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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s January – Stop Procrastinating!

App for January

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30/30 App by Binary Hammer

Cost: Free

Version: 2.1.7

Size: 19.0 MB

In-App Purchases

Do you, or the students you work with, have focus issues?  Do you find it hard to complete or substantially take a bite out of a task at one sitting?  This app is for you.  It takes the guess work out of how much time you have to spend on a task and how often you should be checking your phone.  It was recently reported that the average person looks at their phone 115 times a day.  How does anyone get anything done?

And it is not just checking a smartphone that takes attention away from the task at hand.  It would seem society at large is determined to interrupt you often enough to seriously change how focused you can be.

Here is an app that can help with keeping you or your students on task for a stated amount of time.  Use that smartphone to outsmart the interrupters.

“The app allows you to pre-set a list of tasks and allocate the length of time that you want to spend on each activity. The app makes a sound when it is time to move on to the next task. But most impressive about this app is the visual component. You can color code each task, watch the timer count down, and see the list of tasks coming up next.” Jennifer Sullivan and Ron Samul, eSchoolNews, December 6, 2017

All true and waiting for you to download for free.  You can use all the features effectively without any of the in-app purchases.

Hmmm.  I wonder if this would work for my backlog of work.  I seem to remember a saying  about an old dog and a new trick.

 

 

Making in Calgary (and on campus)

We are 18 years into this new century.  Eighteen years.  Students born in this century will be on campus this year.  It is time to embrace the new learning environments that have presented themselves this century.

There are many new spaces to create learning opportunities here in the city.  Learning has never been restricted to the classroom but there are some amazing opportunities out there for some unconventional discovery, design and creativity.

Many makerspaces are now accessible here in Calgary.  Try to visit one a month or a couple on a weekend to investigate which one can help you express that creativity that is bursting to get out.

Protospace has been around for a while and welcomes newcomers every Tuesday evening to look around and see if the space and the peer group fits your needs.

Fuse33 is the newest space in Calgary and you can arrange to go and see it.  It is a bright working space that offers everything from woodworking to sewing in a bright building in the South East area of Calgary.

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The Calgary MakerSpace has plans for an incredible space that will be accessible by many.  Follow their progress on their site.

And last but not least, the newly opened Lab NEXT  here at the University of Calgary.  “Lab NEXT features a makerspace, bookable collaboration rooms, open collaboration space, and high performance computers.”  Also in the space are various 3D printers, Cricut machine and scanners. Workshops are being run during Block Week and into January to familiarize staff and students with the space and resources available on a bookable or drop in basis.

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Lab NEXT not only features state-of-the-art equipment, it also has staff to help you with various questions you may have about your research technology.  It is a very handy place to have on campus for the use of staff and students. It is located on the 3rd floor of the TFDL.  Visit the site and go over to check it out.

 

Hour of Code – 2017

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How about spending an hour with your class coding during your practicum?  The Hour of Code for 2017  is set to go the week of December 4th to the 10th to align with Computer Science Education Week.

A quick introduction to coding is a great way to appeal to students and have them learn logic and the step-by-step process that leads to great coding. Laying a foundation of skills needed to code can be done using games like Robot Turtles  or an app like Daisy the Dinosaur.

Do you need to know how to code? No not really.  You need to have a general knowledge of the outcomes that you see for your students.  You will want them to have an awareness of coding, what it looks like, the cause and effect of click and drop coding like SCRATCH and SCRATCH Jr.  Overall, you will want them to have a positive experience getting to know how the computer “knows” how to do things.

Of course, the Doucette Library has your back on this one.  Visit the Research Guide about Coding in the Classroom to find links and resources to help you out.

No tech in your classroom?  Start with a simple writing exercise.  Challenge your students to write down all the steps it takes to do something.   Or build low tech robots and have students record individual movements needed to make the robot walk.

Look to include coding in your classroom as you head out on practicum. Many students and your peers will be happy that you did.

 

Maker Faire, Calgary 2017

This post will be brief.  I am just letting you know that the coolest place to be this weekend in Calgary is the Maker Faire at Spruce Meadows.  Look at some of the exhibitors and some of the great demos and talks you can attend.  Look for one of my favourite local makers, Make Fashion.

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Please say “hi” and don’t be embarrassed to get your inner geek out.  There will be crowds to surround you as you are inspired to make.

Tickets available on-line.  Celebrate that making is now mainstream!

Hopscotch: Learn to Code

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ONLY for iOS 9.0 and later

Version: 3.21.1

Size: 119 MB

Cost: Free

Target Audience: Ages 9-13

Create, Play, Learn.

The Hopscotch: Learn to Code app is a great addition to the technology (apps and websites) used to teach coding in the elementary and middle school classroom.

Students can sample what other kids are designing and play, from the screen, games that are designed by other app users.

Given the short video tutorials that appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen, allowing students to follow the step-by-step directions to create their own games or pause the video and catch up, designing games is really only a video away.

Students can also save their games so others have a chance to play.

Hopscotch follows from Daisy the Dinosaur, as another step in the coding process by Hopscotch Technologies.

The iTunes link says this app has been downloaded over 10 million times and I can see why.  Download the free app and see how many games your students can design.

 

A Classroom Blog?

Blogging is a great way to get students to write.  Students would love to create a blog including photos, artwork and other artifacts of their learning.  Don’t just limit them to the written word.

Reading Student Blogs: How Online Writing Can Transform Your Classroom by Anne Davis and Ewa McGrail generates all sorts of possibilities about classroom blogs and individual student blogs.  Although this kind of project takes some planning, it can turn out to be one of the most successful ways to engage students in various kinds of writing.

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Give some thought about why a blog would engage your students.  Can you give them a chance to get creative with words and ideas?  Can they see how everything they are learning is sometimes interconnected? Is is possible to give them space to write free of testing, grading, drilling, measuring and comparing?

Try to find peers, other than your students, to comment on blog posts.  Having their words available to all is a great everyday lesson in digital citizenship and the creation of their digital footprint.

Some ideas to create some buzz around content are:  “answer burning questions, comment on the news, debate a compelling issue, pick a “pro” or “con” side, or comment on a noteworthy post.”  These are just a few ideas introduced by the authors.

Having students comment on their current reading material may be another great way to have interaction between students.  What books are popular and cause a stir when reviewed in the blog?

It is early in the year.  It may be a great time to start students contributing to a classroom blog.  You many recognize some interesting writers in your group.

 

Just Ask…

 

Have you ever run into a problem that is like the writer’s block of learning?  I have been experiencing this feeling lately when it comes to Adafruit Gemma and Flora, two namebrand components that use Adruino open source coding to control LED lights embedded in cloth or clothing. Although I know that all of the components should work together to create a blinking fashion statement, the blink eluded me.

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I sewed with conductive thread. I replaced conductive thread with alligator clips.  I watched YouTube videos, frame by frame.  I downloaded. I uploaded.

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My partner-in-crime asked the essential question.  “Who do we know that could help us?”  We sent out an appeal for knowledge.  Did someone we know, know someone who knows what we don’t know?

My point is that, generally, given a whole university campus, someone knows what you want to know.  And in this case our query was answered with a delightful person we had no previous knowledge of who knew exactly what we didn’t know.

It would seem Adafruit Gemma and Flora are not so easy to get working with conductive thread and the coding is a bit tough to download onto the microcontrollers.  I was having trouble for a very good reason.

Our new contact, from a faculty far, far away, was looking to embed clothing with LED lights, just like we were, but his knowledge led him to create various special components that would make the coding use “Scratch” and he traveled to China to make sure the components were easy to use for makers (yes, I call myself a maker) like me.

What’s my point?  Just ask.  Ask for the knowledge you need.  The world we live in is made very small by social media and email.  Ask if someone you know, knows someone who knows what you want to know.

And I’m very excited to continue to pursue this project with new eyes and new technology and a new person to help out.  The kits and materials we will be using look like they would function well in the K-12 environment.  I’ll let you know what I know when I know it.

Campus Collisions-Beakerhead

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How much fun can a banana-piano be?  Well if you are in the right place with the right people – it can be amazing.

The TFDL (Taylor Family Digital Library) on the campus of the University of Calgary hosted “Campus Collisions” as part of the 2017 edition of Beakerhead.  It was suggested I join in the fun with a table in the front foyer of the main library.  And join in the fun I did!

First, the banana piano with the help of the Makey-Makey kit, attracted many, many students who were, clearly, trying to get from one place to another through the foyer.  The same as it is an attraction for K-12 students, the visual presentation of having a dozen bananas attached by alligator clips to a Makey-Makey in turn hooked up to a MacBook was irresistible for most passersby.

There were people waiting patiently for their chance to play the banana piano.  It was wonderful to see the reaction of students of all ages.  Many had me SnapChat a video for them to send to friends.  “Look what I did at university today!”

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I also introduced many students to the blue-tooth enabled robot, Sphero 2.0   that rolled on the floor, controlled by various people using my ipad.

Just goes to show, science can be fun and interactive.  One student went away and came back later to tell me that he had figured out that the bananas were not really the most important part of the banana-piano.

Pull out some fun makerspace activities and have students experience and talk about the magic.  Look for great Beakerhead events around Calgary.

Horizon Report 2017 – Makerspaces

The current Horizon Report for K-12,  collected, curated and written by members of the New Media Consortium (NMC) has recently been published online.  I have referred to this annual report before, as it looks at various educational technologies and the possible time to adoption within schools.

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Today, of interest, is the report about makerspaces contained within the “Important Development in Educational Technology for K-12 Education” section.  Adoption for this addition to most schools is categorized as “one year or less.”

More interesting that the statistics about the adoption of makerspaces in schools is the more subtle change in language around the creation and use of a single space to the more general adoption of a “mindset.”  Although, those who follow this blog would say that the report is “preaching to the choir,” I think this change in language is important to the development and sustainability of the makerspace movement.

“Building dedicated spaces for such activities can be perceived as secondary to the true spirit of this trend – integrating the maker mindset into the formal curriculum to spur real-world learning.” (p. 40, NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2017)

For pre-service teachers, researchers, and practicing teachers, this notion of developing a maker mindset within a classroom provides an over arching environment from which all learning can be done.

Creating an atmosphere filled with the 4 C’s:  critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity demands the inclusion of a maker mindset, not just a space, within the classroom.

Stay tuned for further reflections on this report.