This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I don’t know if this post will happen on time.  As I try to connect this morning and gather my thoughts from the past week, I get this when I try to get to my notes and thoughts…

How can I write this post if I can’t get to my notes and then subsequently get back to the bookmarked sites.  21st Century problems.  On the other hand, I’m enjoying listening to the radio.  Could it be true?  Internet access, as they say, is a basic human right?


Computational Thinking and Coding in the Classroom: Views from a Novice

Matthew Oldridge shares a post that should be a reminder to those who go over the top with their enthusiasm about coding and the advice that “all students need to code”.  As he correctly notes, it’s not necessarily the ability to program that’s important here, it’s the ability to think and problem solve.  He makes reference to Google’s Computational Thinking course…

As they describe it, computational thinking has four different categories:
1. Decomposition-breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts.
2. Pattern recognition-observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data.
3. Abstraction-identifying the general principles that generate these patterns.
4. Algorithm Design-developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems.

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I harken back to comments made by a university professor in our first year Computer Science class that most of us who would be successful will probably get jobs in Computer Science that don’t involve programming.  It really affected the way that I taught and assessed – in addition to the program, students also had to submit a paragraph describing how the program worked along with a flow chart, inline comments, structured diagram, or pseudo-code illustrating the logic.

These days, it seems, the focus of the fans of coding is to get right to the code and have the computer do something.  There is a real rush when you program something and it works.  There’s also the frustration when it doesn’t.  It can be an “all or nothing” experience.  I think that it’s important for everyone to look at the big picture.

Going directly to the tutorials or examples that we regularly see isn’t terribly productive.  You have to type or drag exactly like in the example and you too can create your own Flappy Bird game.  But do you know how it works?  Can you modify it for your own needs?  Can you read the code and understand the author’s thinking?  Whatever happened to inline documentation?  Is this really the best way for a new person to learn how to code?

Kudos to Matthew for trying to wrap his head around it.  It would have been far easier just to give the students a handout.

The whole issue may be moot.  Soon We Won’t Program Computers. We’ll Train Them Like Dogs

I’ve already got mine trained to sit, roll over, shake a paw, shake the other hand…


Investing in our Own Professional Learning

It’s interesting to see who uses the term “Professional Development” and those who use the term “Professional Learning”.

Those who would “Develop” typically do it for a living.  Those who would “Learn” are doing it for improvement to their professional abilities. Increasingly, we see people who take charge of their learning and see what they need to know instead of what someone not necessarily in the classroom thinks they need to know.

This post, by Dina Moati builds from the wonderful graphic that she includes in the post.

I think that it’s only fair to ask anyone who wishes to “Develop” you to demonstrate their competency by showing their social learning.  If they can and do, that’s wonderful; if they don’t or can’t, do they really have the necessary credibility?  Just have them email you their Powerpoint slides so that you can get on with your personal “Learning” that will actually improve your abilities.


Why Google Apps Must Needs Die

This post has been haunting me all week.  From the title to some of the assumptions, I can’t get my head around it.  I know that Cal Armstrong loves his OneNote and obviously has a device that lets him use it to do amazing things.  I remember my first experience with it.  I was invited to the Microsoft Partners in Learning event and figured I’d better use it rather than Evernote so I didn’t get ejected from the event.  I’d take notes all day and go back to my hotel room and blog at night from the notes.

Here I am a couple of years later and I’d like to revisit my notes but they’re gone.  There’s just an empty folder where they should be.  I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find them – I even dug into the computer I used at the time thinking I may have mistakenly saved them locally.  Not a thing.  The program will have changed so much since then and I do have OneNote on my computers and my phone.  Why does it keep bugging me for a phone number when I try to log in?

Anyway, Cal compares what he’s able to do with OneNote with handwriting and random screen starting points in the post.  It’s a good depiction of what can be done.  Then, he compares what he’s doing with Google Docs, a word processor.  His points are interesting but I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.  He could have made the same comparisons to Microsoft Word.  I think a better comparison would have been to Google Drawings.

One thing that his post does do is make me yearn for a touch screen computer.  I can doodle with my Wacom pad but it’s most certainly not what I’d like to do a screen capture of and show in public.  If you’re curious to see OneNote used in all its glory, Cal does do a good job describing some of its functionality in the post.


Playful Learning in the Early Years

A couple of years ago, I visited a friend’s classroom.  It was a French Immersion Early Years’ room.

I watched in amazement as so many small human beings were buzzing about here and there in a myriad of activities.  In the middle of our conversation, students would come up and ask the teacher a question in French, she’d reply and we’d be back to our discussion without breaking a bit of the flow.  I asked “What is your class doing?”

She proceeded to talk me around the room, not necessarily pointing to everything.  Not every student was doing the same thing; there were little groups here and there doing this and that – in both languages.  It is true.  They don’t pay Early Years’ teachers enough.

Deanna McLennan takes us on a tour of her classroom with all kinds of pictures to show us such a busy place.


Can’t We Let All Of Our Kids “Fix Kites?”

While we’re looking at the inside of a classroom like Deanna’s, it’s also important to consider that there’s an outside too!  Aviva Dunsiger describes a moment from hers.

You’ve got to click through and read all of the post.

What led up to this event?

How did the student handle it?

Have you ever broken your own kite?  (As I look out the patio door to the big maple tree in the back yard, I’m reminded that things can indeed go wrong!)


What exactly is ‘engagement’?

Good question, Heidi Siwak.

It seems to me that there are two sides to engagement.

  • Teacher Side – provide or facilitate “engaging” activities/moments
  • Student Side – become “engaged”

If either side drops the ball, engagement doesn’t happen.


“Why is your point important?” On the importance of Analysis in Writing

From Rusul Alrubail, a reminder for all about better writing.  I actually think that bloggers are good at this and perhaps it’s just another reason why students should blog.  A good blog post will conclude with a “call to action”.  So, why the whole point of the post might be to talk about the newest and shiniest and funkiest, it’s not until you give the reader that call or the “why” it’s important, you’re missing something.

When we write, it’s important that we try and think about the reason why you’re writing your point. This helps us to stay focused on making our point clear to the reader, and helps to push our thinking to the next level. Instead of focusing on “what” and “how” the story was told, think about “why” this point is important for the readers to know about.

Flip over to Rusul’s post to see a really wonderful sketchnote outlining all of this.  It’s very appropriate for use with students and may get you looking deeper at The Writing Project.


You’ve probably guessed by now that my ISP is back up and running again.  I was able to access my notes and give you some great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a few moments to click through, read their original posts and drop off a comment or two.  There’s lots of great stuff there.

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