On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath speaks with Jorge Valenzuela, educational coach, curriculum specialist, and author of Rev Up Robotics. Jorge teaches workshops on Project-Based Learning, Computer Science, and STEM. He is hosting the Friday session of the Progressive Learning Conference, Sept-21-25.

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Jorge Valenzuela’s background in K-12 education

Jorge has been in education for many years as a teacher, curriculum consultant, and now a coach. However, education wasn’t always part of his plan.

Jorge began his career working in IT in New York. His aunt was a teacher and she got him a summer school job where he was working 5 hours a day, 4 days a week, and making a decent amount of money, so he figured that he would do that for a few weeks and then continue with his IT dream.

In this role was met with 25 kids who had no idea why they were learning the subjects that they were learning. One of his own high school teachers always told him that “you should always do your work to help other people,” so when he saw that these students needed help, he knew this was an opportunity to help individual people as opposed to fixing hardware and networks all day. After about a decade as a teacher, he became an administrator, and in that role, he was in charge of overseeing entire programs and departments including the engineering, computer science, and similar programs at that school district.

Rev Up Robotics

Jorge wrote the book Rev Up Robotics: Real-World Computational Thinking in the K-8 Classroom through ISTE and he shared with us that although the book is in the context of robotics, the fundamental ideas and themes align with STEM, Computer Science, and Computational Thinking.

These topics are all things that most educators want to learn about but not necessarily something that they want to dedicate an entire year’s worth of curriculum to. Jorge shared that this book is meant for them to take key knowledge and skills and for them to integrate this into their curriculum throughout the year.

Each chapter is dedicated to certain content areas (ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies) and is based on common core standards.

K-12 Computer Science Curriculum

Jorge Valenzuela is extremely passionate about Computer Science and its role in K-12 schools and curriculum. 

He shared that computer science has grown a lot due to the 2016 Computer Science for All Initiative. As a result, most states have integrated computer science into curriculum which enables more students to take part in learning computer science skills from an early age

Jorge explained that this gives schools the freedom to adapted Computer Science as a class, a group of courses, or even as a pathway. We are now seeing a lot more of computer science, and Jorge believes that Computer Science and STEM curriculum will be the inevitable future of K-12 education.

Teacher Preparation

As a former teacher and now a coach to K-12 educators, Jorge has a lot of experience with teacher prep and planning for instruction. He believes there are two things that you should focus on to be a good teacher

1. Curriculum. 

2. Teaching and Facilitation.

Jorge strongly believes that if teachers don’t plan these two elements, then they will be winging their lessons. In order to make sure students are getting what they should be getting out of each lesson, it is critical to thoroughly prepare for lessons and instruction.

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