Reflections During Black History Month

by Andrae Harper, Instructor at Create & Learn

Andrae is a public school teacher of 10+ years and he holds an MEd in Instructional Design and Technology. He also teaches children Scratch Ninja and My First Mobile Apps with Create and Learn. Andrae is an avid outdoor enthusiast, camping and fishing specifically, and he has a talent for music as well.

My name is Andrae Harper and I am an educator. I am married and have two beautiful daughters. My wife and I are both teachers. She teaches pre-school and I started my teaching career as a 5th grade teacher in Kansas, continuing for 10 years now.

In my spare time I love to play the guitar and games with family and friends. I also love camping and fishing. Last summer we purchased a camper and took a two week trip to North Dakota. We plan on taking more trips and hope to visit all the states.

One goal that I have is to learn something new each year. Last year it was all about RV’s and this year I am focused on learning a new programming language, starting with Javascript. Once I have a good handle on Javascript I hope to dive into more web design.

While teaching 5th grade I was involved in TRC, Technology Rich Classroom. This experience opened my eyes to using technology as a tool in the classroom to enhance learning for my students. When I decided to pursue a Masters degree, I knew I wanted to learn more about technology as well as teaching with technology so I chose to concentrate in Instructional Design and Technology while also earning certification in E-learning.  

During that time, my school district had just created a coding class at the middle school. Not wanting to wait until I finished my degree to extend my newfound skills and expertise, I decided to go for it!

I must admit, I didn’t know much about coding and the industry overall but I had completed a course about HTML and Web Design. I did enjoy learning HTML, and it was really cool learning what a web page is and how easy it was to create using any document.

I love learning new things that I find interesting and love to share those things in my classroom. I was able to take what I learned about web design and teach it to my 7th grade coding class which was awesome!

Being able to make connections with my students is so motivating and inspiring and l encourage them to combine their passions with their coding. I also think it’s pretty cool that I can use my talents of web design and actually get paid to make a website for someone.

I have learned a lot these last couple of years in regards to teaching coding.  

The biggest lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. Coding is an important skill, and it’s not just about the coding or the language that you are learning. It is a completely different way of thinking. It is problem solving, and knowing how to break down a task into manageable parts. This is computational thinking and this is what we need to teach all of our students and our children, not just for computer science, but to help kids thrive in all subjects and in life.
  2. Teaching computer science has challenged the way that I teach. I can’t just jump in and give the students the answers. I truly must let students struggle a bit. In doing so, I must also teach kids how to struggle; to use problem solving techniques, and how to get them to ask questions and think critically.  
  3. I’ve learned how much coding is embedded in our everyday lives and how many kids are not exposed to computer science. Not everyone knows it is a field they can pursue as a career, children and adults alike.
  4. I’ve also learned about the underrepresented groups in computer science with fewer people of color and girls clearly exemplified by the representation in my 7th and 8th grade coding classes. While there are fewer girls, they’re some of my best students! This really hits home with my own two daughters. I want them to believe that they can be anything that they want to be.
  5. I also learned through my experience teaching that not all kids believe that they can code, or don't have an interest in coding, teaching me that I need to relate coding to my students interest, and let them know that it can be challenging and hard, but they can create whatever they want and focus on their interest.

In the future I would love to have a diverse group of students in my coding classes, that are inspired by their passions, to use coding as a tool to express themselves creatively, and I often reflect upon what I can do to get more girls and diverse groups in coding. When students are passionate about their learnings there is nothing that they can’t accomplish.

Up next, continue reading our Black History Month blog series, with Follow Your Dream by instructor Jennifer Uboh-Jean.

Create & Learn is on a mission to power up your child’s future with courses in AI, Robotics, Data Science, and more. Designed for children grades 2-9, classes are delivered virtually with live, expert instructors. Lessons are interactive, foster creativity, and make real life connections across industries so your child can explore the latest technologies and have fun!