What professional learning, or just learning, looks like…


For the fifth straight year we’ve offered a week long summer CoderDojo experience to our students. This year around 700 kids from Kindergarten through 12th grade have joined us, in groups of around 170, for four half days in a row.

It’s a thrill to watch. The kids can chase whatever coding experiences they want but this year we offered four strands to begin, Scratch and Kodu and wherever that might take kids; Engineering with Arduinos; “Physical Computing” — learning to take computers apart, reassemble them, assess them; and Music and Coding — writing music on Raspberry Pi.

Just being in the room makes me happy.

We have every kind of kids here, including all kinds of kids with all kinds of “labels,” but here, in CoderDojo, the problems don’t appear, only the talents.

Which makes it wonderful for another reason.

This year we added a new wrinkle. Teachers had the option — instead of choosing classes our teachers offer that make up two days of summer professional learning — to come spend a week with us, to work with our CoderDojo kids and some really cool educators.

Not a lot of teachers chose this option this first try but a few did, and we do think we’ve found our next step.

We keep rethinking professional learning, and four years ago we abandoned mass instruction for choice. In July teachers can pick from hundreds of workshops created by and led by our own teachers, and they can choose the days and times. If they do that they can return two days later in August. If not they get to pick from fewer options offered those first two days back.

It’s been great, a huge step forward, but we keep asking, what’s next? And since we’re working hard to bring immersive learning environments to our students, what might we do for our teachers?

And immersion in CoderDojo creates a fast and steep learning curve. Teacher participants quickly learn the art of working in a multiage, multiple teacher, open environment.

They work in a fully student-centric, choice-driven environment. They see that core subject learning — math, science, language, history (all of which are somehow discussed) — are learned more effectively when the focus lies a bit outside that frame. You want to see vocabularies grow, or see 7-year-olds who understand negative integers, slope, and ratios, or meet kids deeply processing how electricity works, come to CoderDojo.

And they see diverse teaching styles, in the hands of great teachers, and that’s a very rare experience in K-12 education.

And we talk, and after all this immersion we will help these teachers plan how what the kids do in their classrooms will change.

Call it immersion, or experiential education, or an advanced internship… we’re giving teachers a real chance to play in a real sandbox, a sandbox that demonstrates what kids can do when they are freed from the constraints of our too-rarely-questioned belief in the school structures we’ve inherited.

And it’s been brilliant. So next summer — how to make it much bigger?

It’s summer and kids and teachers are voluntarily showing up at school, and it’s a party. A learning party. And you know what? We should be doing this all year, for every kid.

  • Ira Socol

Author, Dreamer, Educator: A life in service - NYPD, EMS, disabilities/UDL specialist, tech and innovation leader for education. Co-author of Timeless Learning

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