Scratching for the Stars

I sometimes forget how truly amazing the student’s brain is and today I was reminded Scratchand 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….

“You’re Cheating!!!”
“Wow, you are good.”
“That’s Hacking!!!”
“What’s Hacking?!?”
“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.



Making your own Learning – The 4 stages

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.Google-It-crop.0.0

Needs based
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 MIT - Launching Innovation ini SchoolsLaunching 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).

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.


When someone Googles your name, what do they see?

Have you ever Googled yourself?

I am a Rugby League player, a carpenter on a home renovation show, a 21 year old who has just been arrested for heinous crimes and a sales engineer in California. Of course I am none of these, but just a humble teacher from New Zealand living and working in China.

I was at a conference several years ago and a speaker posed the thought that at the start of the digital age, smart employers might search for your online presence to check your moral character and be happy to find nothing, but now in the 21st century with everyone having such an online lifestyle, employers could find it more worrying if the searched for you online and found nothing – ‘What are they trying to hide?’.

That thought, wether it is true or not, got me thinking. How can I teach my students to be digital citizens who make well thought out choices about what they say and post online if I do not model my own digital life. This was when I came up with the spoonerism Dukelyer; search for it in Google and you will find only me and you will have a window into my life, not the life of an engineer or a sportsman.

My Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud and Vimeo all appear when you google Dukelyer and colleagues, my students and their parents are aware. They know that I write about what we do in class, share the successes and failures. Through a name unique to you, you get see the thread of what you have shared around the world.

classroom Cribs

Sharing openly not only proves to your students that you are a digital citizen, but can help others in ways you would never contemplate. The other day I was Googling for images of my classes to show a colleague and I followed a link to discover that Erin Klein (@ErinKlein) had used a photo of my classroom that I had shared on my Flicker account under a creative commons license. She modified it, added writing and used it to make a banner for a project blog she had created. She had given me photo credits, which was all I had asked for. It was sharing at its best and would not have happened if I had not taken the time to share what was going on in my class.

I still have a private life on line. My Instagram is a photo blog of my life, both school andIMG_7039home, and it is open to all who wish to see. I must admit this is my favourite form of social media at the moment and my goal is to tag my Instagram world map with my adventures. I have Facebook, but it is on the highest security settings and I read it each morning as if it is a personal online newsletter about my friends. I do get Facebook friend requests from students and I decline them and politely let the student know that I have done so the next time I see them and why.

I guess what I am getting at, the crux of this post is to try and get others to think of their visibility online. We share, but do we share enough? Do we share to all or just to some? Just think, what do I do and how do I share it?