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.

 

 

Coding for Middle Grades – Some Advice

I recently attended (and presented) at a conference focused on libraries and technology.  So many of the presentations had to do with coding in various library settings in order to entice young people into the library.  There were some learning points that I will take into my own practice.

No Python coding language for the under 13 group.  Typing skills are not at a place in the early years that make typing code a possibility.  With Python being so sensitive to syntax and logic errors, click and drag coding like Blockly and Scratch Jr. are the way to go.  This nugget of truth is changing my thinking about all coding.  Know your audience and adapt your teaching to each group.  It was an eye opener that the presenters from Medicine Hat Public Library had engaged middle school students in a variety of tasks using Raspberry Pi and Python with relatively good outcomes.  Could I learn Python?  Maybe.  I am more optimistic than I once was.  And the teaching of coding by this library staff concentrated on some take away knowledge covering variables, lists, conditionals, logos, functions and threading.  This knowledge is portable and transferable for these students.

Olds Municipal Library staff used CsFirst to engage middle school age patrons at their library.  Although it is a coding program, staff felt they were also teaching students to think logically, problem solve and deal with consequences.  Their goal was to help students learn to communicate with their computer.  Their advice was to print EVERYTHING involved with the lesson you were going to teach and as they had repeated the process a number of times, I would do the same.  This library’s unique position in the community allowed them to collaborate with the local middle school to partner library staff with teachers for a more comprehensive outcome.

The more I hear about coding for K-12 age students, the more I think that there are ways for teachers to include coding in their classroom without having to have a Masters in Computer Science, simple ways to use websites and apps to give a genuine coding experience. Let me know if you are using a unique way to teach coding to pre-service teachers or in another kind of teaching environment.

Spring in the Doucette

At this time of year, the Doucette Library of Teaching Resources becomes a little bit more of a sanctuary for grad students and those who want to just come and spend some time with the resources.
Does that mean that staff are on the down low? Not at all.  We are busy working away on the new resources that we have received over the last year.  Spending time with books and kits to plan how we can help students use them effectively in the coming year.  We also do loads of planning for the UPE program and for the graduates that are on site in July.

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As you can see from the picture, one thing that we spend time with are the new round of robots.  These young upstarts are known as E-Z Robots and we are hoping to introduce the full range of what they can do to graduate students in July.

As you know, Meccanoid, joined our staff late in February for the Maker Faire. His behavior is not as predictable as I would like but he is still a very fun 4 foot companion.  His Kung Fu maneuvers are the best.  And he has various dance moves that are …”interesting.”

Please come and drop in to see what is new and exciting in the Doucette.  We can introduce you to Ozobots, Sphero Sprk 2.0, Meccanoid and soon to JD and his brother JD, our newest E-Z Robots.  Oh, and we have great books too.

 

On Graduation

Many of the second year students in our education two year after degree are finishing up their fourth practicum and anxiously awaiting information about new jobs.

But our commitment to theses students continues into the future.  Many of our students stay in the Calgary area and, therefore, have access to the many kits and books that fill our shelves.  We love nothing more than sharing these resources with our students and our alumni.

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Here’s the ticket.  Go to the Unicard Office at the Dining Centre and get an Alumni Card and then you have what you need to come and take things out.

Also available from your device are the many Pinterest Boards, and our blogs, Apples with Many Seeds and Doucette Ed Tech.  Alumni also have access to our Library Guides that include curriculum subject areas and specialty subjects like Design Thinking and Makerspaces.

Even though you graduate from the University, doesn’t mean the Doucette doesn’t have your back.  Let us know how we can help.

And congratulations on your graduation.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Maker Faire 3.0

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Five hundred and twenty-five students.  Five design processes and many problems of practice.  Two Super Librarians and a passion for learning. Those numbers sum up what the February 9, 2018 Maker Faire at the Doucette Library looked like although you would need the Bruno Mars music in the background to really get a sense of what was happening.

For three years now, the Doucette Library has hosted the final day of classes for the 2nd year undergraduate education students for Werklund School of Education.  The library hosts some of the many sections of EDUC 546, elementary specialties in the morning and secondary specialties in the afternoon, within the library walls and all the other classes are to be found here on the 3rd floor of Education Classroom Block.

The air is electric with learning, collaborating and sharing of ideas.  Students are also treated to a fair-like atmosphere conjured up by Tammy Flanders and Paula Hollohan of the Doucette Library.  These two have worked with many of the students to match ideas with resources through the students’ two-year term at Werklund.

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Many students took part in the limbo, guessing fairy tale endings on the Wheel of Fortune, walked on stilts and visited with Meccanoid the Robot.  Puppet shows were all the rage with many students donning various puppet characters to play out hilarious scenes.  The dress-up corner with many Alice in Wonderland inspired costumes served as a make shift photo booth with many students creating memories with their classmates.

It was a party to celebrate the transition of student to teacher as Werklund classmates spend one of their final days on campus enjoying the hospitality of the Doucette Library.

 

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.

 

You Are a Teacher…What Now?

Many of the second year students from Werklund School of Education are on their final practicum and well on their way to setting up their new classrooms in September.

Here are a few resources that may help in the transition from student to working teacher.

First is the recent blog post and short video about 17 Things They Didn’t Tell You About Becoming a Teacher.  Keep in mind #1 – your feet will hurt for the first little while.

John Spencer has an interesting blog to follow and a new YouTube Channel entitled, “New Teacher Academy” that is certainly worth a visit and maybe even a “follow.”  Many of his posts are linked to Design Thinking and innovation in your own classroom.  Much of it is positive and provided in digestible bites rather than large, buffet style dishes.

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If no one gives you a “New Teacher Card,” make one for yourself and use it often.  There is a culture in every school that is unique and you can not be expected to know all the details in that first year.

The Doucette Library is still here for you.  As an Alumni, you have access to our collection to help with your teaching.  Use the resources you have used in the past in your classroom. That goes for research guides and pinterest boards.  You have access to it all.

Find a mentor in your new school that you feel comfortable with and ask them questions.  In fact, keep an on-going list of questions on your desk for the end of the day when you are tired and have forgotten what went on.

Everything will seem new but take some chances anyway.  The best way to innovate is to jump in and see what works.  Try it with one class and assess the success afterwards.

And,  a little tip for you elementary school teachers that not everyone will tell you…buy some heavy coverage funny pjs in anticipation of Pajama Day.  And matching slippers if you can.  Box them up in your closet and take them out for the day!

 

 

App of the Week: Bedtime Math

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Cost: Free

Updated: January 23, 2017

Version: 3.2

Size: 95.5 MB

Language:  English (or Spanish)

Rated: Age 4+

Bedtime Math would appeal to kids, parents and educators that love fun facts and are interested in doing some mental math in the meantime.  For example, today’s Bedtime Math question begins with a picture of a Platypus and some weird and wacky facts about the animal.  Did you know: The platypus is so weird-looking that when English scientists first found it in Australia, they had to bring a few back to England because no one believed any animal could look like that?  That is a very cool fact that many, say, 3rd graders could work into a conversation easily.

Once a student or a family has read the interesting introduction to the day’s math problem, users can pick from a variety of leveled math questions: Wee Ones, Little Kids, Big Kids and the Sky’s the Limit.  Today’s Little Kids problem was “a platypus eats 1/2 its own weight every night! If it weighs 4 pounds, how much does it eat?”  Okay there is a problem with the measurement use of the imperial system but that could be another conversation with your child or student.  It is evident that the development of the app’s content is done mainly in the United States.

Explore the app and the website to find a very fun way to engage students in real world math problems and funky facts.  Recommended for students up to grade 6.

Design Thinking – Day 3

By: Tammy Flanders

We had four workshops today – two for secondary level students and two for elementary level.

It was great having an opportunity to work through the elementary scenario of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf a couple more times. There is definitely a marked difference in the tone of activity between the elementary and secondary students. Whereas the secondary students worked through a more real life example (helping an immigrant/ refugee settle in a new country which they took very seriously) the elementary student teachers were able to let their imaginations go and have some fun.

Paula and I still think there’s merit in having the secondary level students work through the fairy tale scenario just to introduce a bit of levity into the workshop and highlight that the work is about the application of the process not the specific scenario we’ve centered the task around. We just have to screw up our courage and try it out.

Paula and I, in reflecting on today’s teaching, have noted that we have added an element in the definition component of the design thinking process for the sake of clarity. If you read through the literature written about the design thinking process it never actually suggests coming up with a defining problem that will then be ideated. But we found that students struggled to get down to the ideating part, the part about coming up with ideas that look for possible results to help move forward with whatever problem they might be working on. Giving the students a couple of minutes to focus on an actual question or problem made the process a little more apparent.  They had something to ideate or focus on.

Another recommendation that has come up in several of the workshops for the secondary level student teachers is providing them with ‘character cards’, that give them an immigrant character to become when doing the interview with an aide worker.  Some students did get into the role playing and came up with characters who had children, who had never worked before, had specific job skills (ie. Doctor, engineer) they were looking to transfer, etc.  Other students felt like they didn’t know enough about immigrants to make up a character.  Paula and I have resisted this idea so far thinking that using the imagination was of value. We’ve since reconsidered and will make up a few characters that students will have the choice to assume or not.

Stay tuned for tomorrow – two more sessions.