Tuesday, July 02, 2013

CS Education Interview: Pat Yongpradit–Code.org

PatYongpraditPat Yongpradit has been an award winning computer science teacher at Springbrook High School for a number of years. He has taken high school teams to the national finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition where they have outshone university students. He was named a 2010 Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Educator by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program. He’s also been a frequent speaker at conferences, a valuable curriculum developer and education advisor to schools, industry and elected officials. Recently he made a new move and is now Director of Education at Code.org. I asked Pat if I could interview him about his new role.

Let’s start with Code.org. How would you describe the goals and mission of code.org?

codeorglogoOur mission is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It’s about more than just coding, we’re just called Code.org because it sounds snappy.
We aim to do this in three ways: Educate. Advocate. Celebrate.
Educate: We aim to bring CS into schools that don’t already have it. First, we are crafting an online programming environment. Second, we are creating a blended-learning curriculum based on many of our community’s ideas of what should go into an introductory computer science experience. Third, we plan to continue making a series of videos featuring celebrities, industry professionals, and CS educators teaching CS concepts. Lastly, we are backing our offerings with professional development.
Advocate: We will continue to do the good work started in the Computing in the Core movement by advocating for CS to be recognized as a graduation credit.
Celebrate: We aim to inspire students, parents, and schools through high level marketing via videos, events, and celebrities.
We are collaborating with the CS education community to reflect the latest and greatest in CS education thought.
[ED: as of this posting Code.Org is in the running for a $50,000 grant. You can vote for them at http://www.azuredevs.com/Programs ]

What is your role in this new organization? How will you be spending your time and energy?

I am the Director of Education. I originally asked if I could be the Secretary of State or the Minister of Defense, but they weren’t having it. All the stuff under “Educate” is what I am charged with.
How will I be spending my time and energy? Emails and conference calls. No, just kidding… though I do see that outside of the classroom, much of the adult professional world is composed of meetings and communication. Fortunately, I get to meet and talk with people I enjoy and about a topic we all care about. I will make the time to hop into classrooms, including my previous one.

You were pretty happy as a classroom teacher. What was it that lured you from the traditional classroom to this new role?

What first comes to mind is the chance to make a difference on a larger scale. But I also started to grow weary of the pace of work when trying to do too many things at once in the cause of CS education. In addition to teaching CS to my students, I was building the CS community in my district, writing curriculum, and advocating for CS education nationally. Now I can focus more and have greater impact. Once I started teaching computer science, I thought I’d retire doing so. Luckily, I still get the chance to do so, but now my classroom is composed of our nation’s CS teachers and students.

Code.org has some ambitious goals for an online learning program. What does the implementation time line look like? Or is that still too early to tell?

Too early to tell. I want to do things right and learn from our community’s successes. I have always been grateful that our community has some great minds leading it and any organization would make a big mistake to not fully consult with the oracles before going into battle. A proverb comes to mind, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Who is the audience for the code.org learning platform?

Students engaging in an introductory computer science experience and their teachers.

Many teachers are already showing the videos that code.org has produced. What do you see as the future relationship between code.org and classroom teachers?

To all of my fellow CS teachers, novices to experts: Code.org has your back. We are creating tools and curriculum that will offload some of your work to allow you to focus on what you do best. We are going to have celebrities inspire kids to take your classes and continue their CS studies. We are open to any suggestions you have. Email me at pat@code.org

How did you get to where you are now?

Friends, mentors, and hard work. Friends looking out for me and my students. Mentors who didn’t even know they were modeling to me what it means to be a quality computer science teacher. The hard work to make a vision a reality.
More about Pat Yongpradit on the Internet
For a full list of interviews in this series please see CS Educator Interviews: The Index

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