Innovators - Sherrie Gemmell
Grades 6-12 | Technology Skills | Cloud-based
Sherrie Gemmell is the librarian/media specialist at Sacred Heart High School in Connecticut. She uses programs like SAM Labs, StudioWeb and Wonder Workshop to expand technology skills in her school.
We bought StudioWeb subscriptions as an optional prep course for students who might be taking the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles next year. We use it to teach the basic coding languages, which are the languages they use to create their own apps, web pages, or games for AP Computer Science Principles. It has been very successful. We have used up all of our subscriptions, and I will probably add more shortly because I have more students who are interested. It has worked out beautifully for us.
We are not offering StudioWeb as a credit course yet, though I have had conversations with my principal to offer it as a quarter or half credit course to get more students involved. We want to offer the AP course on a sophomore level, so we target our StudioWeb courses at freshmen who would be interested in learning computer languages. Out of the subscriptions that I have, about 80% of them are freshmen who want to take the AP computer courses.
Our program is an informal club right now, but it is an “activity” since it takes place during school time. Students will come during study hall or come in before or after school to work on the StudioWeb courses. The students also have the option of working at home, so some are progressing more quickly than others, but I think that is part of the beauty of it. At the end of our program, if some students want to explore coding further, we can create some artifacts. We will have our students create some apps or games once they finish the coursework. I am hoping that is where we move to by June, to have some real-life artifacts created by the students and showcase our use of StudioWeb.
Interest in the course has expanded beyond our expectation. Initially, we used a lottery system to see how many students would even be interested in even taking the course since limit the sizes of our AP courses. With 15 AP students, I thought 15 subscriptions would be sufficient. However, I have many upperclassmen who want a computer science background on their transcripts, so I have some students who want to participate as well. To recruit students into our program, we made a general announcement regarding StudioWeb to the freshmen, and I spoke in some of the honors classes who would probably take AP computer courses.
The organization and presentation of StudioWeb is very user friendly. The videos are very clear and concise. The students are taking notes on the videos, which makes them more successful when they take the quizzes built into the course. The format of StudioWeb also allows me to monitor how successful our students are in learning one of the languages. Because our students are excited about using StudioWeb, they are all doing very well.
I have students who don’t have any knowledge of computer languages taking the course. It seems to be working out really well for them. They are not getting frustrated because it is easy for them to review the concepts covered. For example, the quizzes have hints and there is a “Try Again” function that allows the students to review more difficult idea. The ability to review the content gives our users more confidence. For our purposes, StudioWeb fills a gap for us, between the limited opportunities to explore computer coding to knowing enough to manage the AP course.
Now that kids are talking about it, I have had more and more inquiries about taking a course, so that made me excited. It is fun that kids are using it in the library and other students are watching them, which is also generating more enthusiasm.
I have been taking the courses along with the students to make sure I have a good background in what they are doing. I like that it is self-paced. Some of the students are farther ahead than other students. The ability to be self-paced is excellent for students who are just taking it to get background knowledge.
StudioWeb has really been a game changer. Our principal was iffy about trying to do the computer principles course because he was afraid that we would not have enough background to teach it well. With StudioWeb, he sees that the kids are going to be prepared. I kept telling him it would work, but now that we have it, and he sees the kids using it, he’s convinced. I think the kids will be more comfortable when they take the AP course next year that they can be successful, too. It has been an excellent investment for us, and it is only going to grow.