CodeJoy Welcomes Aaron Maurer to Join the Teaching Roster This Summer!

CodeJoy’s Amanda Jeane Strode catches up with Aaron Maurer to delve into his role in the upcoming Pathfinders Summer Institute PD course, Beyond the Hype: Practical AI for Educators!
May 23, 2024 by
CodeJoy Welcomes Aaron Maurer to Join the Teaching Roster This Summer!
CodeJoy, Susan Willems

STEM Lead Instructor Aaron Maurer will be joining the CodeJoy team to help deliver professional development for the Infosys Foundation USA Pathfinders Summer Institute courses. Join Aaron for Beyond the Hype: Practical AI for Educators, an interactive journey into the realm of practical AI tools and their application in education. Despite sensationalized fears, the truth about AI is far from dystopian. Instead, it offers collaboration and innovation beyond imagination. In this session, AI will serve as our creative companion, enhancing lessons and fostering profound student involvement.

Aaron is on a mission to bring wonder and play back into the classroom. Known as “Coffeechug” to the education community, this lifelong learner with over 20 years of classroom experience thrives on sharing his craft with the world as teacher, website community creator, author, keynote speaker, workshop designer, and professional development trainer. He is an avid fan of STEAM, Makerspaces, and project-based learning, and of course, coffee. Aaron currently leads STEM initiatives in 21 school districts across Iowa and heads up his non-profit 212 STEAM Labs, Inc. This non-profit STEAM Innovation Hub serves the Quad Cities in all things STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics). Their goal is to promote and develop a curriculum, workshops, training, and more to help enhance learning for both students and adults. Learn more about Aaron on his website

Amanda Jeane Strode (AJS): What course are you teaching this summer and what makes you excited about it?

Aaron Maurer (AM): I will be co-teaching and facilitating “Beyond the Hype: Practical AI for Educators,” which is just a wonderful opportunity. I think CodeJoy continues to try to be proactive in this space. We continue to learn about emerging tech in ways that allow us to know what questions we should be asking. I think this is an opportunity to bring some people together so they can see that they're not alone in these questions. I think anytime you bring together educators, we can all be empowered and learn from each other. So to me, that's the exciting piece, too. I get to do some teaching but I also know there's going to be lots of learning involved as well. How do we continue to move these conversations forward and in a way that's gonna help us all make better decisions?

AJS: How are you feeling about this collaboration with CodeJoy?

AM: Awesome! Anytime you get a chance to work with CodeJoy, it's always a blessing. I  crossed paths with Kelsey many times and I just always love her energy. I said to myself, “How do you say no to this?” CodeJoy has done such incredible work with micro:bits and the Hummingbird Kits, and it's also fun to be part of something. Our course this summer is a new potential pathway of learning. It's a win all around when you get to work with the awesome folks at CodeJoy.

AJS: What do you find rewarding about teaching educators?

AM: I think adult learning is fascinating! In a lot of ways, learning with adults is not any different than kids in the classroom, and in a lot of ways they are much different. What I love about working with educators is seeing that excitement come back onto their face. Especially in the summer course, some people have had a long year, they're in the midst of transition in their life. If we can create a learning opportunity where they're smiling and they're excited and they're learning something new, they get an opportunity to then take that energy to their students. That's how we get better! It's one thing to hopefully empower some educators, but the real test of success is if they turn around to use it with kids. We are looking for kind of the domino effect. Once we get some initial inertia going, it's awesome. I'm excited to see what we can do to, maybe put some minds at ease, get people excited, see some opportunities, and impact education in a better way.

AJS: When did you first become inspired in a STEM field?

AM: I was a social studies teacher when I started out at a middle school. I think every human has STEM in them. It's about curiosities we have in the world. For me, I think where I really picked it up was helping support our First Lego League robotics teams. I just fell in love with this STEM. There was a place for kids who weren't athletes to be themselves, to express their skills and abilities and in new, safe, and exciting ways. In First Lego League, you get an opportunity to feel part of something to see how good your robot could do. I thought, “We need more opportunities like this for kids.” I come from an athletic background. My kids are in sports, and I know that, I can find a trainer five days a week, I can find travel teams. However, can I find whatever I need in STEM? Back in the day, there weren't a whole lot of options. Now there is more so, that's the exciting thing to see where that spark was to see it in the kids. I knew from that point forward this is what I have got to be doing.

AJS: What are you looking forward to this summer?

AM: I mean, definitely this AI course, I'm really excited to see where the conversations go. AI is a landscape that is moving fast. We have lots of people who will be learning about AI for the first time. Outside of CodeJoy, I'm doing a lot of speaking and workshops around AI and project-based learning. The exciting piece from the education space is that AI is starting to get people to think about instructional practices again, even if indirectly. The fears we have around AI can be solved by sound instructional practices and safe learning environments. In my own life, with my kids there are lots of travel basketball and fishing trips in Canada. I will be making time to unplug as well, and not work all day, every day.  I like what I do, so it doesn't always feel like work.

AJS: What are your thoughts on the potential impact of AI on the role of teachers in the future?

AM: I honestly believe that AI brings back the importance of educators more than ever before. I know there's fear of replacing teachers or all kids cheating. I don't believe in that. While some of those things happen, I think what I'm seeing is we're starting to understand the importance of human interaction and relationships. All the things that we've talked about for so long. I think AI expedites some processes that do unfortunately take a lot of time, like lower level work or managerial work. With the right systems in place, we can move through that faster to get to the deeper conversation, the relationship building, the human interaction. Things that we have been trying to figure out how to pull off in school and classes for the longest time. I've been posing a question lately, “What are we doing with the time we have with kids and do we truly optimize that time?” In the light of AI, it's causing us to come back and think about it. That's exciting to me! Is that the human element? In my mind, we will come back stronger and I think that will help with so many things that we grapple with in education. I don't have a crystal ball, but I'm hoping that's what comes of it.

AJS: Can you give us a preview to something we will be learning about in your course, Beyond the Hype: Practical AI for Educators, this summer?

AM: One of the key things that we're working through right now is the interactive piece, and  having time to get into the applications. With AI, there are not physical things to give out necessarily, but we are in the process right now of finding tools we can give access to teachers. The goal is to walk out with access to some tools and some different types of applications that they can continue to use in their professional career and personal life moving forward. As we start to gel these different activities and challenges, people are walking out with tangible things that they can use, that they created, and have continued access to. The AI landscape can be very overwhelming for a lot of people when you're getting started. There are so many applications all over the place. If you haven't been using AI, you just have no concept, this would be a great course for you.

AJS: Final Thoughts?

AM: Come with an optimistic mindset. There's the initial feeling for a lot of people with AI – there's a lot of hesitation, maybe they've heard things, or they are worried. This is the human condition with anything new. Coming into the work with the optimistic mindset to see, “What is possible to me?” That's the exciting thing! If we can start in that headspace, we can turn around and model what it means to be lifelong learners.

Our current systems are being challenged and we have to pivot a little bit. I hope this course will help people do that in a way that feels safe and exciting. We will give people this playground learning experience where it's safe to dip a toe in the water and see what's possible. We don't always have enough time to do that on a regular day when we're all being asked to do 20 hours of work and an eight hour school day. To have this dedicated time I think is gonna be really the key to having a great learning experience.

We are thrilled to have Aaron on board to co-teach our Beyond the Hype: Practical AI for Educators, as his wealth of experience and passion for education will bring a unique perspective and infectious enthusiasm to our team. We want to extend a heartfelt appreciation to Aaron for his invaluable contributions to CodeJoy this summer. Through this interactive journey into the realm of AI, we hope to inspire educators to embrace collaboration and innovation in their teaching practices, and shape the future of education by empowering educators to embrace the limitless potential of AI.

Keep up with what Aaron is doing at and on social media:


Personal Blog: 




Facebook: Coffee For The Brain

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