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.
Just like that, we’re into December. I’ve often wondered if the holiday seasons might get people away from their keyboards. That may be yet to come but, for now, there’s some great content from Ontario Edubloggers. Here’s a bit of what I read this week.
As long as there have been schools and teachers, there have been red pens and circles surrounding spelling mistakes. Look it up. (well, you don’t have to really)
I found this post from Peter Cameron so interesting. It’s a transcript of a conversation between he and a parent who has a concern and was looking for an app or other solution to help the cause.
Peter does give some educational suggestions and guidance.
Upon further reflection, I looked at myself. I’ve always considered myself a fairly good speller. And yes, I suffered through those Friday morning dictation tests in elementary school. I hated them at the time but can now appreciate them for what they are worth. I’ve memorized the words, the rules, the exceptions to the rules, … I was not hooked on phonics.
And then I go onto Social Media and see misspellings and misuse so often, I start to question myself. Is this the beginning of the end of literacy for me?
In the meantime, thank goodness for the squiggly red line under the word misspellings above (actually at the time I typed it, it was mispellings) to keep me on the literacy straight and narrow.
There was no date on this post on the Association for Media Literacy website. I thought it might be recent and timely for the season but I reached out to one of the authors, Diana Maliszewski to be sure.
In fact, it was about a year old and part of a commitment to post 40 blog posts along with Neil Andersen. After a bit of a back and forth and encouragement with Diana, I decided to include it on the Wednesday podcast and on this post.
In reading, I learned so much more about the song besides the fact that it appeared in an old movie. Lots of media literacy implications (which explains why it’s on this blog) and a real comparison between society and media, then and now. There was a reminder that the song was banned on the CBC for a time and so much more. It’s a really good read and the authors encourage it to be used in the classroom.
I also found that Lady Gaga had covered the song.
And so many others. If the original was controversial, then how would the more modern covers be received?
With a title like that, you just know that there’s going to be a long post to follow…
And Debbie Donsky doesn’t disappoint!
If you’re looking for something to challenge the way that we do things in education, this is a great motivator.
I mean, we’ve all done it. You get the memo that there will be an assembly on a topic or that homerooms will be held so that you can lead a special session with your students on a timely topic. I’m thinking bullying here.
As a dutiful educator, you do it. You’re accountable to do it. At what level of buy-in do you actually have though?
That’s where Debbie left me in the dust when she addresses rules and policies and applies the concept of aspiration to the situation. After a read, and you’ll read it way more than once, I think you’ll find yourself questioning a number of things. That’s a good thing and something that good writing should do.
The richness doesn’t stop with Debbie’s content. There are lots of connections made and links to external resources. She’s really done her homework in preparation for this post.
I almost didn’t read this post from Helen DeWaard because I made the assumption that it was going to be all about red pens, circle, and comments to students. Goodness knows that we’ve addressed that so many times.
But, no, that wasn’t the point here and why I felt so good about indeed reading the post.
Helen’s focus is on the other side of the coin.
What do YOU do when you receive feedback?
She embeds this graphic that will take a bit of time to really work through. But it’s worth it.
Think about how you receive feedback. We get it all the time. Sure, there’s the inspection piece from administrators but we get it from students with every lesson. It’s just a matter of really understanding it.
I remember a story attributed to B.F. Skinner from a Psychology of Teaching course where students ended up making a teacher work from a corner because of their actions. Every time the teacher moved towards the corner, the students all smiled and nodded like they were learning. Move away and the students dropped interest. The truth value of the story is in dispute but it is a good story nonetheless.
Feedback is indeed powerful. One of the best things I ever did for myself was to take a course on Peer Coaching and then found a partner who really understood and we worked together so well coaching each other. We still do today.
I’m almost positive that I’ve done this mathematical activity described in this post from Mark Chubb. It involves paper and a paper punch. It might even have been as an ice breaker at a workshop. It might have been an online application that didn’t require physical paper or punch at all. It’s a really worthwhile challenge though.
If all you want is the activity, go to Mark’s post and skip to about halfway through it where he describes the activity.
But, if you do that, you’ll miss the important part at the beginning of the post and the why to the reason why you’d want to do this with your class. And, I would do it with everyone, either singly or in groups for the discussion value.
It’s a great activity to use those papers that are in your recycle box. There really is no need for brand new paper to do this activity.
Paul McGuire had reached out to share with me this culminating project that he called “History in the Making”.
The last assignment we worked on was called History in the Making. I had this idea that it would be really cool for students to develop a digital textbook along the lines of what Discovery Education has created for math, science and social studies.
He was particularly proud of one project dealing with The Oka Crisis. He wanted me to take a look at it for my thoughts. In the post, he shares a couple of others that he thought were exemplary.
Everything seems to be created in a Google Site under the University of Ottawa’s umbrella. I hope that the students also make a copy in their own personal space for use when they graduate.
Some of the things that sprung to my mind while wandering around the resources here.
are other Faculty of Education professors encouraging publishing like this?
hopefully, they don’t land a job where Google Sites are blocked! (There are alternatives in that case…)
particularly in social studies with our new learnings, digital techbooks have the chance of being more relevant and up to date than other resources that might be available
certainly resources like this added to a digital professional portfolio would be impressive for a job interview
the concept of open sharing of resources is so powerful. It makes school districts that hide behind login/passwords seem so dated
I’m impressed with Paul’s forward thinking and I hope that his students appreciate both the explicit and the not-so-explicit lessons that can be had from this activity.
If you’ve been missing Sarah Lalonde online, this post explains it all. She has done a personal social media detox.
All the details of her process are found in this post. It wasn’t all just an easy exercise. There were challenges.
Under the category of TMI, she also shares how and where she cheated…
And to address boredom…
One thing I found the most difficult was the “dead time”. For example: waiting in car, in line at the grocery store, waiting for an appointment…). My brain felt like it needed to be entertained. Was I scared to face my thoughts? Why did I need to feel busy? Why couldn’t I just sit there waiting and doing nothing? This is something I had to work on.
She even extends the concept to students.
I think the big learning here is in perspective. Social Media is something that can be as big or as minimalist as you want it to be. I can’t see one answer that fits everything.
Regardless, it was interesting reliving the experience with her.
I hope that you enjoy these posts as much as I did. Please take a moment to click through and send some social media cred to these bloggers. If you’re a blogger and not in my Livebinder, please consider adding yourself so that I know about you.
Then, make sure you’re following these great bloggers on Twitter.
This is a modified “post from the past”. Last year, I ran this for Hour of Code 2018. I’ve created a new Flipboard document of resources for 2019. There are some new resources there and some updated from the past. And, quite frankly, there are some classics. After all, hours haven’t changed!
If this is your year to jump or if you’re building on last year’s efforts, hopefully there’s something here to help your cause. You don’t have to fly in an expert to lead your class; there are lots of terrific resources and ideas here. DIY.
Next week, December 9-15 marks yet another Hour of Code, part of Computer Science Education Week.
This has been going on for a few years now. It’s an opportunity to try coding exercises in the classroom and perhaps create an interest in Computer Science and future studies. In Ontario, there are formal courses for secondary school as described in this document.
Depending on who you are, it might be:
something else in education to ignore
a first opportunity to try some coding activities
a change to follow up with what you did last year
an opportunity to celebrate the coding that happens regularly in your classroom
or for Computer Science class where coding is done daily, an opportunity to reach out and try something new
Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you don’t fall into the first category!
All this past week, I’ve been toying with some of the offerings for this year and, like I do annually, I have created a Flipboard document of some of the things that I’ve found. It’s certainly not inclusive but just might generate some interest or inspiration.
All of the past years’ collections are available as well. I haven’t checked all of the links to see if they’re still active so clicker beware.
This week starts off with a post from Sheila Stewart. Maybe it’s a little less “education” than normal but it might make you look at your Christmas tree in a different way. She was inspired by a story about Halifax donating a tree to Boston which led her to thinking about trees in Kenora.
It got me thinking about Christmas trees in my life. As a kid growing up, it was always down to the trees sold by the Kinsmen and Kinettes. The tree had to be the perfect height with the perfect amount of symmetry. Lots of mathematics to consider when you’re freezing…
In our town, there’s always a big show as our natural tree is lit. The mayor, town crier, shooting of the town cannon, fireworks, hot chocolate, and of course the RiverLights.
These days, we’ve found the perfect solution for our rec room – an artificial tree which is absolutely symmetric. It makes the perfect backdrop for our Christmas picture.
From Rob Cannone, the best wisdom for professional learning.
With students, they learn something and immediately put it into practice. Can you imagine the disaster if you taught something and then didn’t get into projects, assessments, or any of that good stuff until a month or two later?
So, why as teachers, do you attend professional learning events and then not implement things right away?
Rob notes some steps that he feels should be done.
One thing at a time
Open the box
Share learning with others
Practice makes progress (accept it won’t be perfect)
His third point is even more important in this day and age. There was a time when you might learning something and then share it with a colleague in your school. With social media and its power, your best new learning partner just might be online.
From Lynn Thomas, another post that I thought moved nicely from kids to yourself in the argument that she builds.
We all remember our days at the Faculty of Education and the advice that we got about questioning – never ask a question that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No”. Aim for something deeper and richer so that the student can provide evidence of learning.
Then, for me, the post took a turn.
When we ask questions of ourselves, do we aim for the richer questions or are we happy being able to respond “Yes” or “No” or ticked off on a to-do list? Or, updated to 2019, anything that can be answered quickly by a search engine.
Other than the fact that Quagmire also starts with a “Q”, I like her logic of avoiding getting stuck.
We have a couple of bird feeders in the back yard. We know that you have to reliably fill the feeder. We’ve learned about ways to avoid birds flying into windows. We’ve learned how to keep the squirrels off the pole. There’s so much more in this unit including the CN Tower.
And we get so excited to see Blue Jay, Cardinals, Woodpeckers. Squirrels, not so much.
There’s a real wealth of activities, literature, and learning opportunities here. Wow!
I thought that I was going to be like a fish out of water with the post from Deborah McCallum. After all, I didn’t teach reading. That’s for the younger years; by the time we got them in secondary school, they should know how to read, right?
But, are they all really accomplished readers?
Deborah points to a lack of extensive research in this area. In our voicEd Radio show, Stephen shared some of the challenges that he had as an adolescent reader. Do we make the assumption that because they’re older, they just are all natural readers or have at least mastered the skill successfully?
Deborah offers a few things to think about. Good for beginning readers but certainly worth keeping in mind for the older ones.
Low knowledge of vocabulary
Inadequate word recognition strategies
Lack of schemata or background knowledge to interpret text
Poor use of strategies to comprehend what they are reading
My neck snapped when I read the title to this post from Alanna King. Then, I thought, we’ll turn her into a programming geek yet.
In a previous post, she mentioned how he was excited about learning about design and interface but now she’s rolled up her sleeves and is digging into code.
Her description of the activity matches the activities that we used to set up in our “Women in Technology” workshops for Grade 7/8 girls. There is something magical about looking behind the scenes to see exactly what’s going one. You might remember the inspirational “a pixel here, a pixel there”.
These days, there isn’t a huge need to be able to code many things from scratch since we have such great, purposeful editors to work with. And yet, there is the odd time when you need to look behind the scenes because something isn’t working just right. I can’t imagine how long it would take to write a blog post without an editor.
But, I still maintain, that’s not the ultimate goal. To be sure, the power behind programming and coding is knowing that you can absolutely be in charge of that page, that site, that device, that electronic thingy. Once you know, realise, and understand that, you can’t be pushed around by a wannabe or a particular device.
Learn and take charge – Alanna’s on a wonderful trip.
There’s real frustration in this post from Matthew Morris.
the kids in my classroom were in the middle of completing their short stories and the laptops they had been writing short stories on were booked – for the entire week.
In his school, the supply doesn’t meet demand when it comes to technology and that’s the TLDR;
It’s the sort of thing that legitimately turns teachers off using technology in a meaningful, reliable way. Imagine any subject area where you can only do what you need to do every other Thursday if you remember to book things.
“We are teaching students born in the 21st century. We need to meet them on their plane.” Round of applause.
How many times have we heard this? Some self-important speaker on the speaking route commanding a fee that could otherwise have bought maybe 10 Chromebooks. Or, in Matthew’s case looking at a neighbouring board where a commitment to the concept has resulted in every student being given a device. I can understand the frustration.
Somewhere along the line, the people who allocate the dollars have to decide whether they’re prepared to fund a significant program or be happy with periodic low-level activities.
Thanks, once again, to these wonderful Ontario educators for blogging and sharing their thoughts. Please take the time to click through and read these posts in their entirety. And, make a blogger happy – leave them a comment.
This wasn’t the first time that Kyleen Gray has blogged about the merits of Performance pay for teachers. See the older post here. In this post, she argues five areas where she feels how performance pay would improve the profession.
Will support retention of effective teachers
Improve teacher performance
Positively impact student learning
Public perception of teacher professionalism
Vet poor teachers from the teaching profession
Personally, I have a difficult time seeing how it would play out in the long run.
Who would make the judgement about who is effective and who isn’t?
What is the baseline against which performance would be judged?
Particularly in her fifth point, would there be an opportunity for a “poor teacher”, however that is defined, to improve?
Are some subject areas more valuable than others?
How do you compare performance across grades, across subject areas, across a school district, indeed across a province so that there is a consistent standard?
Do we place higher value on coaching than we do on a person upgrading their qualifications or the experience and wisdom that comes from longevity?
There are so many issues that I just can’t see a solution to with this premise. The value of teacher federations goes beyond pay – it also involves security, benefits, social activism, collegiality, pension … How does that survive?
I would argue that teachers work all year long to get to the point that Lisa Corbett describes in this post.
In a mathematics class, she found herself on the outside looking in. But in a good way!
No student needed her assistance and yet all of them were engaged with whatever activity they were assigned. (See the image with the smiley faces in her post)
My first note on Lisa’s post was “this doesn’t happen by accident”. It’s the result of a great deal of hard work creating the environment, developing the skill set, and finding engaging activities to have the students working in this manner.
I suppose that she could have left and got herself a coffee but she found other equally valuable things to do in the classroom. What’s not to like?
In the first sentence in this blog post from Mike Washburn, I had to open a tab and find out just what he was talking about when he claims to have finished a race on Zwift.
Then, I was able to read on and put things in context. I had already had my eyes drawn to the spreadsheet-like construct that appeared in the post. So, Zwift allows him to compete against others in a MOOC for cycling and running. He was competing against people from who knows where and who cares where with the goal of pushing himself to do better things.
It’s an interesting concept and he admits that he had some pretty strict competition but it was a fellow competitor by the name of Lisa that kept him going. A lesser person might have just given up.
So, he stuck with it. Then, he turns his eyes towards the classroom. Is there personal learning that he could take from his experience to get the same results from his own students?
It’s an interesting read. I think it is a good reminder that we all need others to support us in our endeavours. As adults, we hopefully can realize this. How can we set the table so that students get the same understanding?
Coming from an educator in Hamilton, Aviva Dunsiger, served to put a great deal of context to her thoughts about bullying, particularly at this time.
On the eve of a bullying prevention assembly, she’s musing about ways to get a suitable message across. It’s NOT an easy topic. If it was, we would have solutions in place already.
Maybe this message is a utopian ideal. Maybe it won’t work in every grade. I wonder though if there needs to be a scaffolded approach to bullying. Would a book like this one be a good start in kindergarten, and what might the impact be as the kids progress along the grades?
I’d love to see a Language teacher or a teacher-librarian take a read of Aviva’s post and provide a continuum of books for students to help the cause.
While we may not have the ultimate answer, I love the fact that teachers are thinking, talking, and through this blog post, advocating for the cause.
This blog post, from Lisa Munro, gives us an insight into education that we don’t always see. She’s a Superintendent of Education and blogging. As she notes:
I have hesitated to blog too much in this system role because, misguided or not, I sometimes feel people expect me to be the expert and that is not a great feeling. If you have ever blogged you know there is a certain vulnerability in putting your ideas into a public space; a vulnerability and a commitment.
There absolutely is a vulnerability when you’re blogging. It’s something that I think that we all come to wrestle with the concept periodically. In Lisa’s case, she’s only two months into this new role so can be justified to be feeling that way a bit.
I can’t help though, but think that there’s real value in pairing this post with Joel’s post above. Nobody is in the position of being the all-knowing expert. But you can surround yourself with supportive and wise people and what better platform than a blog to make this happen?
Lisa does invite you to converse with her via blog and Twitter. Why not take her up on that?
So, absolutely, there is another wonderful collection of blog post for this week. Please do take the opportunity to read their thoughts in their entirety.
We read so much about how AI is the future. At times, the things that pop into the news seem so far fetched that it’s easy to write off as the sort of thing that only the truly geeky can appreciate.
Then, something comes along that brings things down to our level – you know the sort of thing that you can experiment with on your own personal computer and get some interesting results. This makes you think that maybe there’s something about this for the future after all!
The tutorial talks about a three step process – Gather, Train, Export.
Gather is kind of fun sitting here in my computer area all by myself. I’m not sure that I’m ready to do this in front of the family.
Train is at the heart of it all. Once you have gathered enough information, you get the opportunity to see how your model recognizes new things.
Export lets you take the results of your hard work (or seemingly hard work since I was learning more than just working the tutorial) for purposes beyond the tutorials.
I’m not sure that I can claim to be all that more of an expert in this as a result but I sure learned a great deal about this Teachable Machine. The site isn’t one to leave you to fend for yourself. There are tutorials to help along each step.
Not surprisingly, since it’s a “withgoogle” project, there is a great deal of YouTube video to support you. Above and beyond the actual work, there are articles that will let you do some more in depth reading. In particular, the Ethics article was interesting.
If you’re looking for a product to dabble with in your classroom, you need to check this one out.
There are a lot of challenges shared on/to social media. You’ve probably seen them. Write a blog post daily for 10 days. Or post a picture you’ve taken daily f0r 30 days. Depending upon your devotion, these can be easy or difficult to go the distance.
In the program for the Bring IT, Together Conference, Peter Beens offered a session about 100 Days of Code. Not 10 days; not 30 days; but 100 days. This was like waving a red flag in front of me. I had to check it out.
The session was small which made for an intimate discussion with Peter.
So, off we went. Peter’s presentation resources can be found here.
I went to the session with a particular interest to finding out what Peter was learning about coding and how he found the inspiration to stick with it for the 100 days. He kind of headed away from that discussion by pointing out that, while the process was based on https://www.100daysofcode.com/, the key to success was to make it personal. He had bought into that concept which was the major takeaway from the session, not what he had done personally. I’ll buy that and in the slidedeck, you’ll find some of the challenges that he undertook.
He also encouraged us to think bigger. I found that interesting; use the concept but apply it to something that you’d like to pursue.
Using this approach, he offered these suggestions…
There were a couple of things that he demonstrated that I know that I need to do more and then there are a couple of things that have been nagging me all along that I haven’t addressed properly.
of course, the coding. I need to find projects of personal interest and code for more than random things every now and again
I do have a GitHub account, but I need to do more with it. Something Peter mentioned of note that really resonated was the more readable links for sharing
I’ve always meant to look into GitHub as a blogging platform. Mike Zemansky demonstrates this well with GitHub pages. https://cestlaz.github.io/
investigate GitHub for use in the classroom
These are not quick and easy things to address and I don’t see them coming to fruition any time soon.
But, we all need inspiration to move and keep learning. Peter provided that inspiration for me in this session. Thank you, sir.