Who do you follow? If you are new to Twitter, it's always a tough question to answer. Twitter can be both such a toxic place and a positive place, so following the right people can be one of your biggest challenges. The educator community is usually one of Twitters most positive situations, but it's still tough to get started. Hopefully, this list (split over 4 posts) will help you get going.
Before we get into whose on the list, I think it's important to lay out a few things. To start, this is my list. Your list could be very different. My strengths are in the ed tech community, and that's where this lists strength lies. I feel like there is a whole other community of educational leaders, but this lists only has the ones that have either crossed over into EdTech, are so prolific that they are hard to ignore, or are awesome folks that I know. I also tried to make this list a mix of super well-known people and lesser-known folks that I know are worth it. There may also be some well-known folks that I left off for various reasons.
These are the first 25. I am going to stretch it out over four posts. The list is in no specific order because they are all awesome
1. Adam Bellow: I first saw Adam speak way back at ISTE 2011, and he instantly became one of my favorite speakers to listen to. Adam is always insightful on topics ranging from student creativity to making. He also happens to be one of the founders of Breakout Edu and is one of the main reasons it has become such a force to be reckoned with in the classroom. Above all, Adam is just a terrific guy, and you can't ask much more from one of the EdTech rockstars.
2. Leslie Fisher: When I think of Leslie, I think of entertaining. I have heard some of her sessions multiple times, but I still like sitting in them because I knew I would get one new nugget and at least be entertained. I highly recommend her as a follow because she has very good relationships with several big EdTech startups, and because of that relationship she often announces product updates first.
3. Steve Dembo: Steve is a just a straight up character. His sessions and content are always fast-paced and filled with humor which puts him them right up my alley. He also posts on creativity, making, and robotics on a regular basis.
4. Eric Sheninger: This formal digital principal is what everyone wishes they could have as a leader. He is the one who gave Laura Fleming enough space and support to become a leader in maker spaces, and he spends his days helping others get to the same place. He is a great speaker, and his posts are filled with insight into how education should change and how educational leaders should be.
5. Kevin Honeycutt: Kevin is eclectic, and it makes his live sessions almost a show as well as great post. He had been in the EdTech game for years and is an excellent voice on things like student privacy, digital citizenship, and student creativity
6. Sarah Thomas: I have been incredibly fortunate to know Sarah for a few years, and I have just been amazed at the empire she is building. Sarah is the founder of EduMatch which is one of the best PLNs you can be a part of, she is incredibly knowledgeable, and she is also just as lovely as she can be.
7. Tony Vincent: Tony is another person that I have been fortunate to get to know, and he is also just a good human being. I will never forget the time I followed him at GAETC early on in my presentation days, and he stayed for my whole session. Tony recently went back in the classroom, but he still finds the time to post an incredible amount of helpful tips, tricks, and ideas all in easy to understand graphics
8. Eric Curts: Eric is my go-to Google guru. It seems like he comes up with creative ways to use Google tools almost every day. He is not the only Google specific person out there, but he is usually the only one I will use in my sessions. His content is just that good.
9. Jennifer Williams: I am just plain lucky to call Jenn a friend. Jenn is just a fantastic person who truly wants education to be what's best for kids. She had incredible insights on literacy, global education, and building a PLN, and you would be crazy not to click that follow button for her
10. Stephanee Stephens: Steph is my former boss, and me moving on certainly had nothing to do with her. She is like a sister to me, and she has amazon insights into making, personalized learning, and much more. She also operates a maker bus.
11. Monica Burns: Monica is someone I have gotten to know recently, and I can't say enough good things about her. She has incredible insight on student creativity, tech and pedagogy, and creating a brand. I have taken several little tidbits from her over the years and applied them to what I do with bigguyinabowtie. She is another one who is just a great person!
12. Courtney Kofeldt: I am just lucky to call Courtney a friend. I met Courtney several years ago at the first Nearpod summit, and I don't think there is a sweeter person in EdTech. She is a tech director in Pennsylvania and does some amazing things around empathy and blended learning
13. Billy Spicer: Billy and I just seemed to end up in the same ambassador program over and over again, and we also consistently ended up with the same friends. He is a unique guy who is always trying to find things to make learning better for the kids in his district outside of Chicago
14. Katrina Keene: Katrina is someone that I ran in similar circles with for at least a year, and then when we finally met we became fast friends. I have seen her grow and move to a couple of different places, but I think she has now found her home at Wonder Workshop. If you have questions about coding and especially coding robots, she is a great resource to have.
15. Julie Davis: When I think of Julie, I can’t help but think sweet southern charm. Julie is a tech coach at a small Christian school outside of Chattanooga, TN, and she is continually finding creative ways to do creative things with her teachers. I always love her insight into things like digital citizenship, and she is becoming my go to to find things about Amazon Alexa in the classroom.
16. Mark Wagner: Mark is the CEO of EdTech Team, and he is the epitome of California cool. EdTech team is always doing incredible things to improve the educational experience, and their insights on Google Education are always spot on. If you are fortunate enough to be part of Google Innovator, you will get the privilege of meeting Mark
17. Donnie Piercey: The king of EduSnark seems always to be doing something amazing. He is a Google expert who specializes in everything Google Geo. The former social studies teacher in me always learns something great from Donnie. He even got to go to Antarctica as part of his relationship with National Geographic
18. Sylvia Duckworth: The queen of Edu Sketch Noting is an excellent follow just to get to see her new ones. I, however, got to know Sylvia when I did Google Innovator because I was lucky enough to have her as a coach. She is as kind a person as I know, and I love running into her at ISTE every year.
19. Rabbi Michael Cohen: The Tech Rabbi is all about creativity. He is regularly posting on the topic on his accounts, and his kids in California are doing a host of awesome creative things. I got the privilege of meeting him this summer, and he just so inspired me that I went and started redoing my slides to try to get to a place that he was.
20. Jennie Magiera: Jennie is another one of the EdTech Team crew, but I have been following what she has done since her days leading in the Chicago school system. She is a master at getting the best out of kids and has always had amazing ideas to change professional development for the better
21. Susan Bearden: I have never formally met Susan, but we have been around each other a handful of times. Susan has been the voice behind #digcit chat sharing the importance on that topic even before it was widely shared, and she has done a ton of work advocating for better technology leadership
22. Amber McCormick: To start, I know Amber is going to say she is not worthy to be on this list, but she totally is. She is an incredible teacher from Florida who is always doing creative things around coding and making. She is fantastic and awesome sketch note artist, and I am privileged to have one of her sketch notes on my site
23. Kasey Bell: Kasey Bell is an incredible Google Guru. She always has excellent content teaching folks how to get the most out of Google Tools, and she is continually adding new things to her site Shake Up Learning.
24. Patricia Brown: I have seen Patricia speak at both ISTE and GAETC, and I am always impressed. She has incredible insights into EdTech and does fantastic things around digital equity.
25. Tom Murray: The leader behind Future Ready schools is doing work every day that is all about making a school better, and his insights are on school leadership are always great. He is a great follow for anyone, but if your an administrator he is a must follow
In the past couple of years, I have done my coding session multiple times, and the thing I am always surprised with is the shock that comes to some attendees faces when I mention pre-reader coding. You can tell that have not thought of children as young as Pre-K learning coding concepts. They have always thought of coding as an older kids concept. They have just never considered what coding is and the benefit that comes through it, and it's all about setting our kids up for success.
I think when you look at the need for pre-reader coding, you have to look at two things. The first is that coding is just like a world language. The younger you start, the better off you will be. In a world where computers are everywhere and in everything, we need to do everything we can to prepare our kids, and that means starting them young. Even if they don't end up programming the understanding of the concepts will help them in any role that works with developers
The other thing that is great about starting kids early is the concepts that they learn. They start to build computational thinking. They learn to put stuff in order, count, work with angles, and problem solve. In fact, I would venture to say that a tremendous pre-reader coding tool is one of the first real tangible things you can use to get children thinking critically.
There are a few tools out there that let kids do this, but I have not been incredibly impressed with any of them until now. My 6-year-old son just tried out the Tynker JR app, and it is easily the most complete experience I have seen. Most of the other ones seem to be missing something, whereas the Tynker Jr app constantly hits the mark.
From a pre-reader perspective, the coding usually goes down one of two paths. The child either draws a path or they use icon based blocks (arrows) to simulate a coding experience without text. I have seen several of the robots use the line drawing experience, and I think it is lacking. Most of the times kids see how the robot reacts. You have to have some excellent teacher instruction for kids to get concepts out of them, and that's not what it should be.
It means I prefer the icon-based, and that's what Tynker JR is. Kids basically do block coding, and they switch out the text with icons such as arrows. Where I think Tynker got it right though, is in the experience. It can be incredibly hard to build something that a six-year-old can just pick up and go with, yet I think Tynker JR has done just that.
The app consists of three different leveled pathways you can take. All of them are really fun concepts like Animals, the Ocean, and Robots. There will be some more in the future, but those three will give you plenty of coding time. Once a child starts, they are put on a leveled path that builds on the concepts they learned in the previous level. Kids who are used to being on a tablet or smartphone will have no problems navigating it. Once they open up a level, there is some excellent voice-over work that tells them what to do which usually comes down to moving bricks in order to move a character on a path. When they are finished, the character does a cute dance, the child gets stars, and possibly a badge. It becomes a full experience, which is super rare for apps that cater to the pre-reader age group.
I can't say enough good things about it, and that's directly after testing it with my son. To start, I did not have to give him any directions, and I have never felt like that's the case with the other pre-reader tools. Now I will confess that my son has had other opportunities to do pre-reader coding so he may be ahead of the curve, but I think the voice-overs in the app will make it easy on most. I was also super impressed with the animation. The characters are fun, and my son loved the little dances that they did when they finished a level. It was straightforward to move bricks around which can be hard at his age.
The best thing about it by far though was thinking that my son had to do with it. He would pull bricks in, and then he would have to count that steps that were needed. He would have to figure out what direction the character needed to go, and he immediately wanted to solve the problems when his code was just not right. My son is not known for his focus, but the attention he put into the levels just astounded me. I want more things that do that for him.
If you want to get Tynker JR, it is currently available for iPad, but I would be shocked not to see it in other forms later in the year and in 2020. If you have young kids, or you teach young kids, you can't go wrong. I think it all comes back to my first principle?" of coding tools which are, "What's the ceiling?", and on this one, the ceiling is very high
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post right after I got the Oculus Go, and I concluded that it was just not fully ready for schools yet. For those that read that post or know what the Go is, bear with me. I want to dive back into what the Go is and why I concluded, but I also want to tell you why that view is changing.
To start, the go is virtual reality. It's a fully immersive environment as opposed to augmented which is digital images overlaid on to the real world. The Go is the first attempt to hit what many thought was a sweet spot. It's not the overly expensive headset that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are, but it is also a standalone headset unlike many of the smaller virtual reality designs which require to use a phone and a viewer. From that standpoint, it has a whole lot of benefits for the classroom. It was the content that I came down on as being lacking in my first impressions post.
The content was just not there for schools. To get content for the Go, you need to go through the go store, and understandably it's best selling apps are mostly games. Unfortunately, there is just not educational value in those. From an education standpoint, there are tons of experiences in the store, but most of them are standalone experiences that are going to require you to download that one app just to do that one thing. This includes explorations of space, natural parks, and other areas around the world. It's the biggest issue is that Google wasn't on board, and that has been the best place to go for these fuller experiences for a while.
Realistically, in schools we want VR to explore some concept that is real. It could be a real place, or it could be a model of a place we can't get to (like inside the human body), but for it has to have an educational value of learning something that will benefit the person in the real world. Google naturally has an advantage in that space because they have both millions of people feeding data to them and they have the scope to do things like street view and earth. Others don't, and that's why Oculus has to have them as a partner for Oculus Edu.
That partnership is incredibly hard though because Oculus is Facebook. It was a startup that was purchased by Facebook in its early day, and it remains a subsidiary of the company. So, to get Google products on Oculus you have to have two of the biggest companies play nice, and that becomes even less likely considering that Facebook and Google are each other's biggest competitors. It all comes down to where both companies make the bulk of their revenue: advertisements.
Thankfully, there was a HUGE change on this front recently. There is now a YouTube app on the Go! This is huge for two reasons. To start, it is a tremendous addition for the Oculus Go's EDU content. YouTube distributes a mass amount of 360 videos, and they are all free. YouTube gives you the ability to search for content that fits your needs rather than having to buy that very one specific app. It brings a mass amount of EDU particular content in one tool, and just like on other devices it's massively beneficial.
The other thing that is great about YouTube being there is that it is hopefully a great sign for other Google products. Google Earth VR has been on the Oculus Rift (the Go's expensive brother) for some time, and it makes complete sense for it to come to the Go. As the community of educators using Go grows, I think it also makes sense to bring Expeditions to the party. Using Expeditions on the Go could even eliminate some of the massive issues that come with it networking wise.
Ever since I have had a Go, I have always felt that the hardware experience is the best fit for schools. The ease of use and ability to move with the controller make it a no-brainer. It's always been the content that has been the issue. YouTube's addition means Google is paying attention, and that will help drive the content offerings.
Tech has always been able to take us into a new reality, and we are living in a time where that is never truer. We are living in the time of both virtual and augmented reality, and there are so many applications that could apply to the classroom. We now can take kids anywhere, but it can also be much more than that. This blog explores one way to make it great for kids.
To start, we are looking at two different things. Virtual Reality is putting a student in an immersive environment where they can see 3D images, but none of it is real. It is also the easier one to do, and in the long run less valuable. If a person has to take time out to interact with that piece of machinery, it can be good to take someone somewhere else and play games, but it’s not going to have any real practical uses. That’s where augmented reality comes in.
Augmented Reality is overlaying digital images on to the real world. It’s meant to add to the environment you already have. The use of the situation you are in means it can add all sorts of information to power through daily tasks, but of course, it is also harder to get that digital image overlay right. Up until very recently, there wasn't much augmented reality that was useful. Yes, Pokemon go has been around in for a long time, but is that that useful in the classroom?
The new apps that have come out especially since Apple leaned heavily into the Augmented world are what brings augmented to the classroom level. I have seen apps where you could create with geometric shapes, geocache with historical places, and more. With the focus in IOS, there are more and more every day, but what if kids could create them?
Thankfully, Tynker is letting kids do it. It's a newer course on the platform so it's always one of those things that can surprise people. It shouldn't though. Letting kids create with a future-ready skill is what Tynker is all about.
The augmented course teaches students the three main principles of augmented reality: color calibration, motion sensing, and gesture detection. It allows students to take those concepts open the camera feed and apply them. The beauty of it all is that once they create augmented it actually makes their experience more interactive because they can also get in front of the camera, and interact with them. It's truly an experience that you can't recreate anywhere else
Making and STEM have become GIANT buzzwords in education, and it’s rightfully so. It all goes back to the fundamental question of, “What is Education For?” If you said anything other than some form of, “preparing for the future,” I would argue you are wrong. No matter what state standards, test, and all the other BS out there say, the classroom is ALL about preparing kids for the future, and STEM/Making do just that.
STEM/Making is just something that is entirely natural for humans. From the beginning of time, we have been engineering ideas and making things to solve the problems that we encounter. There was always a sense of figuring out your needs through math, and a natural progression of solving those problems is trying to figure out how things work to make them better (science). The tech part of STEM has always been there (while primitive, the wheel was tech), but it has become such a need in today’s world where computers run everything. STEM and making are not new concepts; it’s just taken the computer age to show their importance.
The beauty of STEM and making is that there are tech pieces that make it easy to give something “an electronic brain,” and my favorite happens to be Raspberry Pi. Don’t get me wrong there are some other good ones out there. Microbit, Hyperduino, and Arduino all come to mind. I think Raspberry Pi is just the right mix of compatibility, relative ease of use, depth of function, and mission.
The key to PI though is the customization, and that’s what this blog is all about. There are tons and tons of things out there that let you customize a Pi. These just happen to be my five favorite ones, and of course, they have an education bend to them.
You know what often gets lost in a school district's adoption process? It's easily what is the ceiling of a given product. Just like anything in the world, schools are often overtaken by flash. They don't consider that a product may not be much of anything past that one flashy thing. This is especially prevalent in the emerging field of computer science instruction. It's a whole lot of flash, but the key is what the substance is? It's the question that should always come first.
Flash in computer science instruction starts with robots. You see schools purchasing loads of them at a breakneck pace. There are some that are good, but there are also some that will lose their substance after just a few uses because they really only do one thing well. If you know me well, I have one in particular that I will rail against all day, but this is not the place for that.
No matter what the tool is, the question should always be, "What can you create with it or for it?" If you start with a robot, that usually lies in the shape. Can you create stuff for it to interact with it? Can you design things to put on it where it still has functions? Those are all questions you should ask from the start.
They are also a significant reason why you should consider software first. In the end, robots all have limitations. They are great for hands-on hardware experience, and I am not saying don't buy them. What I am saying is have them supplement the software experience because in the end coding is software based.
It's one of the main reasons I joined the team at Tynker. The ceiling is just so high. Our founder likes to say it's "soup to nuts," and what he means by that is you can cover almost anything you want to do in one platform. You can have students create animations, presentations, book reports, games, apps, and a whole lot more to show what they know, and yes that does mean in a CORE class. You can have them use Block, Java, Python, and Swift to get there, and this is all while making it super easy on the teacher.
There is also hardware support. You can have students stay in the same platform to both fly drones and work with Lego WeDo. They can get that total coding experience without having to learn a new user interface, and in the end that saves time in instruction.
The ceiling matters, so always ask that question. Don't get thrown by the flash. If you want to learn more about Tynker just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Making is fundamental to the human spirit. It's something humans have done for thousands of years, and without that spirit, we don't have things as fundamental as fire, the lightbulb, cars, computers, and other countless inventions that have changed how humans interact with the world around them. The issue is that for centuries, this was something that was only taught on the fringes of school even though it's been proven time and time again that a making experience brings about more in-depth learning. We need to make making part of every kid's learning experience, and hopefully, these resources will help!
Many schools are bringing making into a specific space such as a maker space, but the real challenge is bringing making into your core content classes. Core content classes are the place where making can make a difference because they give kids a more in-depth learning experience in that content and because it's where most kids spend the majority of their time. Basically, if they can build or make something in that content, they are much more likely to remember it.
It can be tough though to come up with ways to include making. What kinds of projects can you do? Where do you get ideas from? The five resources below all have tons of projects you can do. You may need to come up with some scenario to adapt them to your content, but usually, that means coming up with a final audience or group that will use whatever they make. You need to be creative to do that! For example, if I were teaching the industrial revolution, I would have kids make a commercial for one of the new products that came out of the era. The audience would be those that they were getting to purchase it. You could also do things like novel engineering where they design something that would aid a literary character on their journey. It's all about creativity.
Now on to the places to find projects
1. Instructables: Instructables is a great place to start! This is a site run by our friends at AutoDesk that's mission is to give you directions on how to make anything. There are projects ranging from cooking, construction, sewing, electronics, to just basic small maker activities. You will have to adapt them to fit your standards, but it only takes that right creative scenario.
2. Makezine: Makezine is the resource site of the organization that puts on MakerFaire's across the United States. It has a bunch of project ideas, but it is not as fully formed as Instructables is. What it does have though is a connection to the community. You can both connect to other makers and find events near you. The number of things that are included in the maker movement is unbelievable, and this site will give you incredible insight into them.
3. Maker Ed: Maker ed is a non-profit organization whose entire goal is to bring Maker Education to kids. The key to this one is that it is geared toward education. There are some great project ideas and resources to choose from here although the amount of project ideas is not as in-depth as other sites. What is helpful though is that it contains ideas about the things that go along with making such as redesigning spaces. It also has an educator community that you can be part of
4. Novel Engineering: I used to work with on maker activities with a former elementary school librarian, and this site was a favorite of hers. The idea is that you take a novel, and you build a project that solves some issue for the characters in the story. Think of something like building shelters for a survival story. It gives you a basis to input making into the curriculum, and this site helps you get there.
5. Pinterest: Pinterest is the ultimate DIY site on the internet. It has thousands of ideas and projects, and it even has plenty of education-oriented maker projects. It's all just a matter of getting the right search term. Try searching making to start!
Coding can be a great way to make! If you're interested in learning more, click HERE.
If your reading this post, I would imagine you have an interest in programming, and you would probably agree with me that it is one of the few skills that we can teach kids that is "future proof." It doesn't take much to find all the open positions that currently go unfilled, and it doesn't take much to see that those numbers are just going to grow unless we do something about it. The issue is how do we teach it?
It might be a bit easier to teach if every teacher had a programming background, but that's just not the case. We are a long way off from any era that looks like that, and in the end, we may not ever get there. So, what do we do? We need to teach computer science, but we only have a precious few teachers who actually know how to do that.
There are tons of companies out there that are trying to change that, but many make a critical mistake. Many companies have computer science experts build their platform, and they create it for what they needed. They don't think of the student, and they especially don't think of the teacher. The platform should be centered on students and teacher first, and if it's not it just plain won't stick.
You have to have a platform with a user experience that makes sense for both teachers and students. I think that's what Tynker does exceptionally well. It's incredibly easy for students to get straight on the platform and know immediately what to do, but the best part is that it is also that way for teachers.
From the student side, I have seen more coding interfaces then I can count, and the thing that drives me craziest is the number of clicks it takes for students to find what they need. The idea that comes in second is the number of platforms that throw students into the deep end and end up like Nike by saying "Just do it." Tynker doesn't do that. As kids start learning the platform, they are greeted by a command box where they can see all the commands. The clicks are incredibly limited. They also have tutorials and lessons for almost anything a student wants to do. Kids can then remix those projects, or they can take what they learned and make something new. The best part is they can do this starting at kindergarten and stay on the same platform all the way through 12th grade, and that's all while using whatever device they have.
Where Tynker really excels though is with teachers. Coding and computer science should not be a just sometimes thing, but for it to go wide it has to be easy to start, and it has to drive towards curriculum goals. Tynker is the only platform that does that. Tynker has an interface that makes it easy to pick lessons, assign, and give feedback on that student work. My favorite part is that it is also incredibly easy to show them off and get peer feedback. The best part though is that this can easily be a platform to let kids create for content. There are tons of lessons in Math, Science, Social Studies, and ELA already built into the platform, but you can always make your own to connect it to almost any topic you want. Everything is created with the teacher in mind, and you just can't find that elsewhere.
Coding is like a world language. The earlier you start, the better off you will be. It also can get you to the ideal in the classroom: teaching content while also teaching a "future proof skill." If your interested in learning more, just fill out the form HERE.
If you have read my previous post, you know I am making a significant change in my life and career by joining the team at Tynker. I am so excited for the move, and I think it also marks an excellent point to phase out the Big Guy in a Bow Tie brand. I know some of my faithful followers love the brand, and I know many have started just calling me big guy because of it, but I think this marks a great time to transition it to be just my name. So officially today, the site and all my social media accounts will convert to Lockhart Ed Tech.
I am making this change because I have to broaden my appeal a bit. The Big Guy branding was great as a way to get in the door and as a way for people to remember me by, but I as I transition to a role that requires me to have high-level professional conversations, I need something that is a bit more professional. I also need something that is sustainable for the future. I have been in the Ed Tech game for a while now, and I just can't see myself using the branding when I am 60.
By transitioning the brand, it also helps me practically. Let's be honest....ISTE in the heat of summer with a bow tie wasn't the most practical thing I have ever done. I also don't want to try to have to figure out how to transition from a bow tie to Tynker gear as my new role brings about different responsibilities.
It does not mean the site is going away. I will keep bigguyinabowtie.com for the foreseeable future, and the URL will redirect to lockhartedtech.com. I am still going to write. I am still going to present. I am still going to be me. Above all, I am still going to wear bowties; this just takes the pressure off of having to wear them all the time.
I am making a significant change in both my life and career and this post is meant to show you why. I am joining the fantastic team at Tynker starting October 1st. I have thought for a few years now that a move to private industry is where my career was headed, but the difficulty has been finding the right company. Thankfully, God works in mysterious ways, and I found that company this summer in Tynker.
Those of you who follow me and know me, know that I have been involved in coding, making, and computer science for a few years now. I believe coding is a future-ready skill, and I know I am not the only one as it has become one of my more popular presentations at conferences. Being in that space means I was aware of the great things Tynker was doing, and I even featured them in my coding presentation. I had not however made a connection with anyone in the company.
It all changed this summer. I was presenting at AETC in Alabama, and I had the fortunate luck to meet one of their executives. He was aware of me because their community manager and I were "Twitter aware" of each other, and because of that our conversation continued into dinner.
That dinner changed my trajectory. I got to learn more about the company as a business, more about its founders, and where the company was headed. It all got me excited and hopeful that an opportunity might come down the line. I learned Tynker is a company that is successful (which is hard in ed tech), has a great product (I already thought that, but learned more), is the leader in the field (which becomes apparent when you look at their partners), but most importantly is made up of people who have the same values that I have. A couple of months after this meeting, an opportunity came knocking. Tynker was looking for people to be regionally based who could do both a mix of sales and community and thankfully they thought of me to cover the Southeast. Things progressed, and I accepted a role that I think is an excellent step in my career.
So, why did I pick Tynker? It all starts with its focus on computer science. It's evident that learning how to code is a skill that is inherently needed in the real world, and that it is a skill whose need is only going to grow. In fact, if you search the five big boys of tech job boards (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook), you will find thousands of engineering jobs that are open. It's such a need within these companies that all of them are involved in the immigration debate because they need to reach outside the United States to fill those needs.
It also doesn't take a genius to see that businesses today have to have developers and programmers on the payroll to survive. Just this past summer we saw an iconic brand (Toys'R'Us) die because it did not move online fast enough. You can also look at a business like Delta and see the enormous need. Most people would see Delta as an airline company, but I would venture to say that programmers and developers make up a considerable percentage of their workforce. Think about it. They have to have someone program their app, someone program their website, someone program and repair the computer parts on their planes, and most importantly someone who programs and fixes their reservation system. Without one of them their business halts.
With this changing world, states, districts, and schools are starting to realize the importance of teaching programming. Almost every state is in the process of adopting standards (just this year I saw two friends sit on committees in California and Kentucky), and most states have adjusted graduation requirements to include computer science as a possibility. The issue though is that there are very few teachers who are trained as programmers, and so they need GREAT TOOLS. Tynker fills that need perfectly.
There are several coding solutions out there, but Tynker is one of the only ones that approach programming from an educators mindset and with pedagogy leading the way. The whole idea of Tynker is to get programming into core classes, make it as easy as possible for the teacher, and most importantly get students into the ideal learning situation: STUDENT CREATION.
Computer Science is just like a world language: the younger you start, the better off you will be. It also takes practice. To get kids both, we have to be able to include computer science not just in a specialty class but also in core classes. Tynker is the only platform that makes this possible. Within the platform, there are coding lessons that teachers can assign in Math, Science, Social Studies, and ELA. They allow a teacher with no coding experience to both teach to the needed standards and include this all-important future skill. It makes Tynker a go-to platform for not only this future skill, but it also can be a go-to platform to teach content.
As a teacher, you can also use Tynker as a creation platform. Creation is the idea that we should all be striving to, and by using Tynker, we are also teaching students future ready skill. I know in my time as a teacher having an animation platform was so important. It allowed students who did not want to be on camera for any reason to still have a platform to tell their story and share their voice. Tynker can be that platform, and there are some great lessons to teach kids the skills they need to make those stories their own. Tynker also allows students to create slideshows, music, drawings, games, apps, and much more. You can't go wrong with a platform that teaches future skills while letting students create.
I think the classroom benefit is the main reason to use Tynker, but it also always helps to have a platform that is easy to use. From a teachers perspective, all you have to do is pick the right lessons and assign them. It allows you to set up classes to get those lessons out quickly, and it is the only coding platform that connects easily with LMS systems like Google Classroom. It also gives you great data to analyze and make those instructional decisions that matter.
From a student perspective, you can also see the care that went into the user experience. Many platforms require students to dig and find the things they need. They require multiple clicks, and they lack some of the instruction students need to get started. Tynker has lessons that get kids easily started, it cuts down on clicks to find commands, and it has little shortcuts here and there that make it easy to teach and use. Basically, it's easy to see that educator feedback built the user experience rather than what came out of a programmers brain.
As you can tell, I am excited about this change because I believe in the product. We need great platforms that teach students computer science, and this one not only does that, but it also makes student creation the heart of its mission. Ever since my days in the classroom, that's what I thought it should be about.
This change in my life is so exciting, but any change is also a little bittersweet. It's a change I need to make for a multitude of reasons, but it also means I have to leave the incredible team at KSU iTeach. I have spent four years of my life with iTeach, and I would not even be close to ready for my new role if iTeach had not given me the room to grow and learn. I can't thank my boss, Stephanee Stephens, enough for the encouragement, love, and respect she has given me over the years. Stephanee is like a sister to me, and I know that friendship will continue to grow whether I am at iTeach or not. If you are looking for some great instructional coaching especially focused on personalized learning, I don't think there is a better group you can call.
If this post has sparked interest in Tynker, don't hesitate to reach out. I would love to chat about bringing coding to your school or district.