Non-technical Teachers Engage Oakland Public School Students in Computer Science & Technology

Dorcas Sims facilitating hands-on learning in Innovations class for the Partners Program

This summer, QPi Education teamed up with the Partners Program, a non-profit that bolsters learning outcomes and academic achievement for underserved Oakland public middle school students, to bring technology and coding into their Innovations program. The program, free for qualifying families, hosted over 100 middle school students on the College Prep campus this summer.

As this was the first year that computer programming was brought into the Innovations class, the three facilitators were initially intimidated. None of them had previous experience with coding or Raspberry Pi, and had expressed doubt in teaching such technical topics successfully. Even after an introductory workshop, teachers were still feeling apprehensive. Vivien, one of the founders of QPi Education, joined the summer cohort of facilitators to teach a classroom as well and provide technical support and reassurance to the facilitators when necessary.

However, as the facilitators dove into the program, they found that they didn’t need as much help as they originally thought! QPi Education’s flagship curriculum product, Raspberry Pi Robot Car, was designed to flip the classroom and keep students constantly engaged in hands-on activity, so the class ended up turning into an experience where both the facilitator and students learned together.

Ms. Dorcas Sims, one of the summer facilitators who works as an elementary school teacher for West Contra Costa Unified School District during the school year, shares her thoughts about QPi Education on the last day of summer class:

While teaching this program, I actually felt like my brain was growing! I recognized that I initially had a fixed mindset about the program and said to myself “I can’t do this.” But as a teacher, knowing that no one is born knowing anything, sometimes all you have to do is take a deep breath and learn new things that’ll intimidate you. After experiencing teaching QPi Education’s Raspberry Pi Robot Car, I really feel I am equipped to teach coding, building robots, and pretty much anything else that involves computer science and technology.
Student in Vivien’s classroom finishes up building the car and getting ready to drive!

It is without a doubt that no matter one’s background, any educator can teach and engage students in highly technical topics with the right tools and guidance. Her students, like the other teachers, were all able to interact with new technologies like Raspberry Pi and build a robot car from scratch. The students showed that even without any real exposure to this type of technology before, they too could learn these fundamentals and have proper initial exposure.

Shelby Margolin, the Partners’ program coordinator, shared her thoughts after the program: “QPi provided an opportunity to learn STEM and coding in a hands-on and exciting way. Thank you for making high tech accessible to underserved students and challenging them to find ways to connect with technology.”

As Partners Program looks ahead to the academic year with QPi Education, we aim to have a strong partnership to build even more content and curriculum material for their facilitators. We look forward to a fruitful 2018–2019 academic year and cannot wait to see the students back in the classroom next summer!

QPi Education is a professional development company that enables educators to implement STEM instruction with a focus on practical and project learning relevant to today’s world. We provide a comprehensive professional development package that prepares and supports educators, even without technical expertise, to bring more engaging technical learning experiences to the classroom. Contact us at and visit our website at learn more.