Thing 13: Coding (2016-2017)

We’ve bumped Coding up a notch this year.  I wrote a grant over the summer and we were given a class set of Ozobots for each elementary school and the middle school.  We also met a few times over the summer to update our Technology Benchmarks for the district which included adding a Coding component to each grade level.  Now, all students will be introduced to coding and by the time they reach 5th grade they will have had exposure to several different coding robots, websites, and Google CS.

In Kindergarten we primarily use to Ozobots to let them explore with robots and code.  This gives them a chance to see how they can control the behavior of a robot by using sets of code.  It is challenging because they have to learn how to draw code correctly which means an even, thick line, but not too thick!  The coding squares need to be perfectly in line with each other so the robots can read the colors and patterns.  Kindergarten loved the Ozobots and each group felt varying degrees of success.

In first grade students begin to learn vocabulary words: algorithm, debugging, and binary code.  In addition to Ozobots, students go onto BrainPop and watch a video before trying a coding game.

By third grade, students will learn about nested loops and conditionals as well. The older students will spend more time on Code.org, learning about coding in a sequential format.  Fifth graders will begin the first module of Google CS.  Which we just started last week.

Google CS works hand in hand with scratch so that after students have watched a Google CS video, they are prompted to log in to Scratch and begin remixing their own project.  At first, I was confused, thinking there were specific expectations for each activity, but the program is much more fluid than that.  Google CS is designed to be a loose guideline to coding, introducing students to different aspects of Scratch and then setting students loose to explore and experiment on their own.  After the end of each session, students are awarded a Badge (sticker) to acknowledge their progress and achievements.

I really like how Google CS is loose and lets students explore because that’s the best way to guide a room full of different types of learners.  Students will try different things and press different buttons.  My classes often forget what the video has suggested they try in Scratch so I think I will come up with a little checklist for students to use for each lesson.  That way they will stay on track with the program and avoid falling into the rut of using the same tools each class.

Also, it’s free!  The whole program is free and comes with booklets and stickers so that students really feel they are taking part in an official program.  At the end of each program students are able to view some “Showcased” projects, randomly selected by Google CS.  It’s a great way to share ideas and excitement.  And there was plenty of excitement!

In the Quartz article by Idit Haral, American Schools Are Teaching Our Kids How to Code All Wrong,  Haral discusses Code.org and the many other coding games out there for learning how to code.  He makes so many good points about the proliferation of “pop computing,” and easy games intended to help students learn how to code.  This is why coding has to be taught in schools by a teacher.  Someone needs to supervise the learning process so that students are on a continuum upon which they are developing deeper and broader coding concepts and understandings.

Because I am a K-5 educator, I will use many of the tools he’s mentioned in his article, such as Code.org.  But I will use those tools to introduce very young children to code and then build on them by emphasizing vocabulary, skills, and concepts.  Google CS takes Code.org to a much deeper level cognitively and in Scratch, students are actually designing their own games or messages.  I hope that my students will go on to middle school and high school and continue to develop these skills in a way that will prepare them to design complete programs from the bottom up, enabling them to become leaders in a changing technological world.

Up next in the coding world… Raspberry Pi.  And here, I need to get my hands on one, which I have yet to do.  But after reading Life with Raspberry Pi by Chad Sansing, I think it’s the next step in keeping up with the technology trends.

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Thing 15: Emerging Tech Trends (2016-2017)

When I selected this “Thing,” I expected a list of futuristic apps or specific programs or skills that young students would be required to know.  Instead, it was a collection of articles with a focus on the big picture, broader ideas and concepts that will improve student learning and functionality in the future.  How to teach them to learn efficiently in the midst of a changing technological environment.

In Idea Watch by Carolyn Foote, I especially liked the concepts of “Fast-Casual” and “Fusing.”  I’m not sure that “Fast-Casual” would work in an elementary environment as schedules are so tight and students do have as much free time as they would in a high school environment to “hang-out” or make independent choices about their time.  “Fusing” is exactly what I need to do on a daily basis in our school in order to keep this space and the activities in it relevant.  I am always seeking that digital overlap with classroom curriculum in order to make our time in the library valuable.  I liked Foote’s idea about a Yoga-space in the library.

In What Technology Will Look Like in 5 Years by Diomedes Kastanis, I was impressed with the futuristic tools described and predicted for 2020.  I appreciate the idea of glocal where we won’t even own our own cars or other items because it can be shared.  Or employees will work within miles of their office because everything will be regionalized.  This article was entertaining and really just broadened my mind to the things that will be available in five years.  In terms of education, I think the take away is that more and more things will be shared.  Including information students use to learn and the products they create.

What Does the Next-Generation School Library Look Like by Luba Vangelova was an inspiring article.  It made me feel better about my own noisy space.  I have the same opinion about attitude and expectation.  I am always trying to make the library feel like an open, shared space.  Students are welcome anytime, though not every teacher utilizes this policy.

I think the most important article listed is The NMC Horizon Report. It maps out various trends and offers ideas for policy making and laying the groundwork for successful integration of technology into school environments.  Below is an image taken from page 6 of the 2016 K-12 Horizon Report:

tech-trends

I find this graphic really useful.  The mid-term trends of collaborative learning and deeper learning approaches point out that these interpersonal skills remain relevant if not even more important as we move further into the technology age.

In the Averill Park school district we are foraging into new territory as we begin the early stages of creating a district wide technology policy.  I will use this “Thing” to support my contributions to the creation of the policy.  In my own library, I look forward to a gradual change in the physical space from desks, chairs, and desktop computers to a more fluid space including bean bag chairs, laptop computers or personal devices, and open space where students can gather in small groups to collaborate.  I look forward to integrating the technology changes of 2020 into our elementary library here.