I am a big fan of creative activities in the last week of term… a chance to do different things and often with a holiday season twist. Many times I given students the option of making Christmas Cards for loved ones, so this year it has been animated Christmas Cards coded in Scratch. Instead of scissior skills they were learning how to create their own sprites. For music we went to Jamendo to find music that we could use under a Creative Commons Lisence then to add different elements we searched through the online Scratch Community to find some Sprites that we could remix. In short, just a fantastic way to celebrate Coding and the end of the school year.
PS… we chose Christmas, but could have been for any holiday that you wanted to celebrate 🙂
…and thanks to Mark Bodino on Jamendo and Howard Abrams on Scratch for their inspiration and sharing of Digital Content.
I sometimes forget how truly amazing the student’s brain is and today I was reminded and still can not stop smiling. Now this was not just a single child, but did start from a single question, and it involved 2 classes of 7 year old students.
We are working on Scratch games. Racing games. There is a track, there is a sprite and there is a finish line. If you go off the track you go back to the start and if you get to the end you might celebrate with a ‘Boyakasha’ then change the colour by 25 or pixelate and then go around again.
The games were pretty amazing and all the students had designed their own race car sprites and tracks. At the start of the second lesson we were looking at completing the finer details, debugging a few errors and filling out the Project Page information – yuo know, tying up the loose ends of a unit before Christmas Holidays interrupt.
A hand was raised… “How do you add the score?”
I hesitated. These are 7 year olds. I do not teach creating variables to 7 year olds…
…but I showed him and we created a Data Variable for score. Before I knew it they were changing code scripts to Change score by 1 when you crossed the finish line. Someone called out -1 score if you go off the track and the score was going up and down. Like most children they wanted to get the highest score and then when one child had a score of 9999 questions were raised….
“Wow, you are good.”
“How did you do that?”
The skills developed at an alarming rate and the questions kept on flying around the class. Soon students realised that a score that could go on forever was pointless and not rewarding in any way. The student who raised the initial question put together a block of code stating ‘If SCORE=5 then Finish all” and a friend added “If Score=-5 then Finish All“.
By the end of the lessson the script was quite long and we had added you win and lose screens. I had no idea at the start of the lesson that it would end up going so far, but I am so glad it did. It would have been easy to gloss over the question, but I learned so much from following through with it, the students went through the Pit of Learning and came out the other side with a smile and a sense of achievement…. I know that I will sleep well tonight.
This is something that I am sure that a lot of people are already know or are coming to the realisation of… as learners we need to take control of our own learning and not just wait for it come and find us. I would be a rich teacher if I had a dollar for every time I heard a teacher complain or state ‘That was irrelevant for me’ about school provided PD, and sometimes they are right, but if you ask them ‘Do you take time to learn things that are important to you and your teaching?’ they often look at you as if you are mad.
I have split personalising your learning into four categories based on my experiences and what I have observed (not very scientific, but hey does it matter 🙂 )
This is that thing we all do, often mid discussion when nobody remembers that name of the drummer of an 80s band or who was the director of ##### or any other obscure question that we need to know instantly… Google it. Although, most of my questions at work are more technical, such as what is the font that is used in Scratch, but there are FAQ and message forums to answer these questions.
You have to do something and you not quite sure how. Now this is when we call on YouTube and we watch tutorials or we delve through Blogs of those that have gone before us. It is very rare that we want to do something that has never been done before so why reinvent the wheel when someone has made a video that shows you how to make one in a thousand different ways.
Medium Term This is where the learning transfers from that instant need to know to when you want to make yourself a better educator and need some help. It takes a bit more thinking and planning. Online Courses or MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) cover a mass of topics – not all are good, but some are amazing. You have the choice to pay for the certificate at the end for a minimal fee, but are able to partake at no cost (if you don’t want the PDF). Just recently I completed an EdX course that was run by MIT on Launching Innovation in Schools, which challenged me throughout and made me think deeply about my practice and vision for Education. Microsoft Education offers countless courses for free (and you get a pretty badge at the end) – the Mindstorms Robotics courses that have 6 hours of course time are incredibly comprehensive and will help any teacher trying to get their head around using the EV3. Lastly there is my favourite of the online courses that I have completed in the past year – Google Teacher Certification. I found the Google Educator course to be the most robust. The exam at the end was challenging and if you fail you must wait a set time period before resitting (Luckily I passed level 1, but I’m yet to face the challenge of level 2).
Dedicated Now this is the one that I have yet to attempt and not sure if I ever will. This is the one that bumps you up the pay scale, prepares you for leadership, gives you a few extra letters after your name and can suck the life from you for years (so I’ve been told). I have known many to go back to school/university and partake in a Masters Degree or even higher to a Doctorate. This is for the most dedicated. The ones who love the challenge of late night forum entries and essay deadlines. It is not for me, but is for many.
So, after all these ramblings I only challenge to take learning into your own hands. Do not wait for it to come to you. Think about where you want to learn more or what you think you might want to learn and dedicate some time and brain power. Only you can make yourself a better educator, so now is a good time to start.
A few new features are now on iOS devices thanks to iOS 11 and finally the one thing that has always annoyed me about an iPad has been sorted – the ability to screen record. Previously you would need to mirror your iPad, but now in the Control Center you just tap an icon and the screen recording begins – interestingly it records the sounds off the iPad, such as key clicks and app sounds, but does not record any background sounds.
An extra I also discovered by accident, is when you screen shot of your device you have the ability to annotate the screen shot (very cool).
So, now that I am able to screen record directly on an iPad I was able to make my first iPad only App Tutorial and based it on an App that I am still learning how to use to its full potential and wondering if it is worth showing kids Scratch Jr or just moving them into Scratch as we do at the moment (Years 1-6 all use Scratch to some level).
The process was extremely simple and makes me wonder if the days where I no longer need a computer are getting closer. A quick intro made with Intromate, add the screen record video, then narrate on iMovie and upload to YouTube. The world we live in really is a wondrous place.
Now I have spent many hours playing with the NXT and using it in class, but I have just received a class set of 15 EV3 Mindstorms kits, I have a lot of tinkering and testing to do before I get down to the planning for implementing them within my class program for the Year 5 and 6 students. First step was to unpack, which with that many kits is long and labour intensive, but with the reward of getting to build, test and play with the new kits at the end it was not so bad.
My one dislike with the NXT was the need to plug in the robot through a USB cable to download the program, but the Lego Education Department have come up with a fantastic app that now allows you to send your program through Bluetooth to the bot and you are able to stop the program instantly over distance from the iPad, which I have found allows for a greater scope with trial and error when writing a program as you no longer need to run, pick up the robot when you have made a mistake and can quickly and seamlessly edit your program on the fly – no USB connection is needed for each mistake, which should be a great bonus in the classroom. Additionally, connecting through Bluetooth was quick and easy and it is simple to rename each of the control bricks, so when there is a class going on there should not be too much problems with students connecting to their brick rather than a classmates.
With younger students the app seems like it is going to make the process so much simpler for getting students achieving instant success. The blocks are colour coded, arranged in 4 separate folders depending on their function and the drag and drop nature of the iPad is perfect for when you are testing and editing a program. Additionally, the app has two entry points, either a work space for creating programs or a set of tutorials that have videos and links to external references. If you add the fact that all the apps are free for Andriod or iPad you know that you are onto a winner.
Now the next step is to spend the weekend playing and testing, reading blogs and watching tutorials then I need to work out if it is 2 classes at a time with one between 3 students or one class at a time with 1 between 1 students. Oh, and how am I going to store them all?
The Micro:Bit is a very interesting microprocessor that was gifted to all Year & students in the UK in 2016 – it is said that many were given and never turned on as there were rafts of teachers and students who did not have the time, curiosity or ability to get them working.
Through nesting a few loops I was able to turn my Micro:Bit into a Magic 8 Ball (well Magic 6 Ball) that when shaken provided one of 6 random messages to be displayed across the 5X5 LED screen.
Lastly, it may have been a bit messy and fiddly, but I was able to download the iOS app to my iPhone, Bluetooth pair it with my Micro:Bit and then send the code I had written through the airwaves to make the device work in a way that I wanted.
In short… Micro:Bit – Cool, easy to use, I want more for my classroom and so much scope to be used from beginner to advanced level.
It has been too long since I have written here (there are dozens of unfinished posts over the past 3 years, but few published). I am now in Vietnam and teaching ICT, rather than a classroom teacher, and it has been a whirlwind of difference. It is a much bigger school, but as I teach most of the students I get to know them all and it allows me to be the kind of teacher that I normally am.
Big change as been, other than having access to Google again, the amount of coding that I teach using Scratch and it can be upwards of 15 hours a week. I feel that I now dream in Blockly and ‘if then’ or ‘forever’ loops. It is like being immersed in a language and it has increased my knowledge beyond all belief.
Year 1 through 3 are using the offline editor and are learning to make instruments play a tune or making balls bounce around the screen and play a recorded sound when they collide. Year 4-6 are making playable video games and now beginning to realise that they are able to create games in their own time (such as the final game).
Scratch has recently introduced Educator Accounts, for which you need to apply and get approval (a day to wait), but this now allows you to manage multiple online classes, reset their forgotten passwords, add or remove students and sign them up without the need for email addresses to login – such a time s
aver and it may help me keep my hair a few more years.
There are scores of resources out there, any question that you have is answered by a forum post or YouTube tutorial and once you give it a go your students will love it. I know that when they get to Secondary they will be problem solvers, better at logic and reasoning and have a good understanding about how code is laid out and how to change variables and create loops and conditionals.
My first successful game (Even though it has a glitch or too)
So simple, so clever, so quick and perfect to compare and contrast images over time. I screen captured two google earth images that were taken 10 years apart, added them to my Dropbox then the website did the rest (and all on the iPad). It gives you an embed code and then you have two images on top of each other and you have the ability to slide over to view one or the other image.
Every primary classroom studies statistics several times a year and when it comes to graphs you go through the process: surveys, tally charts, pictograms, bar graphs,
column graphs, line graphs, stem & blah, blah…
I am one of those who gets their students to make pretty graphs based on a a survey (favourite pet or book or blah..) and I have known for years that it is just going through the motions. The students learn skills (using a ruler, counting hands up in the classroom and colouring in a chart), but do they make any understandings? Maybe you integrate ICT and have a play with Excel, but do they make any connection to the real world or see statistics outside their classroom?
NOTE: Every class I have ever taught has loved making graphs – ruling them, colouring them and presenting them with a couple of comments on what they think the graph is telling them – and I love the lesson as well. I am just being a bit of a devils advocate with the previous paragraphs, not slandering every amazing teacher who gets their class to make a graph.
So, how do we take a classes questions and ask them to the world? How to we make a survey or questionnaire that has a sample size more than the number of students in your class? The answer is a Google form with some assistance from Twitter, Facebook, Email and a few forceful requests for friends to share the form and off you go.
We created the form from a whole lot of ‘random questions’ (this is how they have been described by many of those who have answered the form) and when the students went to get on the bus at the end of the day I began the sharing process. It did take begging in some cases, but only a few times and by the morning we had almost 200 responses and by our Numeracy lesson we had 250 responses.
The first 30-40 minutes of the Numeracy lesson began an animated discussion full of predictions on what we thought each questions results would be and then pondering why we were so wrong on almost every question. Additionally, as we reviewed the results 10 more people somewhere in the world answered the survey.
They said things like…
Why are the amount of Arabic speakers the same as the amount of Maori Speakers? -I think Facebook might be banned in a lot of Arabic speaking countries. -There are Maori speakers because Mr Dyer is from New Zealand. -I just think that not many people who speak Arabic have seen the survey… …and maybe if they did the could not read it because it was in English?
Why do over 60% the people answering our survey wear glasses or contacts when less than 10% of our class do?
Why are most of the people who answered Women? Is it because they use more social media or because they take more time to help people?
Why do only a few people like Orange… it’s my favourite colour?
66% of people take a car to work or school – that is two out of three people… That is bad for the environment.
Wow, a lot of people believe in Aliens!
We then looked at different types of questions and discussed how we normally write closed questions, but by giving an open question like “What is your favourite food?” we get to see how truly different everyones choices are, but when we asked closed questions with a yes or no answer or only a few options it does not always give the person taking the survey the option of answering as they would like.
At the end of the first 24 hours my tech savvy and like minded teaching assistant took the data and turned it into a visual world map. Places in yellow are where we have reached already.
So now, after 3 days of the form being online we have reached just over 500 participants and we see the statistics beginning to even out to what we originally predicted. Hopefully over the weekend we will get more participants and as it spreads we may reach across to more parts of Africa or South America. So, next time you are studying statistics and want your class to get a better understanding of analyzing data give a Google Form a try and use all those social media contacts you have to see how far you can spread your questions.
Again, Twitter and my PLN has blown me away with its awesomness!
As ICT Lead Teacher I had to lead an assembly and chose the Internet as my umbrella topic. My goal was to express both the ability to connect through the internet as well as make sure that students were aware of how to use the Internet safely and sensibly.
Part 1 – Teacher Quiz
10 simple questions. Two teachers. One teacher has a stack of reference books where all the questions came from. Other teacher has no books, looks sad so is allowed to use Google on their phone.
Result – A few good laughs and students get to see the power of a directed internet search in action.
Part 2 – The connection (This is what it is all about!)
How do you show kids about the true connectiveness of the internet? Sure they have all Skyped a family member overseas, but how could I show them in 1 or 2 minutes?
A simple tweet, and maybe a few directed spam tweets, and the ball was set in motion. I was humbled by the replies and the time and effort that was put into the project. Instantly there were promises of a video or a quick video taken in the playground. I had replies from people I was not even following and so new connections were made.
Part 3 – Cyber Safety
As most of the students play online games with back channel chat options I chose to show the video I have embedded below. I must say that I removed about 6 seconds of the clip towards the end as I think that I would have had the year 1 classes in tears.
Result – Enjoyable to watch, appropriate to the audience, students become more aware of cyber safety.