Community and Collaboration in the Middle School CS Classroom

Brett Heaton teaches App Creators and Computer Science for Innovators and Makers (CSIM) at South Sioux City Middle School in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Brett’s hobbies include hanging out with family and taking vacations.

When I got hired to be a technology teacher at the South Sioux City Middle School, I knew I wanted to incorporate coding and computer science into my classes. I was approached by the curriculum and technology directors about PLTW and knew immediately it was what I was looking for.

I'm currently teaching App Creators and CSIM and am absolutely loving it! My students are finding great successes in their activities and projects.

One of the biggest successes we have had this year so far deals with classroom control. The last couple of years, I have prided myself on having a quiet classroom in which students work hard and work independently. After taking the training for CSIM this past summer, I knew I would need to give up some of that classroom control. It was definitely something that was hard for me in the beginning of the year because it wasn't always quiet. I kept reminding myself that it was OK if the classroom wasn't completely quiet.

I found a lot of my students haven't had the opportunity to work as partners that often, and I knew I would need to guide them through this process of pair programming. We spent a few days going over the different roles of drivers and navigators. They quickly picked up on these and are doing very well working with a partner for our pair programming.

I find myself watching my students interact with their partners more and more each day and am amazed at the outstanding work they are producing collaboratively. The level of creativity has drastically increased this year. I think a lot of that deals with the students being able to collaboratively work on their lessons and projects. Another advantage of pair programming is the students have another person to bounce ideas off of and another voice to help troubleshoot their issues with their programs.

In closing, my students and I are loving App Creators and CSIM, and I'm eagerly waiting to see what the next outstanding computer science option will be for PLTW Gateway.

Thanks, PLTW!

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.