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.
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.
45 minutes of Tutorials on Code Academy and I created my first website in Code… Wow, it was fun, frustrating and challenging and I want to know more.
Luke’s Test Website
Luke’s Test Website
Who Am I?
I am a teacher of 11 years experience who is trying to learn about code and coding so that I am able to try to use it within my classroom or special projects like 20% time.
My Learning this year
I have begun a personal learning journey that is making me try new things. The first step was Twitter and the second step was my professional blog. Now I am trying to learn about coding Click here to visit me on twitter
Hopefully the image will link through to my blog and hopefully this will work when I click submit!
I may be late with picking up on this, but I have just discovered Cargobot – the first App to be created on an iPad using the Codea App and it is just too awesome. Learning coding is on my ‘To-Do’ list for the next academic year and am researching into Code Academy at the moment as a starting point. With Cargobot you are introducing the concepts of Coding and I know that any student that I have ever taught would love the challenges that Cargobot offers.
Drew Minock and Brad Waid, the two guys who introduced me to this App, mentioned in a webcast from #ISTE13 how they had their students using this app in class and at home when one of the students was told that they had created a new ‘Best Solution’ for the level and was asked to please record then upload to YouTube – how cool is that! Just imagine how inspired that child have been to know that at Grade 4 they have achieved what no one else, no even the App developer, had achieved before?
Now add it to your classroom environment and you are onto a winner. The game is all about Logic and reasoning skills, trial and error, working through a problem and persistence – skills that every teacher is trying to foster in the 21st Century learner. When you attempt the problem you can see how many moves it takes to reach the best solution and when you reach a solution you are given a star rating out of 3 just like Angry Birds- a 1 star or 2 star solution means your solution is OK or your solution is good, but could be done better. To me that becomes a second challenge and makes me want to do better – I will persist until I get those 3 stars that have eluded me.
Maybe add it as a homework challenge? In those paperless classes with 1:1 iPads it would be perfect, as all you need to do is set a level, get the kids to work on it and then record their best solution and upload it to their blog or digital portfolio through YouTube like my 2 start solution below. The next day in class you could get into groups and discuss each others solutions, possible problems, ways to improve solutions and then rework the solution.