Pyrtle teacher gets creative with computer science videos

Move over, Bill Nye, now there’s a computer science guy.

Matt Rinne, a computer science teacher at Pyrtle Elementary School, has been creating and starring in Nye-inspired videos that teach elementary school students about the basics of computer science. The videos are available on the Lincoln Public Schools K-5 computer science remote learning site.

The weekly videos - “Coding with Carl” - are roughly 10 minutes long and feature Rinne...well...acting goofy while teaching computer science lessons. Each video is centered around a word of the week that guides the content, which can be anything from Rinne playing an Australian bird watcher in his backyard to teach about algorithms - it’s a “really, really bad accent,” he admits - or a playful graphic that illustrates the concept of loops. He also demonstrates various “unplugged” coding activities every week.

“I’ve gotten emails from teachers and parents, just saying, ‘Hey, thanks for making these fun. It’s good to laugh,’” Rinne said. “I’ve always been more goofy than serious.”

Rinne is the lead writer, director and star but it’s far from a one-person show. Computer science teachers Jason Rushing from Wysong Elementary School and Susan Prabulos from Meadow Lane Elementary School decide the weekly themes and brainstorm with Rinne about that week’s episode. LPS Instructional Technology Facilitator Caitlin Mentzer coordinates the entire process and adds closed captioning to the final video. 

LPS Computer Science Curriculum Specialist Kent Steen first approached Rinne about creating the videos when the school district transitioned to remote learning. Steen said they’ve received a lot of positive feedback from students and parents about “Coding with Carl.”

“I’ve heard that ‘Coding with Carl’ is the highlight of the week for many of our K-5 students,” he said.

Rinne typically shoots the video footage during the day and edits at night after his two daughters - and frequent co-stars - go to bed. He estimates he spends between 20 and 30 hours a week on the videos.

But it’s worth it.

“I love seeing the kids submit content afterwards, whether it's pictures of the activities they've done or videos,” he said. “And getting feedback from anyone saying they enjoy the videos puts wind in my sails for the next week.” 

Published: April 29, 2020, Updated: April 29, 2020

"I’ve heard that 'Coding with Carl' is the highlight of the week for many of our K-5 students."

Kent Steen, LPS computer science curriculum specialist