Coding, Ed Tech and Making: Some new reads

 

Even though I work fulltime in a library, it seems the minutes I get to spend with new books must be intentional and sometimes a bit rushed.  I would love to curl up in a chair with a cart of books beside me to savour new samplings for the collection.

As things are unusually quiet on the desk today, I can take a moment to look at what is new and cool in the areas that I spend the most time with.

My favourite book of the new batch is The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague, written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley.  The subject of this nonfiction picture book is Raye Montague, one of the many hidden figures whose innovation changed the way navy ships are built.  She overcame exceptional odds being a black woman in the 1950s to design, in 1971, the FFG-7 Frigate.  Using her own computer programs, she completed the design of the frigate in 18 hours and 26 minutes.  The accompanying notes, bibliography and time line, all contribute to the wealth of information in this book.  The big problem I have with it is that it is written in verse.  What a shame.  The story would stand better is some well-written prose to showcase the power of her accomplishments.  This book can be included in classrooms up to grade 6 as students learn how to write biographical information, consider time lines of famous people, and collect biographic research about historical figures and just for students to ponder the strength and tenaciousness of this intelligent woman.

Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey would be a great book to have in your classroom.  From grades K-3, girls will recognize the pressure (sometimes from parents) to play with dolls but our main character, Charlotte, incorporates her “making” into traditional play.  Charlotte is a maker and a tinkerer.  Although her house seems full of opportunities for her to indulge her maker imagination, Charlotte’s mother gives her a doll.  Just a doll.  It says “mama.”  As Charlotte puts her mind to it, knowing that a doll who talks must also have a power supply, she unleashes her “making” and inventions and innovations ensue.

Two books have recently come in that would be great “browsers” to have in your classroom to spur students on to learn about innovative ideas.  Engineered! Engineering Design at Work: A fun exploration of nine amazing feats by Shannon Hunt and James Gulliver Hancock looks at 9 different amazing feats of engineering from the following fields: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, geomatics, computer and environmental engineering.  Examples like the Millau Viaduct, a traffic problem solving bridge that was built on time and on budget and solved a major traffic issue in France.  The innovative design is an engineering feat and a work of art.  Innovation Nation: How Canadian innovators made the world …smarter, smaller, kinder, safer, healthier, wealthier, happier by David Johnston and Tom Jenkins, illustrated by Josh Holinaty would also provide a great browsing experience in any classroom.  Pages 124-125 give a two page spread on “How you can be an innovator,”  listing ways to inquire, ideate, incubate and implement ideas and what steps to take within each action to be the best innovator ever.  I also loved reading about the invention and pick up of JAVA script and the plastic garbage bad and something known as the “shrouded tuyere,” a way to stir steel invented by Robert Lee who came up with the idea after tooting in the bathtub.  Innovation is everywhere.  Both these books would be valuable in middle grades.

And now about that edict to have your students coding from k-12.  There are some easy ways to get students coding in your classroom but what if one of the ways was to read a picture book.  How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios is not an excellent picture book but does present the ideas and vocabulary that are foundational in coding and anchors it to a familiar activity, building a sandcastle.  Look for working definitions of sequence, loops, and “if-then-else” statements.  Having one of these books in your collection is plenty and this one does the job.  Keep this one to the early grades.

Get Coding! Learn HTML, CSS, and JAVAscript and build a website, app and game by Young Rewired State is an attractive sort of book of challenges where you work through various coding recipes to make a website, app and a game.  This book would be great in a classroom where every year now you will be able to reach some of your students through these coding challenges.  Now, keep in mind, that coding books like this are awesome usually for a short time so buy it now and use it.  In September Get Coding2 is coming out and will be full of new challenges. I would say to start kids in grade 3 with these tasks and use this book through grade 9 or 10.

Sometimes when I am looking for a new approach to educational technology I fall back on an old library habit.  See what the new books look like and how can they be used to engage students in new ed tech challenges.  This list has a little something for everyone.  They will be included in the Doucette collection later this week for your use.  And I do feel a sense of renewal now that I have touched a few new books.

 

 

Advertisements

Opportunity and Curiosity

Taking advantage of many of the opportunities we are offered is just the beginning of learning to be curious and creative.  Networking with like-minded people or those who expand the ways we think about education are connections that move us forward.

Our first opportunity is coming from a PhD student who can spend an hour or two teaching a small group about the foundation skills and language around coding our wearables.  Now this seems like something I would sign up for.  Before doing a deep dive into the wearables kits that we have purchased, I think this casual, no-pressure overview is a great place to start.  It helps me get my mind around what we are doing, how we are thinking and what the possible outcomes are before we open the more interesting (read complex) kits we have purchased.

For faculty and sessionals, taking the opportunity to visit the Doucette and be introduced to our two newest robots, Jack and Jill, EZ robots with a Calgary connection, will make your teaching and learning a little more fun and engaging.  These robots, investigated by Linda Easthope, are charming and accessible whether you like robotics or need a little nudge to include them in your practice.

proxy.duckduckgo

And finally, Tammy and I have an opportunity to visit the new public library.  Looking at the inspirational, flexible work spaces, especially in this library, is an opportunity I just can’t miss.  Looking at this beautiful building even from the outside, inspires me to want to pursue my interests in various spaces inside.  I see they even have sewing machines.  The new library’s space is inspirational for all who are curious and creative.

My advice is to take or make opportunities to move forward in your teaching and learning.  Find out about something new like coding, make an appointment to meet up with Linda, Jack and Jill or just visit a new spot like the library.  Any one of these things can be inspiring and can challenge to move your teaching and learning forward.

Radio Jones and His Robot Dad

images

Cost: Free

Size: 677.8 MB

Works on: iOS 7.0 or later

Radio Jones and His Robot Dad is an iPad app that is a graphic wordless novella.  Following the story that many kids experience, Radio Jones deals with a workaholic dad who appears to not have any time to spend with his son.

Radio creates a robotic dad that plays and explores and has adventures with him.  As you “read” the story, you will find a few interactive screens.

I won’t include any spoilers here but, let’s just say that Radio and his dad come to an agreement when it comes to the robot dad.

A lovely way to interact with an app in the days leading up to Father’s Day for kids (and for dads).

Wizard School App

download

Wizard School App

Size: 78.6 MB

Age: 4+

By Duck Duck Moose

Price: Of course, free

Do you remember when we used encyclopedias in schools to browse subjects or get some basic dates and facts about something?  Even if you don’t, we know that some students are “browsers.”  Some set in to read full length novels, and other flit around reading the backs of Pokemon cards and the Rules to Enter on the sides of cereal boxes.  Wizard School app will appeal to the latter group and, perhaps, even to the former on certain days.

This app will certainly appeal to students in grades 3 to 6 who have some reading skills.  The creation of an avatar that represents you in the app appeals to everyone.  Even me.

Subjects you can browse include:  Design (like Design a Vehicle), Animals (66 options), World, Drawing, People, Imagination, Space, Photography, Sports, Do-It-Yourself, Science, Kidpreneur, Health, Riddles and Puzzles.

In the animals section, I did open up the information about Polar Bears and it contained:

  • a small portion of video from the BBC featuring playful polar bear cubs with their mom,
  • Alysa McCall, polar bear scientist explaining what adaptations polar bears have made to live in the far north,
  • an interview with Elizabeth Bailey from the Memphis Zoo lets students know what they can do to help save a polar bear
  • and students can record their voice to make a PSA about saving the polar bear population using the knowledge they have acquired.

There are riddles and puzzles to challenge students and buzz feed videos that features many of the topics.

The front screen tells us that Wizard School is made in partnership with Khan Academy.

Download it on the ipads in your classroom and make it, possibly, a literacy centre during your Daily 5.

 

 

 

Social Media and High School

Yesterday, as many of you know, the ABC show Roseanne was cancelled after a very promising re-vamp.  This story in the news presents a perfect teachable moment for many middle and high school students.  The show’s star, Roseanne Barr lost a television series over a tweet.  One particularly racist tweet.

download

As many students look for summer jobs and apply to various companies, it is part of the learning process for them to recognize that their digital footprint is part of their identity.

Mediasmarts is the number one site to go to for digital citizenship resources for all ages.  Clearly, having a neutral social media profile is not always covered at the dinner table and teachers are on the front line with students to educate them about the repercussions of posting controversial comments and activities.

Starting the conversation with some experiences that students and teachers can attest to – about someone who called in sick and then posted photos of the awesome party they were attending, or particularly profane tweets seen by potential employers.  These stories have become the stuff of urban myths.

Using articles that are advising job-seekers like, “Why career-minded professional should think before they tweet” show students that posting responsibly is a life-long process and not just something to pay attention to in middle school and high school.   As part of the modern job application process, students should take for granted that someone will google them and look at their social media postings that are not hidden behind privacy walls. Why not include a short lesson on using LinkedIn as a valuable place to keep your work history accessible to employers?

In a follow-up lesson, discussions about the algorithms used by Google and other sites to collect data about you and customize advertising and information to your “likes” would be great information for students to have.  Although teachers often take for granted that this “digital generation” is knowledgeable about the workings of the internet, you may be surprised about how little they know about privacy, data collection and the manipulative nature of various websites.  This interesting video from Scientific American, “How does Google know everything about me?” , shows how your data is collected and used to entice you to purchase or join what is being advertised.

The conversation about digital footprints and keeping a “clean” social media identity may start and end at school without much in the way of parent involvement but it is information that is so important for each and every student.

Augmented Reality App

ARFlashcards are a very fun way to use an app to give an augmented reality view to some alphabet cards.  Have a look at this video to see how they work.

download

Augmented reality is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an enhanced version created by the use of technology to overlay digital information or an image  of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera.)”

Augmented reality apps are emerging as a fast way to integrate AR into your classroom.  Articles like this one on the TeachThought site includes a list of 32 apps that contain AR that you can include on your iPads to use in the classroom.

But why?

These are fun apps, especially the Alphabet cards that make A into an alligator and G into a gorilla.  But, when you get right down to it, once you and your students have seen it once or twice, is that it?  The caricature of the animal that appears, in fact, blocks the letter that it represents.

AR has a really cool tech vibe but I’m not sure the alphabet cards are where I would use this technology for the early literacy learning.

Once the technology is more robust, showing us the human body like the Anatomy 4D app (which I find very glitchy) or showing a real frog dissection or the way a tsunami looks as it approaches shore, maybe I will buy in a bit more but for now I am on the fence with this ed tech.

Don’t get me wrong.  This app and the accompanying alphabet cards are fun and when I showed my colleagues, we all found the AR fascinating until we started to think about how to use it in a classroom.  Nothing.  No ideas.  Nadda.

My opinion is to wait and watch.  Let’s see how the AR apps develop and how we can use it as an embedded technology in the classroom.  Perhaps, not yet.

 

Podcasts as PD

Do you want to listen to podcasts during some of your downtime? What downtime?  Or while you are walking or exercising? Or sleeping?  I know teachers are very busy and on the verge of burn-out at this time of year but podcasts can help re-inspire or motivate you or simply get you through to the end of the year.  When asked if you are keeping up with your professional development, you can confidently nod and discuss something about the latest examples of project based learning.  No one needs to know that it was the last thing you listened to before parking your car this morning.

download

Search for podcasts that interest you and your passion within your chosen profession.  There are, literally, podcasts for everything.

I suggest, to get started, my two favourite bloggers who have recently entered the podcast realm.

  1. Creative Classroom by John Spencer based on his blog.
  2. Inside Innovation by AJ Juliani

If you have no time to read the blogposts, perhaps you can listen.

I also like the idea of EduAllStars in which a different education innovator is featured in each episode.  WiredEducator.com also offers a variety of interviews with clever educators adapting and adopting technology into their classrooms.

Free webinars often offered great information about using technology and making in the K-12 classroom but many have become “sponsored” by various technology companies and no longer offer the breadth of knowledge they once did.  Podcasts fill that gap by offering innovative ideas within the context of an interview or listening opportunity that is free and not subject to any schedule.

Try one out.  Podcasts are just one more tool in your professional development tool belt.

Podcasts in Secondary School

How about using podcasts in middle and secondary school classrooms?  It works.  Listen to this podcast about using Serial podcast, Season 1 as a hook to engage English Language Arts students in high school.  Michael Godsey had some choices to make, like introducing King Lear to his students rather than Serial.  In the end, his students made a few huge leaps in their learning that I’m not sure would have happened while he was explaining what was happening in King Lear.

For one, his students who were not, generally, at or above grade level, used the time in invest in the story and to discuss the issues presented in the episodes.

Using the transcripts, students improved their spelling and sentence structure by tuning into the audio and written editions of each episode.

Podcast developers also made the letters or “primary resources” available.  Letters that were part of the evidence could be scrutinized by students for tone and meaning.  Students looked at clues to what really happened.

If I haven’t said it already, podcasts are free and using them in a classroom is a very new way to link what students are already doing to curriculum outcomes.

This American Life and RadioLab as well as the CBC have hundreds of episodes for you to test out for your classroom.

I should also mention that Michael Godsey and his wife developed a number of printable lesson plans linked to podcast learning available at their site for a price.

Podcasts in Elementary School

Podcasts are an up and coming (some say, “already arrived”) teaching tool.  Recent survey results by the group Kidslisten.org contain some amazing statistics about the age of students listening to podcasts (almost 60% between the ages of 5 and 8) and how much they listen (1/2 of students surveyed listen to at least one podcast a week, 1/3 of students listen everyday.)

 

Listening with your students to a podcast like The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian  may be a way to engage students in storytelling that is free and captivating.

download

We, at the Doucette, have continually toyed with the idea of a book club podcast so that we could get the word out about the many great resources we read and want to recommend to Werklund students and others in the field of teaching.  It hasn’t happened yet but stay tuned…

On the other hand, Book Club for Kids Podcast is an interesting addition to reviews for kids by kids and some special guests.  Some great discussions can be started using the reviews that are already uploaded and they are free.

download

And your class may want to create a podcast of their own, reviewing books or taking on other subjects that can be scripted.  How to Start a Podcast may be a great resource to get you and your students creating your own “in-class” podcast to share with each other.

Begin with a podcast or kidcast that will interest your students and start using free podcasts in your classroom.

 

Coding – Where Do I Start?

 

Well I actually know where I started coding and it was the Daisy the Dinosaur App. Although I know that I should be ashamed to say it, I’m not. For my age, I think any kind of coding is a bonus. Something I never, ever thought I would be learning and, yet, here I am.

download

And, because the focus in the Doucette Library is to take this educational technology out to the K-12 environment, I think walking the walk and talking the talk is where it is at.

Moving forward was a tougher decision. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be options to learn coding at the next level. Python seemed a bit of a stretch, like speaking Greek before learning Greek. Thanks to a couple of robots, though, my decision became more evident. Ozobot and Dash and Dot both use Blockly (and there is also a Blockly Jr.) So I learned some great terms like looping and moving of robots with simpler click and drag commands.

images

Alas, there are larger programming needs on my horizon. For the wearable workshop that we are working on, I would like to, also, invest some time with Scratch. This language also calls upon the click and drag method to watch what happens and that suits me fine.

download

My experience with Arduino taught me that I was trying to gallop before I knew how to walk. Much of the coding for arduinos is open source but I am not yet able to predict what the outcome of downloading much of the code will be or how to make minor changes to affect the downloaded code. And, yet, I keep at it, learning step-by-step. I also know that I am not an intuitive coder.

I’ve collected a few good websites, apps and resources to help you begin to bring coding into your classroom or to try something to connect with other coders out there in the world. Take a look here to see where to start.