An annual event, this year’s Computer Science Education Week is December 7-13. It’s an opportunity to work with students to either introduce or push them further in studies dealing with Computer Science Education.
As we know, it’s been a strange year and so it may not be possible to order those kits of micro:bits or robots or even get down on the floor to do the traditional programming activities that might be done at this time of the year.
That’s OK. We all get that. However there may be other opportunities. First of all, the big question is “Why Computer Science?” and the answer has never been so seemingly obvious. My go to resource is Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed. I first heard Mr. Rushkoff at a CSTA Conference in New York City. I’d like to say that he changed my life but I’d always been of that philosophy and could never understand why the Grade 10 Computer Studies course, at a minimum, wasn’t required for graduation.
What student today doesn’t pack a powerful computer in the form of a smartphone in their pocket? At the very least, they should be able to program that device and make it to their bidding.
At his website, Rushkoff even includes a study guide to accompany his book.
Here are a few more resources to supplement and help the cause.
Just recently, Peter McAsh alerted me to a resource created by Amanda Deneau showing the connections to the Ontario Curriculum.
A couple of years ago when I was president of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario, Peter Skillen was good enough to create a resource we called #ECOOcodes. It’s not currently linked to any of the menus but you can access it directly here. From Peter’s blog, there was an insightful post about why the topic should be addressed “now“.
The CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) along with a group of other associations have developed a website to support teachers for the week. The focus is on Social Justice and opens with a panel discussion on Monday night. In addition to all the resources shared, there is a collection of downloadable posters.
Canada Learning Code
This is full of ideas and resources to support Learning Code and more. They recognize the varieties of ways that students, teachers, and family are connected and learning in these times and have you covered. Their highlight is Digital Citizenship but poke around for more. Registration is required to access some of the resources.
Hour of Code
It may well be that the Hour of Code may be one of the resources that leap to mind when you think of Computer Science Education Week. The content here continues to grow and has so much covered.
CODE to LEARN at home
A Canadian resource, they have been very active with online webinars and philosophy about programming with a wide scope with a little something for everyone. There are some really unique ideas here.
Maybe the granddaddy of them all for programming at all ages is the Scratch resource from MIT. It just continues to grow and is rich with all that is available to and created by the Scratch coding community.
If you’re fortunate enough to have access to the micro:bit for your class and students, there are some really amazing interactive opportunities and inspiration for programming.
I think it’s quite obvious that the collection above is certainly not all-inclusive. If you can think of a resource that should/could be shared with a wider audience, please do so in the comments.
I’m glad to add this blog to my collection. As I said on the voicEd Radio show, this could have been titled “A union stewart and a school principal walk into a coffee shop”. These people would be Judy Redknine and Toby Molouba.
Because they did. It’s an interesting combination given what’s happening in education and, quite honestly, something that should be seen in more places. There are most certainly lots of things to think about in education – when this post was written the current actions were only visible on the horizon.
I love this quote from the blog post.
“When your child walks into the room, does your face light up?” Our belief is that adults, like children, need this same light. The heart of the matter is it is about our humanity. Relationships truly matter.
Humanity and decency are things that I would suggest can be taken for granted if left alone. I really appreciate the message of collegiality that comes through in this post. Relationships are number 1. It’s a lesson for all of us. And yes, adults need to see the same light.
I wonder if the faces light up when the two sides enter the room for a round of collective bargaining. Of course they don’t. Like playing poker, you don’t want to show your hand.
But imagine if they did. Would that lead to an earlier conflict resolution?
A while back, I read Part One of Anne-Marie Kee’s thoughts about trees, in particular as they apply to Lakefield College School.
This is an interesting followup as she reflects on trees and how they grow, survive, and thrive. In particular, she shares some interesting observations about community and deep or not-so-deep roots in the section dealing with myths.
Towards the end, she turns to how it is so similar to today’s teenagers. Trees help each other grow and so do teenagers. In fact, by giving them the opportunity to take on more responsibility in truly meaningful ways, you do help the process. Not surprisingly, she makes the important connection to mental health and well-being.
I know that we all think we do that. Maybe it’s time to take a second look and really focus on the “meaningful”.
Will Gourley really grounded me with his observations about giants. Perhaps because my use with computer technology, a new field in the big scheme of things, I can name and appreciate the giants in the field.
With a career in education, I can think back to the giants who I looked up to professionally. Egotistically, I remember my first days in the classroom just knowing that I was going to be this stand-out educator and change the world all on my own.
And you know what? What they told us at the Faculty was true. You could close your classroom door and nobody notices or cares!
Then, either the first Thursday or the second, there was a big package in my mailbox. It was an updated collective agreement. As a new teacher, I got the entire agreement and then the 1 or 2 page summary of changes from the recent rounds of negotiations. I was blown away to realize that I had received a raise!
That weekend, I sat down and read the agreement from cover to cover. On Monday morning, I sat down with our OSSTF rep and had a bunch of questions. I recall many being “what happened before this was in the agreement”. It was then that I got a true appreciation for the work that had gone into things over the years.
The value of being an OSSTF member continued to grow and impress me over the years. I served as our school PD rep and CBC rep for a few years and every step led to an increasing appreciation for the work that was done. When OSSTF started to provide quality professional learning, I was over the top.
I know that there are tough times during negotiations but just thinking about where you are now and how you get there is important. In a few years, those leading now will be the shoulders that others are standing on.
Of course, I had to share this post from Arianna Lambert. Computer Science Education Week is near and dear to my heart and the Hour of Code may be the most visible thing to most. I wrote a bit this week about things that can be done with the micro:bit..
I deliberately moved her post to this week, marking the end of the Hour of Code. Why?
An hour of anything doesn’t make a significant difference. The Hour of Code should never be considered a check box to be marked done. It should be the inspiration and insight that lets you see where coding fits into the big scheme of things. It is modern. It is important. It is intimidating.
If you’ve ever taken a computer science course, you know that seldom do you get things right the first time. But every failure leads to an insight that you have for the next problem that you tackle. Student and teacher can truly become co-learners here. Why not take advantage of it?
Included in Arianna’s post is a presentation that she uses and a very nice collection of links that you can’t possibly get through in an hour. And, I would suggest that’s the point.
I know what I’ve been doing all week and plan to continue into the weekend.
I cringed when I read the title of Aviva Dunsiger’s post. After all, she had kind of dissed my post about Advent calendars.
This post was different though.
There are lots of pictures she shares about classroom activities so there is a holiday thing happening in her classroom. Check out the menorah made from water bottles.
She shifts gears a bit and tells a story of her youth. She grew up Jewish and then a second marriage gave her the Christmas experience. It’s very open and a nice sharing of her experiences. It was a side of Aviva that I’d never seen before. I appreciated it.
You’ll smile at the story of her grandmother. We all have/had a wee granny in our lives, haven’t we?
The podcast version of our live TWIOE show featuring these posts is available here.
I hope that Tim King and I are still friends after my comments on his post. It’s not that it’s a bad post. It’s actually very factual and outlines for any that read it teacher salaries, qualifications, benefits, etc. They’re done in Tim’s context with Upper Grand and that’s OK. With the way things are done now in the province, it’s probably pretty standard. There’s enough statistics and insight there to choke a horse. (sorry, but I grew up in a rural community)
What bothers me is that teachers somehow have to defend themselves for all that has been achieved through collective bargaining. Why can’t it just be said?
Damnit, I’m a teacher! This is what I’ve chosen to be in life; I worked hard to get here; my aspiration is to make the world better by educating those in my charge. Period. Nothing more needs to be said.
What other profession has to defend its existence every time a contract comes up for renewal? And teachers are such easy targets. We’ve all had that one teacher that we didn’t like; some people like to project that across the entire profession.
Part of Tim’s inspiration for the posts comes from the venom of “conservative-leaning reporters”. I think that may be a bit of a concession. The venom, from what I see, comes from opinion piece writers. Unlike reporters that do research, opinion pieces are based on supporting a particular viewpoint.
But, let’s go with reporter. According to Glassdoor, the average base pay in Canada is $59,000/year. That would put them about the fifth year of Category 2 in Tim’s board. For that money, they write a missive a number of times a week for their employer, attach perhaps a stock image and call it an article. The point is to feed a particular message. A truly investigative reporting would put them in a classroom for a week to really get a sense of the value educators give for their compensation. But you’d never see that.
While I know that these messages really upset educators, they should always be taken in context and understood for what they really are.
BTW, it’s not lost on me that these reporters make about $59,000 a year more than this humble blog author. I don’t even take weekends off. Who is the dummy here?
One of the more fun, active, and interesting things that you can do with your micro:bit is to turn it into a step counter. These things are so popular in today’s world; a phenomenon starting with the Fitbit device. Now, you’ll find that counting steps is just one feature of a watch or smartphone that you own.
Making your own using the micro:bit is a pretty easy task and is one of the activities that you’ll find at the project page of the makecode resource. Or, another resource that goes a bit further in Python here.
While a lot of things can be created and run in the editor at the site, this activity is one that you’ll want a real physical micro:bit to play around with and to test.
The key to all this working is an example of another way of having the micro:bit accept input. You’re not going to use either the A or B button here but rely on the fact that the micro:bit can detect when it’s shaken. The assumption here is that each step will generate a “shake”.
I found that it worked nicely. Accuracy isn’t necessarily the goal here; it’s to get the excitement from seeing the activity in action.
In order to fully test it, you’ll need to attach the battery pack (and batteries $$) to the micro:bit so that, once you’ve loaded your code, it will work without being attached to your computer.
I took mine and tucked the micro:bit and the battery pack inside my sock and then took it for a walk. I did so some counting and it did display a count after I stopped and removed it. Unlike my watch, it’s a little more different to get an ongoing count while actually walking! I need transparent socks.
For your morning smile, I will admit that it did feel a little like being under house arrest and having to wear an ankle bracelet. (not that I’d really know) But, with the exercise complete, there really was a bit of a Wow! factor. You really can do some pretty sophisticated programming with this thing.
I think back to my original post for this series of posts about the micro:bit. Could I have done this in an hour when I first started to program? Absolutely not. Even the concept of the step counter would have been foreign at the time. But, in today’s world, what a wonderful introduction to the concept of real-world application programming for students!
It was interesting to write yesterday’s post about the beginning of coding for me. It was a true story. My programs did have to travel for an hour to London just to run.
While I eventually got to use terminal devices to program at university, when I landed my first job it was back to writing programs on cards and sending them to the Windsor board office to run for the students. Legend had it that the nice room at the back of my classroom was supposed to have an IBM 1130 of its own but the cost was too prohibitive.
I don’t think it was all bad. Because of the 24 hour (or more) delay to get a program run, we programmers became very thorough in our programming. None of this “let’s try this and see if it works”. We had to plan and trace our way through a program. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting 24 hours only to realize that you missed something silly.
The bottom line was that our devices (and us) were truly disconnected in the process. Of course, it’s not that way today. There really is something satisfying about seeing things happen right in front of your eyes.
After another day of playing around with the micro:bit, it’s a bit humbling to see how things that we take for granted can come to fruition. Who doesn’t have a device or used a device that is connected to something else wirelessly? It’s life as we know it.
With the micro:bit, you can easily program it to communicate with another wirelessly using the built-in radio. Look at those commands.
For the longest time, I had one micro:bit and I longed for the time when I had another just to try this. Of course, you can do it with the online simulator but there’s something about touching it.
A real breakthrough for me happened at a Minds on Media event. Jim Cash was running a coding booth and he had lots of micro:bits. I told him of my desire to just test the concept of sending a signal from one to the next. It was dead simple. I was impressed.
Then, I shared with him a project that I’d wanted to try – build a slot machine! The concept is relatively simple – there would be one master micro:bit that would be equivalent to pulling the lever. Once the lever was pulled, the other micro:bits would display the results. If I ws really greedy, I could have designed cherries, apples, pears, etc. but I settled for 1s, 2s, and 3s. We were up and running in a matter of minutes and I thanked Jim profusely for the use of his gear.
Alas, I’m without a collection of micro:bits. But, I do have a project in mind that would be fun.
When we were kids, we would play a game of “Chase the Ace” around the kitchen table with my parents. It would be interesting to implement that game on a set of these units.
Kids have it made for learning coding these days!
My Hour of Code collection for 2019 is located here.
In particular, I’ve got my micro:bit out and am playing around with it using the Python programming language and the tutorials that can be found here. It’s lots of fun for me and I don’t hesitate at all when using the word “playing” in this paragraph.
If you’ve ever programmed in Python, you know that it’s a text-based language and I keep having to make sure that the syntax that I’m using is correct. There is a lot of room for error.
And, growing up learning to program, error was just part of the game. You learn to check and double-check to ensure that everything is correct.
I first learned to program in high school. Wait, Doug, they had computers back then?
Yes, indeed. Ontario even had a curriculum. It was called RP-33: Data Processing and was released in the 1960s. In 1970, there was also Informatics, Intermediate and Senior Division.
We didn’t have a computer at our school actually; we wrote our programs on punch cards and they were shipped to Althouse College in London to be run over night. The next day, we had a chance to see how well we did. Our programs were run on the computer (if I recall correctly, it was an IBM 1130) We programmed in the Fortran IV language and most of our programs were related to business functions. i.e. writing cheques, doing payrolls, inventories, etc. To think that this guy could write a program that would make a computer do something productive blew me away at the time and it still does today.
There were two elements that had to fall into place for success. First, the program had to compile successfully and secondly, it had to execute and generate the appropriate results.
It’s when I think about this that I get so impressed with the opportunities that the beginning learner has today. The second part – doing things correctly will always be the acid test to your programming skills. But, with the drag and drop interfaces that are so common, the first part actually becomes a non-starter.
Instead of learning the instructions and then the parameters needed, you just drag an action to the desktop. If the steps that you’re thinking about using actually fit together, they well, actually fit together.
From the Makecode website, I took a long look at micro:pet. It’s simple enough to get started – you’re creating a pet for a friend. But the whole package is a really rich experience. Yes, there is the coding part but beyond that, there’s making, language, interviewing, etc.
It’s the whole package.
I reflect back to how I learned to program. Typically, it was by learning one or two command or concepts and then doing a few examples and experience the success or lack of it and then move on. Even the simple act of running a program took 24 hours.
It’s just an entirely different world where beginning learners can do what I did and so much more inside an hour. It’s a great time to be learning how to code. I hope that it’s happening in your class.
As noted in this post from last week, I have created an updated Flipboard of resources for 2019. If you’re looking to join a professional organization of like minded coding teachers, consider the Association of Computer Studies Educators.