Columbus-area teachers took part in a week-long Apple coding workshop and presented their work Aug. 2. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State

Columbus-area teachers went from having apples on their desk to having Apple in their classrooms when they had the opportunity to learn how to code from Apple through the company’s Community Education Initiative in collaboration with Ohio State and two local school districts.

Apple’s Community Education Initiative hosted a week-long Teacher Coding Academy last week for Southwestern City Schools and Columbus City Schools in collaboration with Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology in an effort to bring coding curriculums to schools demonstrating financial need.

Cory Tressler, director of Digital Flagship at Ohio State, said that the boot camp-style program is designed to promote coding skills among teachers by teaching them Apple’s coding language, Swift.

“Their mission on educating these K-12 teachers who then will educate K-12 students — middle and high school students — and spark their ideas about these skills is really core to what we’re doing in Digital Flagship,” Tressler said.

LaShaunda Robinson, the science department chair at Walnut Ridge High School, attended the Teacher Coding Academy. She said she left with more than just a greater understanding of coding due to the idea of challenge-based learning, the style of instruction Apple used to approach the week.

“So when you do this challenge-based learning you don’t just teach the kids stuff; you let them try to figure things out. And in that, there’s the ability to learn how to try things and then fail and then fail and then pick yourself up and try again,” Robinson said. “Because you may not find the answer the first time, the second time, the third time.”

Robinson said the teachers were presented with real-world, community-based challenges and placed in groups. They were then instructed to design an app to help solve the problem they chose to work on.

On Friday, the groups presented their designs to the entire program, Tressler said.

Robinson said that her school district is behind in technology, but with Apple providing the technology as well as the necessary education for teachers to design a coding curriculum, more students can learn about technology.

“This program will allow everybody to access the coding, which is what is so phenomenal, and it will be able to allow our district to catch up with the rest of the districts,” Robinson said.

Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson said in a statement that this is what Apple is aiming for.

“Students of all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn to code,” she said. “We are thrilled to be working with Ohio State University and other local partners to create a sustainable community effort to bring coding to students and teachers across the region.”

Columbus-area teachers took part in a week-long Apple coding workshop and presented their work Aug. 2. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State

Robinson said that the program showed her that she is capable of learning coding language, and she said that what she takes back to her students will revolutionize the way kids learn by incorporating challenge-based learning into other courses.

“We’re going to transition from being prone to memorization just like little robots to designing the robots,” Robinson said. “They’re not going to be regurgitating information anymore; they’re going to be processing and solving problems and becoming critical thinkers, which, in the future, is what we’re going to need.”

Chris Zirkle, associate professor of educational studies, said he helped handpick the 18 teachers who participated, and they received two graduate credits to put towards renewing their teaching license.

Although this program is designed to help bring coding to underserved communities, Zirkle said that provided much more to the culture of the university.

“There is so much that goes on in this campus independently — people are doing some wonderful things — but there’s not a lot of connection,” Zirkle said. “So it’s an opportunity to meet people and share ideas for future collaboration.”

For Robinson, bringing people together means including all of her students in this curriculum, as she said that Apple is providing the materials for the program for all grade levels, so students performing at different academic levels in the same class can all begin to build coding skills. She said it allows her to plan a curriculum that can be differentiated for each student.

“It almost makes me want to cry because they have embedded this differentiation and that is what I love about these programs,” Robinson said. “It makes it easy for anybody — anybody — in the building to code.”

Zirkle said they plan to run another course next semester.