technology education

Hour of Code

*blows the dust off of her tumblr blog*

Okay so I have really slacked once again here. It’s my own fault. I haven’t felt much of an urge to write these past few months, and I’ve been busy, too. I really just need to write a few posts at a time if I’m motivated and go that route, but then again, I’ve not been as motivated. Let’s start this first post of the new year, and the first post in many months, on a good note.

Last month was Hour of Code. I had wanted to make sure I participated in it this year, and kept an eye out for sign-up dates. I was actually able to get my entire elementary school involved, and none of the teachers had a problem jumping on board, as long as I was going to be doing most of the running the show. We decided to apply for the $10,000 technology
grant, and though we didn’t win, I was happy to see that I could get the entire staff on board. We had set up a schedule for every teacher, and I set about putting up posters in the school, getting the local newspaper involved, and setting up the activities for students.

I had really wanted a guest speaker. Unfortunately, the speakers listed on the website for our area were few and far between. If they had widened the distance search, it would have been better. However, being in a rural area is very difficult, especially when it comes to getting volunteers in this particular field. I did end up trying to contact one, but
never heard back. Thankfully, a parent, whose child I already had in my SES Coder Kids and Lego League, worked for IBM and was able to get the day off to come and speak at a whole school assembly.

Our kick-off day was on December 9th. Immediately I had issues. Our computer lab, which is a virtual lab, was down once again. I really loathe the lab for many reasons, and this is one of them. We have so many issues with these computers, and my principal is to her breaking point with them. I’m sure if she had her way she’d take them out into Rt. 50 and run them over, ha! Anyway, thankfully we had the iPad carts so I was able to commandeer both of them for use during our Hour of Code event. I alerted the teachers, and we were set to go.

At promptly 9, our kick-off begin. We got all K-5 students into the cafeteria for the presentation. I began by discussing computer science and its importance, and then our guest speaker, Michael Haines, took over. He talked about his job at IBM and some of the things IBM was currently doing to help make a difference in the world. The kids loved him, and were ready to get started.

All of my older students in 2nd – 5th grade could choose from one of 4 of the different activities on the website- Minecraft, Star Wars, Frozen, or Flappy Bird. Many students were able to complete one of the activities and start another. My kindergarten and first grade students actually did the Course 1 work instead, since it required very
little reading, and was more intuitive for them. I was very impressed with some students who took to coding like it was no big deal. So many students laterwould come up to me and tell me how much fun they had, and could they join SES Coder Kids?

I was definitely hoping to hear the latter, as I wanted to grow the club numbers some more. I had figured that many kids hadn’t joined because they weren’t really sure what SES Coder Kids was really about. Now that they’d had an hour to try their hand at coding, they wanted more. I decided that after the event I would hand out more forms.

The local paper did show up in the end, though they didn’t get back to me until the day of the event. The reporter asked me to send him some information and answer some of his questions, and then he came out to take pictures when I was working with a third grade group. It ended up being a half page article the very next week, and it was a wonderful read. You can check it out below:

Oh and remember how I said I was going to pass out forms for new members? Well I did a week after the Hour of Code event. Before I left for winter break, I had 28 students turn in forms the day after I passed them out. I was shocked and impressed. However, I was unprepared for what I’d find today when I returned to the same school. I ended up with 52 new member forms overall. I was floored. That brought our membership total to 90 students out of about 225 or so. I’m getting closer to having half of the school, and it’s
wonderful. I even had to go from having 4 groups to having 6 groups. Now I have one group per grade level. My biggest growth happened to be in the K-2nd area, which is wonderful since they’ll get to try out coding at such a young age.

I can’t wait to see what happens with my numbers up. I just hope that we don’t have too many snow days or computer outages though. I only get to go to this school 2 times a week, so I see each group once a month. I’m trying to get a parent volunteer to do at least 1 of the days I’m not there, but I’m not sure if anyone will take the bait. Fingers crossed though!

Twitter #edchat Compilation List

If you’re looking to get involved in doing #edchats on Twitter, this link below will get you started. Education tweeps work to compile it, and it covers the chat, a possible description, and the time it takes place. Check it out and get involved!

Last Friday I attended Family Science Night at the local library in town. I’d offered to help out a mom with her two boys. Since I don’t have kids of my own, I really wanted to go. Carnegie had sent a representative to set up various hands-on stations for families based around robotics. Since I’m starting a coding club at the elementary level, I was looking for any ideas that I could use with my younger kids.

I definitely found my idea.

Pictured above is Bee-Bot (found here: Bee-Bot is a robot that you can program to follow a particular path. Basically, input the instructions first, then press the “Go” button. Let’s say I wanted Bee-Bot to go forward and backward 2 times. I’d press the up button, then the down button, then the up button, and finally the down button. Once I was certain my code was input correctly, I’d press “Go” and watch him in action. In order to give Bee-Bot new directions, I’d press “Clear” and start again.

Bee-Bot would make a perfect addition to the board games I already have for unplugged coding. I already have Robot Turtles, Code Monkey Island, and RoboRally. Since I’m also using the curriculum with my students, there are many unplugged activities in addition to the lessons on the computer. I can see myself using Bee-Bot to teach students how solve challenges or obstacles that they face. The website does sell mats, but I can have my students design their own paths for the Bee-Bot and then see if they can input the directions for Bee-Bot to follow. They’d get quick feedback since Bee-Bot wouldn’t do the course or challenge correctly if his instructions were wrong.

Each Bee-Bot is $89.95 plus shipping, so I’m going to run a DonorsChoose campaign after school is in session. With the amount of feedback that I have gotten on beginning a coding club in the elementary school, I’m sure I can acquire the funding easily. I’m going to get two of these little guys. I have always been able to get my projects funded in the first week, and I don’t see a problem doing that again this time around, as I’ll need to collect about $125 and have that matched. I’ve already gotten PTO on board with helping as well.

If you already use Bee-Bot to teach coding skills, what are your suggestions for incorporating it into a K-5 coding club?

Teach Me Tech Tuesdays

I began my journey as a TIS at the very end of October last school year. I had very little time to prep for the switch, as they wanted me to go from one job to the next with only a day’s notice. I was able to squeeze out two. Granted, I had known I was leaving the classroom, but I hadn’t been given an exact date. Then boom! It all happened so very fast.

My very first day on the job was at the middle school where I would spend 3 days of my week. I had been given a tour of the building and met the teachers when I spent a day with the TIS I would be replacing, but it was all a blur to me. I couldn’t remember where things were in the school, let alone all of the teachers. Looking back, it amuses me that I was so confused by the school layout. During my brief tour, I had noticed a few things. One being that the TIS didn’t interact very much with the staff. The other was that teachers didn’t reach out for help.

Cue me and my brilliant ideals to change the world, or school, rather. Well, not quite so much that, but still. On my first day I attended each grade level’s team planning session and introduced myself and my goals for the year. I also sent out an email with the same information. I wanted to build relationships. I wanted to be in classrooms. I wanted to help infuse technology in lessons, and teach teachers how to use any new technology that crossed their paths. I created the sign-up book for teachers who would need assistance.

Looking back, I realize that I expected too much at first. Here I was ready to do my job, and the teachers weren’t not ready for the likes of me. They were not used to a TIS wanting to do their job, and instead were used to using the previous TIS just to fix their computer issues. He didn’t help issues with that of course, but I started off getting more requests to fix things. I hated that. I didn’t want to be fixing things only. I wanted to do more. I just wanted to do my JOB.

It wasn’t until second semester that things started to change a bit. I was able to find some teachers that wanted me to help them with technology. I spent most of the year building relationships, and letting others know what I could do in the future. By the end of the year, I had formed some great relationships, and helped out a handful of teachers in many ways. With others, it seemed like I was starting to break through.

With that back story, that brings me up to speed to today. I want to make myself more available next year to teachers to help them learn new technology. Yes, they know I have my sign-up book and am at the school 3 days a week, but it’s not utilized as much as I’d like. I think it’s one of those things that’s known, but just forgotten in the background. I also don’t want to hear someone say that they wanted to learn something technology-related, but no one taught them. My idea will fix this issue, because it will plainly document that there were chances once a week during school hours to take advantage of this, not to mention the other two days as well.

Teach Me Tech Tuesdays is what I hope will solve some of my issues.

Teach Me Tech Tuesdays will be a weekly occurrence where I will make teaching new technology to middle school staff members a priority during that day. This isn’t to say that they can’t have me do this on either of the other two days that I’m at that school. It just makes the idea memorable.

Here’s how it will work:

1. Teachers wanting to learn new technology can opt to sign up to have me visit them on their planning time.

2. I will meet with that teacher in their room in a one on one environment. Teachers who have the same planning period and would like to learn the same technology skill at the same time can meet with me in a group setting.

3. Teachers can use this time to have me show them basic computer skills, how to use the Microsoft Office programs, ways to use the apps in their email account, possibly technology tools to integrate with their lessons, plan for my assistance when teaching students technology skills, and more. Basically, it’s up to the teacher, as long as it relates to technology.

4. Teachers are free to sign up as often or as little as they’d like. I’m hoping that knowing in advance that Tuesday will be a day of focus for teaching skills will be in their minds when they complete their planning and schedules for the week.

I also plan to use these sessions as follow ups to staff development sessions that I give. One session I plan to teach is the basics of OneNote. Then I can tell staff that if they need additional assistance to make sure to utilize Teach Me Tech Tuesdays. I can help them with issues they may have, or go further in depth as needed.

I’m hoping that having such a day will also let teachers see that they aren’t alone when it comes to not knowing how to do something. If they aren’t comfortable and see other teachers taking advantage of this, then perhaps they’ll see that it’s okay to not know, and very beneficial to learn. I’ll definitely document the process of implementing this, but fingers crossed that it goes well!

WVSTC 2015, Pt. 2

I’m finally getting a chance to update about the second part of the conference. I’m home, and hoping to stay home until August 7, when I will be traveling with my parents back to Pigeon Forge to see Dolly Parton in concert.

I last left often mentioning that there would be a TIS Reception that evening. The Reception was fantastic. Great food, and a table spot with some friendly faces, many of whom were new to the TIS program. I remember being in their shoes last year. You feel a bit lost then, and really overwhelmed because you have so much work ahead of you to complete in order to finish the TIS certification program. Now that I am on the other side, I realize how worth it the program is, and how far I’ve come technology-wise. Valerie Wilson, Josh Ratliff, and Lori Whitt are amazing cohort leaders.

Back on track now, shall we?

After dinner, we had TIS Smackdown, and anyone who wanted to was invited to share resources. I was first and explained all about Jr. First Lego League, and what it can accomplish for students ages 6-9. I also talked about the TIS grant money, and how it’s important to make sure to spend it to get the most needed items for the classroom or school. I had so many issues with getting my grant money spent, mostly because the wording of the grant wasn’t up to speed with what it could be used for. Lori then told me that they’d changed the wording of the grant so that issues such as that no longer occur, and it was all because of what I went through. Reflex Math was also talked about during this time, and I added to that, since my district has adopted it for K-8. I’m struggling to remember the other resources that were shared.

During the last day of the conference, there were three timeslots for sessions to attend, and I had two of those for my presentations. I didn’t attend the 8 o’clock round of sessions because I needed to check out of my hotel room and prepare for my 9 o’clock presentation. I was nervous about how it would go, especially since it was my first time presenting. Needless to say, I shouldn’t have been so worried.

When I began at 9, I had about half of the room full. I was pretty impressed by the turnout. My first session was on blogging as an educator. I made sure the attendees knew that I wasn’t focusing on blogging with students, but rather on the educator blogging for their own growth and learning. I went through my presentation, going over the reasons why one should blog, potential topics, various blogging platforms, and suggestions for bloggers to follow. I actually went over my time, which I was shocked to discover. However, I had people giving input and asking questions during my presentation, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. If I can get just a few more people blogging.

My second session at 10 was not so well attended, which was surprising, but yet not. It was the very last session of the conference, and by that time, many people are ready to go. I had a handful of people though, but I’m sure some of them were only there to kill time. This particular presentation was on building a professional learning network, and it shared resources to help educators get started. There were options for blogging, webinars, community forums, corporate sites, and social media.

To be honest, I do wish more educators realized the importance of building a professional learning network; so many in my district are content to isolate themselves to the county level or below and it’s sad. There are so many good resources out there, and so many educators. In fact, attending the conference this year would not have been half as amazing as it was if I hadn’t started building a professional learning network this past year. I met up with quite a few colleagues that way. Plus (and this isn’t connected to PLNs), I had a few of the vendors actually recognize me from the previous year, so that was pretty cool.

After my sessions, we had lunch and the closing keynote. What was most interesting about the beginning of the keynote is that the president of the WVBOE spoke and stated that he wanted to see 1:1 devices for every student in WV by June of next year. Very ambitious, and it would be amazing if it actually happened. I would love to see such technology in both of the schools where I work. It would also mean updated technology for once. I would love to get rid of some of the dinosaurs that we have.

Our closing keynote speaker, Hall Davidson, was quite energetic and enthusiastic about the way that technology can change the teaching game. One takeaway that we were given was the Aurasma app, and I really do want to try that this year. It uses augmented reality to make the world around us come to life. Here’s something to try. First, download the app itself onto your phone. Then get ahold of a $20 bill and flip it over. Open the app and hold the phone over the bill and check out what happens. It’s pretty sweet. I’m going to attempt to use it at the elementary school this year. I would use it at the middle school, but there’s no cell phone service, and no way currently for parents to log in as a guest on the wifi network. That’s fine for now, as I need to test it out myself. I have a few ideas in mind, but nothing solid yet.

By 1 o’clock, the conference had ended and we all went our separate ways to travel home. Well, except for those in the TIS program…they still had to stay an additional 24 hours for training! I was exhausted, but so very thrilled. The conference itself was amazing, and I’m already looking forward to next year. If you’re interested, in attending the WVSTC, mark off July 19-21st on your calendar. I promise you won’t regret it, and will meet up with many new folks!

WVSTC 2015

It’s been a busy couple of days. I am currently at the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference, and it’s my second year attending. Last year I attended as a first time TIS applicant, and fell in love with the variety of opportunities to learn. This year I am attending as an official TIS and as a presenter. I’ve not done my sessions yet, and won’t until tomorrow morning. I’m still finishing one at this point, and this evening I’ll review both of them.

This past year I started getting into building my professional learning network. I’ve noticed a different in my connections at the conference this year because of it. The people I’ve began networking with on Yammer and Twitter are here and it’s great to put faces to the feeds I’ve been following. We’ve been able to get together and share ideas, as well as just hang out and have fun. It’s a great support network, and I can guarantee that if any of us posted or tweeted about an issue we were facing, someone would readily respond. I no longer have to feel isolated in my county, or be annoyed that so few people want to connect outside of their schools. My network, though small, has made all of the difference.

In terms of the conference, I’ve been to a few different sessions that have given me some new ideas. I was eager to attend the OneNote Classroom Creator pre-conference session and learn about classroom creator. Not only am I eager to take Classroom Creator back to my middle school teachers, I’ve also found a renewed interest in OneNote, and am going to work on creating one Notebook that will combine all my paperwork from both of my schools. I would love to cut down on the paper I have to carry with me or worry about losing. I have started a new Notebook, but haven’t been able to work on it much yet since I’ve been working on my presentations.

I also attended a Minecraft session. While it didn’t really give me anything new that I can use in the classroom right now, it did provide me with more ideas for using it in the classroom, should that ever come about in my district. It is nice that it will be available by default on Windows 10, as that would be a start. Of course, our district is just now updating to Windows 7 so it’ll be some time before they decide to update to 10.

Another session I have attended was on EverFi. They have a few different free courses they offer to be used in the classroom, such as their money vault. However, I was only interested in the STEM and Coding course, as that might be beneficial for my middle school programming club. It looks intriguing, and we were given a conference login so we could try out some of the courses for ourselves.

These have been my favorites so far. I’ve also spent a decent amount of time in the vendor hall, and ended up with quite a bit of swag. I love freebies, and vendors never fail to disappoint! I have visited a few, but my school either uses them, they aren’t relevant to me, or they didn’t really interest me.

Going back to my professional learning network spiel, we did have a tweet-up last night with members of the #wvedchat crew. The place where we gathered even had a trivia night going, so we created our team and joined in. We actually did really well, and got 2nd place, or first losers, as we called it.

Tonight I am attending the TIS Reception for current TIS trainees and alumni. We have a dinner gathering, and there will also be some presentations. There weren’t many to sign up for the TIS Genius Hour, so there will be a few presentations for everyone. I actually will be presenting there, as I spoke to one of the cohort leaders about doing the Jr. First Lego League this upcoming season. She was intrigued and wanted me to talk about some of the things open to TIS members. I’m also to talk about ways to spend the remaining TIS grant funds once a TIS trainee has been completed any trainings that they needed.

Time to get going once again. I’m excited and loving it. I hope I can update again soon!

Update + Alien Encounter Basic Computer Knowledge Lessons

Summer break has hit, and I’ve slacked on doing much work educationally so far, as I’ve been attempting to catch up on other things that I’ve cast aside during the school year. I’ve worked on my guitar some more, cleaned the apartment, spent time with my favorite daycare kids, and started trying to learn Python. I’ve also taken the time to up my workout routine. Now that it’s July, it’s time to begin letting my mind ease back into what I want to accomplish during the rest of the summer before I head back to work.

I’m going to soon begin working on my presentation materials for the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference. I have two sessions to present, one of them being educational blogging. I need to also work on my technology resource wiki, and add more resources, as well as revamp some of the sections of the wiki itself.

Since I’ve been slacking, I’m going to share the links to some lesson plans I did using the GRASPs method. These 3 lessons are meant for K-2 and can be used in yearly succession for basic computer skills, or modified to be used on their own. All materials are included. Please give credit if you use!

Alien Encounter I (Kindergarten):

Alien Encounter II (1st Grade):

Alien Encounter III (2nd Grade):