February 18, 2021

How a Computer Science Educator Moves Students to Discover New Talents

This teacher challenged his students to switch focus from playing games on their phones in class to build their own with coding. Did they accept the challenge? Read on to find out!

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This teacher challenged his students to switch focus from playing games on their phones in class to build their own with coding. Did they accept the challenge? Read on to find out!

We sat down with Miami-Dade Educator at Andover Middle School, Mike Carpenter to learn how he got into teaching, his experience teaching with Hatch Studio and how coding is getting some students excited about coming to school for the first time in their lives.

From Tech Retail to the Classroom: Discovering his Career

Mike is a lifelong learner with immense determination to master any new skill he puts his efforts to. He taught himself how to code after getting his first computer - an Atari 800. He shares, “I remember pouring through books of BASIC programs, typing character by character through code without having any form of debugging until you attempted to run a finished program. Followed by hours of reviewing every line to find the one typo preventing your program from loading. And did it ever hurt when the power would glitch!”  

In the early 1990s, he learned to troubleshoot and repair computers while working at CompUSA. He learned a ton on the job and went from working in the retail department to the tech shop, eventually leaving to become a field systems technician. He helped troubleshoot WindowsXT networks and systems until the company went bankrupt and he was out of a job.

Head held high, he moved on to new challenges and returned to college to complete his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. While he acquired his degree he worked as a paraprofessional and then as a systems technician at the elementary school that his mother worked at. After completing his degree, he was hired by the school to teach Grade 4. 13 years later he was teaching Grade 6 Science and Robotics. He then found a new teaching position with Andover Middle School (where he still teaches today) to teach History, Law Studies and Critical Thinking classes. But when the pandemic hit and school became virtual before returning to new social distancing measures in place, they pivoted. And the Critical Thinking classes were converted to Computer Science Discoveries, which is how he was introduced to the opportunity to teach students with Hatch Studio!

Teaching with Hatch Studio: Simple and Supported

Mike found the educator onboard process for working with Hatch Studio seamless. “The Hatch IDE (where kids code) was well explained in the introductory tutorial video and I discovered many of the teacher functions through click-and-grin,” he shares. He also received excellent support and training from Hatch Coding’s CS Professional Development Lead, Manon. The payoff of learning a new teaching tool like Hatch Studio? “I’ve loved watching students who are normally engaged with their phones become engrossed in one of the background languages used to make the games they spend so much time with,” he tells us.  

Student Reaction to Learning to Code with Hatch Studio: Engaged and Amazed

Mike tells us that his students were initially hesitant to learn coding since new languages can be daunting. He eased them into it by encouraging them to start slowly, with one line of code at a time. And then to watch their canvas to see what happens. He enthusiastically shares, “The excitement this generated has given me many of the most enjoyable student interactions of my 17+ year career. One student, a 7th-grade boy previously held back a grade, and who has difficulty engaging, has quickly become one of my best coders. Watching his enthusiasm grow with every program is just amazing!”

Explore his 6th-grader's top code project, Line Design. Watch the animations change with each mouse click.

His Teaching Philosophy: Full-Circle

Mike’s teaching philosophy is, “Teaching and learning are part of the same continuum, and the best way to learn anything is to teach it to someone else.” This is how he continues to learn and why he encourages his students to help each other with debugging their code.

He also believes, “Students should be presented with as many unconventional methodologies as possible to engage them. And if you can’t appeal to their sense of wonder, appeal to their sense of humour.” He’s always looking for multiple ways to make his teaching content interesting to his students and keeps their attention with his sharp wit.

Computer Science Kid
A Call for Computer Science for All

Mike knows the value of computer science education. “In today’s digital world, having knowledge of computer science is as important as any of the three R's. Tomorrow’s jobs will require a lack of fear of electronics and programming that can only come from early and frequent exposure to devices and languages.”

He’s confident that teaching students coding and learning to think like a computer can only result in them being more successful in their futures. His advice to teachers considering teaching with Hatch Coding? “What’s to consider? The system is wonderful and your kids are going to love it. Take some time to review the Getting Started Guide and the teacher materials, and don’t be afraid to code away!”

When not teaching, he can be found making and listening to music. He’s been playing the guitar for over 35 years and counting. He also enjoys playing video and board games with his seven-year-old daughter and geeking out to all things Star Wars with his wife.

Hatch Coding partnered with Miami-Dade, the 4th largest school district in North America, to provide a coding curriculum for Middle School students from Fall 2020 to Spring 2026. Book a meeting with us to learn more about our partnership opportunities for school boards.

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