This Week in Ontario Edublogs


There’s nothing like the first snow of the year to bring out your inner-Husky.  Now, having grown up in the snow belt, I know that it’s heresy to call what we’re experiencing this morning as “snow” but it’s the sort of thing that gets students here up and checking to see if buses are running or delayed.  Teachers have already done that.

Nothing says more than “winter in Essex County” than walking past the school that we do every morning and seeing the caretaker out in a short-sleeved t-shirt sweeping snow off the sidewalk for students and staff.  Or, Santa Claus arriving by canoe.

If you want one last winter-ish activity for the Hour of Code, check this out.

No matter what the weather is like where you are, I hope that you can take a few moments to read some of the great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers I ran across this week.


Preserve Our Language Project

When Stephen Hurley and I were discussing this on voicEd Radio, he noted that he hadn’t seen me this excited about something before.  It’s a true statement.  This is an awesome project and I found out about it by being tagged by Mike Filipetti last week during Follow Friday time.  I checked out the project and was just blown away.

So, here’s the deal.  When you get a new computer and set it up, chances are it will have an American English keyboard by default.  You can always change it for your preference.  I always opt for Canadian English.  I’ve also experimented personally with a Dvorak keyboard and it delivered as promised.  But, I dropped it for some reason.  I can recall a conversation with a French teacher who indicated that it was important for French students to see a French keyboard when they’re typing in that language.  Fair enough; that can be done easily enough.  Everyone should be able to keyboard in their language.

What if that language is Ojibway?  On my Macintosh, I’d be out of luck.  Scrolling to the Os reveals…

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So, what excited me about this project was that one of the features that they’ve developed is an Ojibway keyboard and made it free to download.  Think it’s not a big deal?  Try this then – switch the keyboards in your class to another language like Persian or Polish and have the students come up with a workaround to be able to type in their own language.

I am excited about this project and some of the other things that you’ll find including videos.  Importantly, check out who all is involved with the project.

It’s a project worth following and please give them a little social media love by sharing this post.


5 ways to turn the ‘hour of code’ into the ‘year of learning’

This post, from Jim Cash, is timely for the end of Computer Science Education Week.  I hope that everyone had a chance to do at least an hour of coding with students.  I also hope that you’re asking yourself “What’s next?”

If you are, this post has some suggestions for moving forward.

I’ll share three with you here…

  • Learn to code by starting your own coding project
  • Think of coding as a literacy
  • Plan a design-thinking, project-based learning activity

You’ll have to click through and read Jim’s entire post to get all five.  His vision of coding as a literacy started an interesting discussion on Twitter.  Personally, I think that  if coding skills are going to become successful and valuable, it needs to be more than a literacy.  How about it becoming a fluency?

As the Hour of Code wraps up and people are thinking of great successes and next steps, ECOO is hoping to engage you in a Twitter chat next Tuesday evening at 8pm with the hashtag #ECOOchat.  I hope to see you there.


What EQAO Doesn’t Know

Just as Jim’s post was timely, this one from Peter Cameron is equally as timely given the Ministry of Education’s review of assessment and curriculum in the province.

This is a long post but well worth the read and to share with others.  Passionate educators will also pause to recognize all of the fallout from testing that certainly couldn’t have been predicted when EQAO was first introduced.

Peter’s post reminds us that there are more than score-buckets sitting in desks in Ontario classrooms.  They’re eager learners who have a whole year to demonstrate their learning in various ways for their teacher.  Yet, there comes that moment in time when they have a pre-determined about of time to write a test for someone else.

If this is deemed to be important, are we doing it properly?  I’d suggest that you forget the notion of the test when you read the post.  Put yourself in the position of the students that he describes.  Would you consider yourself fairly assessed?


Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

I had to smile when I read the title to this post from Amy Szerminska.  If I had that many concurrent thoughts, I would have broken it down into five different posts and schedule them for successive days.  There’s a whole week of blogging there!

It was confirming to read her observations of #BIT17 and the importance of connections. You know that Amy is not alone in her thoughts.  We’re more powerful educators when we make these connections.  Hopefully, school districts recognize this when an application is received to go to a conference.  Go beyond the title and what you have always thought about the host; think of the connections that go far beyond the conference.

What I really found interesting was the discussion around the Professional Development Day.  Embedded in the post is her presentation.

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It’s a wonderful click through and those in the audience must really have appreciated the conversation that it would have generated.

Speaking of assessment, you have to love this student’s quote

“It’s weird but if I can negotiate my way to a good grade I don’t mind.”


LONDON GOOGLE SUMMIT: Presenting Google Classroom, Meet Entrepreneurship

In case you were wondering whether or not the Thames Valley District School Board was using Google or not, this presentation from Heidi Solway and Jason Bakker will give you a definitive answer.  I really do like it when presenters make their slide deck and other resources available for those who couldn’t attend to enjoy.

Ignite the passion in your classroom by developing your students into entrepreneurs through Project Based Learning (PBL). This project has students producing product, designing marketing, and handling sales at a Business Fair. We will share how to disseminate steps of the project via Google Classroom, having students manage their business in: Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, and Classroom. We will also touch on how students might create advertising pieces using tools such as Garage Band, green screen with DoInk and/or iMovie, Please bring a Chromebook or laptop.

Of course, the folks at Google might take issue with the final statement and the use of the word “or”.

The slidedeck links to a thing popular with the Google crowd right now – Hyperdocs.  In this case, they are worksheets to support the concepts from the project.

For the Office 365 folks, a big project like this could easily be adapted to using the O365 tools.


Classrooms Should Be More Like Trains

A “quiet table” in a noisy classroom is rather like a smoking section in a restaurant. I understand that the noise doesn’t stop when it gets to the table (oh, for the ‘cone of silence’!!) Ideally I’d prefer a room where students could go and work quietly if needed. Putting a table in the hallway or some other quiet corner of the school is also a possibility, but obviously supervision and safety is a concern. At the very least, the “Quiet Work Table” shows students that if they need quiet, that’s acknowledged and addressed in some small way.

When I read this post from Andrew Campbell, I recognized how fortunate I was with my classroom setup.  At the time, I had the ability to organize my students according to activity.

The main classroom had tables with movable chairs and wonderfully, a carpeted floor.  Behind us was a room that was supposed to host a mini-computer that never arrived.  It had tiled floor (which was great to avoid the static electricity from the classroom) and more tables to hold our computers.  Behind that was supposed to be the computer operator’s office.  It turned into a seminar room for my class.   And, of course, we had a hallway for additional organization.  All of the rooms had huge windows so you could stand in one and see what was happening in all three.  For those who needed another level of isolation, I was not against the use of headphones.

I really was fortunate.  Andrew makes excellent points and it’s a reminder that the traditional school design never really takes all this into consideration – how are you making for quiet spaces in your classroom for those that want/need them?


OTF and the Professional Learning Ecosystem

If you’re not aware of everything that the Ontario Teachers’ Federation offers, you will be after reading this post from Brenda Sherry.

I think that I knew about all of the various pieces that she touches on in her post but I’d never seen them arranged all together at once.  Looked at this way, it really is impressive.

TLLP – The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program
OTF Connects – live webinars in the evenings
OTF Summer Institutes – 3 day summer sessions
Pedagogy B4 Technology Conference – 3 days of learning
TLLP – Provincial Knowledge Exchange
Teacher Learning Co-op (TLC) – Collaborative teams

Are you aware of these opportunities?  Read Brenda’s post and then head over to the OTF Learning Page.  Check the left sidebar for even more!


Whew!  Yet again, this is a wonderfully relevant and current look at things from Ontario Edubloggers.  We’re so fortunate to have these people sharing their thoughts with us.

Make sure to add all of the above to your list of accounts that you’re following.

If you’re blogging and not in the list of Ontario Edubloggers, please take a moment to visit and add your details.

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Hour of Code – Day 4


So far, I’ve worked my way through a number of Hour of Code activities.  Three of them have made it to blog post status.

It’s been so much fun.

Today, it’s a classic and dedicated to those Computer Science students that I taught.  I can’t think of a year when I didn’t have a student or group of student want to write their own version of Pac-man.  Even today, the name just conjures up visions of business success for the developers and distributors.  It’s still a fan favourite and you can find all kinds of places to play it online.  But, wouldn’t you like to create your own?  Have you ever wanted to make a version that was better than everyone else?

You can at the AgentCube implementation here, courtesy of University of Colorado Boulder, Pädagogische Hochschule FHNW, and Agent Cube.

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Start here.

The tutorial is a short trip through a Google Slides presentation.  Many of the slides have opportunity to learn more about the steps covered.  Or, you can just OK your way through and have a starter game of Pac-man created for you.

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Minimalist is correct.  It’s still a challenging game and the little slider that goes from turtle to rabbit lets you adjust your game according to your skill level.

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Uh oh.

Then, it’s time to look under the hood and make it your own.

There are an abundance of tools to work with the objects in your game.

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A few drag and drops and you’re on the way to making the game yours.

If you or your students enjoy the classics and have this desire to make your own custom version, this one is for you.

Hour of Code – Day 3


Have you ever bet on the wrong horse?

That was what went through my mind as I was looking for an activity for the Hour of Code to play around with today.  In a university, a long time ago, I took a statistics class.  Some of us in the class had calculators but, for the most part, people didn’t.

Consequently, our professor spent some time talking about calculators and what we really need to do in order to be successful in the course.  She was adamant that we should get an RPN calculator rather than an algebraic calculator.  I took her advice and bought one.  Since then, I’ve always had one or an RPN calculator on my phone.  I’ll say one thing about RPN; you learn about stacks and order of operations like nowhere else.

While my calculator served me well, it turns out that the algebraic calculator really took off.  A popular choice is the Texas Instruments TI-84 which actually is a whole series of calculators.  For the Hour of Code, the TI-84 is the tool in the Poor or No Internet category.

If you and your students have a TI-84, you’re all set.  If not, you might want to do a search; there are plenty of online alternatives.  In fact, you may have so much fun with the activities, you may want to rush out and buy your own.

Does anyone remember when a calculator added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided only?  (Hint, your computer may have one installed)

But, I’m off track.  From the Texas Instruments website, there are three entry points to get started.  I went into the TI-84 section and the learning is great if you’re ready to do some coding on your calculator.

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Consistent with many programming languages, you’re ready to do some coding.

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The activities are intriguing.

Confession time – I started with the first activity, and once I realized how intuitive this would be, I jumped right ahead to the Graphics section.  My old HP calculator didn’t do graphics.

By the time, I looked up, I had spent way more than an hour on this.  While I can imagine everyone having fun with this, I’m thinking secondary school students who have this calculator in their knapsack would eat this up nicely!

Hour of Code – Day 2


Keeping the ball rolling, I’m trying out the suggestions for Hour of Code from its activity page this week.

Now something for the gamers among your students – Code Combat – Escape the Dungeon.  The scary dungeon is called Kithgard Dungeon.  And, there’s a path carefully laid out to get your through the dungeon.  Avoiding all the things that make dungeons dangerous, of course.

Unlike the drag and drop interface, here you’ll be doing a little coding.  You can play anonymously but it’s going to be difficult to finish in an hour.  I just kept my game going putting my computer to sleep as I moved along.

When you start the game, you’re given a choice of programming languages.

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I went with the default, Python.

So, you’re plunked into this dungeon with all of these challenges.  If you’ve ever played this type of game before, you know that movement and avoiding bad things is your challenge.

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Sometimes, the shortest path isn’t the most desirable.  Especially if you don’t want to let ogres see you!

The scripting appears in a menu so you don’t need to know all the complete syntax but make the wrong choice and your hero will head in the wrong direction.

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I like the commenting that appears right in the code for you.  It explains what to do and also demonstrates how to use comments.  Start them early.

It was fun working my way through the levels.  Challenges increase with every level but that serves to engage.  Background music adds to the atmosphere.  At the completion of each level, there are rewards to keep you inspired.

If you’d like a gaming approach to your Hour, give this one a shot.

Hour of Code – Day 1


My project for this week is to take a look at the Hour of Code activities from the Hour of Code website and choose a topic that I’ve never coded before.   I’ll share my experiences here and encourage you to share yours via comment.

So, here we go – Day 1!

I’ve always wanted to create a Google Doodle so the activity “Create your own Google Logo” was my starting point.  I had a little nervousness; after all, I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I should be able to hold my own coding a project designed for Grade 2 and up.

Big breath and here we go.

It turns out I didn’t have to be an artist to do the tutorial.  Of course, if I decided to go really deeply, I could have drawn by own.  But, I didn’t.

I sat down to watch the first video to explain the project and the things that we might do.  The project is do be done in Scratch and we’re given a “Starter Project” to kick things off.  I was impressed, at the end of the video, with the message about appropriate use of the Google logo.  It’s to be used just within the scope of this project.

That immediately opens the door for a discussion “Why couldn’t we create our own Google website with our logo?”

Anyway, back to the project.  I worked my way through the opening suggestions   Can I openly confess that I played the video and just knew that I could commit all the steps to memory?

Not!

Just as suggested in the video, I opened a couple of tabs and moved back and forth.  In the classroom, that might get a little noisy so I could see the teacher computer as a tutorial with everyone following along.  But, once you’ve got the basics, you’re ready to go over the moon.

It’s a question that all coders have.  We’re never done.  We don’t want to know what to do, we want to know what else can I do?

The tutorial page has you covered with a number of other videos ranging from audio to motion to changing the sprites to making random things happen to creating your own little game to … well, you’ll have to check out all of these.  They come with their own video of instructions so that your entire class can make custom creations.

I wish I could show you mine but I’m mindful of the desire not to use the logo for things other than the project.  Blogging might not be an approved use.

But, you don’t need me.  Head over to the tutorial and do your own.

Four minutes gets you the basic and you’ll be confirmed that your class will have a ball creating their own doodles.

Ho Ho Code


December is always a fun time for computer users.  In particular, there’s this abundance of Santa Trackers or similar applications.

Every year, they get more functional, sophisticated, and just plain fun.  Google’s Santa Tracker went online today.  And, there’s so much goodness there and playing with the Advent Calendar events make a daily visit here a must.  There’s always some new fun and enjoyment there, including a multi-player snowball fight.

By itself, this is wonderful but there’s an educational side!

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Now, you can safely justify Santa Across the Curriculum by going in on the educational side.  It comes with ready to use activities, including lesson plans!  Take a look at each activity and your mind will start spinning with ideas.

Again, by itself, this is wonderful too.

Could you go deeper?

  1.  How about coding your own Advent Calendar?  Looking for ideas?  Well, the sky’s the limit but how about this?  A popular activity is to code with your language of choice and draw shapes.  What about a “holiday shape of the day”?  The truly protective coder will want to make sure that only the shape of the day is available.
  2. Talk about coding in a serious way.  How does a project like this happen?  Someone at Google didn’t wake up one morning and write this.  It’s been an ongoing project now for over 10 years.  How do you ensure longevity?
    • Fully document things so that you can pass the project off to new coders
    • Draw and map out the logic behind the project.  It’s even a great activity to unpack what we see today.
    • Work in a team.  No one person could possibly have done all this.  How do teams get work done?
    • Planning – how do you plan for the future and add additional features
  3. Consider the user interface – now that the Santa Tracker is available on desktop or mobile application, how to you entice the user to get the most from the application?  How about accessibility?  Music?  Sound effects?  Colours?

Your ideas?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Will you use the Santa Tracker this December?  How will you use it?

Hour of Code 2017


December 4-10, 2017 is Computer Science Education Week world-wide. Of course, we celebrate it here in Ontario and ECOO wants to be a part of it.

There are so many ways to think of Computer Science Education Week. Probably the biggest known event is the Hour of Code. Devised to be the launch of something special for students, it’s a wonderful opportunity for teachers and students to co-learn something new. After all, who doesn’t want to be in charge of their computing devices? For students who are already studying Computer Science, it’s a terrific opportunity to research further studies at university with an eye towards landing a job in the field that is so promising. Or, take a break from your regular programming routine and participate in one of the many tutorials available in a completely different environment. Computer Science teachers proudly announce that they teach problem solving – here’s a chance to demonstrate it.

The above is a message I wrote and posted to the ECOO website.  You can read the entire post by clicking here.

Next week marks the exciting Hour of Code event.  It was created a few years ago as a way to motivate students in a computer science activity designed to inspire them to consider further activities and studies in the area.  It still is.

I’ve been collecting resources and articles to support the concept for a few years now.  If you’re interested, here they are – the date is a hint that the topics may be a bit dated or even have been taken down or moved.  Such is the way of the internet.

So it should come as no surprise that I’ve got a new one on the go.

While I don’t go back to the older collections and make sure that all the links are still alive (although most seem to be), I did poke around and there are some really interesting things to look at.  I am also impressed with how sophisticated things have become.

So, what to do for 2017?  If you’ve already done coding with classes, you have your own resources.  But there’s always those first-timers and starting points have never been as good.

If there ever was an activity that’s unique, inspiring, and has the appeal for all, it’s the Create your own Google logo activity.  I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good Google Doodle?

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Looking for more?

Definitely the Mother Lode of resources and ideas can be found in the Hour of Code Activities page from Code.org.  I’m so impressed with the huge collection and variety of activities available for use both online and off.

Pick an activity from the list for your class and just be sad that you can’t do them all!

I’m pleased to note that the Ontario Ministry of Education has shared a number of ideas with Directors of Education.  That note as well as a deeper understanding of what it’s all about can be found at #ECOOcodes.

Things are nicely falling into place to ensure a successful Hour of Code 2017.  I hope that you and your students take the time to enjoy the event and learn together.

Oh, and please blog about it and share.  The more we do, the smarter our online community becomes.