Last spring, the Toms River Regional School District was awarded a $260,000 grant for the 2018-2019 school year from the Office of Naval Research to bring advanced coding to its three high schools. Dubbed TR:TechReady, the plan focuses on developing experiences across the curriculum in seven advanced coding languages. The first phase of the program, a coding camp that brought together students and teachers in July and August, was hugely successful and prompted an invitation from the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) to share the program with its members at its October 3 meeting.
Lead writer and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marc Natanagara provided the context for taking on the initiative: alignment with district goals to make learning more personalized, authentic, and integrated across disciplines. Activities connected students with coding experts, local mentors, hands on applications, and real world issues (with the United Nations’ 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” as inspiration).
Educational Technology Supervisor Tiffany Lucey, with High School East computer science teacher and lead project investigator Suzanne Signorelli, described the alignment of TechReady with the key navy goals of college and career readiness in areas including cybersecurity, materials testing, and research and development.
“Hearing Toms River's presentation really struck me ... This is a model for how computer science could be implemented in every school.” -- Warren Hills teacher Daryl Detrick
The most exciting part of the evening were presentations by eight of the participating teachers. Each shared how they found synergy with their chosen computer programming language and their subject areas, and with taking on the role of learner in a room of students who were more naturally comfortable with computing.
The teachers who traveled over an hour from Toms River to represent the program were: Amber Hull (English, HSS), Ann Gural (World Languages, HSN), Brooke Magan (Special Education, HSS), Christopher Manolio (Physics, HSN), Heather Schoeneberg (Chemistry, HSN), John Raffaele (Biology, HSS), Kyle Seiverd (Science, HSN), and Laura Morgan (AP Literature, HSE).
The response from CSTA members was overwhelmingly positive. Daryl Detrick, a teacher at Warren Hills who has helped lead the Computer Science Teachers Association of NJ (CSTANJ) advocacy efforts the last few years, remarked, “Hearing Toms River's presentation really struck me. They really get the idea that computational thinking should not be taught in isolation, but integrated into all subjects. This is a model for how computer science could be implemented in every school.”