Friday, December 25, 2015

Show What You Know with iPad: Using an iPad to Create and Self Assess in the Early Years

I'm often approached by educators looking for the best iPad app.  While my students have their favourite go to apps, what works for my students may not work for theirs.  In fact even my own students can't decide which app is best because each has their own preference depending on what they are trying to do. It's far less about the specific app, then what that app can do to show learning.

For me, the beauty of the iPad and more specifically the apps available for it, is that it allows my students to create, and show their learning in ways that work best for them.  For this reason I have created an iTunes U course titled Show What You Know with iPad: Using an iPad to Create and Self Assess in the Early Years.  This is a free course but does require an iOS device to access it through iTunes U . It can be downloaded onto  an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.

This FREE iTunes U course explores five open-ended creative apps including Skitch, Popplet, Book Creator, Draw and Tell, and Explain Everything. The course walks the reader  through how to use these specific apps and provides examples of how the various apps can been used in a variety of content areas.   The course makes you think about how these apps can work best for your students' learning.

In addition the course also explores ways these same five apps can be used as a tool for student self assessment in a variety of content areas.  Curious to learn more? Download the course. It's free! You've got nothing to lose. :-)

Here is a direct link to the course . For those of you who are already familiar with iTunes U the enrol code is  DCL-MYW-YNB.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Learning Beyond the Classroom Walls

As part of being recognized as a "Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger" by Cathy Rubin for Huffington Post, I am asked each month to respond to a question.  This blog post is in response to " What are the best ways for a teacher to engage their classroom in a global conversation?"

Before I talk about how to engage students in a global conversation I very strongly believe that a teacher should be involved in one first before expecting their students to engage globally.  For me, personally and professionally, that means connecting with the world through twitter, blogs, and various other on-line platforms.  I ask my questions of other educators both near and far and I learn with and from them.  I strongly believe if I expect my students to have a global conversation, then I should be too. This is not to say that every educator needs to connect the way I connect, but I do feel in this day it is important that you get yourself connected and learn beyond your classroom, school, or district.  Imagine only reading books from one bookshelf, when you have an entire library of great books to read.   

As for my students, I equally believe that they need to be able to learn far beyond their classroom walls.  For this reason our teaching and learning goes beyond our class, school, and district.  My students use tools such as blogs, twitter, and video conferencing to connect and learn with others.  We've taken part in collaborative projects such as the Global Read Aloud with children in other parts of the world.  Video conferencing has allowed my students to learn with others.  Just this morning my students taught children 2,000 km away about Hanukkah. Tomorrow they will be teaching a class within our school.  

So how do you get started?

Start small and bring a friend along. Find a venue that takes you out of your local comfort level.  This may mean joining a collaborative project such as one from  Projects by Jen  , or looking through the learning opportunities available on  Skype in the Classroom.  This isn't meant to be "another thing" to add to your teaching. Learning globally adds to what you're already doing.  For example, to help my students with their number sense, they played "guess my number" with several classes around North America. When they were learning about community they video conferenced with children in different communities to learn what features were common in all communities, and which were specific to where they lived.

Asking experts through twitter, or inviting them to video conference with your class is another small way to learn with the world.  Connecting with an author through twitter has been a pretty straightforward way to learn with others.  There's nothing like havin a tweet replied by someone your students see as important.  There are a lot of great people out there that are willing to help your students learn from an authentic audience.

So whether your first step is a small one or a big one, just be sure to take that first step.  There is so much learning to happen beyond your classroom walls.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

More Than Just an Hour of Code

This past week I hosted the Hour of Code at my new school.  As I mentioned earlier, this school is new to me and as much as I am part of this new school community, I am also the primary teacher for the new SAIL program within our district.  This means in some ways I work for both SAIL, and I work for my new school.

A few of the students in the new school know me because my students and I integrate into their PE classes, or I know them as my "field trip friends" because my class will be sharing a school bus with them.  We've also connected with a class when we have our presentations from the aboriginal culture workers. I've had small chat with many students, but my reality is, I don't know many of the students outside of the SAIL program.

One way to try to fix that is that I decided to host the Hour of Code for the entire school. A week earlier I had daily announcements made inviting students down to my classroom (a part of the school most students don't even know exists) to sign up for one of five tutorials.  Throughout the week I had heaps of children drop by and by Friday afternoon over 100 students had signed up.  How exciting I thought to myself.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) because of the large numbers of students, and the limited access to devices, and the size of my classroom, I broke the groups down into thirds with each group being invited either Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday at lunch.   These students did not disappoint and my room was packed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Each child had their own log in card and I was able to get them all up and running.  The beauty of is that students can start a coding tutorial at school, then continue it at home.

As the week progressed things started to change for me.  As I was walking in the hallways more students were coming up to me to say hello, and to ask if was their day to come for coding. They wondered what would happen on Thursday and Friday after every group and been through for their first attempt at the hour of code.  I was slowly becoming the teacher who does coding vs just a body that was seen in the hallways from time to time.  Student were starting to say hello to me by name.

I continued the week of coding over lunch, and on Thursday and Friday anyone was invited to spend the lunch hour with me.  Slowly I too got to know more of their names, and it made me smile to be able to feed their coding curiosity.  I was able to set them up in other tutorials, and to send a few of them home with some bitsbox information.  I was no longer that person they saw in the hallways from time to time, I was an equally important teacher in the school.

I hope that with time the rest of the school community will take notice that as much as I teach in a district program of choice, I am still a teacher, and I want to have a positive influence on any students I come into contact with.  Sometimes being part of something different, people think you aren't really there for them, but that is so far from the truth.

Hosting the Hour of Code has helped bring me into the school's community, and it has made the rest of the school community know that I am there for them too. It's gone way beyond just "the hour of code".  The best part for me (and I hope the students too) is  how excited I am to continue this "coding" with a weekly coding club the rest of the year.  I can't wait to share some of the incredible things these wonderful students will get up to.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Using Scratch Jr to Code How to Make Bread

Each Wednesday morning my students start the day by measuring out and adding ingredients to our class breadmaker.  They then get on with their day until the bread is ready to enjoy and share with others.

This past Wednesday they did things a bit differently.  With all the ingredients in the machine, my students turned to the free iPad app Scratch Jr to create a program that tells others how to make bread.  While they have worked with Scratch Jr before, this was the first time that their "coding" had a real purpose.  They were coding to teach others how to make bread too.

My students could choose to work on their own or with a friend.  They then got down to work. And boy did they work.  For close to 90 minutes my students worked on problem solving their coding needs.  They wanted their final product to look as close to what they do themselves each Wednesday morning.  They added repeats to their coding so that a spoon would go back and forth to match how many scoops they added to the bread machine.  They played with the appear/disappear feature so that they could make it look like their ingredients were dropping into the bread machine.  They added "characters" you could touch so that you could hear what was happening in the picture.  They added other links that took you to the next step in the process.  Along the way they learned that you can only have four "scenes" in each Scratch Jr project so a few of them had to make more than one project.

Now this wasn't easy for them.  There was a ton of trial and error.  There were math computations to figure out to ensure the spoons and scoops stopped at the  right place.  There was timing of items becoming visible, and then becoming invisible.  There were repeat codes.  Here's a small sampling of some of their coding.  You'll notice that many of their pages had several items to code. Remember anything they've added to the page that moves or makes a sound, needed to be coded.

This code is making the ingredient drop into the bread machine at just the right time to match the ingredient moving toward the bread maker. They have also programmed the dropping ingredient to disappear into the bread machine.

This code is ensuring that the flour fall from the spoon at the right time, and then disappear after it drops.

This code is programming the scope to make it from the flour to the bread maker and then tip into the bread maker.

This code is making the spoon go up and over to the bread maker, tip into the bread maker, then return back to the beginning and repeat the process four times since they have to add 4 scoops of this ingredient to the bread maker.

This code has the spoon travel from the left to the right side of the page, up the page and then over the bread maker where it tips into the machine

Curious what they looked like? Here are a couple to check out. Now please note in the transfer process the sound was lost so these are silent movies. Remember though every action in each movie was created by a specific code telling the object to do exactly what it's doing.  Enjoy