July 30, 2021
As the pandemic lingers over a year later, education delivery continues to evolve alongside it. Conferences and trainings that were once exclusively in-person have adapted for virtual consumption, making resources more accessible than ever. The Infosys Foundation USA’s Pathfinders Summer Institute and its associated curriculum are no different.
The annual Pathfinders Summer Institute connects K-12 public school teachers from across the country with computer science and maker education curriculum providers. Last week, the Foundation hosted over 340 amazing K-12 teachers for our fourth annual July convening and curated a series of speakers and events to provide attendees with a well-rounded and meaningful experience. Through the week-long professional development, teachers were able to learn new content and teaching strategies to implement in their classrooms, all in a community-based environment.
In a year where most teachers have been behind a screen, the ability to connect and have personal interactions has been difficult. With this in mind, we prioritized building more peer-to-peer interactions during the Institute. As part of this agenda, there was a focus on hearing from teachers as speakers, rather than celebrities or academic experts. There was also a teacher’s lounge within our virtual campus, which was designed as a place for educators to network with each other and share their Pathfinder’s experiences through zoom calls and chats. Participants also encouraged one another and gave praise through the ‘Shout Out’ board, designed specifically for teachers to recognize their colleagues’ good work throughout the week.
Although the Pathfinder’s Summer Institute is largely about creating learning opportunities for educators, this year there was also emphasis on the non-academic side of teaching. Community building, social-emotional learning, and integrating inclusivity in the classroom were all highlighted through the evening programming. One such event was led by Breathe for Change, an organization that aims to enhance the health and well-being of educators and students through mind-body wellness, social-emotional learning and yoga teacher trainings that are all made by and for educators. This event led attendees through mindfulness and yoga sessions, with the goal to reduce the mental stress rigorous learning can impart.
The success of the Pathfinders Summer Institute, even when physically distant, is evident. Close to 43% of this summer’s teachers were returning attendees. With the Institute being virtual, it became exceedingly more accessible, and we had teachers joining in from 46 different states. The interactive virtual campus allowed attendees to not only attend courses, but gave them spaces to interact with one another and to build comradery through their common goal of making computer science and maker education accessible to all their students.
When teachers become the student, it opens up new ways for them to convey lessons to their students. One teacher in particular found herself getting discouraged in the learning process, but after putting in more time she overcame her mental hurdle. Because of that feat, she says she now knows how to address frustration when her students come across a similar situation. “It’s okay to fail. If you fail and then stop, then that’s when you’ve really failed.”
At the end of the week, teachers left the Pathfinders Summer Institute with new skills, more confidence in their computer science and maker education teaching methods and large community of colleagues to turn to as they head into the new school year!