As part of an independent study course, several students from the College of Professional Studies traveled to a technology club at Julia De Burgas Middle School in North Philadelphia to mentor and teach over twenty students introductory computer science skills. Over the span of about two months, Villanova students traveled to the school, and also hosted the middle school students on Villanova’s campus for a Saturday as well.
The purpose of this course was aimed at increasing young students interest and competencies in the computer science field, including hardware, software and internet safety. Nicholas Banton ’16 Information Systems, one of the students who participated, says “It was a mentoring process more so than it was lecturing. We got down on their level metaphorically, and physically sometimes, to engage with them, find out what their interests and talents are. These are very bright, talented kids.”
Another CPS participant, Sean Ebeling ’15, BIS in Leadership Studies and minor in Information Sciences reflects on one successful project in particular and says, “We used a program called Scratch, which basically enables the students to create animations by using logical thinking and plain English, as opposed to html or more advanced coding.” By providing students this foundation in coding and animation, it prepares them for more advanced coding, which is the same logical concept but in a different language. Banton adds, “Scratch is like working on a puzzle. You must piece steps together in order to get the desired end result.”
Apart from teaching the students once a week, future curriculum development is one of the major pieces of the independent study, and CPS students have recognized the need for some changes. Banton says “Part of what we’re developing are ways to prepare students in advance for the lessons they will be learning each week. Being familiar with a particular application, maybe reading some notes, will prevent them from coming in blind and from having to sit through long lectures.” This new format that Villanova’s students are planning will allow for more hands-on interaction during class and more time to answer questions, as opposed to the traditional information download format.
Banton sums it up best―“What we did was important and useful in the lives of these kids. And what more could we want?” Both Banton and Ebeling enjoyed the project so much that they are planning to volunteer their time again next year!