Lisa Anne Floyd is a trailblazer in mathematics and coding education, with her emphasis on making these subjects accessible to students. It’s this educational leadership that was recognized recently with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
“I was pretty excited,” said Floyd, a PhD candidate in education, and a high school math, science and computer science teacher at Lord Dorchester Secondary School in Dorchester, Ont. “To be among these recipients is humbling and I’m blown away with what some of my fellow educators have been doing.”
Floyd is one of the first educators to champion teaching computer coding to children. She believes understanding technology is important because it’s the bedrock of today’s society.
“We want students to be active contributors and creators of technology rather than passive consumers of it,” Floyd said. “They’re getting this chance to be authors of technology through coding.”
When you take a closer look, Floyd said, coding provides students with a different mindset – what’s also called computational thinking. Besides critical thinking skills, coding allows students to identify and correct mistakes. She added when programmers make errors, they need to find their mistakes in their code. Identifying these errors teaches students the value of persistence because they look at what’s gone wrong to solve the problem.
“It’s challenging, but they know they will eventually be successful,” Floyd said. “Once they’re successful, they realize they learned from that ordeal.”
At the same time, coding creates ‘authentic experiences’ for students because they create applications that are meaningful to them or they solve a real-world problem or understand how something works, which connects to their life experiences, she said.
As part of efforts to make coding accessible to all, Floyd has been working to increase the number of girls who want to code by introducing this subject to them. Floyd said there weren’t many female students in computer science classes when she first started teaching and it continues to be the case across high schools in Ontario.
“If we can expose students at a younger age to computer science and to coding, they won’t be intimated studying coding in high school,” Floyd said. “We want everyone to learn what coding is and broaden participation in computer science.”
Floyd has also taught a computational modeling course for teacher candidates at the Faculty of Education for several years.
As a PhD candidate in Education, Floyd is studying how teacher candidates’ experiences will help them teach coding to math and science intermediate and senior students. In the meantime, she’s authored and co-authored many academic articles and book chapters.
Outside the classroom, she’s a keynote speaker on this topic and has also supported coding initiatives in several school districts across Canada, by creating digital literacy resources for students.
The Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence have honoured exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines since 1994. Recipients are recognized for their remarkable achievements in education and for their commitment to preparing their students for a digital and innovation-based economy.