding via bootstrap sparked an interest in my female students. After that hands-on introduction, the number of club applications (from girls) spiked, with many new female members going on to become some of the best coders in the clubs.

Takia speaking at The White House #CSforAll Summit

This past September, as a recipient of a CS teacher training grant, I was invited by DonorsChoose.org and Infosys Foundation USA to attend and speak at the White House. The Computer Science for All (CSForAll) Summit, timed to celebrate going back to school, is a consortium of 200+ organizations all focused on equipping all K-12 students with programming and computational skills. I was able to bring two of my best students with me to the White House. This would be a wonderful opportunity for any student, but especially for these two individuals. Originally from other countries, El Salvador and the Philippines, both students are still learning the intricacies of the English language, as well as the language of code. They still speak of going to the White House as the best day of their lives.

At Rosa Parks Elementary School, we are eager to expose more students to CS. In my opinion, and based on my experiences, CS integrates all subjects which help our students become better readers, writers, thinkers, and problem solvers.