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)


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.


Personal Inquiry: Learning to use

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.

James Nottingham
James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning

Seeing Widgets and realising that there was some simple code involved has pushed me out of my comfort zone and put me in James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget below.
This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget opposite.

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, 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 itScreen Shot 2013-08-01 at 11.54.22 AM 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 Forum.

Now that I have begun to unlock the secrets of 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.

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.


The Teacher Blog: a Powerful Reflective Tool

If you have a professional Blog then I hope that you have had the same experience as me.  If you do not then I think you should give it a go even if you are going to keep it to yourself like a diary or journal. Just by writing down your thoughts you will look at you actions in a different way and reflect on them and I believe that the act of reflection is one of the keys to being a learner.

Only 4 months ago I published my first post on this blog with the only person I was intending to read it being me or my principal when it came time for my appraisal.  I did not really have a goal or vision, but just wanted a place to record the successes and fails and moments of clarity.  After a few posts I realised that it was missing the connection of others so shared with a few members of staff and then Tweeted it to my PLN.

Made with GIF Shop on the iPhone. First attempt and might be a bit annoying?

Once that first share through twitter was out in cyber space the blog became a true reflective tool.  I had those people who I think of as friends and respect as educators commenting and reacting to my posts in a positive way or in a feed forward way that gave me links to further learning or ideas from others – success as there was an audience.  Then came the next point that I had not thought through – if make a post public it can bounce around the world many times and the people that you get feedback from you have never met before and often are not educators, who was my initial target audience. Posts have been pinned and re-pinned or pinged back or tweeted or posted on FaceBook and scooped then re-scooped; a whole new language of online literacy.

I reflected on a Fighting Fantasy book that I read to my class.  A few teachers commented, but scores of gamers sent me messages commenting on the photo (26)concept.  Their comments ranged from how their teacher read a similar book to them and it was a highlight of their education or a teacher hassled them about gaming (Dungeons & Dragons etc…) and it was the beginning of the end to their respect of teachers and education.  Then I received a comment from the man who authored the book and WOW, what a Fan Boy moment that was.  I wrote a post on my classroom design. I was sent links to others who were on the same wavelength and had Swedish designers ask me questions about why and how I had done certain things and what the effect on the students was from the choices that I had made.

But, taking aside the fact that people actually read my reflections I asked myself why I actually do this and discovered that it is therapeutic.  By recording down 2-3 posts a week I am looking at my teaching practice in greater detail and am a better teacher for it.  Each post takes me 10-30 minutes to write, but that 30 minutes is time I am thinking only about my teaching and classroom practice.

My blog is..

  • …therapeutic.
  • …makes me ask the hard questions.
  • …it lets me celebrate the successes.
  • …models the writing process and although my students do not read my blog they know that I write it. Like them I am a writer.
  • …a record of my learning journey.
  • …a portal for feedback