The age of technology continues to have a profound effect on society as a whole, and it would be difficult to argue that the prevalent use of new technologies has had a huge impact on the field of education. Nowhere is this truer than with Laurel Springs School. With 35 years of teaching experience, Linda Noss has been introducing students to the fundamentals of computer programming, which helps them learn the valuable art of problem-solving, a skill that easily translates to any other discipline. With the continued evolution of technology and the abundance of new careers within the industry, Ms. Noss’s insights and expertise are more relevant than ever.
Can you discuss your background in computer science, as well as what excited you about the thought of teaching with Laurel Springs? How does it differ from teaching in a traditional setting and what are some of its benefits?
I’ve been teaching Computer Science since I was student teaching. I taught myself the programming language BASIC when I was a work-study student in the education department at the University of New Hampshire. I really enjoyed it and when I discovered that there was a BASIC class in the high school where I was doing my student teaching, I stepped in to see if I could help. Before I knew it, the teacher had gone for coffee and I was in charge of helping the students.
My first job out of college was teaching high school computer science and math; I’ve been teaching computer science for 35 years and have always loved it! I think I like it best because it is always evolving and expanding. There’s so much to learn and what you learn, you can immediately put into practice. You can create a product, see how it operates, and then go back and tweak it to get exactly what you want.
I love teaching with Laurel Springs because the concept of learning independently proves to be beneficial when it comes to computer programming. Just as students have to be independent learners, so do teachers and computer scientists. Always changing, always fun!
Teaching with Laurel Springs also gives me the opportunity to work with students from all over the world with many amazing interests. In a traditional school I had many outstanding students but the Laurel Springs students are so motivated and enthusiastic. LSS also allows me to work when I am most energetic and they have given me opportunities to teach the way that works best for me.
Can you discuss the importance of coding and how valuable a skill it is for all students to learn?
In short, coding is taking what we do every day and then applying it to a format called computer languages, which allow a machine to do the task for us. What started out as a way to direct ballistic missiles during World War II has become a fundamental component of everyday life.
Coding is not as dry or mundane as some people think, and it allows us to do incredible things that touch every facet of our lives. It allows us to create amazing life-saving devices, crunch data to help the sick, design products that help disabled people connect their world to a more natural setting. It also has its uses in crowdsourcing and entertainment. Almost any item you can think of now has a digital readout and comes equipped with a computer circuit board, from our refrigerators that have the ability to maintain keep a shopping list to heart monitors that send doctors lifesaving information.
Coding is an excellent way to become a good problem solver because it provides students with the confidence to solve any problem. Students who learn to code can translate that knowledge to other areas, not just how it relates to coding problems. Problem-solving skills are one of the most important things a student can have in their ability “tackle box” and goes a long way in helping them determine their future.
If you could give a student three pieces of advice on how to succeed in school or life, what would they be?
- Learn to be a problem solver by asking lots of questions – be tenacious!
- If an opportunity presents itself, and you are even slightly interested, take a chance and try it.
- Include computer science as a minor in any degree you go to school for. It can be applied to any major and will make you more valuable to your employer.
What advice do you give parents who are new to an online learning environment?
- Take your time learning how it works. Don’t feel like you have to know everything right away.
- Again, do not be afraid to ask questions, teachers at Laurel Springs can help you acclimate to our model of instruction.
- Be involved in your child’s education and make use of your Observer account. Know what works for your child, be aware of when they log in, go over coursework with them to ensure they are getting the most of their lessons.
- I also encourage parents to take an online course for themselves through one of the many institutions available. It will provide a valuable lesson and will help them understand your child’s experience.
What’s the best piece of teaching advice you ever received?
- Anything beats a blank. This is a reference to not completing an assignment. Even if it’s proving a challenge, I always encourage students to make an attempt.
- A parent’s responsibility is to help your child be the best student they can be, this does not have to mean earning perfect grades, but should develop an understanding of the course material they’re learning.
- Sometimes the experience is more important than the result.
- Don’t be afraid to learn with your child; this is especially true in Computer Science!
- Never forget what it feels like to be a beginner! It takes courage to be a beginner.
What one lesson would you like your students to remember about your course?
Just how to take a seeming unfeasible task, break it down, and make it more feasible. Many people find the idea of computer science to be overwhelming. Jump in, take a chance!
What is the most rewarding part about being a teacher?
Seeing students take early concepts and expand them to create something of their own. This is when a beginner becomes the teacher for the next generation of beginners.
Describe your favorite lesson or activity that you teach?
I love teaching computer science because it teaches students to become independent learners and chart their own course. I teach students the three basic steps of problem-solving and then have them give me any problem (e.g.: how to learn to drive, how to prepare for the prom, how to negotiate with parents, etc.), then I break it down into those three basic components. Students have fun trying to stump me.
In teaching or in life, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
I love teaching computer science and helping so many students become independent problem solvers. It is so important to have that confidence in life.
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be doing?
It probably would have to be something creative. I majored in flute performing arts in high school and majored in engineering in college before I made the switch to teaching.
What hobbies or activities do you participate in?
I play handbells. My husband and I had the opportunity to play for an auditioned choir in New England, and we now play for a church that is going to tour in Mexico City this October and November.
I have also been trying to build things from recycled wood. After tearing down and rebuilding our back porch, we had so much wood, I started making tables so I would not have to pay someone to take it all away.
What are your words to live by?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, you could find what you love to do most without even realizing it. Ask questions and jump right in.