By Michael Kinney
Oklahoma City– The Oklahoma City City Thunder has always taken a vested interest in improving education in Oklahoma. However, throughout the past year, the franchise has directed many of its efforts toward the technology wing.
That emphasis continued last week when the Thunder partnered with Google to host a free coding workshop for Oklahoma teachers.
“We’ve seen some success this past season with Thunder coding for youth,” said Michelle Matthews, Manager of Fan Development. “We hosted about 500 kids in the Google innovation lab here at the launchpad. But we knew that we could do more than just impact those kids. And so our next step was to invite teachers from statewide.”
The workshop was held at the Thunder Launchpad Google Innovation Lab in Oklahoma City. Forty-three teachers from across 19 school districts were invited to participate.
The workshop featured a hands-on coding curriculum that can be applied to multiple age and skill levels, a technology speakers panel and more than $300 worth of classroom materials for continued education.
“Here today are teachers specifically that are either interested in implementing coding into their curriculum, they run a coding course or extracurricular activity club, like a coding club after school,” Matthews said. “The teachers vary from skill level. We’ve got a first-year teacher in there. We’ve got a teacher in there that’s taught for over 30 years. We have a teacher that drove over a hundred miles and one from around the corner. If we can have these teachers walk away knowing how to use the Vesco robotics kits and have a little bit of knowledge about coding, we know that they can probably impact and inspire a wide range of ages and grade levels and things like that.”
In order for the teachers to be selected for the workshop, they had to apply for a spot and then let the organizers know how they planned to implement the course curriculum. That includes how they planned to make use of the Vesco robotics kits that each teacher took home.
“That way we knew that there was the immediate implementation of what they learned,” Matthews said. “So, if they are a science teacher, that’s dabbling in Stem, but isn’t teaching coding yet. We ask them to hold on, we’ll put a stem course on and workshop on later on in the fall. But this is specific for coding.”
Coding is the process of writing computer programs. It has become a foundation of science and medicine and a variety of career paths. Students who hope to enter those fields who don’t know coding could find themselves on the outside looking in.
The Thunder wants to make sure students throughout Oklahoma are not being left out.
“Coding is going essentially the language of the digital age,” Matthews said. “We’ve got 7-year-olds coming into coding camp that are creating their own apps, creating their own games. So Thunder and Google believe strongly in ensuring that every kid has access to resources and opportunities to explore their interest in coding or tech. The whole point for us and for Google is for when the kids and teachers walk away they become more than just passive consumers of technology and they really start to become content creators. When they see a tech tool, we want them to see an opportunity. We want them to see inspiration on how to solve a problem. The teachers here are the ones that are teaching the future. So, what a better way to start the impact?”
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