Do Space’s first innovation fellows presented their summer projects to friends and family on Saturday, with ideas ranging from how to demystify coding to a website that connects book donors with teachers.
The Do Space technology library created the Innovation Fellowship as a way for area educators to invent programs that could be shared and adapted by others.
This year’s three fellows each received a $10,000 stipend, and had access to all Do Space resources.
“It can be tough to find time in your regular work grind to experiment,” said Rebecca Stavick, Do Space executive director. “I’m sure (the fellows) have had these ideas in the past, but they didn’t have the time or resources to set aside and execute them.”
Teachers Charlie Cuddy and Derek Babb, along with Kylie Gumpert, who works with a literacy nonprofit, shared their summer’s work and hopes for the future during an event capping off their eight-week fellowship.
Cuddy, a math teacher at Bryan High School, said the push to educate youths in computer science has grown along with the number of technology-related jobs. But, he said, some teachers are intimidated if they’re not experts.
So he spent the summer compiling teacher-friendly approaches to introducing coding in the classroom. He crafted the lessons around Bricklayer, a computer program that gives students a more tangible way of learning concepts such as geometry and coding.
“For whatever reason, when kids are on a computer, it’s OK to be wrong,” Cuddy said.
Cuddy’s lesson plans (online at codecuddy.github.io/bricklayer) can last anywhere from a day to an entire semester. He hopes teachers in the Omaha Public Schools and surrounding districts can integrate lessons.
“Schools should be preparing students for the future. This is the future,” he said.
Gumpert is the growth engineer at DIBS for Kids, an organization that helps teachers grow and share their classroom libraries with students.
For her summer project Gumpert created BookZeal.org, a website that will connect donors with teachers and nonprofits in need of classroom books.
“I hope this will change the way we think about how we donate books,” she said. “For many of us, when it comes to donating books, we really have no idea where they end up.”
Typically when people make donations they simply leave their books at a drop-off site and don’t know where they’ll end up. But with Book Zeal, teachers can pick books that meet their classroom needs, and donors can find those in need with the push of a button.
As a computer science teacher at North High School, Babb has pushed students beyond basic programming.
For the past three years he’s taught a cybersecurity class, teaching young people basic concepts of the field and how to be safe online.
Babb spent the summer putting together a cybersecurity curriculum, compiling his own research and lesson plans into an easy-to-access package for teachers.
“When I started teaching cybersecurity I had to really find all the resources,” Babb said. “It was not developed in a way that was accessible for a high school teacher.”
Babb’s lesson plans are at github.com/DerekBabb/CyberSecurity. He hopes teachers will contribute their own findings. He plans to present his cybersecurity project at future teacher conferences.
“It’s growing as a profession, and if you pay any attention to the news, you see it all the time,” Babb said. “But it’s not growing in schools.”