This Week in Ontario Edublogs


So, during this morning’s walk Jaimie and I were talking about what content to put into this post.  As always, there’s always some great stuff from Ontario Educators.  Of all the posts that I do, this is far and away the easier one to do.  The only difficult thing is to weed it to keep it down to three-five entries.  (See my TL friends, I do listen and learn your code words.)  As we were walking, he indicated that I’m all about this coding thing so why not highlight some Hour of Code stuff from Ontario people so that teachers have at least a week to plan for something for the Hour of Code, December 8-14.  So now the secret’s out – the brains behind this blog is a 5 year old Shepherd/Husky cross.

Hey, I’m smart AND good looking!

It sounds like a good idea so here goes…

Playing with Programming: Coding for Younger Students

From the Minds on Media event at the recently concluded Bring IT, Together conference, Peter McAsh shares his collection of links and resources for coding in the elementary school.


Hopscotch

I’m a big fan of the Hopscotch programming language if you have access to iPads in your classroom.  This link takes you to my Hopscotch page on my PD Wiki.


Making a palindrome from a user-provided String in Java

It’s hard to convince the non-converted that coding can be fun.  One of the fun problems that has to be part of any program of computer science has to be coding fun with palindromes.  “Able was I ere I saw Elba”.

It’s fun to create palindromes and it’s also fun to input a string to test if the string is indeed a palindrome itself.  It lends itself to a discussion of rules – does capitalization count?  How about punctuation?  Spaces?

True story – I woke up and played this YouTube video from Brandon Grasley this morning.  It’s just plain fun – and a reminder that Hour of Code isn’t limited to the youngest of students.


How to Get Started with Coding in Your Classroom with the Hour of Code

For the unbeliever, this is always the question.  A few others – where do I find the time?  How do I learn this stuff?  Does it fit the regular curriculum?

Scott McKenzie addresses much of this in his post…


Learn to Code – A Hands on Tutorial for Teachers

Maybe coding in the Scratch language is where you want to be with your students.  On Wednesday evening, Brian Aspinall led a unique opportunity in #csk8 to learn a bit about the basics of Scratch and how to develop an application.

The session was captured by hashtag and a Storify document created from it.


Hour of Code 2014

Finally, in case you missed it, I had checked my Hour of Code links from last year, updated them, and added a few more.

In addition to updating the Learning and Pearltree resources used previously, I added a Flipboard and NKWiry version.  If you’re interested in my resources, you only need to check one of them.  They all point to the same resources.  It was just my way to force myself to keep at least a modicum of functionality with these tools.


Jaimie was right.  That was fun and I hope helpful.

Check out all of the Ontario Educators blogging list here.

Maybe I should add these links to a Livebinder for next year….

Richer Reading – Response to Brandon Grasley


If you haven’t, you should read Brandon Grasley’s Post “Finding “unusual” content using Zite“.  In the post, he talks about how he uses Zite to break outside of the Echo Chamber that it’s so easy to fall in to. 

The nice thing about being connected is that you can connect with whoever or whatever you want.  As he notes, as an educator, you can surround you with other educators that feed you the same messages.  Or, you can turn it into something else.  We have such great tools that can enable your learning in any way that suits.  There’s no excuse for hearing the same messages over and over.

Brandon talks about using Zite – which also remains my first reading app of the day.  In his post, Brandon asks for topics that you follow – there was considerable overlap between what he follows and what I do.  Additional things that are fed into my reader include “Vaio, Gnome, Ubuntu, Mozilla, Microsoft Office 365, Malware, Windsor, Professional Development, Linux, Microsoft Sharepoint, Ontario, Canada, Android, Gadgets, Infographics”. 

For the most part, I’ll open Zite in the morning and flip my way through “Your Top Stories’ where the best of these categories and the others I follow similar to Brandon “Education, Google, Blogging, …” appear.  As a reader, I get a smattering of stories from all of these areas.  Then, I’ll look into specific subject areas that I feel I need more attention.  Inevitably, it will be Ubuntu, Ontario, Windsor, …  I’ve mentioned many times but will do it again – the power of the reading and learning is to share with others. If a story strikes a chord with me, I’ll share it to Twitter so that anyone else who is interested can take advantage of the fact that I’ve read it.  (Note that “strikes a chord” doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m 100% in agreement with the post – it’s just that it’s well argued.)  From there, Packratius takes the link and saves it to my Diigo account so that I have a permanent addition to my reading collection.  Overnight, Diigo makes a post to my blog that I call OTR Links so that I can review my previous day’s reading. 

Zite does a wonderful job of learning how I learn.  By giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I can refine the kind of stories it scrapes for me.  I’ll also confess to an outburst of ego – if my own blog posts appear, I’ll give it a thumbs up.  There’s nothing like being a published author – at least in my own feed.

Zite isn’t my only reading tool.  A screenshot of my News folder shows the other programs that suit a similar purpose for me.

I use the same technique but with different subjects in all the readers.  I’ll admit though, Zite does get the majority of my reading time.  We’ve heard for quite some time about the acquisition of Zite by Flipboard but it’s still alive and doing the good things that it does.

Every now and again, I’ll step back and just be in amazement how powerful the tools are that we have at our fingertips.  Ten years ago, you’d have to be in a well-curated library to have access to the same content.  But, I couldn’t do it sitting in my recliner chair having a coffee and breakfast.  I’ve always spent the first half-hour of my day devoted to reading and being selfish about my own learning.

These tools enable an amazing world of learning.  It’s just a matter of making it happen.

Thanks, Brandon, for the inspiration to think about all this.

Hour of Code 2014


The Hour of Code for 2014 is coming.  Teachers and students from all over will be using classroom tools to get a flavour for what coding/programming is all about.

There’s no one language that we’ve come to agreement on that would be perfect.  So, we’re all over the map with this one!  Choose one and do it well.

To help the cause, great people all over the web have been building activities and tutorials that will take one hour-ish to complete.  Hopefully, it doesn’t stop there and the coding activities and skills inspire great things to happen from this experience.  Computer Science is a wonderful discipline that opens so many doors.  It’s tough to believe that any student wouldn’t want to have an awareness of it with the chance of going into it big time.

On social media, I had been resting on my laurels because I had assembled some resources for last year’s event.  It occurred to me that the digitally responsible person would check the links for things that have gone away and be on the lookout for new resources.  That was the task yesterday.

I’m happy to announce and share the latest, greatest, up to datest, all links verified as of November 24, 2014, version.

Thanks to my digital friend Sue, in addition to the Learnist and Pearltree collections that I had last year, I create a Flipboard magazine with my new found abilities.  Thanks, Sue.  Links to them all appear below.  (They all point to the same resources; I just wanted to use a few tools)

I hope that you find these resources useful and that one or two of them might make it into your classroom for the Hour of Code, December 8-14, 2014.

p.s. if you have a favourite resource that isn’t included, shoot me the link and I’ll get it added.

p.p.s.  After I posted this, I realized that I might be visiting Brian Aspinall’s classroom today.  So, I whipped up another resource – this time using his excellent NKWiry resource.

The Fine Print


There’s a lot to be said for reading the fine print.  But, like most people I suspect, I seldom do.

But there’s a fine print that you probably should look at every now and again.  It’s at the bottom of your Gmail box.

Gmail

I’m talking about the little “Details” link.  Clicking on it will pop up a little window showing you activity on your Gmail account.

Access

It’s great reading if the topic is digital forensic science or just healthy paranoia!

Details are provided about access to your account, how, where, and when.  If you’re accessing email from a variety of locations, you might be surprised with the details.  There might be your home computer, your computer at school, your cell phone, your tablet, ….

What you don’t want to see is access from a location, identified by IP address, where you’re not!

It’s a quick little reminder but so important.  If someone reports that they got an email from you and you just know you didn’t send it, this should be one of the first places you look to see if something has gone wrong.

There’s lots to be reminded of with an exercise like this.  Are you using two-step authentication?  Do you log out when you’re done reading email?  Do you have a secure password?  Do you change your password regularly?  Have you shared your login details with anyone else?

Mapping Crime


The Global Security Map attempts to map the world, showing us where the bad stuff is located.  For its purposes, it tries to identify “malware, phishing, spam and other malicious activities”.

Upon your first landing, you’ll be presented with the world with countries coded from green to red or low to uh oh.

I’m a big fan of infographics to immediate share an image and message and maps have always lent themselves to visualize things.  In this case, it’s the malware that the concerned, connected computer user needs to keep in mind.

You’ll definitely want to read how the site determines the colours and the severity of the threats.  The descriptions of the threats is particularly helpful. A tool such of this opens the door for discussion about safety online.  Why would some countries be orange and red?  Why would some be green?  Is Antarctica really the safest place on the planet?

Mouse over the countries and click to get the summary for that country.

Can you find #1?  How about #219?

Don’t forget to click the grey triangles to open each category to reveal the details for each category.

It’s a fascinating look at our online world and a great conversation starter and launchpad for further research into online safety.

The App Mentality


Yesterday, I made reference to a quote that Brian Aspinall had shared about coding:

Why did it take so long to become “trendy” today?

I needed more space to share some thoughts about that so this is it.

I’m really not sure that I like the term “trendy” though.  There have always been proponents of coding and having students work with computers. While we weren’t successful in Ontario convincing the curriculum powers that be to include it as a discipline, we were able to get products like Hyperstudio, Frames, and Turing provincially licensed.

I spend an entire teaching career being involved with this and was fortunate to be able to have a full timetable of teaching computer science and data processing.  As I reflect back on the most satisfying moments, they occurred when the lights went on and students were able to make this “box” solve a problem or otherwise do something successfully for them.

This past week, a number of us were involved in a Twitter chat session surrounding coding in the elementary classroom.  It was wonderful to see so many individuals involved but there still was something that bothered me and I think it boils down to the trendy deal.  I like to call it the “App Mentality” that seems to be so pervasive with so many.

Do any web research on a topic, and it won’t take long until you find a post that demonstrates this perfectly.  In the best sense of click bait, the title reads something  like:

“58 apps to do the same thing and why you need to use them all”

It throws up red flags for me when I read statements like “Oh, I teach coding.  We learn this language, then this language, then this language and then learn this language.  It’s just like Seymour Papert said.”  Huh?  Have you even read “Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas”?  Was the powerful idea that a student would write a piece of code in this language and then write it again in this other language and so on and so on?

I hardly think so.

Ontario’s Computer Studies Curriculum is the envy of jurisdictions everywhere.  In one document, it describes a series of courses devoted to the study of Computer Studies, including Computer Science.  The key, and the power, lies in the fact that the courses are described in terms of student expectations.  It doesn’t state that this particular language is used in Grade 11 and then this language is used in Grade 12.  It honours the teaching profession by allowing for the choice of language by educators and most suitable for the course.  It stands the test of time as languages and approaches change.

Sadly, coding in the elementary school hasn’t been covered and so good folks are doing it alone with whatever skillset they have.

I recall one professional development day when I organized a day at the Computer Science Faculty at the University of Windsor.  We were coming to grips with the end of life for procedural languages like BASIC and Pascal and were trying to set a future direction.  We were seeking an object-oriented solution and the languages we were considering included C, Java, Turing, and probably a few others.  One of the teachers asked the Faculty Dean the important question – “Since our students who are interested in pursuing Computer Science will be going to your Faculty, what language do you want them to know?”  It seemed like the perfect question.

The answer took many by surprise.

“We don’t care.  All we want are students that have computational thinking skills and can solve problems.”

For us, going forward, that was always the guiding principle.  And, when you step back from your passion, shouldn’t that be the perfect answer?  Many school districts are in love with the Grades 7-12 model for a school.  Why not have this conversation with your school’s computer studies teacher?  She/He has a vested interest in attracting those who wish to take control of a computer for their own use.  What attitudes, skills, and knowledge are they looking for?

I’d be willing to bet that they don’t want a “wide but not very deep” knowledge.

So, back to the apps.  We live in a time and age where there are absolutely the best tools available for use right now.  You’ve seen the posts; you might even have read some of what I’ve experienced personally on this blog.  You, as the professional, need to take a look at the tools and decide what’s appropriate.  Short of a provincial or district curriculum, you’ll need to ask “What is it that I want students to be able to do with code?”.   Choose the tool, stick with it, and scaffold the coding experience with more challenging problems.

Throwing another app into the mix because it’s “trendy” doesn’t add much.  In fact, it may be intimidating to the person just getting started with the concept of coding in their own classroom.

Want to learn more professionally?  Monitor this website for the 2015 CSTA Conference.  There’s a whole strand devoted to coding in K-8.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I’ve been writing this series of posts for a long time now.  Check the URL above to see how many times it’s been duplicated.  I never get tired of doing it so here goes – some great content from Ontario Edubloggers this past week.


The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred

No matter how much I read, I still get excited when I find another new, excellent blog post to read.  I’ve been asked – how do you find these blogs?

Certainly, in a multitude of ways – there’s no easy algorithm.  I found this blog with a usual dose of serendipity.  In this case, Helen Kubiw had retweeted a Twitter message that I had posted.  I checked her bio, saw the link to her blog, and the rest as they say is history.

The blog title really says it all.  “CanLit for LittleCanadians”. The blog is devoted to reviews and promotion of Canadian authors so that’s a natural for me to gravitate to.

If you haven’t already, share the link with your literacy and teacher-librarian friends. Check out her list of recent entries – this isn’t a fly by night blog.  It’s a definite bookmark for Canadian literature.


Money Clouds

This might not be an easy post to read if you’ve sipped the juice from the big cloud providing services.  Tim King points out that there was a time when companies had to pay for advertising.  Now with distinguished, certified, exemplary handles, teachers are doing the advertising for them.   Tim shares his thoughts about the other side of cloud computing in schools.  You probably won’t agree with it all but I’ll bet you say “hmmmmm”.


“Tenzies!”

Jocelyn Schmidt describes a game she’s using in her Full Day Kindergarten class.  The mathematician in me loves it. Of course, everything is purposeful.

For students to build upon their subitizing (the ability to recognize the number of objects at a glance, without having to count all the objects), one-to-one correspondence (each object being counted must be given one count and only one count. The number word spoken and the object counted must match up), and conservation (the count of the object stays the same whether spread out or close together) skills in a hands-on and engaging way!

Complete instructions about the game, including some wonderful pictures of the activity (and not of the students) are contained in the post.  Any activity that is inspiration in mathematics and allows students to gain confidence in their abilities is great.  If this applies to you, check out her post.


Seymour Papert – 1972 – MIT Mathematician, Computer Scientist, and Educator

These days a lot of people have discovered Seymour Papert.  Brian Aspinall ends his short post with this question…

Why did it take so long to become “trendy” today?

That’s generated quite a bit of discussion and I might write a blog post about it sometime in the future.

I’m not sure that “trendy” is the best word to use to describe his efforts.  It seems to me that it is all dependent upon the circles that one keeps her/himself in.  There have been a lot of people doing a lot of great things for years now.

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas should be in every school’s professional library and required reading for the modern day prophets…


Demands never Cease

My daily shot of inspiration comes from the morning posts from Paul Cornies.  He constantly outdoes himself.  Today’s quote was terrific although I had to MT it because of length before resharing.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. ~Lou Holtz

This is one of those quotes that apply to everyone.

What a way to start the day.  I can’t say it enough – thanks, Paul.


Gift of a Snow Day

From Heather Durnin, a story that makes you appreciate the special things that teachers do.  It was a snow day but a student got delivered to school for a day of learning.

We all know that this can be a precious time of 1:1 or small group learning.  In Heather’s room, not only was it a chance to get caught up, but to build some self-esteem.  Read Heather’s full post to see how a student goes from “I suck at computers” to a day that Heather describes as a gift.

Heather


What another nice collection of works to extend our professional thinking.  Please follow the links to the original posts and check them out.  A little blogging love like a “+1″,  “like”, “thumbs up”, “comment”, “share” goes a long way to show your appreciation for the efforts and thoughts that go into the production of these posts. Check out these and all of the great Ontario Edubloggers I’ve found so far – here.