A single first step

I was a little hesitant to share my Hour of Code 2015 selection yesterday for a few reasons.

  1. It’s a big list.  It’s way too big for any individual classroom teacher to flip through and fully digest.
  2. It’s intimidating.  There are a lot of teachers who want to make the leap to introduce coding to their students.  You look at all of the offerings and can’t help but think “I have to do all that?”
  3. It can cause doubts.  Perhaps last year you spent an hour with students doing some scripting with Scratch.  Now, you see all these other offerings and might just second guess your choice.

For Computer Science nuts like me, the list has a great deal of value.  I enjoy going through the various options to see what the state of the industry is.  That’s just what I do.  We’ve come a long way since Logo but our roots are definitely visible in most of the things that are available.

But I can’t help but think that the sheer volume of things will make some people shy away from the concept and confirm what they’ve always thought about those of us whose passion is coding and being the evangelists for the discipline.

So, in all sincerity, what do you do?

First, if you did the Hour of Code last year with a particular product and were happy with the results, I wouldn’t change a thing.  If it was a good activity last year, it will be even better this year since you’ve had a year of experience.

If you weren’t happy with your results, either try again with the same tool and work towards better results (we all know that the first time teaching anything can be a challenge) or try something else that looks like it may be a little more appropriate for your class.

If you’re looking for a change, there are certainly some timely themes for an introduction to code with the Minecraft or Star Wars options.

If you have a computer club at your school or parents/students are looking to extend their interests at home, there is plenty of choice for your recommendation.

The whole notion just supports the concept of having a resource person at the district or school level familiar with all that’s available and give direction and support for one or two platforms in the schools.  I know that, for many teachers, it’s a new and scary concept.  On top of everything that is required of the job, you shouldn’t have to tackle something like this alone.

But, I really hope you do.

It’s good for you, your classroom, the school, and most importantly the kids.





OTR Links 11/30/2015

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

My Hour of Code 2015 Collection

OK, so I’ve been poking around adding things to a Flipboard document to support the Hour of Code 2015, December 7-13. 

It’s nothing compared to the TDSB resource that I had written about earlier this week but I like to collect hoard things.  I hadn’t told anyone about it; I just keep flipping things into it as I find them. 

The document wasn’t super secret or anything like that so I hadn’t made it private; I just hadn’t told anyone about it until now.

I was quite surprised this morning when I took a look and saw the analytics.

Somehow, it’s comforting to know that there are others who poke around looking for resources like this.  At the same time, it’s just a little creepy.  Anyway, at 32 articles and counting, I guess it’s time to share with anyone else who is interested.

Hour of Code 2015 Flipboard Collection

The biggest and loudest participant this year has to be the Minecraft activity.  I’ve poked around and had some fun with it.  Long time Logo enthusiasts will sit back, hopefully, and celebrate how modern clothes dress up things that we knew were good for kids years ago.

I don’t think there are too many bad choices to be made here.  Some of the things that I think are really worthy of consideration are:

The truly good thing about the Hour of Code is that it’s getting serious consideration in classrooms that might not otherwise have embraced the concept.  The Hour of Code has gained the momentum and reached more acceptance in the educational community.  That’s a really good thing. 

It’s so comforting to know that teachers are embracing the concepts of computational thinking.  What’s really good is to see the discussion that one hour isn’t enough.  People are looking to extend that time frame and, by design, making the student activities more rigorous.  The important part is that this makes it richer for the student and even more fun.

So, whether you’re a novice to the concept or an experienced veteran always on the prowl for great activities, keep at it. 

As my friends Sylvia Duckworth and Brian Aspinall note, there are 10 good reasons to teach coding. 

Once you’ve done it, you absolutely know that 10 is just a conservative number.

OTR Links 11/29/2015

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Two hashtags for today

There are two hashtags that you may wish to follow today.  In the province, there are two edCamp events happening today.

If they were only closer…

Instead, I’ll just add a couple of extra columns to Hootsuite to follow along.


Located at the Design Cofounders location on Spadina Street in Toronto, look for a full day of learning for this event, rescheduled from earlier this fall.  If you’re not at the event, you can follow the discussion at:  #edcamptoronto.  If you are at the event, make sure that you’re sharing with the world using that hashtag.  It looks to be a successful and large event.  As I write this, I checked and there are only 14 seats remaining. Rumour has it that there will be a taco bar there.

Organizers are:  @RusulAlrubail, @Dinamoati, @AddesaAT, and @callmemrmorris.


This offering is a little different.  In its first kick at it, the York Catholic DSB is offering an edCamp to teachers within that district.  They’re involved in a half-day professional learning event and will be using their district’s 21st Century learning hashtag ycdsb21c to spread the news and share the learning.

The event is organized by a team:

@DClaphamK12, @DianeMurgaski, and Carlos Sousa.


8:45 – 9:15 Gathering, Student Keynotes, Session topics organized
9:25 – 10:05 Session 1
10:15 – 10:55 Session 2
11:10 – 11:50 Session 3
11:55 – 12:05 Closing Remarks, Prizes
**Enjoy breakfast, networking, & conversation between sessions

These look like two terrific events offered to two different communities, have different organizational strategies, but remain true to the edCamp model of participant interest driven professional learning.  A common thread to both, beyond the learning, is door prizes!  How can you lose?

All the best to both events and make sure that you’re sharing lots!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

The Canadian dollar is pretty weak compared to the US dollar on this date.  So, forget about cross-border shopping and read some great thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.  (Besides, you should be shopping Canadian anyway…)

Gratitude in Partnership

Now here’s a post from Tracy Sherriff that everyone can take to heart.  It’s timely since this is the US Thanksgiving week but it’s something that could/should be done daily.  Everyone likes to be appreciated.  Normally, the sentiment is given in the form of tips for managers to build relationships with those that they supervise.  That’s important.  But, as Tracy notes, why does it have to stop there?

When was the last time you told your spouse or your supervisor or the parents of the children in your care that you appreciate something that they did?  So often, we think of the negative moments – we all have them – but for all of these, I believe generally that people try to do their best and do the right thing.  It’s easy to see a leader doing it but how about the other way around?

It’s not an easy thing to do at times.  I think back to one superintendent that was my supervisor.  He had to do a lot of crappy things as part of his job and I did try to show my appreciation for what he did periodically.  I wish that I had done it more often.

Some ICS3 assignments in Java

Here’s an offer that no teacher of Computer Studies can ignore from Brandon Grasley.

I wrote a few practice tasks for my online ICS class for using loops and arrays, as well as a challenge task for anyone who’s interested. You’re welcome to use them in your classes if you like.

I freely admit to being a hoarder.  If you were to search my hard drive, I’m sure that you’d say to yourself “What on earth does he keep that for?”

Until that really good Computer Studies book comes along and a school budget actually supports the purchase of it as opposed to all the other things that are bought, Computer Studies teachers are always looking for ideas to try to inspire young programmers.

In this post, Brandon shares some of the problems that he’s assigned to his ICS class and offers them up for anyone interesting in taking them.

Tina Zita

OK, this is another one of those resources that aren’t your traditional blog post but certainly are worthy of note because of their value and the fact that it was created by an Ontario educator.  In this case, Tina Zita created a free iBook titled “Jump In Becoming a Connector Educator”.

The interactive iBook is a nice coverage of social media with a bent towards education.  She includes references to other Ontario Educators in various places.  It makes you feel like a great Follow Friday.  If there’s someone who’s getting started with social media or you want an idea of what publishing on this platform could look like, it’s most certainly worth the download.  Share the link with someone you know can benefit from it.

And, for the record … I aced the quiz.

It Is Just No Longer An Option.

And, if you need a second opinion to sell the concept, just point them to the recent post by Katie Maenpaa.

She quotes Stacey Wallwin and the logic is so true.  Would you accept those excuses in any other subject area?

Yet, we hear the same lame excuses over and over again.  We see technology/computer consultants who aren’t working hard to promote the message and support colleagues in their learning.  If they’re not leading, where’s the motivation to follow? 

It’s so frustrating, particularly on the heels of the BIT Conference where Ontario shares such great ideas, that there still are classes where technology is either not or underused.

Puzzling Over French Immersion

So, apparently, I ruined Jennifer Aston’s morning but it’s also disconcerting that my morning habits are so predictable.

One of the articles that I had read and shared caught her ire.

It was about something obviously near and dear to her – French Immersion and the challenges that school districts face in meeting the demands by parents and students.  Like I’ve said so often, it’s nice to have to solve this problem.  Meeting the demand?  Jennifer takes on the assumptions from the article from her perspective.

Together, we agreed that there are no quick and easy solutions but did muse a bit over an idea that might be worth considering.

Beginner’s Guide: Week 1 of the iPad Project

I love this post.  If I could sum it up in one word – TRUTH.

How many times have we heard reports from teachers, principals, and superintendents about how you just put an iPad in front of a student and magic happens.  They’re transformed into self-motivated learners exceeding all expectations.  Is it a face saving stance lest they lose the technology?  Or a fear of acknowledging that there’s work to be done?

Anna Bartosik is working an iPad project with her adult learners and so is open and candid about how it’s going and the observations from her students.  She’s collecting data to support the points raised in the post.

Either that, or she’s found of cadre of learners that could include me whose first instinct is to try everything possible with the new devices.  Some of it might even be related to the task at hand.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever read anything that’s this openly honest about the process.  And, I agree – Google Docs on mobile is vastly different from the desktop!

Rethinking the Classroom

I wasn’t the only one who was inspired to do some thinking after hearing Heidi Siwak’s keynote at the Bring IT, Together Conference.  Emmet Mellow shares his take on her thoughts in this recently added blog to the Ontario collection.

Emmet offers some ideas available to teachers to try to emulate some of what Heidi describes as happening in her classroom.

Yes, it truly has been another great week of reading and sharing among Ontario Edubloggers.  I hope that you can spend a few moments to read and support these bloggers and their thoughts.  If you’re blogging and your blog doesn’t appear in the collection, do what Emmet did.  Fill out the form on the landing page and I’ll be happy to add you and read your insights.

OTR Links 11/27/2015

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.