Friday, July 19, 2013

CS Educator Interview: Robert Medrano

Today we return to Texas to talk to Robert MedroMedrano who teaches about as far south as you can get in the US. I met Robert at a TCEA conference a few years ago where I took an instant like to him.

Where do you teach? What sort of school is it?

I teach at Weslaco High School located in deeeeep south Texas referred to as the Rio Grande valley.  The area in general is considered to have a large population of low social economic families

How did you get started teaching computer science?

I was unable to get a job right away upon graduation from college and asked my high school principal if he could help me get into the districts I.t. department.  When I found out how much they paid vs. teacher pay I opted to go into teaching

Describe the computer science curriculum at your school. What courses do you have and what are the focuses of each?

I teach a pre AP course, a watered down version of my AP class. I cover basic programming concepts at a slower pace using Scratch, Karel and graphics.
I also have an AP section for the AP CS exam
Years 3 and 4 students can do independent study where we cover data structures, other programming languages and topics that students are interested in.

What is your overall teaching philosophy? Project based learning? Flipped classroom? In short, what makes your CS program “your CS program?”

I cover a concept and create an assignment that emphasis that concept based on something popular to students that year.  For example when iPods were first coming out I had an assignment where students created their own graphical MP3 player.   I have my own moodle page where I upload assignments, created my own jing videos and have  livescribe videos as well.  I have pulled resources from textbooks and other teachers to created my own worksheets.

What is the biggest challenge in teaching CS at your school?

Convincing students to take computer science regardless of what they intend to study.

What is administration’s support (or lack of support) like at your school?

They need to do a better job getting students who are capable of taking the class to sign up.  Many of our counselors keep these students from my course in fear it may affect their GPA. I am always disappointed when I see students and their majors and realize they are not prepared because of the lack of needed courses they should have taken in high school.  Admin and Counselors should do more than just give schedules but speak to students about what they intend to major in and guide them to the course work they should be taking.

How do you measure success for your program? For your students?

At the end of the year if they are able to complete the final project with little to no assistance.  AP course is based on how many students pass the exam. 

What is the one thing you like to talk about regarding your program that I haven’t already asked?

Unfortunately, we are located so far from big cities such as San Antonio, Houston, Austin that my students really do not get a chance to visit companies that do cool computer programming stuff.  Also, many camps are offered in these larger cities that my students can not attend due to the distance. 

School name and web site: Weslaco High School

For a full list of interviews in this series please see CS Educator Interviews: The Index

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