scratch-headding

Really getting into Coding with Scratch

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 throughscratch-music 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 scratchgame).

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)

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/140541688/?autostart=false

This game was created by a student as part of his International Week homework to teach visiting year 2 and 3 students about Ecuador in a fun way.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/136647435/?autostart=false

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Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

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.

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This Webpage is Not Available – a very common occurrence behind the GFW.

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.

Stolen from Smosh.com.

The Classroom

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.

The Teacher

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.

Does your class require students to be extroverts?

Susan Cain’s TED talk on the Power of Introverts has really made me think – “a third to a half of the population are introverts”. Like her, I have had to force myself to be an extrovert in professional situations and I avoid large social situations, and the staffroom, like the plague as I do not enjoy the multiple conversations bouncing around the room.

I am a firm believer that, as a teacher be you introvert or extrovert you have to be out there, teach with passion and flare, or Teach Like a Pirate as Dave Burgess says, and hook your students into learning and develop that passion for knowledge and curiosity. But, then do we always allow that space or opportunity for the introvert to operate within the class?

I have quiet working spaces and caves. Provide opportunities to work outside or use earmuffs to remove the background chatter.  I allow wait time with students, so they have time to process their response and make sure that I have a quiet chat with each student every day.  As a class we have modelled and pulled apart co-operative, paired and individual learning and I allow opportunities for student to choose how and where they work. I would like to think that the needs of the introvert is catered for in my classroom, but am not 100% sure.

Now to the next tricky question. How often is the introvert teacher shut down in the  staff room or in meetings by the extrovert teacher? Or, how often

Click to Enlarge - Borrowed from Twitter, but can'f find where.

Click to Enlarge – Borrowed from Twitter from @Psychology.

is the introverts idea squashed because it is not out there enough? Or, more commonly, how often does the introvert teacher not contribute in staff meetings because they just do not feel comfortable? I do not know the answer to those three questions or even if they are real issues, but they are things that we need to think of as educators.

We need to nurture and empower the introverts in society or schools or staff rooms and allow them the opportunities to be who they are and allow them to become the person they will be, not force them to become extroverts because we think it is the way we all should be.

Often unused school resource – the Parent

A local ski field asked for a mural to be painted that would line the magic carpet ride on the beginner slopes.  It is to be on a particle board that is about 1.2m by 3m.  We have a production that has been in the works for the past 5 weeks and it has been pretty chaotic at our small school so I volunteered my class and we had a few pencil sketchs and ideas down on paper… then the chaos of production really began. The mural was forgotten for a time and the deadline for it being collected loomed. I had no opportunity to complete it and no other teachers did either so how do you solve a solution like that? Look to the awesomeness of your school community.

Two mums came in and took what the class had sketched and transposed it onto the board with pencil and then spent a whole day getting the class to pain the mural.  These ladies saved the day and everyone had an fantastic time.  Each child painted their own sketches and every child of the 25 in Room 6 had at least 30 minutes with paint brush in hand.  It was a true collaboration and awesome to watch and has reminded me of the knowledge base within the paren community of a school.

Often parents are reluctant to come in and share their passions, but they have them and they are awesome. Make a list of their passions, survey them, approach them, but get them involved and the school and students will benefit from it.

Treble Cone Mural from Dukelyer on Vimeo.

Twitter is my Staffroom – but what is written in my Rule Book?

Last night I was wondering how I have developed a twitter PLN or PPLN (Powerful Personal Learning Network – refined by Bill Powersof about photo (1)1000 people and I think that it comes down simply to inspiration, connection, friendship and respect.

On the wekend I had followed another educator as their bio looked interesting and their twitter feed included some people that I interact with, she responded a few hours later with a message to myself and three others saying “Thanks for the follow @_____, @_______ and @_______”, to which one person replied ‘Your Welcome’ and I replied with a comment on something that she had been working on and a very interesting Hashtag that she had included in her Bio – there was no reply.  I found this interaction very interesting as it was not really an interaction, just a comment of thanks and a connotation that I should be grateful that I follow her. It has happened a few times in my twitter career and if they had just simply let me follow them without follow-back all would be good , but the thanks for the follow with no follow-back interaction has really made me reflect on how I view twitter.

So here it goes…

Twitter is my virtual Staffroom – I enter for professional development and I enter for friendship.  Like the a real school staff room, when you leave the conversation stops, but sometimes they carry over to the photocopier or cafe down the road.  This analogy helps me to comprehend that when I want to enter the staffroom I just click the App and when I don’t want to I do not click the app.  Sometimes I get sent a message from a friend or send a message to a friend and this is the photocopier chat.

I follow Educators – they do not need to follow me back and if you are an educator and you follow me, I will follow you.

Education is Global and Twitter is Global – I love the idea of having friends and colleagues over the globe as well as right here in New Zealand. While prepping on a Monday morning I enjoy watching the #LadyGeeks present via YouTube in a Google hangout projected onto the IWB.  Many a lunchtime I have chewed my sandwich and been inspired while partaking in different edchats like #TLAP – Teach Like a Pirate  or #CaEdChat. They are live, but the previous evening in the USA due to time difference.Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 6.21.25 PM
In the evening my friends in Asia and Australia are in the mid afternoon and it is the morning for my friends in Europe. In my morning it is the evening for my friends in North America and when I am awake it is awake time for my friends in New Zealand. I can connect and interact at any time and have formed friendships globally. Southern California is now on my travel bucket list as there is a Mexican meal waiting for me.

I will reply – It may take me a little while and it may be a reply in the way of a favourite or a retweet, but I will reply.

I do Unfollow – to me it is those sacred four words of ‘Inspiration, Connection, Friendship and Respect’ that come into consideration when following or un-following. If you inspire me with your tweets and retweets and challenge me to do better or rethink my practice I will follow you intently. If you connect with me or I connect with you I will follow you. But, I unfollow instantly if you tweet mean and I unfollow if you bulk send me your blog postings – send them once each time you blog or twice if it is a goodie, but do not set your computer to push all blog posts every 6-12 hours as I do not follow you to be on a mailing list. Additionally, if I follow you and find you many weeks or months later in my following list and can not remember why I followed you and we have not connected then I will probably unfollow.

If I can help I will – if you know me, if I know you or if we have never met, I will assist you if I can.  That to me is the power of twitter.  If I know the answer to your problem or know who does know the solution I will assist and I know that the majority of us here do so as well.

I never Tweet what I would not want my employer or Nana to read – OK, sounds simple and many of us use the tagline ‘These tweets do not photorepresent the…” but if you write it, it is there, and if you can not justify why you wrote something then should you have written it?

I need to make sure I switch off – I tweet from my phone and use the twitter app. I only use Tweetdeck or the such for following hashtags or twitter chats and that is only sometimes. So, as my phone is in my pocket I am connected.  The magic fix is turn of cellular data and disconnect from wifi and instantly my smartphone is what we used to have… a cell phone.

 

PLN + Google Apps = Collaboration that knows no boundaries and Ubiquity

Time Zone is no longer a Barrier.2522623_a776a0c9

Distance is no longer a Barrier.

Language is no longer a Barrier.

Big walls and other barriers like fences, rivers, marshland, tidal estuaries and hedge rows are no longer barriers.

There is a word that I have heard within New Zealand education for the past 6 months – Ubiquitous Learning. Now I do not grasp new educational discourse quickly and usually ignore it until it slaps me on the face, but a friend commented on Twitter last night about the #NZSchoolTimelapse project and mentioned the word. The light went on in my head and I truly grasped the meaning of Ubiquity (and google searched a bit to make sure I was right).

Part of the Wikipedia entry on uLearning (as I am an expert that is what I will call it now 😉 ) is…Twitter Chat

  • Shifts the classroom from a traditional to non-traditional context.
  • Prepares and encourages students to become lifelong learners.
  • Prepares students for “real life.” New technologies have become a part of our lives, and students need to learn how to use these technologies in order to prepare for their future careers.

…and is that not what we want for our students and is that not how we learn ourselves.  I know that my learning is within a Ubiquitous Environment – my PLN, the blogs I read, the devices I have at my disposal to learn on the go and in places of my choosing.  My next challenge is to make sure that the way I learn is emulated in my classroom and, while with my year 3s and 4s still need a lot of scaffolding and I have technological restraints, I know where I am heading and know that it will benefit my students.

Finally the inspiration for this posting, other than Anne’s ‘Ubiquity MAGIC!’  comment, the New Zealand School Time Lapse Project that organically grew from a twitter chat, involved 13 schools, 16 teacher and thousands of students through out New Zealand and a few other countries and was so much fun to edit together.   It was completely managed through Twitter and a Google Doc and not an email, phone call or face to face influenced it – although a cuppa and a chat with all of the contributors would have been fantastic.

Ubiquity in action and the start of something big!

If there is a problem, Twitter will solve it – The power of a great PLN

If Twitter for Educators needed a new catch phrase it need only call upon Vanilla Ice  and DJ Earthquakes 1991 anthem Ice Ice Baby, run to line 17 and there it is…

If there is a problem, Yo I’ll solve it.

After school yesterday I was faced with a novice Mac user question  (I have a lot of these at the moment). I googled the question and received too many leads, most were to paid sites, some were free downloads and many were to tutorials or forums; all were probably good leads and would have answered my question, but not the fast fix that I was after as I was trying to work to a tight timeframe.

So I tweeted the question and “Bada Bing” I had several different options that solved my problem, but one came up multiple times – Quicktime. So I downloaded Quicktime, installed it,  watched a youtube tutorial that explained what I wanted to do and I moved onto the next task on my to do list.

It was a perfect illustration of why I use twitter, why I follow the people that I follow and why I communicate and collaborate with those people.  The Tweeps that I refer to as my PLN have a wealth of knowledge and are so keen to help where they can.  By building a relationship with them they become more than just names on a list, they become colleagues and friends and when they have a problem or I have a problem we help each other if we can.

So if you are thinking about your PLN and about some Tweeps who are awesome helpers, collaborators and willing to share an idea or thought then you need to have a follow of Stephen (@PalmyTeacher), Allanah (@AllanahK), Vivian (@ChezVivian), Juliet (@Juliete_Revell), Julien (@Julienlesueur), Paddy (@Spongepaddy), Rebekah (@ndbekah) and Luke (@Novalightning). These 8 people who I think of as friends,live all around the world and have never met, are just too awesome and I truly apprieciate them and the time that they gave me yesterday when I was stuck.

So I dedicate the clip below to them as thanks 🙂