An overview of the unique and productive technical learning approach - essentially an integration of personal and formal educational theories together with the teaching framework defined by codeHS.com - I implemented in the Coding and STEM robotics class I currently teach at Rae Kushner High School.
The past few decades have seen the world undergo a tremendous technological revolution. Computer Science and Engineering is now at the forefront of necessity and is one of few professions that literally drive the world forward. As such, it is also one of the most important disciplines for our younger generations to properly learn in order to equip them to succeed not only as individuals in the world, but more importantly in the never-ending mission of all Jewish generations to strive for Tikun Olam.
With my career in high schools and universities spanning the same decades, I have seen first-hand the delayed response and insufficient emphasis devoted to this educational need by our institutions, the lack of understanding as to its inherent value, and the misguided view that technology and engineering somehow naturally fit only a specific academic profile (mathematical and scientific). The unfortunate result is that many students are ill-equipped to be a driving force in the world they live in, and—most importantly to use as Jewish educators—end up bereft of the most critical tools they can have in their lifelong pursuit to better the world.
I have spent years searching for a suitable, non-traditional educational approach befitting this modern academic discipline. Specifically, I sought programs that were self-paced, that combined modern pedagogical techniques and feedback alongside unique classroom activities and classical project work. To ensure the student’s mindset grows and evolves with their learning, I sought to establish a learning environment that allowed failure in certain circumstances without penalty or judgement (negative grading), with the intent to provide continued guidance and encouragement until success was reached (additional information on “Growth Mindset” theory can be found in the provided links). Finally, I wanted to provide my students with a classroom experience that removed the frustration of chalk-and-talk, placing the focus on the overall learning journey, and not just on the end as a measurable academic grade. My objective was to ensure the students received a truer exposure to the technical discipline, alongside a sharpening of the following skills:
- Critical thinking
- Persistence and determination (positive approach to failure)
- Problem-solving skills
- Courage and desire to think outside the box
After significant research into various online programs, I happened upon the online course “Introduction to Computer Science with JS”, of the CodeHS.com, and found it to be a thorough, comprehensive program that aligned well with my own refined goals and ideals. Fortunately, it was around the same timeframe that I joined the faculty at Rae Kushner High School (Livingston, NJ)—a school that embraced the theme “coding is for any student in the 21th century”—and was provided the perfect opportunity to implement this converged educational philosophy in the Coding and STEM robotics class, with the following tenets:
- To teach the academic basics of computer sciences: Logic Analysis, Control Structure, Coding Language syntax.
- To provide a true understanding of how coding is utilized and impacts the real world.
- To impart to the students a “Growth Mindset”, resilience, and problem-solving skills that can be of use in whichever path they may choose.
Relevant Links and Influences:
- CodeHS Style and Philosophy: https://codehs.com/help/style_guide
- CodeHS Honor Code: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gwcvTy2RwSxDbcuh5IS_GP91y0t-OTkpOujLLcO5H0c/edit?ts=5a18c8b3
- “Growth Mindset” summary: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1duvYbzrz1PWSAl_H2I3Q6M0xT09X9M-QfaeaQN05kxI/edit
- “Growth Mindset” theory, additional information: https://www.mindsetworks.com/
II. Lesson Planning
The curriculum and individual lessons plans were established by tailoring the required material and academic level to the codeHS guidelines and introductory textbook (links below).
Each unit-lesson starts with a video presentation (from codeHS, Viemo, or relevant youtube tutorials), continues with example exercises shown and explained by the teacher, followed by the mentioned self exercises, and concludes with an open discussion led by the teacher to summarize and answer pertinent questions.
- CodeHS Curriculum Reference: https://codehs.com/info/curriculum/introjs
- CodeHS Textbook: https://www.gitbook.com/book/codehs/introcs/details
- Class Structure Framework:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1smDhwT1q9FlH9OfY0LsAh1bgfURJ394q4TGjaNPrGJA/edit?ts=5a18c7d3
- Additional textbook Influence: https://www.iste.org/resources/product?id=4077&name=Girls+CAN+Code
The exercises, lessons, and presentations done in the class are designed to neatly come together as a direct connection to a real-world example or product from daily life. Each key point of subject matter is thus illustrated to ensure each of the students understands the real-world applications of what they learn, and how it is all connected to the widest variety of disciplines and interests.
Relevant Links and Influences
- Bloom’s Taxonomy: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/
IV) Individual Learning
- Individual exercises are given for each unit lesson, worked on in an independent manner geared towards developing a willingness to try new approaches, and removing any of fear of failure.
- At the end of each unit of material, an exit-quiz is administered.
- Following a bi-weekly schedule, each student is tasked to put together a presentation (followed by class discussion) illustrating a specific impact computer science has had on our daily lives.
- CodeHS personal goal setting: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GCOTIktu2caCI07s3wXvLF12vubvEJICSKhEEACtZyo/edit?ts=5a18c82e
- Student Example assignment work: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FMwVq_Lp9zyAWSpNkar3oKEhZpxnNKJt/view?usp=sharing
V) Group/Collaborative Learning:
- The “Hevruta” effect: whenever a student is stuck with a given issue, the entire group is expected to help him or her out.
- The open nature of group work creates a constantly evolving discussion, an important part of teaching open-mindedness and communication skills.
- This kind of environment mirrors precisely what the students could experience as professionals in this field.
- Through constructive feedback and bonding with their peers, the overall experience of the individual student is reinforced.
Example clasroom videos links:
VI) The Teacher
Beyond setting the curriculum and lesson plan and ensuring the seamless integration of the various learning components, the teacher in the classroom is responsible for:
- Evaluating the individual students in terms of effort and process, and provides constant constructive feedback.
- Guiding the group/classroom discussion, advising on focus points and key questions.
- Being a facilitator, analyzer, and commentator.
- Not being a mere agent for the answers, instead guiding and assisting with finding effective tools and approaches.
- Establishing and maintaining a classroom environment devoid of fear-of-failure, emphasizing consistency and resiliency, and the principle that failure is simply a part of true success.
Relevant links and influences:
- CodeHS Teacher Goal Setting: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-nDOx_8tr3lAxF-hwA1lIeziElp7m3Iu_SJGEgvpUgU/edit?ts=5a18c87e
- Evaluation Rubric Reference: https://www.lanecc.edu/sites/default/files/assessment/ctrubric-w-12.pdf
VII) Final Projects
The projects symbolize the end goal of the learning journey undertaken by each student, with them proudly presenting this culmination of their body of work to their families and peers.
- Sample Compilation of projects and source code: https://drive.google.
com/file/d/ 1GBhStczGl8XVvZLyE94qXB- 5ih7bUe9c/view?usp=sharing
- Example project 1: A web-based SaveMe game: https://drive.google.
com/file/d/16v70BYj8zRRcE8- lOibk8SHBjcCiGEJa/view?usp= sharing
- Example project 2: A programmable/controlled Dreidel: https://drive.google.
com/file/d/ 1cb5YSR8Rdmc03NfTExg_ O78rHSXMj2iC/view?usp=sharing
- Example project 3: web-based Pacman game: https://drive.google.
com/file/d/1zfb7tOMnIO_ QUJkfIitEfcMa2ZkD4vsK/view? usp=sharing
- Example Project 4: Web- based learning (arithmetic): https://drive.
google.com/file/d/1VgZetlrv- 0ALaxf81BAS6s4caIM7znys/view? usp=sharing
Overall Impact and Conclusion:
The impact the approach and implementation have had on the students can be gauged utilizing the following:
- Enrollment: I started with a single class of 13 students. The second year we already had a total of 49(!) students, spread across 9th, 10th (honor/AP) and 11th grades, and this past year we added a second teacher and have had a total of 70 students across four classes.
- Individual student feedback – Summarized results of anonymous surveys administered yearly in the classroom, ensuring positive experience and continued refinement. It is also quite worth noting that there has been a significant increase of enrollment in Computer Science related classes and academic tracks among female students after taking this Coding class.
The results, unsolicited feedback received, and impact on the number of engineering majors produced has made this the most satisfying and fulfilling experience I could ask for as an educator, and something I wanted to at least share with the hope it can continue contributing and making a positive difference the generations of students to come.
Dr. Reuven Regev began his career in education nearly four decades ago as a teacher at the public high school system in Israel and at the Weitzmann Institute where he taught for many years Mathematics (Algebra, Geometry) and Computer Programming (Pascal, C) in a State program for gifted HS students designed and implemented by him. Following that, Dr. Regev held teaching as well as administrative positions at both the high school and University levels, focusing on Math, Physics, and Computers.
He was twice recognized as “outstanding teacher and scholar” by the open university and Bar-Ilan university, as well as by the US Federal Education and Cultural attaché' at the USA embassy in Tel Aviv – with the latter being the catalyst to his eventual migration to the U.S. in 1993 as coordinator and instructor through ORT.
Since 2000, Dr. Regev has held teaching and administrative positions in several Jewish High Schools in New Jersey, focusing specifically on Computer Technology, Electronics, and STEM subjects. He has been Teaching and heading the Coding and STEM Robotics class at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (Livingstone, NJ), since 2015.
Dr. Regev served in the 1970th in the IDF and was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain. He holds a B.Ed in Math and Physics (Teachers College Tel-Aviv), a B.A in Social Studies (Tel-Aviv University), an M.A. in Jewish Studies (Bar-Ilan University), an MSET - M.S in Educational Technology (Ramapo College), and M.I.S - Ph.D in Managing Information Systems (Kennedy W. University). He loves learning of all kinds, technology, teaching, and his family.