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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Do you travel? Give something back to other travelers. 

I’m a traveller. I like nothing more than visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. It doesn’t bother me if I can’t speak the language or it is a bit uncomfortable, I just love the experience of being somewhere new.

In the past few years when ever I ask Google a question about what to do or where to eat it has been TripAdvisor that answers all my questions. It is normally on the money with its recommendations and is worth its weight in gold. So, as if I am to be this digital citizen and content contributor that I talk about with my students I need to take my travel experiences and share them with other travellers. I have joined TripAdvisor, earned my first badge for 5 reviews and I hope that I will help others in the way that they have helped me. I urge you to do the same, as it doesn’t matter if you are an intrepid traveller or don’t stray far from home, if you have a smart phone you can reward that amazing coffee shop, restaurant or holiday accommodation with a review. 

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.

BYOD Traveling

The Travellers Device
When previously I have travelled it was the guide book, the phrase book, the fantastic Lonely Planet tomb and maybe a travel journal that weighed down my bags, but now the game has changed, as the smart phone now rolls all of these into one and adds features that previously were unfathomable.

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Google Translate is your own C3P0
Ok, you need Wifi or cellular, but you can pre set a whole lot of useful phrases and they will be available off line. Type your sentence, choose your to and from language and bada-bing you have the translation.
Additionally click one button and you have an audio file that bypasses tricky pronunciations and click another button and the translation goes full screen and is an easily read flash card.

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Airline Apps – Mine is AirNZ mPass
It gives me up to date access to all my details, air-points, flight schedules, seating plan and even gives me a screen sized QR Code for quick check ins. Too Easy, cloud based and sign in protected.

Contact with the rest of the world
It was the postcard, then the collect call, next came the smoke filled cyber cafe and in my last experience it was the laptop at Starbucks. Now the options for connectivity make conversing globally only limited by time zone and Wifi; Skype, FaceTime, Snap Chat, Viber, WhatsApp and more. Then there is the travel blog that replaces the journal and is shareable with all you choose. If you don’t want to blog in words, just share the experience in a tweet, Facebook post or flick the image out to friends and family with Instagram.

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Where to go and what to see
I got off the plane in Wellington this past summer, downloaded the bus timetable app using the airport’s wifi and then using my phones GPS and map app I was able to make it to my hotel without the need to ask for directions at a fraction of the price of the Airport Bus.
Ok, this was my home country, but it is the same in all cities in the world and might just take a bit more planning and patience in a place where English is not the mother tongue.
The where to go is so simple with your phones map and if you start walking the wrong way you will see it quickly on the map due to the GPS and when you want to get somewhere it will give you several options as well as time estimates.

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Lonely Planet… Maybe not.
My Lonely Planet China is the most read and annotated book that I own, but although I will pack it when we move to China again it will be used as a trip planner, not as the travel bible that is was always at the top of my bag. Through reading travel blogs and using Apps like TripAdvisor I am able to find the travel tips and best places to visit at the click of a button. Additionally, they are updated daily, so recommendations tend to be more up to date than a 12 year old guide book – that restaurant it recommends could have changed hands 20 times since publication.

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Keeping up with the news.
My last stint overseas was in a place where English was not spoken and there was not an English Newspaper to be found. Now I can keep up with the news at the click of an app.

Need a book to read?
I prefer the feel of an actual book in my hands, love the tatty travel paperback and there are expat book exchanges that spring up around the world. But it is handy that I have a score of books stored on my phone, many more in the cloud and I can buy and download any book I desire with a quick contact to amazon or the iBook store.

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I could go on with more examples of how a well planned device pre trip will benefit you and my opinion after a good pair of shoes and a sturdy bag the smart phone is now the travellers most important item. I guess the only two things to remember is to pack your charger and turn of data roaming unless you want a surprise when you return home.

All good things come to an end – When a Blog Retires

On the 26th of March 2009 I began my blogging journey and this week that first blog retires.

It began as a chore, it was a requirement as part of an ICT contractblog archive and I struggled to see the worth of blogging. Parents didn’t comment, I didn’t post. The blog floundered and only 12 posts happened that year.  Then I tried a bit harder and a bit more happened, but not really a lot. By June of 2011, two years after inception we had only reached the milestone of 3,500 pageviews.
What was the problem? There was inconsistency of posting, little interactivity with the blog and people not having a reason to visit the blog.
2012 began and we blogged it all… and it worked. We entered the Interface Awards and became finalists. We reached 10,000 views in September and have not looked back. With the introduction of the iPad and my iPhone we could blog and post on the go gorilla style anywhere and we have.
Like my first car, I will miss this blog and have fond memories, but I will have new blogs as I head to new classes. Success and mistakes that I have had and learned will be applied or considered in the future. Although the url is ‘MrDyerHFS’ the author was not me alone, it was the 140 students that I have taught over the past 4 years and 3 months that it has been active.

My Highlights include…

Blogging the Triathlon as it happened.

My first real gorilla blogging experience with images, comments and video.

A City in a Day
When our class swarmed from 20 to 30 overnight with refugees from the Christchurch Earthquake we built a city as a way to look at what a city might need and what makes a city other than the people.


Connecting with parents and grandparents

We have had comments in German and we have had comments in Italian and comments from aunties in America

Skype

Our one Skype chat with a year 1 class in Hamilton. THey were fascinated at our snow (They had never seen snow), we were fascinated with their bus (it had their schools name on it).

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Interface Awards Finalist 2012

This is where I became inspired by, connected to and friends with…
@traintheteacher
@nickitempero
@AnnaGerrit
@PalmyTeacher

30,000 views celebration cake

The title says it all…

A Cake for the Class from Dukelyer on Vimeo.

And then there has been awesomeness such as

Quadblogging

The Travelling Rhino Project

#KidsEdChatNZ

Blogging on the go with just one App – BlogPress

IMG_4782With the accessibility of the mobile device and the amount of public access Wifi and cellular coverage the blog is now no longer the evening reflection that it once was.  We no need to wait to blog and in the world of education it opens so many doors.  I like to think of it as ‘Guerrilla Blogging’, where an experience is shared as it happens – school trips can be shared with parents while they are happening and you can interview the winning sports team as they walk off the field, capture their emotions after a big win and then blog it before they have even left the field.

Now there are many different platforms out there for blogging and each and every one of the big blog options have their own App for either Andriod on iOS and they are free, but there is also the option of spending a few dollars and getting the BlogPress App ($4.99 in Andriod or $4.19 in iOS).

IMG_4783On my class iPad I have the Blogger app and the kids use this to add to the class blog. On my iPhone I have the WordPress App for this blog and I also have the Blogger App for my class and family blog. Now, while the free apps tie into each blog and do a great job BlogPress goes that extra step and this is what makes it worth the money.

With BlogPress I am able to use the one App for all the blogs that I have author rights on.

Images that I use come directly from front or back camera or my camera roll and are instantly saved to my Picasa or Flickr Web Albums and my Videos are saved directly to my YouTube.

Each Blog Post can be added to one, several or all blogs that are registered by the click of the screen.

I can add code to the post to embed in my post and this is really important of you want to add features like someone else’s YouTube videos or AudioBoo recordings.

If you are into blogging or thinking of blogging spend the $4 and get the BlogPress App as it is well worth the purchase.

 

A teacher moving abroad – What resources do you take? 2006 v 2013

Seven years ago, as a teacher of 3 1/2 years experience I travelled with my family to work in China for two years in Qingdao at an international school. 105453068.PfHxCi2k.XianSep08057 Next term we are partaking in the adventure again, but this time to Nanjing. I am a better teacher and practitioner this time. But, with experience and being in the same classroom for 5 years comes more physical stuff and it has been this stuff that is causing me a lot of lost sleep over the past month – what to do and what to take?

In 2006 I was allowed a suitcase, carry on bag and a laptop in its case and the same applies this time. The country of orientation is the same and the distance traveled is almost the same. The curriculum is the same for both my past International School and my future school and in both school I was and will be teaching middle to lower primary aged children.

Then comes the really big difference and will sound a bit nuts until I explain it – I am taking 100 times more resources, but I am taking almost nothing.

2006
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  • 3 Ring binders and a clear file of resources copied from books (It was 9 ring binders and 4 clear files, but was unable to fit them in).
  • A CD Wallet full of music.
  • A 1GB data stick that was worth almost $80 when I first bought it.
  • 3 books for personal reading – Empire of the Sun, Seven Years in Tibet and the Hobbit.
  • A Laptop that weighed about 3.5 Kg.
  • A Sony Cybershot camera that took still image only.
  • A Gmail account, Hotmail Account and had just signed up for this new thing called Skype.
    …and I left all my teaching colleagues at my previous school (Only one have I kept in touch with via email).

2013

  • Every digital resource that I have ever made saved on Google Drive or YouTube or Vimeo or Drop Box or Flickr or in many or all of those places.photo (30)
  • Music is all digital and can not remember the last CD that I held let alone used to play music. If there is a song that I do not have it will just take me a WiFi connection and I will have it in a minute or less.
  • On my Kindle account are many important educational resource texts (I took none last time and they sat in a box for two years).
  • 650+ books for me to read for enjoyment all saved on my iBook App.
  • An Obi Wan and Boba Fett USB drive that has essential data that needs backing up (10-15 USBs will stay behind and they were all given out free at courses).
  • A MacBook Air that weighs 1.08kg
  • The same Gmail and Skype, but also Google+, Pintrest, a Vimeo account, a Youtube account and my good friend Twitter.
  • Class, family and personal blogs.photo (31)
  • Gadgets like tripods, iPhone Mounts, iPad Dongles that fit into my pencil case.
  • An iPhone which contains or can access all of the data that I have mentioned above and has a camera that takes still images and video.
    …and along with that one teacher that I kept in touch with I have many hundreds of friends that I contact through blogs, twitter and email.

The best part of it all is that I have no need for excess baggage and can stow it all in my shoulder bag or pocket even if I did not want to carry around my MacBook. And this is the way that I am taking a 100 times more resources, but nothing at all. The physical stuff that i sin my classroom will either be stored in a lockup or destroyed or given to others who wish for it, but that physical stuff that can not fit in my satchel will not be coming with me.

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