Heidi Baynes Wants to Help You with Computer Science in the Classroom

Everyday, we get the opportunity to meet with educators from across the country doing their best to make a dent in the status quo of education. Most of them haven’t written books and you won’t find them yelling on Twitter. What you will do is find them doing their best to make a difference.

For a long time, I wished that others could meet these educators and hear their stories. I thought, “If only someone would help tell these great stories!” Then I realized that I fall into the category of “someone” and I decided to try and share some of the stories I hear.

When I first started working in K12, I had a pretty “mainstream media” view of education and educators. I was coming from “the real world” of high tech…whatever that meant. As I traveled around the country attending weekend conferences, training seminars, and the like, I came to appreciate the ridiculous amount of passion and effort teachers put into their craft. I came to appreciate how much teachers truly care about making education better.

No one embodies this more than my first guest, Heidi Baynes. Without giving too much away, Heidi is an EdTech Coordinator for the Riverside County Office of Education and a Google Certified Innovator. This is just the beginning as Heidi shares her thoughts on the Google Certified Innovator Program, teaching Computer Science in K12, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and much, much more.

In full disclosure, I thought it would be a good idea if we did a dry run for the interview and so I was busy checking our recording software, etc. I tended to be a little bit distracted. However, the conversation - especially Heidi - was so engaging that we decided to just go for it. This resulted in a little extra editing on my part.

I hope you enjoy meeting Heidi and I hope to bring you more of these conversations very soon!

Full Transcript

DAMON: Hi! I'm Damon Torgerson, co founder of Alludo. Thank you for taking the time to check out our video.  In this video, I have a really cool conversation with Heidi Baynes, Ed Tech Coordinator, for the Riverside County Office of Education. Heidi has a lot of really interesting things to say, and I think you'll find it valuable. Unfortunately, we ran into a couple of technical difficulties that resulted in some extra editing. So that's why I'm here on the beginning of this video, rather just jumping straight to the conversation. In any case, thanks again for joining. And I think you're gonna find this video really interesting.

SLIDE: Heidi Baynes, Coordinator of Educational Technology, Riverside County, Office of Education

DAMON: Hey, Heidi! Where you're at and how'd you get there?

HEIDI: So I am a coordinator of Educational Technology at Riverside County, Office of Education in Southern California. This is my twentieth year in education, I can’t believe it. I started as a middle school teacher in Covina Valley Unified. I did some work online, where I taught mainly middle school but high school social studies as well.

And then eventually, went to San Jacinto Unified in Riverside County as a teacher on special assignment or instructional tech.  I was there for four years, and then this last year we made the transition here to the county office.

DAMON:  Super! Now you are also Google Certified Innovator.  How did that happen? Did that happen this year. How did that come about? 

HEIDI:  So that's very recent. I was able to attend that Cohort in Copenhagen, Denmark, in November.  It was an amazing journey. I applied a couple of times to the Innovator Program but was accepted to Copenhagen. So I had to spend three days going through the training there on design thinking and have large scale problem solving and really did that at the root of a problem so that you can find solutions that work for it.

DAMON: Okay, so now, as I understand it, the program changed a little bit this year where you kind of stated a problem that you want to be working on, and kind of work on that problem over the course of the year, over the course of your cohort. What is that problem? And why did you choose it?

HEIDI: So, my my problem has morphed a couple of times, but it's always been around computer science and stuck on really easing the anxiety of teachers that are either being tasked right now with teaching computer science, or down the line are going to be asked to be integrating computer science into their standard curriculum.

So I know it's going to be a very large task for a lot of teachers who already have a very full plate. So the goal is to in some way,  ease that anxiety when that goes down the pipe. Particularly in California, and they are being required to implement computer science standards. I want to be there to support them with ideas and solutions to support that integration. 

DAMON: So when do those computer science standards come online? When are they kind of being required? And what are some of the approaches you're thinking about to ease teachers transition into those standards,

HEIDI: So I don't know if there is a required date yet. Right now, they have been released and  very recently that just come out of draft form. You know, the committee is still working on them, is still working on a framework for implementation. In California, you can see them and sorry I don't have the website to reference offhand, but

DAMON: We'll put it in the show notes.

HEIDI:  Okay. If you Google, Computer Science Standards California, you can see them in their entirety. I like to create something that's ready made for teachers and usable for them. Where even a teacher without any experience in computer science can take something and integrate it into their classroom instruction.

Right now, I'm thinking about doing that around NGSS, but that may take a couple of different forms as I continue to solve that problem. But that's one of the things were looking to do is just to create something that I can get  or train teachers on.  It would be easy for them to implement, and not one more thing, but help him take maybe one more thing off their instructional plate.

DAMON:  So that is interesting, and we're probably not going to see less Computer Science going forward. So whether the standard is released this year, to two or three years from now, chances are teachers, computer science is going to become a new, increasingly important part of their of their lives. Are you solving this by yourself? Is this something with your cohort in general you're working together. Do you have people you're working with on this problem?

HEIDI:  So that's a really interesting question. I think there's a lot of people working on this problem either officially or unofficially. I know my team here at Riverside County is working on this problem.  In my cohorts, there were several people also working on something similar. I have a mentor that’s Tara Linney,  that I'm working with. Helping me, you know walking me  through this process and find real ways to help teachers.

Because I don't want to give them one more thing either. I want to make something useful that makes sense for what they're doing, and I don't want to waste their time with another initiative, I  really want it to be integrated  in what they're doing to make things easier.

SLIDE: Why Heidi focused on Computer Science in education

DAMON: What attracted you to this problem?

HEIDI:  I think you touched on it when you said “You know, it's not going away” and there's kind of two issues in my opinion, with the problem, there's the need to explicitly teach computer science to offer more computer science courses or students that want to go down that path as a career.

But there is also a need to integrate, you know, computer science principles into core instructions so that students have an exposure to it. It's not that everyone needs to grow up and be a programmer or what they want to be or what we want them to be, but that exposure, so there's an equitable exposure to the concepts and the principles.

A lot of students that don't even know that they would be interested in taking a course like that. And unless we  expose them to it in small ways. We don't know what they don't know. They don't know that they're interested in it, if they never have the opportunity to experience it. And along with the initial thinking and logical thinking that goes into learning through computer science principles enhances  learning across the curriculum.  You asked me a question I don't think I answered.

DAMON:  No, you're doing just fine and leads into,  you and I have talked about this offline a little bit. But you've talked about how teachers might be able to use the computer science curriculum or computer science approaches to address meeting standards in other areas. How might that look to you?

HEIDI: When you think about other standards that have to be met, like I said, we don't want to try to meet a science standard and a computer science standard and try to do all of these different things, particularly in the elementary classroom, where you have a teacher that's teaching all the subjects. It's just, it's not possible to me,  every single standard, every single thing.

So in something like science, if you have to create a model or you have to represent data, you could do that through programming and  coding, and whether it's to block coding or coding with actual programming language, that's one way to learn more deeply about a standard and apply computer science principles at the same time  as meeting the standard that the teacher used to meet in the core subject.

SLIDE: Heidi talks about the Raspberry Pi Foundation

HEIDI:  I have to give credit to the Raspberry Pi Foundation because I'm one of those people that didn't know I was interested in Computer Science. And at some point I heard about their training, it was called Academy, and I don't even remember how I heard about it, but I planned to attend. I  was in Texas two years ago,  and I flew to Austin, and I went to this two days of training, and I just came home in love with physical computing and the idea of implementing computer science into the curriculum. It  changed a lot for me  personally and professionally, and I owe a lot of credit to them in that community and that product that kind of dragged me into a world that I didn't know I would be interested in.

Just struck a nerve with me and the support that was available in that community made it possible for me to go further with that, and I would be on my own.

DAMON: That is awesome. And I know that you've been very involved with raspberry pie and with programming in general, and especially with  girls in coding.  Yeah, so that's fantastic.

With a computer science background there were like three women in my engineering class right? And we all treated them as like “What's that?” kind of thing. And it's a real issue, a real challenge. So it's wonderful that it's a number of years later that this problem is,  and I know a lot of people have been working on this problem for a long time.

It's not like it's new, but it seems to me that there's some momentum, especially as we're hitting into the K12. Teachers like yourself are becoming very engaged, involved in addressing this problem directly, and that is by no means is that is rejecting what's been done in the past. That has been a lot of  passionate people that have been really driving this sort of conversation forward, right? Go ahead.

HEIDI: Well, I was just going to add to that. I think you know the online networks and the ability for people to communicate and connect when you're not in the same room has really added to that movement because people who maybe once felt marginalized or alone in this quest, you could reach out enders. A lot of people just like you. Maybe not right in your area are right in the same room. But  they got connection process, has helped with that momentum, code works certainly is.

DAMON: Right, as I said earlier, we could talk for hours on this. I am totally fascinated and totally inspired by the work that you're doing both at Riverside County, and with Google, and the work that you do, just volunteering with raspberry pie and that sort of thing, so that's just wonderful.

SLIDE: What districts can do to start incorporating computer science next year

DAMON:  A lot of this is new, and it is hard. School districts and  teachers are coming in, especially districts, they're coming into the planning season, right? Planning for 2019-2020 school year. 

What do you think some of those district should be thinking about, as they look to incorporate computer sciences, incorporate this new way of teaching computer science into their curriculums, into their schools. 

HEIDI:  Definitely  high schools and middle schools, building something into their master schedule so that they can offer those courses. I know that's one of the hurdles I heard from people, is you know, Master Schedules are a beast, and I've never made one, I was never a site administrator, so I can't really speak to how difficult that truly is.

But  trying to make that space so that those courses can be offered. They can’t take them if there's not an offering of them. So when we talk, just straight, offering computer science courses built in something so that they could be offered.

Ultimately a pathway, I know that's a talk of a lot of people. It's not just one class offering but creating these pathways so students can start in six or seven grade and make it all the way up. 

So, you know just straight offering the course but having a plan for a whole pathway is it's really important for students and for schools. And they are not talking about pathways and actual computer science courses, looking ahead at ways that it could be incorporated into the core curriculum.

You know and spring small. I don't think every teacher used to jump in and teach computer science every day in their elementary classroom. But maybe you know, there's one or two lessons in a semester or even in a year where maybe we can tackle this idea or show what we know through computer science principles. And, something we didn't mention either is it doesn't have to be on a computer. There's plenty of activities that could be done, especially at the lower grades that teach us that sequential thinking.

We're starting very young,  a code and sequence and computational thinking  that could parlay into more complex programming later on.

SLIDE: Resources available to districts looking to incorporate computer science into their curriculum

DAMON: What are some resources that they might be able to leverage that are available now?

HEIDI:  I would start with code.org, you know, they have there courses that they offer, training that teachers can take. We are a Code.org  partnership here in Riverside County. And there's a full consortium of district's here in Riverside Southern California that are working together to bring code.org courses to teachers and students. 

I mean, there's a whole host of resources that you could start with. But code.org is definitely your one stop shop. I know, Project Lead The Way, offers pathways there's a lot of places depending on your district's focus that you could go. I think code.org, is a place to start.

DAMON:  Okay. So we'll have all these in the notes post for the show.

Slide: Heidi’s productivity tip for educators 

DAMON:  What's a tip that will make a teacher's life easier?

HEIDI:  Okay, so this is not computer science related, but one thing I really enjoy, and it's also not a new tool, but I really like Grammarly. And if you're not using the Grammarly extension for Chrome,  it's a grammar checker, checks spelling and grammar. And it has saved me so much time because it catches all those little things that I might not catch.

But someone showed me and I apologize, I don’t remember who it was that showed me Grammarly keyboard for my phone? So even when I’m  texting, I can run Grammarly on my text messages and it catches all of those typos that can sometimes would be embarrassing, right? It catches stuff before you hit send. It helps me out professionally and personally to have those kind of checkers running. So I'm not worried about that. That constant grammar and spell check, I know that seems silly, but if you're not already using those tools, they're fantastic. I really like them. 

DAMON: Well,I don't think it's silly at all. It saves time and it takes off worry. So I mean we're not getting paid by Grammarly at all.

HEIDI:  Yeah. No. I have Grammarly so.

SLIDE: Educators you might want to follow on Twitter

DAMON:  We all know there's a lot of personalities out there,  but there are  just a whole wealth of educators. I meet educators all across the country who all have interesting things to say, really give their time to two other teachers into their peelings. Who are a few folks that you think  that are interesting and that you would recommend people to follow, for example, on Twitter.

HEIDI: Corporation wise, I would say, follow Raspberry Pi, because a lot of resources, information come out there.

Personally, so there's a particular couple. They live and work in Texas. Their last name was Quentin, they run a STEM Lab at  elementary school. So Bradley Quentin and I've tweeted about following him before. They do amazing things with scratch and other types of programming. Both on the screen and the physical world. So creative, so clever. If you're not following them and you do anything with scratch or making raspberry pi, follow them. They have ideas that are just fantastic. Amazing. So it was Bradley Quentin and Kimberly Quentin.

DAMON:  I  got their names and we'll have their Twitter handles in the show.

HEIDI:  And then Amanda Haughs, who's up north in California, creates wonderful stem activities integrated with computer science. She has them on her blog and  they are free, and they are wonderful resources, extremely well done. It's like take and go. You don't you know you need the supplies, but she just creates the most wonderful resources and I often talk about her. Well, if you're not following her, that's definitely someone to follow

DAMON: Amanda's awesome

HEIDI:  Oh, You know Amanda,

DAMON: I know Amanda and she is like a firecracker. A firecracker wrapped inside of dynamite.

HEIDI:  She is amazing.

DAMON:  Okay, So now the last kind of questions. How people can get a hold of you. How can they follow you?

HEIDI:  So you can follow me, I'm @BaynesHeidi on Twitter.

DAMON:  That's awesome. Well, thank you, Heidi. This has been this has been amazing, so thank you very much. 


Computer Science Standards California

Raspberry Pi Foundation


Project Lead The Way

Grammarly Extension in Chrome

Code Equity: Keying Girls Into Coding by Tara Linney


Raspberry Pi - @raspberry_pi

Bradley Quentin - @bquentin3

Kimberly Quentin - @kboyceq

Amanda Haughs - @mshaughs

Tara Linney - @TaraLinney

Heidi Baynes - @baynesheidi