PLTW's Computer Science Pathway Inspires Both Students and Teachers
After 15 years working in retail, gaming, and collections, Qaey Williams earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2000 and her master’s degree in educational technology from Montana State University – Billings in 2007. She teaches PLTW at PreEminent Charter School in Raleigh, North Carolina.
It's amazing what kids can do when they put their minds to it. Having PLTW’s middle school computer science units available to my students has made this even more apparent, and makes every day an adventure.
This is my second year teaching the computer science units, and with each different group of students, I learn something new, not only about the coursework, but also about the drive and ingenuity of kids. Their enthusiasm just makes all the questions and frustrations at the beginning melt away.
The first quarter of this year brought all of that home to me. A team of students worked together to make it through the PLTW Gateway computer science assignments, and they were rewarded for all their efforts with corresponding grades. It was even more rewarding for both them and me, when five of those eighth grade students – all girls – got together and decided to enter the Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge with an app they created as their final project.
When the students learned about the app challenge early in the quarter, they, and several others, voiced their interest. As the deadline loomed ever closer, many of the other students turned their attention to other projects. For these young ladies, forgetting about the challenge wasn’t an option. Instead, they stepped up and volunteered to spend time before and after school and between basketball practices and games to gather the information, work on their app, and write the four essays required for their entry into the competition.
Of the five students, one stood out. This young lady kept everyone organized. She created a schedule with deadlines; had specific tasks assigned to each of the members of the team; and checked in with each of them throughout the day, every day, until the challenge deadline. She read through all the pages of the contest rules and identified anything that could disqualify the group, and then she worked to make sure it wouldn’t be an issue. She even managed the faculty adviser (me) by providing repeated reminders that the team needed certain things available to make the app and the entry submission happen on time. She was the ultimate project manager, with a special notebook and folder dedicated to collecting all the information required for the team’s entry.
When it was time to film the three-minute video about the app, she set up the camera, double-checked the script, supervised the filming, and spent the majority of the day editing the video with another student until it was done and ready to be submitted.
The actions of this individual student and the girls in her team has shown me what kind of strong, independent, and motivated women they will be when they move out into the world on their own.
PLTW has offered these students and others at my school a glimpse at a future career they wouldn't necessarily have investigated, and that makes what happens in my classroom exciting every day.
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.