Meet Scott Dooley

March 8th, 2016

As part of its commitment to inspire and enable young people from all backgrounds to pursue careers in technology, Nextech has invested more than $125,000 in a multi-phased professional development program that blends in-person workshops and online components to provide ongoing community support for teachers. Twenty teachers from across the state are participating in the inaugural 15-month, 90-hour program. Scott Dooley, Media Specialist and K-12 Technology Teacher, is one of them.

 

Q: What kind of experience/background do you have in coding or computer science?

A: I learned BASIC and began programming computers when I was in 5th grade, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve also dabbled in JavaScript and HTML over the years. I worked for Humana in Louisville in the Automated Enrollment department and learned how to run batch jobs on the mainframe. As an educator, I was a very early adopter of the Code.org curriculum and have been using it with my students for some time now. I also began a robotics program at my school starting with basic LEGO kits and then evolving to LEGO Mindstorm. This culminated in the implementation of the VEX robotics program two years ago where my students competed against other schools in the state. We placed 17th out of 53 schools our first year. This year, we implemented the program for our high school students and placed 25th out of 60 participating schools.

 

Q: What interests you most about teaching computer science?

A: I am a passionate evangelist for technology, and I recognize the impact technology is making on both education and society at large. As a teacher who has been committed to working with kids in poverty for over a decade, I recognize that computer science can be a way out of poverty for some of our students… and therefore, the ticket to a better life.

 

Q: Describe a time you’ve been a leader in implementing a new program or practice at your school and/or in your professional life. What are some of the challenges you faced? How did you work through those challenges?

A: Before I was hired as a Media Specialist at my school, there was no technology program – for any grade level. I singlehandedly created a comprehensive K-8 technology program – including all curriculum and materials – from absolutely nothing, with no budget to speak of. The challenges were enormous. As the full-time Media Specialist for the school, it was very difficult to balance the demands of a full-time arts teaching schedule. It was the equivalent of performing two jobs simultaneously… every day. I met those challenges by piloting the program with grades 6-8 and building the curriculum from scratch. We received a grant to implement a standardized test to determine the success of the program, but we only purchased the assessment piece rather than the entire curriculum. Despite this obstacle, the majority of my students performed higher than the national average on the end-of-year tests. After I had established a demonstrably successful program with a documented track record for two years, I begin scaling the program out to the elementary grades, from kindergarten through 5th grade. This was also an enormous challenge because the program had to be invented “whole cloth.” I am proud to say this program has been so successful, we’re seeking a way to expand it to our high school students and establish a robust technology program for all of our K-12 students.

 

Q: Do you have any experience with blended learning or a course that involves regular use of technology in the classroom?

A: I have used almost every Learning Management System – from Blackboard to Edmodo to Moodle. I recently implemented Google Apps for Education and Google classroom in our school, and this has been adopted by both our middle and high school teachers with wonderful results. In addition, I provided professional development and technical support to the content teachers in grades 6-12 so they could successfully implement the program in their classrooms. As an early adopter of the Code.org curriculum, I have watched the quality of their content improve over time and have integrated their student management and tracking system into my daily teaching. We have participated as an entire school in the Hour of Code activities for two years running, and I expanded their computer science content into my curriculum as they were creating new modules. Last week, I was able to leverage their newest Disney Infinity curriculum with our K-8 graders. While Code.org has provided an anchor for my tech program, I have also implemented many other software-based tools into my curriculum over the years. I have become an expert at locating engaging curriculum for my students that costs our school virtually nothing to implement.

 

Q: What has been the biggest “aha” moment for the students taking your computer science class?

A: Most of my students believed that computer science consisted only of coding and programming. By linking CS principles to the technology they use and enjoy every day, I’ve been able to make the content more relevant to them while simultaneously expanding their awareness about what CS actually is. Recently, Nextech sponsored a field trip to Precision Dialogue, a data driven firm that is fifteen minutes away from our school. I was so proud of the kids because they made the connection between what we were learning in class about big data and how the firm was using its data to run their business and serve their customers.

 

Q: What has been your biggest “aha” moment as a teacher?

A: When I started, I was worried about getting a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all curriculum that I would have to adapt to fit my students and my school. Instead, what I found was a curriculum that was not only in tune with my teaching philosophy, but one that was very student centered and engaging. You can use the ECS curriculum as is, but I also appreciated having a framework that I could modify for my own student. For me, using the ECS curriculum as a scaffold and supplementing it with content I knew would really engage kids has sparked some of the best discussions and activities I have had in ten years as a classroom teacher.

 

Q: Because you were already familiar with computer science and Code.org, what has been your biggest takeaway from the professional development program?

A: Being plugged in to the Code.org forums has provided me with a lot of different teaching ideas and approaches to the content. If I have a lesson that didn’t go well, I go back to the forums and look at what other people did or how they approached something that either I or my students had difficulty with. I have also found great tools that others have suggested in our classroom sessions that have been incredibly helpful. Having groups demo the lessons – and actually preparing for and getting to practice them – has given me insight into the content that I wouldn’t have had without the Nextech sessions.

 

Q: How has this experience differed from other professional development programs you’ve attended or participated in?

A: I have attended many professional development activities over the course of my career, but have experienced very few that are as authentic and practical as the Nextech sessions. I have literally learned something on Saturday that I rolled out to my students on Monday. The preparatory summer sessions also helped ease my apprehension about teaching this content for the very first time. I felt thoroughly prepared and excited about tackling this content with my students.

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