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.

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.

 

image

 

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.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This is the third post in a row written using Windows Live Writer.  That means that I’ve been using Windows for three days in a row.  That’s a modern day record!  I notice that it’s Live Writer 2011.  I wonder if there’s been an upgrade?  I recall reading recently that it might go open source.  That would be awesome.

Back on topic … here’s some great posting from Ontario Edubloggers from this past week.

A Letter to a New Teacher

On the Voice of Canadian Education blog, Stephen Hurley issued this challenge.

image

If you could write a letter to a first year teacher, what advice would you pass along.

He gives some perspective – what an administrator might say, what a student might say, what a teacher might say, what an outsider might say, …

I think it’s a great idea and I’m going to accept the challenge and write a blog post over the weekend sharing my thoughts.

Thanks for the inspiration, Stephen.


My Thoughts on the Peel District School Board’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff and Teachers

Fred Galang shares some of his thoughts about the Peel DSB’s social media guidelines.

Recently, the Peel District School Board released their social media guideline for staff and teachers. As much as I applaud their initiative (they’ll be the first to outline such guidelines for social media use in detail), there were a few items that sparked a healthy convo with my Tweeps over the last two days. Without the risk of repeating myself, I’ll simply address the most contentious for me.

In the beginning, teacher use of social media was really experimental.  I can recall being involved with the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century series.  In some quarters, there was a wish that there would be rules or guidelines.  I remember having the discussion at the time and we agreed that you just couldn’t put it all into a one pager.  The best advice we got still applies to day “Don’t do stupid things.”

I absolutely agree with Fred’s concerns.  I never was a fan or rules.  They always define a line between someone’s concept of what’s right and what’s wrong.  If you’ve ever been in a classroom, you know that’s an immediate red flag for students to determine where that line actually is. 

My sense is that the document still has the mentality that social media is a “think” that can be clearly defined and all the negatives drawn from it.  The document does identify concerns, particularly about student privacy.  Instead of a social media document that defines that, wouldn’t it make more sense to expand any existing privacy resource to include cautions? 

I do wonder about the concept of having a person and a professional account.  We’ve all seen people try to manage that and post from the wrong account.  What would happen if students actually found out that you’re human and are a fan of the Detroit Tigers?  Certainly the world wouldn’t end.

I still like the original advice “Don’t do stupid things.”

Royan Lee also wrote about the same thing and garnered some comments from Ontario Educators well worth the reading.


How BYOD/T is Getting Easier, How it’s Getting Harder

Not to belittle Royan’s other post, I really like what he did when he tackled the topic of BYOD/T again.

It’s to his credit that he’s identified in one of the comments as a “pioneer”.  He’s certainly been very vocal and open about his experiences over the time that devices were welcomed in his class.  He addressed these in detail in an interview that I had with him.

Royan’s just generally a great guy.  I recall sitting next to him watching his kids swimming and we were just chatting.  I still remember thinking “this guy is going to change the world, one class at a time”.  He’s very vocal but not the sort of evangelist that exudes a “follow me or begone” approach.

In a world where some are debating the merits of BYOD, Royan speaks with the mature voice of experience. 

If you’re collecting a list of definitive resources about BYOT, you need to include this post. 

Dean Shareski did.


Yearning For The Printed Photograph

Facebook friends know that I had a major life event this past week.  I was there with my phone taking pictures and sharing them on Facebook with friends.  It’s fast and efficient and you get to see them all just as quickly as I can post them.  Not all of them were absolute perfection but they were from my eyes.

My wife, on the other hand, goes a more traditional route.  Even though she has a digital camera, it’s off to Shopper’s to get printed copies of them.  She likes the more permanent record of them and the fact that she can put them in an album and leave them on a shelf.

Aviva Dunsiger reflected on the value of the printed photograph.  I couldn’t help but think that this approach (and grudgingly my wife’s) will stand the test of time.

image

I think it’s testament to family history and the eye of the photographer that someone later on can use the word “incredible” to describe their efforts.

It makes you wonder about the legacy of images that those of us share online.  I know that I do keep a copy on backup here but there still a trip into town away from being put in an album.  There’s merit in that – one of my own favourite throwback pictures is of two buzzcut kids with their grandmother. 

There probably is a preferable half-way meeting of the technologies to satisfy both worlds. 

Check out Aviva’s entire post as she takes a look at both sides of the discussion.  There’s some pretty wise insights and, as per Aviva’s normal, a bunch of questions to ask yourself.


Thanks everyone for continuing to write and inspire.  Please take the time to enjoy the entire posts and all of the postings from Ontario Edubloggers.  There’s always some great writing happening.

And, while writing this, I downloaded the latest Live Writer to see if I have the latest.  I might have to hang around Windows for another day or so…

British Pathe


How things have changed!

When I was in secondary school, movies were a true event.  It was actually our version of the flipped classroom.

When there was a movie to be shown in history, we flipped with the geography class because it was on the other side of the school and didn’t catch the morning sun and, if I remember correctly, had better curtains to darken the room for the event.  We were the second history class in our grade so word got around when it was “movie time”.

We came prepared – actually prepared for anything but learning.  When the lights were turned off and the projector started, a whole lot took place totally unrelated to the video.  Mostly flying objects – paper airplanes, crumbled paper, …

Surprisingly, I do recall having some great discussions about the video content later so I guess the activity wasn’t completely a waste.

The thought that we might be able to watch the video at home and come to school prepared to talk about it was most certainly foreign!

Not so today. 

With devices being so ubiquitous, and sources like a school or public library, video is an important component of a teacher’s toolkit.

Many of us have fought the fight for years to get better bandwidth and to unblock video sharing sites for exactly this purpose.  Now open, the challenge becomes one of getting the best of the best.

Our times, and our students’ times, have been well documented.  One place to find a huge wonderful collection of important and relevant videos is British Pathé.

Pathé News was a producer of newsreels, cinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1976 in the United Kingdom. Its founder, Charles Pathé, was a pioneer of moving pictures in the silent era. The Pathé News archive is known today as "British Pathé". Its collection of news film and movies is fully digitised and available online.

Over 80,000 videos from a variety of areas of interest are available at their Youtube site.  It’s difficult to even point to a particular video.  There’s just so much there.  You have to visit and experience it for yourself.  You might consider subscribing to get announcements and access to playlists.

I know that many people search for video using their favourite search engine – having British Pathé as a starting point makes a great deal of sense.  Whether you’re looking for in-class use, videos to assign at home, or even just personal research and interest, you’re going to find this invaluable.