December Featured Educator – Liane Kendall

MassCUE is pleased to announce Liane Kendall as our Featured Educator for December 2023!

When Computer Science Teacher Liane Kendall walks into a classroom at the Brookings Elementary School in Springfield, the students cheer. That’s because this computer science champion sees every class as an opportunity for students to have fun while they learn. Working with students from k-5 (as well as students in the LINKS program for children with Autism), Kendall teaches computer science concepts through projects that combine design, building, coding and more. One of her favorite tools to use with students is the Hummingbird Robotics Kit. Students build robots using the kits and code them with Micro:bit.

“My favorite part about the hummingbird kits is that the students code them and then they have to build them,” she says. “They are using scissors and paper punches and paint – all the fun stuff we don’t do as often anymore.”

These kits were part of a larger Computer Science Zoo that students built with Kendall during summer school. All of the students researched an animal, coded the information they found and then created the animal. Students used the hummingbird kits and servos to create owls and zebras that turned their heads. Using Makey Makey and Scratch, they created toucans and other birds that talked when their tail was pushed. Students in the LINKS program also contributed, constructing frogs out of paper plates by following an algorithm.

“Every class is different and with the LINKS students, it’s really student-by-student,” Kendall explains. “So it’s really just breaking things down into steps and learning the steps. Computer science reaches all students, so it’s really neat.”

Kendall’s advice to computer science teachers: you don’t have to do a huge zoo project to get started with some of the great educational technology tools that are out there.

“Just have fun and don’t be afraid to click,” she says. “When you get stuck, ask a student for help because they are often two steps ahead of us.”

Another piece of advice: think outside the box. Kendall did a Black History Month project with third graders where they used Scratch to code a famous person and wrote speech bubbles to show what they would say.

“Often students don’t like writing, but these students were working on their writing skills to create the speech bubbles,” Kendall says. “I love being able to sneak math or reading lessons into computer science and the kids don’t even realize it.”

To celebrate Computer Science Education Week, which takes place December 4-10 this year, Kendall worked on a different project with each grade. Fifth graders did a research project on a famous person and built a robot to represent that person, fourth graders built pedometers, third graders created a Pong game using Scratch, second graders did coding with Ozobots and even the first graders and kindergarteners got into the act, showing off their skills with Bee-Bots.

The Bee-Bots were part of a larger project this year for Kendall. These early-learning robots follow commands, so Kendall created mats with lessons (for example, a child chooses a card with an uppercase letter, then must instruct the robot to find the corresponding lowercase letter on the mat). She created lessons for every classroom.

“The teachers love being able to grab a ready-made center,” says Kendall. “The lesson could be anything from an addition problem to famous Americans to Thanksgiving. Even the fifth-graders love working with the Bee-Bots.”

Kendall says it can be a challenge keeping everyone on the same page, especially when hands-on projects require that she physically go to every computer in the classroom. But it’s really rewarding to see students find success in computer science.

“Some students who struggle in the classroom with reading or math – or students with behavior issues, when it comes to computer science, they love it,” she says. “I love the fact that I’m able to make them my helpers and they shine.”

Kendall says she also shares this love of computer science with amazing colleagues in her district.

“I am very honored to be nominated, but wanted to give a shout out to the other Computer Science teachers in Springfield who have helped and inspired me in this position! There are so many great CS teachers in Springfield….more deserving than myself.”

Featured Educator Liane Kendall with Students

I have been teaching in Springfield for 7 years at the Brookings Elementary School in Springfield. This is my second year in Computer Science and I LOVE IT! I have always enjoyed making things for as long as I can remember. Now I enjoy making furniture and construction projects on my house! All of this has translated into making robots and building things in school! The kids love it and they learn how to use basic tools.

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