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.
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)
This ancient Chinese proverb expresses how I feel my learning has been progressing the past 6 months, not stagnant, but moving forward slowly and as the end of the year approaches, and the first anniversary of this blog also approaches, I can say I am not standing still, but may need to walk a bit faster.
This is my first blog I write since August where I have not needed to turn on my trusty VPN as I am in Singapore on holiday – it is liberating. Living and working behind the Great Firewall has been an adventure, but the internet restrictions of the GFW have stolen half the tools within my 21st Century Teacher Toolbox…
-YouTube -Google Docs and Apps for Education -Blogger -Wordpress -Edublogs (Unless we subscribe as a school for over $1000) -Twitter -Skype
…all unreachable within my classroom environment. Blogging platforms and Google gone from a modern classroom seems unthinkable and I have spent the past half year rethinking and reworking my philosophy to ed tech as it relates to my present situation.
All of the restrictions aside there is still much that I can do as a professional for my own learning and there are still ways that I can create a connected classroom…
-I am creating a class Wiki. Wikis are not my preferred tool with a year 2 class, but it will suffice in the absence of a blog. Additionally, it will allow me to embed YouKu videos (China’s version of YouTube) and gives us a platform to share work as well as host relevant clips for flipped learning at home. With many of my parents not being native English speakers it may also break down the barriers between school and home.
-Skype: I can access skype through my personal VPN, so connecting with other classes through Skype is achievable.
-Email: Letters never seem to arrive, but connecting to other classes through email is a definite.
Now for me as a learner and a connected teacher I just need to keep looking at the glass being half full. I am researching into some online study, but reconnecting with my PLN is a must, as through the GFW and timezone differences I have been inactive on Twitter and Google+ and not dedicated the time to blog reading and hashtag following that I normally would. Edcamp Home is a mere 14 days away and I can not think of a better way to inspire a new year and prepare a teacher for the second term.
I have discovered that learning to code is like a Soduku or Crossword and is giving me a better understanding of how a computer and the internet works. I am halfway through a html course on Code Academy and trying to create Apps for my Android phone with MIT AppInventor (You have to give it a go if you have an Android, and get your class to give it a go too!).
I got my class involved with Decembers Hour of Code initiative for Computer Science week – seeing 6 year olds programming Angry Birds was inspiring and let me know that Scratch, another product of MIT, will be part of my class program next term.
Lastly I need to remember about this blog – writing a blog post like this is the best way for me to clear my head and order my thoughts, make a plan and direct my thinking, let me reflect and redirect, as that was the purpose of this blog when I created it, but if I do not use it with regularity is is a waste.
This blog was my first blog that was not in the Blogger domain and it has been a huge learning curve. Blogger is simple, Blogger is point and click, and Blogger links to my Gmail account and syncs instantly to my YouTube and Picasa accounts. So the question 6 months later is why change and the answer is the same – WordPress offers things that intrigue me and look challenging. There is so much I do not know about WordPress and I have thoroughly enjoyed the problem solving that I have had to do in order to make my blog do things that previously were simple.
I have wanted to jump back to blogger, but enjoyed the distance that this blog has given me from my previous one – my Blogger is class/student centered and shared with parents/community, WordPress is not secret from parents/community, but is focused on my professional learning and really only slightly interesting to other educators.
So I have scrambled in the Pit, discovered the difference between WordPress and WordPress.com, felt frustration at .com not offering the same opportunities as Wordpress, but then learned that many others before me have followed this same journey. I have read forums as need has arisen and even learned some simple HTML coding through the Code Academy, which has given me an insight into how code is formed and the little rules that must be followed in order for it to work. To me it is like a recipe and once you have the base ingredients you are able to create much more interesting dishes.
Todays learning was just a piece of icing on the top of the cake – taking the simple Twitter ‘Follow Me” button that is there for you and changing it to my new “Follow Me on Social Media”. The code was more complex in details and length, but really was quite simple once the recipe was found on a WordPress.com Forum.
Now that I have begun to unlock the secrets of WordPress.com I am pretty sure that I need to take the next step into a straight WordPress site, but that is a piece of learning that will need to wait until another set of holidays. Before then I have a new job to begin, China to explore and there is an Aurasma Studio account in the midst of being processed as I type. I guess that the key to this post really is that I have really enjoyed the process of learning that I have had to go through with this blog with regards to the technical aspects as it has challenged and frustrated, but I have problem solved and reached the outcome that I was trying to achieve.