CST 361 Week 8

This is the final week of the course and the first week of my internship with Qualcomm. I still have to wrap up my documentary for my service learning project. While I normally do not wait until near the end of the deadline to finish up my assignments, this week has been a bit rough on me. I have panic disorder with agoraphobia, and my anxiety has been heightened due to being in new, unfamiliar locations and situations. I feel like it has been worth it though for all the amazing opportunities this internship will afford me.

On Sunday, I moved into the luxury apartment in Kearny Mesa that Qualcomm subsidized for my internship. The place is unlike anywhere I have lived before. Everything needs a key fob to access–even the elevators! There are pools, a hot tub, an on-site 24 hour gym, out door areas to sit and lounge, a fire pit…and more. I have a nice room mate named Crystal that works in the same building and floor as me.

Monday was dedicated to intern orientation. We were led on a tour of the Qualcomm museum and learned about the history of the company. We also got our I-9 paper work squared away, received our badges, and got some swag (including a Qualcomm sweatshirt and water bottle!)

On Tuesday, I mainly hung out with my mentor, Marv, since the rest of my team was out on vacation or out of state on business. There were a few hiccups with my corporate-issued machine that only just got resolved today. But, it was all a great learning opportunity to learn the process of submitting service requests and getting to know the staff that assists with those issues. Marv allowed me to accompany him on a meeting and took me out to lunch at one of the on-campus cafeterias, which reminded me of the cafes at university.

By Wednesday, my manager, Connie, returned from vacation and a bunch of us went out to lunch at a place called Din Tai Fung, where we enjoyed soup dumplings, bao buns, and boba tea. Today I primarily focused on getting acquainted with the web platform my team had been working on and getting my machine squared away. Tomorrow is QSOL–Qualcomm Summer on the Lawn–where we get to invite family and friends to enjoy live music, food stands, and other events. I’m excited to show my husband around!

Week 7 CST 361

Since Sweetwater High’s academic year ended last week, I have been spending this week relaxing and preparing to start my internship at Qualcomm next week. I am pretty nervous because I will be living in company-provided housing away from my husband to limit the commute and to be immersed in the internship. I have been battling agoraphobia for about 10 years, and this is the first time I will be away from home for such an extended period. But, I know it is important for both my personal and professional growth.

This week, we discussed Jane McGonigal’s 2012 TEDTalk on how “Gaming Can Make a Better World”.

In it, McGonical claims that people need to play more video games in order to exact the positive changes that will save the world, such as solving world poverty and hunger and reversing climate change. However, it is unclear if her studies she uses to back up her claims are biased towards subjects that already have a sense of collaboration, common goals, and positivity. She speaks mostly of MMORPGs in her examples; are the factors she is investigating confounded by the personality characteristics found typically among MMORPG players? Still, her idea is interesting and warrants further investigation.

Week 6 CST 361

The class of 2019 has officially graduated from Sweetwater High!

I gathered the rest of the footage I needed for my service learning documentary this past week at the graduation ceremony, which is held annually at a local community college since the number of students served by Sweetwater is so large.

As I mentioned before, this senior class has been particularly extraordinary. For instance, this year’s valedictorian, Alfred Vargas (whom I’ve had the privilege of teaching AP CSA to this year), wrote an amazing speech and has had several articles written about him and his achievements.

Taking a year-long leave of absence from teaching computer science to explore software engineering as an alternative career will be bittersweet, but I believe it is the right thing to do. I believe that being a successful woman in tech will make me a great role model for young women looking to pursue such careers and I look forward to serving in that capacity in the near future.

Week 5 CST361

Last week was the last week for seniors at Sweetwater High, which means that my AP CSA courses are pretty much empty this week (only 4 non-seniors in one period and 6 in the other). Every year, Sweetwater holds the a farewell to seniors assembly before actual graduation so that the underclassmen can see the seniors walk in with banners representing where they will be headed next (e.g. university, technical school, or military). During the assembly, it really hit me how awesome this senior class has been–there have been truly exceptional individuals in this graduating class.

Since I am taking a year-long leave of absence next year to focus on finishing the program and to intern at Qualcomm to explore my career options, I took home all the notes, gifts, and artwork students have given to me over the years and put them in a scrapbook.

Perhaps most touching are the notes received from students who have told me that I have fostered their love for computer science. Just this year, I had a sophomore student enrolled in AP CSA (usually a class taken Junior or Senior year) who took the course because her older brother (our 2019 Valedictorian) urged her to. This whole school year she worked diligently to understand the depth and breadth of the course material and even wound up outperforming her brother in the end. I was moved when she informed me that I really impacted her in gaining a love for computer science. This is something I strive for because often times we as teachers are hindered by the cumbersome requirements of the curriculum to make a course fun and engaging–and, wow, there is a LOT to cover in AP CSA in just one year if your students have had minimal to no computer science / programming experience!

My experience in impacting young women in the computer science classroom parallels this week’s discussion topic — Black Girls Code.

Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls Code with the vision of, not only increasing the number of women of color in the digital world, but to provide them with the tools to become innovators–not mere consumers–of technology. She cites the importance of having role models in STEM fields that one can identify with–role models that look like you and are a part of your social group and/or culture–to open up avenues that might otherwise seem unattainable.

I believe that I have served a similar goal, at a smaller scale, at Sweetwater High. Though I am not Latina or Filipina (the two largest ethnic groups the school serves), as a woman, I have served as a role model for young women at Sweetwater High wanting to pursue computer science. It is for this reason that, even though I may move on to software engineering, I will always maintain ties with CS education and mentorship.

Week 4 CST 361

AP testing is over, and, with my hours complete, my focus has been on keeping my students at my site engaged for the 2-3 weeks (Seniors are done one week earlier than underclassmen) left of the school year.

My AP Computer Science Principles kids signed up for one of several modules I created for them:

  • 3D Modeling and Printing Using TinkerCAD
  • Physical Computing Using the Adafruit Circuit Playground
  • Java Programming Using Greenfoot
  • Web Design Using CodePen

One of my exceptional students approached me if he could do a special project: mod an Atari 2600 joystick into a wireless controller using Adafruit’s Feather nRF52.So, I dug up one of my old joysticks so he could work on this project!

Most of my students signed up to learn about 3D printing, so, I reached out to my colleague and friend–the school librarian–so we could borrow the library 3D printer to complement the one in my room so we could print two things at once.

My AP Computer Science A kids are also doing some extension activities. They are learning version control with GitHub and using that tool to implement a Flappy Bird clone in several phases. Students that finish this early then move on to creating a basic Android application using Android Studio. Since most of my CSA students are graduating seniors, I also had everyone in the class create a LinkedIn profile with a professional photo, list of their community service, and, if applicable, their job experience.

I have created a LinkedIn group for CS alumni at my site so everyone can keep in touch. I have had past students join as well, so now my current students have access to recent graduates who are now in university majoring in STEM fields!

CST 361 Week 3

This has been the second and last week of AP testing. My AP Computer Science A students are testing this Friday in the afternoon — the last test of AP test season! It is a notoriously difficult test with an hour and a half for 40 multiple choice questions and another hour and a half for four Free Response Questions (FRQs), which have students hand-write code–anything from a short mutator or accessor to an entire class. Each FRQ has 2-3 parts involved.

I feel that with the 30+ hours of volunteer hours spent after school and during Saturday school on top of what we have done in class, these students are probably the best prepared group I’ve had in my short teaching career. I cannot attribute this to my teaching entirely because I have some exceptional students this year that are extremely diligent and studious. Many of them are seniors who will, in a scant few weeks will be graduating and, later, moving on to university!

Care packages for my AP CSA students

Yesterday I received official word that I have been granted a leave of absence for the 2019-2020 school year to finish my academic studies. I will also be taking advantage of this time by interning at Qualcomm and doing some personal growth. It has been an extremely advantageous time to take leave because of the low morale within our district rooting from potential financial fraud resulting in budget deficits and cuts.

I am trying not to feel guilty about leaving students behind who had been anticipating in having me as their AP Computer Science A teacher next year, but it is time to put myself first.

Week 2 CST 361

As previously stated, I have already worked over 30 hours at my site, completing the volunteer hours I will submit; however, being a teacher, I am constantly working unpaid hours–whether it be lesson planning, grading, or simply staying after school to listen to a kid that needs someone to listen to them.

This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week and the first week of AP exams. I have had so many students break down these past weeks due to stress, anxiety, and depression. I have had to listen to so many students through their tears, give reassurances and advice, or just sit with them. But, despite it all, every single one of those students sat for their AP Computer Science Principles exam last Friday and gave it their all. I am proud of every single one of them for learning so much and growing more resilient every single day.

Care packages I gave to my AP CSP students on exam day!

Next week will be the second week of AP exams and my AP Computer Science A students will be testing on Friday. AP CSA is an exceptionally difficult course that is usually treated as a capstone course at the end of a four-year series–something we do not have in place at our site. But, I have had some very dedicated learners this year and I am certain a fair chunk of them will pass the exam. Regardless if students pass or not, they have learned so much and, should they choose to go on to take CS in college, they will have a much easier time in their intro courses because of their hard work this year.

For the documentary that I must create for the end of this service learning course, I plan to use some existing footage I have of my students learning throughout the year as well as some B roll footage of our campus and the surrounding community.

CST 361 – Week 1

Although this is only the first week of this service learning course, I started my service hours about one month ago and have finished 32 hours. Last week I put in 14.5 hours alone since AP tests start up next week and I am working towards preparing high school computer science students for the AP Computer Science Principles and the AP Computer Science A exams.

On Thursday, I stayed after school for 5.5 hours and did not leave campus until 8pm since many students procrastinated on their AP Computer Science Principles performance tasks, which were due that night electronically to the College Board at 8:59PM PST.

Luckily, I was able to keep the students motivated with pizza, donated by kind friends, and anime soundtracks; most of my students were able to submit everything by the deadline (there were a few that did not find it pertinent to attend the after school session that did not meet the deadline).

We went through many pizzas — thanks to all who donated!

Today I held the last Saturday school (4 hours) before AP tests–some AP CSP students came in to take mock exams, and some AP CSA students came to ask about the Free Response Questions from last year’s exam that I gave them for practice. I am glad to be done with my service hours already because school will be winding down after AP tests and I will welcome the downtime after an extremely long, exhausting academic year.