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.

 

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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.

Planbook.com

Okay, friends, I have been away from you all summer.  However, that does not mean I have been idle.  On the contrary, so many things have been happening that this seems like the busiest summer on record.

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I’m only here for a very short time to offer you one good resource recommended by a friend of mine who is queen of the whole school schedule.  We are recommending Planbook.com for scheduling classes and effective planning of your year, just a month or, perhaps, your whole life.

This website can be customized in so many ways including a 5 or 6 or 7 day schedule.  Use it to partner plan or to plan your own classes.

For the pre-service teachers, get started planning for yourself and others.  Do you know the unit plan you are working of for your practicum?  Start with just that schedule and build a timetable that captures topics, lessons, outcomes and assessment.

Stay tuned for a fun filled year with various educational technologies including Adafruit Flora, more adventures in Arduino, Ozobots, and Bloxels.  I’ll be learning how to have fun coding with Dash and Dot, two robots aimed at the elementary grades.

Learn about all sorts of educational technologies, games and low tech makerspace ideas to use for planning great adventures in the classroom.

Apps of Interest – June 2017

anxietyhelper and Verena by Amanda Southworth

I’ve discontinued App of the Week because, let’s face it, although I look at apps every week, actually reviewing one put a ton of pressure on this blogger.

Now, apps of interest will be reviewed and connected to curriculum when possible.  Overall, reader, you will get a sense of what is out there with a focus on uses in the classroom.

Having said that, the two apps in the article today are here because of a few unique qualities they possess.  The designer and creator of anxietyhelper and Verena is 15-year-old Amanda Southworth.  She came to the attention of Apple and recently attended her first developer conference.

Both of these apps are aimed at the middle and high school grade range and do not, in fact, address specific curriculum outcomes.   They are very timely in that they address the health and well being of this age group.  anxietyhelper addresses mental health including depression and anxiety disorders and how to access help for these illnesses.  Verena focuses on resources for the LGBTQ community.

A recent article in Mashable features Amanda’s story and her amazing capacity to code. As various school boards put an emphasis on coding in the classroom, Amanda is an example of how individuals come to coding on their own and follow their own path. While it is a great skill to introduce to all students, some will excel and some with be satisfied with the basic skills.

Take a look at these apps.  While they are not as sophisticated as some, they have an amazing capacity to reach out to students the same age as Amanda, trying to get guidance and answers to some difficult questions.

Summer Reading

Summer is a time to re-energize and have some time for new learning in a more relaxed atmosphere.  That’s everything I love about summer reading except that the location can and be the beach or the deck.  Set your sights on something you are interested in, get a big set of post it notes and away you go.

This summer, I am recommending two reads to reinforce the notion of the “Maker Mindset.”

Both books, while not published this year, are new enough to speak to the notion of making embedded in curriculum and in school culture more completely than a room called a “Maker Space” ever could be.  That is not to say that having a makerspace in any facility that you educate in is not a great bonus but without a leading edge, expensive maker space, any educator can still advance the notion of making in any environment.

The first book is “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement is changing our schools, our jobs, and our minds” by Dale Dougherty with Ariane Conrad.  Beginning with Chapter 1, “We are all Makers,” this book, published in 2016, gives a generous overview of the maker movement and some specifics about how it fits in education and more generally, how it is changing the real world.  Chapter 7 specifically addresses the nature and conditions needed to adopt a “maker mindset.”  This book is a quick read to give educators a great foundation in what maker is and what is looks like within each community.

The second book is by Edmonton’s own, George Couros, “The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity.”  This book speaks directly to educators no matter what stage they are at in embracing the maker movement.  He addresses, because of his own experience, just how difficult it is to lead a revolution in a school system.  However, the information contained here will give educators much to talk and think about.  Many questions will be addressed, like how to create meaningful learning while having innovative students and educators leading the way.

Have a great summer and allow these two great books to help inform your practice in September.

Both books are currently being catalogued and will shortly be available in the Doucette Library.