The Year 2 Cohort of the MAET Overseas program, organizes and presents a conference related to educational technology. All of the arrangements for the conference are made during a 2 week period before the conference is hosted.
Each member of the Year 2 cohort is a member of a presentation group responsible for hosting two sessions, as well as contributing to the overall organization of the conference.
Our first session was done in the Ignite format and each member of the group prepared an Ignite talk. I selected to speak on my experiences with integrating coding in the classroom. If you are not familiar with the Ignite format, the presenter uses 20 slides with each slide showing for 15 seconds on auto-advance.
For more resources related to the IGNITE session and my co-presenters presentations please visit: http://great14.weebly.com/ignite-addressing-challenges-in-professional-practice.html
Our second session was Engaging Teachers in Professional Learning: Creating Sustainable Change. This session was presented by Doug Frankish, Natasha Smith, Ashley Hufnagel, and myself.
The following is a recording of the beginning of the session and portions of the breakout groups.
For more resources related to the Professional Learning session please visit: http://great14.weebly.com/engaging-teachers-in-professional-learning-creating-sustainable-change.html
In December, Computer Science Education Week hosted The Hour of Code. Through this initiative, a one hour module was developed as an introduction to coding. A number of short videos about coding featuring a number of celebrities were also produced. The statistics around computer programming are very interesting and it is going to be an in demand skill for success in the coming years.
Through this module, students are introduced to the coding concepts of repeated loops, repeat until statements, if statements, and if/else statements.
Following the success of this introduction, I decided to use the ‘tribe activity’ time in the Lower School schedule to offer a coding activity. The program ran for 4 weeks and we primarily used iPads and computers to continue our exploration. Most of the programs we explored used visual programming – symbols to represent words.
Here are the tools that we used to explore:
Coding Tool Kit
Tynker (computer) : Age 8+ http://www.tynker.com/hour-of-code/
Lightbot (app for iPad or android device): Age 8+ http://light-bot.com/hoc.html
Scratch (computer): Age 8+ http://scratch.mit.edu/
Kodable (iPad) : Age 5+ https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kodable/id577673067?mt=8
Hopscotch (iPad): Age 8+ https://gethopscotch.com/hour-of-code
Hopscotch Curriculum Resources: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/o4vo921f15fjluz/yQQXV6RG-z
Daisy The Dino (iPad): Age 5+ https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/daisy-the-dinosaur/id490514278?mt=8
Bee-Bot App (iPad): Age 5+ https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/bee-bot/id500131639?mt=8
Lego Mindstorms Fix The Factory (iPad): Age 8+ https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/lego-mindstorms-fix-factory/id671493323?mt=8
One of the boys in my club, was quickly able to turn his iPad into an Etch-A-Sketch device using the Hopscotch programming and some basic instructions in approx. 15 minutes. The online module doesn’t work because you cannot tip the screen to make it function but if you have an iPad and Hopscotch installed you can see how it works.
Eventually, I think that once students have developed the basic skills they could start to design iPad/iPhone apps for a specific purpose. It would be interesting to have a summative tasks for a unit of inquiry be related to creating a real-world tool using these skills.
Programming is a great way to teach thinking skills as it requires problem decompositions (breaking down the task into smaller parts to solve one step at a time), pattern recognition, algorithmic thinking (strategic thinking), and abstraction. It is also done in a real world environment, where students are able to try their thinking and get immediate feedback if they are successful or not.
After watching a few videos on the Raspberry Pi and the advanced things people have been able to program it to do, and reading a variety of discussion forums, I decided that before I could actually do much (exciting!) with the Raspberry Pi I would need to know the basics of “Python” programming in order to operate the operating system.
Some of the resources I found were:
Python for Beginners: http://www.python.org/about/gettingstarted/
Adafruit Learning Systems: http://learn.adafruit.com/category/learn-raspberry-pi
Khan Academy – Python Programming – https://www.khanacademy.org/science/computer-science
Raspberry Shake – Raspberry Pi Tutorials – http://www.raspberryshake.com/
*I did check Atomic Learning but they did not have any resources for Python
I personally like the Raspberry Shake Tutorials because a lot of it was reading based so I found it easier to go back and re-read to make sure I was understanding, instead of watching a video and starting and stopping. The pictures were very helpful because it was a static image, instead of it changing too quickly before I understood. Also because I didn’t have a Raspberry Pi to tinker with, most of the videos were examples of people working with the actual program, and I was more trying to find background research.
I learned quickly that computer programming contains its own “language” or terminology, much of with I was not familiar with even though I have some basic skills from coaching lego robotics. When thinking about this in the context of teaching, when we start a new unit there is often a lot of new vocabulary so it must be overwhelming for students as they work to build an understanding. As teachers, sometimes I think we forget what our students don’t know yet, and how challenging it can seem before you have learned it. It was good to be reminded of how challenging a new concept can be – especially when it is something like programming the Raspberry Pi that is completely unrelated to most other knowledge that I already have in my long term memory.
I also sent a Tweet out to my PLN on Twitter to ask for additional resources, although I didn’t receive any suggestions.
Today’s Quick Fire challenge involved creating a six word memoir and thimble using Mozilla Thimble to express the concept.
My creation was: https://marcielewis.makes.org/thimble/thimble-memoir-by-marcie-lewis
When thinking about this as a learner, I had some initial reflections about how my students may feel sometimes. Within the applet, there was a lot of text to read in order to begin to tinker with the different components. When reading the “code”, I lacked the basic knowledge or understanding of what was plain text and what was instructions that the computer was going to follow. It was like reading another language – even though some of it was written in English, it placed high demands on my cognitive skills. I found myself rereading sections, trying to think carefully about what it means and how the code was creating the image I was viewing at the right hand side.
After a little while, I was able to decipher what was actual code and what was explanatory information. The next challenge was figuring out how to adjust the code to have the image appear as I wanted it. As the code involves utilizing numbers to explain color, and positioning. This required some additional exploration at other websites to try and locate the information that I was seeking. I discovered very quickly that identifying the information I was searching for would not be as easy as I originally thought because I didn’t have any prior knowledge of what actually I was looking for, and what to even type into a search engine. The first few websites I explored I couldn’t seem to find what I wanted so I decided to go back and give the good old “trial and error” method of problem solving a try, given the time constraints.
When thinking about how this connects to my students, as a teacher I have to be very careful to make sure they have enough technical and content knowledge to engage in the task successfully. Sometimes because we have enough knowledge about the task, we forget how many steps are actually involved, or what knowledge the students will require to complete the task. A simple task to me, can be a very complex task for my students without the proper preparation and scaffolding.
Obviously, this activity was structured to lower the entry point for coding through the use of explanatory code that was included in the applet, but the entry point still required some basic knowledge in order to complete it smoothly and without too much frustration. Developing strategies to help our students be placed in their “zone” – where the task is a “just right” task (not too easy, not too hard, just right) requires teachers to know their students – both their technological knowledge and their content knowledge.