Decoding Education—McKay Perkins (‘11, ‘18)

McKay Perkins programs coding into elementary education.

McKay Perkins shown in his graduation gear.
Educational technology has always been a passion of McKay Perkins. As a teacher, he has found a way to implement his technological skills into a classroom. 

Perkins graduated from BYU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Following graduation, he taught in Utah’s Alpine School District at Cherry Hill Elementary School for one year, and at Sage Hills Elementary for four years.


After five years, he decided to go back to BYU to pursue his master’s degree in instructional psychology and technology. Perkins described his time in the master’s program as follows, “I was trying to figure out how I could use technology and my teaching to change the way the students experience education and their learning.” To do this, he worked as a research assistant for Peter Rich, a professor of instructional psychology and technology. Under his direction, Perkins taught both elementary teachers and students computational thinking and how to code in their classrooms. Perkins graduated in 2018. 
McKay Perkins shown teaching coding.
While assisting Rich, Perkins was introduced to the company BootUp, where he now works training teachers and students to code at an elementary level. He likes their vision that every child can code. The non-profit organization uses Scratch, a program that was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program teaches children to code using a color-coded block system. The children arrange the blocks to initiate simple commands in the program. 

Perkins said that having a primary understanding of coding is a key part of almost every job and is a useful skill that should be taught to students starting at a young age. “I think people are starting to realize that coding is becoming a basic literacy, even though every kid isn't going to grow up to be a coder,” he said. “Every job you can have is affected by technology and programming, and every job needs somebody to code for them.” 

According to Perkins, most teachers want their students to learn coding but are concerned that there is not enough time to cover all the basic requirements, and also include coding. He is now working to find creative solutions to this problem so that coding can be integrated into a normal school schedule.

For future educators, Perkins’ advice is to think less about the checklists of material to teach, and think more about how to help students learn effectively. Perkins remarked, “We're too afraid to take creative risks in education and step into the unknown. Remember that we are in the art of teaching young, excited, and creative minds, and we need to be willing to do that as well.” 

Perkins has found a way to educate students creatively and attributes this to his time studying at BYU. “I realized that all of learning is connected in some way. It was through my experiences in going through my undergrad at BYU that I learned that whatever your talents are, if you bring them to the table, they can help foster creativity and innovation in any learning area.” 

 

Writer: Sariah Farmer 

Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562