What Does Coding Mean?


This was an interesting read for me this morning. Students: We need coding skills

I suppose I’m not terribly neutral on this.  I studied coding in high school; university; became qualified in Computer Science and Data Processing, and taught it for years.  Later, I licensed programming languages for use in our schools.  I’ve always believed in the power of knowing how to code and, after my first course figured that I was set for life.  Fortran was my ticket to everything.

Then, there was COBOL, BASIC, Pascal, C, C+, C#, Lisp, SNOBOL, WATFOR, WATFIV, Turing, ActionScript, Java, Javascript and goodness knows what else.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

I can attest that it only gets easier.  But, in the big scheme of things?

I made all of my kids take at least one computer science course in high school.  “Daaaaaad.  We don’t want to be geeky like you!”  The compromise was that they’d take the course but I would help with the homework.  (I would have anyway so it was a double win for me…)

None of them went on to be the next great developer and I’m OK with that.  What I am proud of though is that they’re all self-sufficient in their own use of technology. 

Check out this photo from my daughter – taken with her Android phone.  The caption was “Like father, like daughter”.

When you think of the traditional computer science environment, you probably think of each student with their own computer and, hopefully, collaboration spaces around the room.

Maybe, for one class, the room should just be open spaces with devices everywhere.  The goal is to take control over all of the devices.  For the programmer type, devotion to one device and one language suits the need.  For the truly digitally competent, shouldn’t they have more?

And, while we’re at it, shouldn’t it be compulsory for everyone?  Along with the implications of being so connected?

Of course, those devices around the room will need to be upgraded regularly.

A Sign for Trustees


Jaimie and I were out for our morning walk and we saw a red and white election campaign sign on a neighbour’s lawn.  We thought – hmmm, a politician who wants to align themselves with the Liberal Party.  As we got closer, it turned out to be a sign for a candidate for the local Catholic School Board.

For my non-Ontario readers, a quick briefing. 

In Ontario, we have three major political parties:

and a collection of other parties.

We also have four publicly funded school boards.

  • English Language Public School System
  • French Language Public School System
  • English Language Catholic School System
  • French Language Catholic School System

In addition, each municipality has a mayor, perhaps a deputy mayor, and councillors that are elected every four years.  School board trustees are elected at the same time.  Social media made for some interesting moments at a previous election when people started to take pictures and send a copy of their ballot out on Twitter.

It’s interesting how social media permeates so many of the things in our society.  During the last municipal elections around here, the buzzwords were “transparency” and “openness”.  Even though our community retains the fame (and signs) of being the Safest Community in Canada, there have been issues that have arisen that I’m sure will result in a higher than normal turnout of voters.  So, it seems to me that it’s more important than even for candidates for the school boards to be very visible.

During the last municipal elections, many turned to social media.  I thought, at the time, this was a great idea.  It’s free – but a blog, or Facebook presence, or Twitter presence would raise the visibility of candidates.  I actually started a list of candidates on Twitter and followed the discussion about the election and their thoughts on education. 

Then, the election was over.  Down came the lawn signs and the efforts to talk about issues on social media.  To be fair, there are still three local trustees that maintain a presence and do interact on social media.  But, from my perspective, that’s about it.

I wish I could properly attribute this quote but it’s stuck with me.  “The Primary Goal of any Politician, once elected, is to get Re-elected”.

As we walked by the lawn sign, we mused that it will be up for a couple of months and then taken down.  Similarly, how many social media accounts will do the same?

When you think of the things that could be done…

  • promote events at your representative schools;
  • check-in when you do school related activities;
  • share your rationale for school board votes;
  • share pictures of educational events;
  • promote the cause of school/district initiatives (Green Schools, etc.);
  • support fundraising activities;

In fact, here are a bunch of reasons why you should tweet.

Doesn’t it make sense to develop an educational digital footprint, care and feed it during the campaign, and then continue after the election?  Your constituency won’t learn about you from a random lawn sign; they’ll know your record, your successes, your passions, your dedication….

What would be your reasoning NOT to connect your students to the world?


This is a reblog of a post from Scott McLeod’s terrific Dangerously Irrelevant blog.  His post is a reblog itself of a Facebook post by Laura Gilchrist.

Both ask an important question – what is your reasoning NOT to connect your students?  It’s a really good question.

As of the time of this writing, (Sunday morning), there were no replies to Scott’s post or to Laura’s message.

I’m hypothesizing a few reasons:

  • anyone who wouldn’t isn’t connected themself and so wouldn’t read the question anyway;
  • it’s none of our business;
  • being connected is in vogue and so being a dissenter might not be a pleasant experience;
  • there are some people who actually teach in a non-connected environment so this is not an option;

Regardless, it’s an important question that I think is worth asking and I look forward to reading an answer.  With this post, the question is now asked in at least three places.

From Scott’s blog…

Laura Gilchrist said:

Twitter allows educators to connect and interact with resources, ideas, and people from around the world. Twitter allows educators to share their stories – positive stories included. We need more positive stories because, I’m telling you, there’s a lot of good going on in our schools – good that doesn’t get shared. Those walls you see around you do not have the power to isolate you and your kids any longer.

My question to you: If you have in your hands a tool (phone, computer, tablet + Twitter) that, by just moving your fingers, can connect you, your students, and your communities to resources, ideas, and people from around the world – a tool that can empower kids and educators to learn, create, grow – why would you choose NOT to start using it? What would be your reasoning?

via https://www.facebook.com/lgilchrist/posts/10203253927407020

At OTF Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference – Hopscotch, Sphero, Social Reading


It was a terrific three days in Toronto working with a wonderful group of Ontario educator professionals. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation throws a great event.  The attendees were asked to self-identify as early users of technology.  I think that many left with their heads spinning, full of great ideas.  They were invited to learn where their interests lay because they certainly couldn’t take in everything that was offered.

What was offered was very quickly scaffolded and everyone was encouraged to learn, create, and push themselves to new levels.

Those that joined me got to experience from the following.

Hopscotch

We had a ball learning how to code on the iPad.  We started simply by controlling movement on the screen but very quickly added the elements of sequencing and repetition to our efforts.  By the time we were done, everyone was programming like pros and had learned how to branch programs from the Hopscotch website and modify them to do great things!

Here is the link to the resources shared are on my PD Wiki.

Sphero

Speaking of having a ball, it was only natural that we took the opportunity to learn a bit about programming a robot with the iPad. Many schools are adopting iPads instead of desktops or laptops. How can you continue to work with robots? Sphero fits the bill nicely.  I had a great conversation with Jeff Pelich from Waterloo and we both agreed that the Macrolab and OrbBasic are required downloads to support the programming.

Social Reading

One of things that I strongly believe is that when we read and share, we can all become smarter.  That was the basic message in the social reading station at Minds on Media.  This messy diagram shows the workflow, er, reading flow that I use.

We talked about a number of absolutely terrific sources for professional reading on a daily basis.

and, of course, Ontario Edubloggers.

But the message here was more than just reading.  It’s about sharing.  We identified the sharing links on any of these sources and learned how to send them to Twitter, Facebook, or Instapaper.

Again, the message was more than just sending it to these sources.  We talked about using Packrati.us.  The moment (or shortly thereafter) you send a link to Twitter, we talked about how Packrati.us would send the link to a Diigo account.  I love to use the analogy of a set of dominos tumbling over!  But, when it all works, the links are shared with others and they’re permanently bookmarked in your Diigo account.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  We talked about collecting the good stuff and having it all in one place.  Remember that great article you read last year?  Why retrace you steps to find the article by doing an internet search and hoping that you’re able to find it again?  Tuck it away in Diigo.

Once it’s there, you can do some amazing things other than just bookmarking.

  • Install the Diigo extension so that you’re one click away
  • Create a blog post with the links you’ve shared
  • Save your Diigo links to Delicious so that you’ve got a backup
  • Make Diigo the default search engine for your browser
  • Set up Diigo groups and use Diigo network
  • Get a Diigo Educator account

Yes, it can be messy but are the benefits worth it.  And, people seemed to buy in at their own personal level.  It doesn’t get better than that.  I met a secondary school teacher-librarian who was planning to set up Diigo groups for the various departments in her school; a lady who is planning to cultivate recipes; another lady looking to build a knowledge network about running; and a gentleman going to pull together resources for bass fishing.  How’s that for personalized?

I know that there were a lot of exhausted people who returned home Friday night, but it was a good exhausted.  You can’t beat a event of learning, sharing, and making connections.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


As I write this post, I’m at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation “Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference.”  We’re at the end of the first day and what a day it was!  Great activities but it’s always wonderful to see so many professional educators interested in learning new skills and techniques to make the magic happen in classrooms across the province in a couple of weeks.

It’s a great opportunity to renew friendships and make new ones.  I shared my thoughts about “The Best PD” this morning and one of my slides described what I really feel about blogging.  BLOGGING = THINKING = BLOGGING.  I firmly believe that and look forward to seeing if some new blogs fall out of the event.  I know that Marie Swift did a session about making Blogging the Backbone of your Classroom.  I wish I could have seen it but I was doing my own session about Hopscotch at the time.

There definitely was a continuation of blogging happening across the province.  Here’s some of what caught my attention this week.

Spaghetti Bridge Teaser

You can never get too early a start and Brian Aspinall has already posted to his class website one of their first science investigations.

I hope his students and parents are following the blog and try this at home before school starts.  Then, the enrichment can begin from day 1.


A Tribute to my Dad on his Retirement from Education

Things will be different in the Avon Maitland District School Board with Jeff Reaburn’s retirement.  Jamie Weir wrote this wonderful summary to honour him on his retirement.

The #BIT14 committee will benefit as Jeff has volunteered to serve on the committee for this year’s conference.  He’s doing such a wonderful job and I can certainly appreciate Jamie’s kind words.

I know that all of us wish Jeff so many good things in his retirement.


The Wire 106

Coming soon to your internet radio, another education station!

Andy Forgrave writes a nice post announcing the launch of this new station initiated by Jim Groom.  This is such a terrific concept bringing together so much that’s available when you use the best of student efforts and marry it with technology.  It will be interesting to “watch” the launch.

If you’re interested more in this form of broadcasting, make sure you register for #BIT14.  Andy will be leading the learning there.


3 Reasons I Go to Edcamp

I think that some of the most compelling posts come from people who have attended an Edcamp.

This time, it was Sue Dunlop who attended Edcamp Leadership.

She commented nicely on the takeaways for her.  You can’t help but get onside when someone talks about being “challenged” and “stretched”.

I liked the list of three that she mentioned.

  • The Unconference Model;
  • Connections;
  • Learning.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say that about every professional learning session?

Perhaps that should be the learning goal for all educators – attend just one edcamp in the upcoming year and make some new connections – particularly ones that are pushing you away from your comfort zone.


What another nice collection of posting.  Thanks to these people – take the time to read the entire post.

When you’re done there, check out the complete collection of Ontario Educational Bloggers here.

This Never Gets Old


A couple of days ago, I was channel surfing looking for something interesting to watch on television to kill some time.  We had company on the way so it couldn’t be too time consuming.  I also had my laptop open to the left of me and had half an eye on new Twitter messages flying by. 

I noticed a few in a row from Brian Aspinall in my Ontario Educators stream.  (@mraspinall)

It looked like he was as bored as I was or was doing some research. 

He was retweeting messages about Scrawlar.  It’s one of his babies in the digital world – a combination of word processor / whiteboard built with collaboration and no data collection in mind.  A lot of people like the approach that he’s taken.  I reviewed the product here.

It was actually interesting to see where he was digging up the resources.  I stopped looking for something on the tube and watched him.  I thought I would help his cause and retweeted messages as he sent them.  It’s probably a futile effort because earlier that week we came to the agreement that we probably have the same community on the social network.  Oh well.

There was one that was of particular interest to me.

It was a short tutorial, written in blendspace.  This was a service that I’d never heard of before.  But, I retweeted the message knowing that would somehow, some day, reach my radar for a little more research.

 

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A couple of seconds later, my half-eye noticed that my Twitter message had been retweeted.  Brian?

This wasn’t a terribly unusual occurrence – this is how Twitter works, right?

Then, again and again and again.

I looked yet again and there was a retweeter that I’d never seen before.  So, I checked her bio.

She was from Italy.

I did a little mental math time conversion and realized that it was very early in the morning, her time.

Two things crossed my mind.

  • I wonder what wine region she lives in?
  • Is she camped out at Monza at Curva Parabolica waiting for the Grand Prix?

Am I bad because the two things that I think of when I think Italy are wine and Formula 1 racing?

In reality, she’s probably a hard working teacher preparing for a new class, looking for good resources and certainly Scrawlar fits that bill.

I thought Brian might get a kick out of the reach that his project has so sent him a private message to check the source.

We had a little back and forth about the humility of all this.  We’re just a couple of people doing some learning and sharing in the evening. 

The fact that someone half a world away wants to join in just blows you away.  As Brian noted, he’s just a guy sitting on a living room couch cranking out code on his laptop.  Yet, his work is being appreciated so far away.  But, when you think of the reality, it could be a first year teacher two blocks over looking for good resources.

There’s something about this shared learning that is so impressive.  For how many years have school boards tried to engage teachers with official memos sent from central office and failed?

Yet, the connected learner has that – and so much more.

For me, this moment never gets old.

Another #BIT14 Visualization


After Saturday’s post about Tweetbeam, I received a note from a former student of mine, @JeffClark who invited me to try his Twitter visualization program.

So I did!

Jeff’s done a bunch of visualizations at his Neoformix site.  He calls his Twitter search visualization Spot.

I fed it the hashtag #bit14 and sat back to watch.  I do enjoy a good visualization and I wasn’t disappointed here.

In fact, he visualizes the data a number of different ways.  Your visualization is selected by the icons on the top of the screen.

 

Banner View

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Timeline View

image

 

User View

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Word View

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Source View

image

 

Group View

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I’ve captured the above images real sized and let WordPress resize them for your browser.  Use your local browser to view the original image if you’re interested in seeing it.

Complete descriptions about the views are contained on the page Introducing Spot on the Neoformix site.

I’m glad that Jeff dropped by to remind me of his work.  Visit the Neoformix site if you’re interested in more details about this project or any of the others that have been created.

In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy another way to visualize the buzz leading to the #BIT14 conference.