FEATURE 7 August 2019

Creativity and community come together at Apple’s Teacher Coding Academies

Students and teachers at Apple’s Teacher Coding Academy in Houston.
Teachers at Apple’s Teacher Coding Academy in Houston work on their app prototypes.
This feature is part of a series of stories spotlighting teachers and students using innovative technology in the classroom.
For educators like Tara Bordeaux, named Texas Teacher of the Year in 2018, Apple’s Teacher Coding Academies are transformative.
“The training makes you feel like you really can accomplish anything,” says Bordeaux. “It was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The elementary, high school and college educators who attended this summer’s academies came from different states, schools and backgrounds — but they all shared one new and very important responsibility: shepherding their students into a world where coding is a common language. The teachers are determined not only to teach their students about coding, but to show them how they can channel that knowledge to make the world a better place, starting with their communities. On that front, they’re leading by example.
Teachers working on-device at Apple’s Teacher Coding Academy in Boise, Idaho.
Teacher Jesse Bastian is excited to incorporate coding into his math classes at Frank Church High School in Boise, Idaho.
Elementary school teachers working on an app on iPad.
Knowles Elementary's Gaby Ornelas (left) and Patricia Sanz designed an app to help connect families with Ronald McDonald House in Austin.
In Boise, the teachers designed an app to help the police department better serve and communicate with the city’s homeless population, connecting the community to open shelter beds and food banks.
In Austin, teachers focused on Ronald McDonald House, a charity that provides housing for families whose children are receiving critical medical care. In this case, they created an app prototype to help families communicate with the charity during their stay.
And in Columbus, the educators devised an app that helps firefighters log and monitor the amount of time they were exposed to dangerous carcinogens while on the job.
These app prototypes were dreamed up during five week-long Teacher Coding Academies held over the US summer break as part of Apple’s Community Education Initiative, which introduces coding opportunities to underrepresented communities nationwide. Educators from nearly 70 education institutions serving tens of thousands of students attended the first cohort of academies in Houston, Austin, Boise, Nashville and Columbus, which used Challenge Based Learning to teach coding and connect communities. 

“By the time the week is over you feel confident enough to go back to your classrooms and pass the skills on to your students.”

At the beginning of each week, members of local organisations presented a challenge they face to the group and asked the teachers to design an app to meet that specific need. After breaking up into smaller teams, Apple Professional Learning Specialists helped the teachers design their apps, introducing the building blocks of coding along the way with Apple’s coding language Swift and the Everyone Can Code curriculum. The week ended with a showcase, where the teams presented their app prototypes to the community organisations.
Educators in Austin, Texas reviewing an app on MacBook Pro.
John Duck, (left) from Communities in Schools of Central Texas, gives feedback on an app designed by 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year Tara Bordeaux (right).
Bordeaux was initially apprehensive about attending the Austin Teacher Coding Academy because she doesn’t consider herself tech savvy when it comes to coding.
“I’ve been to coding trainings and those were kind of stiff and hard to understand,” says Bordeaux. “I felt like people were expecting me to have more of a background in coding than I actually had. But that was completely the opposite with Apple. By the time the week is over you feel confident enough to go back to your classrooms and pass the skills on to your students.”
When Bordeaux returns to Navarro Early College High School in Austin to resume her photography and filmmaking classes in the new school year, she will introduce augmented reality, and start a Girls Who Code club. In doing so, she’ll help bring Apple’s Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create curricula to life. 
A room of students and teachers at the Teacher Coding Academy app showcase in Nashville.
Dillard Computer Science Instructor Dennis Sigur (right) speaks with student Elliott Hudson at Apple’s Teacher Coding Academy in Nashville during the app showcase.
Students presenting their app at the Teacher Coding Academy app showcase in Nashville.
Dillard University student Elliott Hudson (right) and Xavier University student Marcus Evans present their app at the Tennessee State University showcase.
Attendees applauding at the app showcase for Apple’s Teacher Coding Academies in Nashville.
Dr. Robbie Melton (left) wants HBCUs to become a destination for students looking to pursue a career in app development.
The academies reflected the great diversity of America’s educators. Fourteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sent faculty, STEM students and IT staff to participate in the Nashville academy, hosted by Tennessee State University. Each of the HBCUs will spend the next year adding coding courses and clubs to their campuses — and Apple and TSU will support their efforts with on-site visits and online training.
For Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU’s interim Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies and the catalyst for the Nashville academy, this partnership means a new start for the HBCU community, with the goal of boosting enrolment nationwide. 
“Without this mission critical initiative, our students will not be prepared and can’t compete in the digital world of today,” says Dr. Melton. “And we’re looking at this as a holistic initiative, where no one will be left out. We’re going to immerse the entire community in coding.”
Dillard University computer science instructor Dennis Sigur, who has taught at HBCUs for more than two decades, believes this program is crucial to helping his students realise career opportunities in app development.
“For the HBCUs, it’s another door to success,” says Sigur. “Most of our students come from backgrounds where in high school there are no computer science classes offered, so that first taste of technology aside from their cell phone and the internet is on their college campus. So this has a major impact for our universities.”
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Boise Police Chief Bill Bones (far right) listens as one of the teams presents its app to connect the city’s homeless with the police department.
In every city, the community organisations were eager to continue working with the teams to bring these app prototypes to life. That included Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, who was thrilled with what the teachers created to help his officers connect with the city’s homeless population. 
“I would like to take a strategic look at how we could get this app built because they have [designed] a usable product in a week,” says Chief Bones. “Not only would it make a difference in helping people get resources, and eventually move out of [homelessness], it would absolutely save lives.

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