By Joe Dillon, Instructional Coordinator for Educational Technology, Aurora Public Schools; Denver Writing Project
During Computer Science Education week, Aurora Public Schools (APS), with support from Educator Innovator, promoted and participated in the Hour of Code. We aimed to look closely at a project called Scalable Game Design, work that our teachers and students have engaged in as part of a partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). Just a year into the partnership, 9 teachers at 8 different middle and high schools have introduced students to coding and computational thinking by having them build video games using the programs AgentSheets and AgentCubes. The students’ game designs and their changing perception of computer science are the focus of Dr. Alexander Repenning and his team at CU’s research, which is funded by Google and the National Science Foundation.
To look closely at the students’ experience, we asked teachers to open classrooms so we could interview students and capture video of the work. Additionally, we held a Google Hangout featuring Sean, an 8th grade student with 3 years experience in game design. Sean, with his teacher’s support, spoke with a panel of district leaders and Dr. Repenning about coding. To gain insight into what our teachers are learning and discovering using game design in their classes, we invited two teacher leaders to participate in an Educator Innovator webinar conversation that also included Dr. Repenning.
Ultimately, the APS Educational Technology department contracted with an instructional coach to create this video highlighting insights that arose in our visits to classrooms and conversations with teachers and students. This video will provide more visibility for the growing project and also stimulate interest across the district in learning about this innovative approach to teaching computational thinking and programming skills.