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.

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.

A Natural Progression


I found this article so intriguing.  “A picture is worth a thousand (coherent) words: building a natural description of images". 

At the same time, it shouldn’t come as totally unexpected.

After all, Google has been doing amazing things with images for a long time.  Google Goggles is just an indispensible tool.  Take a picture and let Googles help you decipher what it is.  It’s a great replacement for a specific QR Code reader application but can be so useful in answering the questions “What is that?” or “Tell me more about that?”  It’s a great tool for inquiry.  In addition, Google’s Search by Image lets you get alternative views to a picture that you’ve taken or found online.

 

Humanity has been feeding the web images forever, tagging and describing them, and search engines are there to index them.  An algorithm to describe the images just seems to me to be a natural in the progression of things.

Just the possibilities of this are kind of mind boggling.  Google has a picture of my house online.  I wasn’t there when they drove by but they did.  Can you see comments generated like “Looks like Doug needs to cut his grass”.  Or, in the next stage of commerce, identifying all the dandelions on my front lawn and sending an email to the local landscaping companies who have subscribed to a service with the message “We’ve got a live one…”

Technology serves us best when it makes out lives better.

  • Immediate results from an x-ray or MRI with a detailed description not subject to human error;
  • A description of a robbery suspect moments after a holdup at the local variety store;
  • A description of a hit and run vehicle caught on camera, again moments after it happened.

Sometimes, we’re slow at adopting new technologies.  While the process seems at its infancy now, it’s bound to mature.  What will our lives be like when it does?  What does this do to our privacy?

This article makes for a great classroom discussion.  Can students extend the list of uses for an application like this? 

More About Binary Numbers


I really enjoyed playing around with the binary number resource that Alfred Thompson had shared and I wrote about yesterday.

It reminded me of trying to teach the concept to students in Computer Science.  It always seemed like an academic exercise until you applied it directly.  For me, the payoff for binary came in the logic in game writing by peeking ahead of the movement at the next pixel to see if it was lit or not to signify a collision and then, of course, when we got the bread boards out and created some hard circuits.

Binary numbers and binary logic just seem to pair so nicely

I remember how I was taught – certainly back in the dark ages with no real context – it was just a mathematical concept of place holders and carry digits.  I think that, at some level, I gained a deeper appreciation for Base 10.  Then, of course, academically we moved to octal and hexadecimal to prove that we knew the concepts.  It was chalk talk at its finest.  In my first year of teaching, I still remember a student coming to class asking if we were going to do more with the “half-ass adder“.  After my jaw dropped, I wondered if I was talking out loud with my inner voice again!  Unless you’re a computer science or electronics whiz, don’t fret.  It’s a really obscure reference.

There are many techniques to try and introduce the concept.  The standard introduction, I think, is the light switch.  (See here for the Homer Simpson version).  By flipping a switch to 1, lights go on, switch to 0, lights go off.  It didn’t work terribly well in my classroom.  I only had two banks of lights on switches so demonstrating anything more than 3 was out of the question.  Had it been important enough, I guess a trip to the cafeteria with all its lights would have been in order!

I even stole a technique from my uncle to show binary addition.  You hold up one finger in one hand, and one in the other while making fists.  Smack them together and you end up with two fingers on one hand and none on the other.  As a four year old pre-schooler, I could watch it forever.  It didn’t play well in Grade 10 for some reason.

We didn’t have the tools and demonstrations that we have today.  Used properly, they make learning binary fun.

In fact, Alfred has a whole page devoted to binary numbers on his blog.  Check it  out here.

I was really intrigued by the link “How to Count to 1,023 on Your Fingers“.  If you’re still with me, you know why 1,023.  If not, that’s OK.  You just don’t know what you’re missing.

In fact, this resource takes you beyond binary.  It takes you far beyond my uncle’s adder.

It’s definitely a keeper, as well as the instructions for other bases.

You might even wonder why we’re so in love with base 10!

Binary Numbers


Thanks to Alfred Thompson for the lead on this incredibly addictive game.  In his regular Monday morning post “Interesting Links“, he made reference to a Binary Numbers Game from Cisco.

It’s fun; it’s a challenge; and it really makes you understand your binary numbers.

I’ll confess to playing with it for far too long.  In fact, it was only after playing for an extended period of time that I realized that the music loop is really annoying.  (Sorry developers)  I can’t imagine a classroom full of computers doing this activity without headphones!

The Ontario Curriculum is loaded with all kinds of references to Binary Numbers.  This activity would be a welcome addition to any classroom where the topic is being addressed.

p.s. I really should have done a screen capture with my higher scores but I was focused on climbing levels….

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling – Programming


One of the huge initiatives that you see so many school districts involved with is the implementation of tablet technology.  When you discuss this, the over achievers will indicate that the tablet is not just a consumption device; it’s a creation device.  When you peel back the outside and truly look inside, most of the implementation is anything but.

There’s still a lot of reading and math games happening.  You do have to start somewhere and I’m sure that the use will become more sophisticated with time.  It’s just that such low level activities are so easy to find and over populate the various stores that are available.

Recently, I had a discussion with a number of people who were always doing innovating things with kids – one being robotics.  Because of their district initiative, their traditional computers were replaced with tablets and that killed the robotic fun.  Robotics is such a great activity.  The ability to build and program your own robot can be so motivating.  To be able to create a set of instructions and then have the robot perform them is so engaging.  Just don’t mention that the process is programming!

So, what to do?

I’d suggest a long look at Sphero.

Sphero is a robotic ball.  Inside are the mechanics for motion, acceleration, direction change, colour, …  Most importantly, it connects to a computing device via Bluetooth.  All of a sudden, those new tablets have a robot to control and program.

With a very futuristic interface, you control your robot.  Mine’s called “Doug On A Roll”.

Right out of the box, Sphero is OK.  It does all kinds of things.  But, in the best sense of gamification, it gets better.  By completing challenges, you unlock additional Sphero’s additional abilities.

The challenges are fun and the fact that Sphero does more with your successes just keeps you wanting to attempt challenge after challenge.

Every time I head over to my app store, I see new applications written to exploit the functionality of Sphero. 

But there was one app that put me over the top.  It was orbBasic.

With the scripting capabilities, you can write your own code and have Sphero follow your instructions.

If you’re lamenting the loss of your traditional robotics or you’re looking for some way to incorporate programming into your classroom, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Sphero.  Sphero has a pal – the pal’s name is Ollie.  I haven’t had hands-on with it just yet.

#BIT14 Proceedings


I’ll give credit (and blame) to Sue Waters for this!

After I used Storify to show some of the comments from the recently completed Bring IT, Together Conference, she sent me a message asking if I had ever considered creating a Flipboard document to do the same thing and she shared one that she had created.  It was very impressive.  So, I thought – sure!  How tough could it be?

Back in the day, when I used to go to conferences where there were paper handouts, I would “binderize” the handouts for my filing cabinet and later reference.  I would also make a copy for my superintendent if he wasn’t able to attend.  Believe it or not, he actually went though it and it would be a great source for our weekly meetings.  He’d be quizzing me on the sessions and asking me to apply them to our reality.  That was my way of producing a Proceedings booklet.

So when Sue threw that idea out at me, it wasn’t like I was working with a blank slate (like normal).  This was just a transference from one media to another.  My immediate thought was that those pedagogues that use SAMR as the answer to every question would have a hey day with it.  Oh well, and a sigh.

As for the blame, what Sue didn’t tell me was that Ontario Educators are the noisiest on the face of the planet.  I created my book (after fumbling through to learn how it worked) and then did a search for #BIT14.

Good gravy!

How could 1,550 people generate so much content?

There had to be 300 references to people crying because of George Couros’ message alone!

The winning Twitter message had to come from Marie Swift…

Unlike Storify where you could add messages in bulk, each message had to be specifically added manually.  I hope that I don’t get a message from Sue “You dummy — here’s how you do it”.  

I started early.  Oh, I like that.  Great picture.  Oh yes, that was a wonderful video.  Terrific message from Richard.  George nailed that.  Glad to see that folks are Twittering in French during Ron’s keynote.  Loved the pictures of the Falls….

I did move up the media literacy scale trying to determine what to include so I guess it was more than transference.

My fingers started to bleed after 500 or so entries.  I’m sure that there are duplicates but that’s OK.

It even picked a cover photo for me!

You can enjoy the document here.  It plays nicely on a computer screen and will open in Flipboard if you have the app installed on your device.

I hope that it brings back nice memories for those who were in attendance and don’t hesitate to send the link to your principal or superintendent.  There are great messages to be shared by all in there.  Thanks, everyone, for contributing your thoughts and comments.

Thanks to Sue for pushing me to do this.  I think if I ever do it again, I’ll do it day by day instead of summarizing four days into a clicking marathon.