Friday, August 26, 2016

As the new year begins..

I have a few goals this year for my classes.  Ironically it isn't about my curriculum.  As I spent the summer with all the news and everything that has happened,  these are things I have thought about. 

they are things that I am going to aim to work on both in my classes and outside. 

1. Speak the Truth:   The truth matters.  Lying or exaggerating about the situations does not get you out of the situation only can cause deeper problems.  

2. Behavior matters.  Be mindful of your behavior and how your actions can speak volumes. 

3. Respect others.  People matter, everyone has a story and parts of their lives you do not know about.  Respect them in and outside of the classroom.  

4.  Take risks.  Try new things.  Don't let the unknown or the fear cause you to stop.  Overcoming the fear can allow you to learn new things.

5.  Fail.  It's okay to Fail.  Learn from the failures.  As most times failures is where learning happens the most. 

6.  Apologize when a mistake is made, and not hold grudges when mistakes are made.   Nobody's perfect and everyone is learning even me. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why Drawing is related to Technology Integration

Last night among my twitter feed came a tweet about the TEDx Talk:  Why people believe they can't draw -and how to prove they can and technology.  I clicked the link and family duty called.  I just got to look at the link today.  I apologize that I can't find the original tweet.  But I have a feeling they wrote something similar to what I am about to write.  If you are reading this let me know so I can fully credit you! I tried to search using the ted talk but no one I follow came up.

So here is the TEDx Talk: (It's only 15 minutes long)

And here are my results of learning how to draw:

Not bad if I do say so myself.  But how does drawing relate to technology, that's easy it's the same mindset.  How often does someone say I am bad with technology or I can't keep up with new technology? I hear this often, but just like drawing One can learn technology it just has to be broken down for them.  This is what I learned from the video:

1. Simple steps.  Mr. Shaw first drew a picture then broke it down into the simple steps to recreate.  A good technology integrator does this.  We break things down into simple steps. We need to remember how overwhelming technology can be and starting simple is key.  Letting people know they can use technology just start small.

2.  Apply knowledge to a new setting.  Once he has the basics shown he demonstrates how you can take if further to create a new cartoon drawing.  A good technology integrator helps show how new apps are similar to the knowledge one knows.  While things might be different with applications they may also be the same.  We look for ways to show others how to make these connections

3.  Don't be afraid to be creative.  Thinking outside the box can create new and exciting drawings with alterations.  Technology provides way to be creative, don't be afraid to try something new, take the risks give it a shot.  Its hard to be creative.  We all know this, but creativity is essential in ed tech. We can all be creative just like we can all draw.   When we open our minds to creativity we open our minds to new things.

4.  Mindset is key.  Around 14:30 Mr. Shaw asks a question: "How limiting beliefs and thoughts that we carry around with us each day? ... and if we think differently about these beliefs what else can we be open to?"    Challenge our beliefs to grow, have a growth mindset that we can always learn.  Even from the most unique places.  In technology we are all learners always, how much can we learn from our students, from each other at schools, from others at conferences.  Open your mind to believe that one can learn, we can all work together to learn new things.  It is often I hear that someone believes they don't have much to offer but they are generally ones with fabulous ideas.

So open up and Draw, Be creative, and Learn.  What will you try today?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Shift in Education...

Today during our faculty meeting we watched "Most Likely to Succeed."  ( A documentary about High Tech High that takes a different approach to education.  They don't have traditional classes, or use textbooks, but students work together on integrated projects to demonstrate their understanding and teachers are facilitators of the learning helping students learn how to be life-long learners.  The school doesn't give grades they have a public display night.  This is a true PBL setting, team of teachers who guide the students to develop.

This is the third discussion about innovation that is happening in education that I have experienced in the last month.  First at ECET2, where educators talked about developing ourselves as leaders and how our passion for learning and changing education system from the ground up.  Then at NCGS Global forum, where many of the themes talked about innovation and having to develop students who will be changing careers a few times and many of the careers are not even invented yet.  (Side note not a new concept I heard this 18 years ago my first year teaching at PA Technology Educators conference).

And now this documentary, about a school who took PBL to the extreme, giving teachers freedom and autonomy to explore developing students who are creative, innovated, and thinkers.  The thought is exciting to think about not teaching to a test, to have discussions with students about what they are learning, to get them to be creative, motivated to explore, and find their own voices.

As I watched the movie, I watched the student groups develop into the classes; the teachers were on the sidelines.  They were not jumping in to solve the problems.  They were letting the kids struggle to find the solutions.  This is not easy.  Some of the students did not finish their projects in time, they need to be able to fail and fail big.  The teachers didn't solve the problems but worked with the students to learn from the fail and how to over come.

So this leads me to question what can I do?  What do I do already?  The one class I teach DET is like this already.  The students get to make something that has to be using hardware and software.  What they make is up to them.  I have gotten some really cool prototypes out of the class and I hope to see students take it further.  I also teach robotics where they work within the confines of the FTC challenge to build a robot.   Both of these, have very few tests, but students are still learning computers, science, math and writing.  In addition to how to work together, how to speak in public, how to research and the design process.  Students in the class all write reflective pieces and I know I need to do a better job of making them reflect.  We all don't reflect often enough.  I need to leave time for that.   I also have to make more of their final products public.  That public event is key.  The more public the better.  I need to figure out how to do that better.

I am now reflecting on my other classes.   Can I reduce some of the items that I make them do, to give more open ended project?  Can I find a way to get them to work together more?  I see that they learn more when they are in small groups, how can I foster that?

I need to let go and turn the work over to them more.  I need to foster them to be creative, to find solutions to things together.  I need to let them work together to gain an understanding, while all will still have an individual section they should be working more in groups.   I do a lot of it but I should be doing more.  As I move into the third trimester classes can I revamp my classes so that I can do more of the collaboration, more open ended projects, can I get them to integrate more classes into mine.   Can I work within my confine of the traditional schooling to do some non-traditional education?

I hope so, my school is already open to the ideas (I did mention I watched this movie at a faculty meeting right?).  I just need to move forward and let the students grow.  I have seen that it can work, 8th grade course showed me that.  It started this blog.  I started to let go of the classroom and turn it over to the students.  I find it most rewarding when I do that.  The students rise to the challenge they do learn, it might not be traditional learning, but the learning is happening.  I need to do it more. Model the thinking out side of the box, the working together,  the exploration that we want them to develop.  Our school takes time out of the schedule in a few weeks to do a week long integrated project with the freshman and sophomores.   I am now looking more forward to that week with the freshman that I have been an integral part of the planning.   I hope that we can give our students a small part of the amazing work that was shown in the movie.  I hope that we can also continue to push the shift of Education to see more integrated project based learning as the norm.....

Friday, January 29, 2016

A reason to teach....

Yesterday I went in school to teach AP Computer Science before I left for ECET2.   But there was one problem.   I couldn't get my program to work, I had the code from pervious years and it worked back then. Wednesday night before class I could not get my own code to work.  I had to pack for the conference,  spend time with family and try to get my lesson to work.   I had the code that I used before, and kept getting a null pointer exception I couldn't figure out why. So at 10:30, I went to bed an woke up early Thursday to give it fresh eyes.  And nope! Couldn't find my error.  So I went to class with the lesson fully knowing I had a huge problem.  I was hoping that as a class we could find the error.

I was nervous, that we were not going to get the program to work.   But I started teaching anyway, thinking it would be a good teachable moment.  We got to the point where we hit compile and...  the girls' code worked and mine didn't.  Sigh of relief, but then I said to them "Okay what is wrong with my code? I can't find my error."

That's when the awesome moment happened! The student who when she has errors in her code gets frustrated with always feeling she is the one who is struggling (although no more than the rest of them).  She has been working so hard, but the programs are just taking longer than she wants to come together.  She has been meeting with me regularly and spending lots of time working to refine her ability.

Well SHE found my error!!!! I had 9 colors instead of 8 in my array and that's why I was getting null pointer! (WHOOPS I must have made edits to it demoing it in previous years) I was so proud of her! She had an aha moment!  It was awesome!  I saw her confidence in her ability come back!!  It was great to see her walk out of the classroom all smiles.  She got the gold star of the day!  I was so proud of her!

This is why I teach.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Finally I did it!

Today I took the test to become Google Educator Level 1.   It was a long test that I finished in two hours.  The test is pretty simple if you have been using GAFE at your school and I highly recommend it.  It is basics in fact most of my students could pass.

I have been meaning to always do it and with persistence from a colleague I did.  It helps to have the colleague to force you to continue to do things.  So I can official post the badge below!  It might sound odd but I am proud that I took that step.  I hate taking those steps, but I know I should.  I am glad I did it finally after two years of saying yes I should do that.  Level 2 will be done by the end of the month and hopefully to get the trainer one as well by March!  Now I am on a roll!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Can you guess a Number??

Today a few things happened.  I was so happy that my automatic starter works in the car and my heated seats gave me a warm ride to work.  Even though I knew my partner in crime was sick and the day would be busy, since I covered her classes.

I realized I missed teaching those 8th graders, the course that started this blog, and enjoyed being a guess lecturer in the class.  They have been playing with Scratch for a month now,  have their ideas for the games they want to develop and have great enthusiasm for creating the games.

My colleague has done an amazing job for never having any formal education in programming and she also found a cool video to show them

Then I got to show them how to program a simple guessing game.  Something every Intro to Programming I know does.  The I am thinking of a Number... Can you Guess it.  I love it because it does the simple loop, if statements, random numbers and variables.

It wraps the basics of programming into a nice package.  With Scratch it also sets home what the video talks about, get the basics done then add more later.  We get the basic game done and then add in a counter, make it look pretty, make it better.  (Side note another colleague always would say what can you do to make it better, and I have adopted it -okay now make it better)

I was able to introduce some formal programming to them: what variables are, how to name them, Camel Casing, difference between when to use multiple if statements vs if-else, understanding how to change a counter, using random.

It was fun, the second class went better and I was able to have them write an outline of the guessing game so they can begin to formalize their thought processes.  One thing I learned when working on games, that outline is so important.  Having the steps of what you need to program is so important.

Ours was basic:
  • Give Instructions I am thinking of the of the number
  • Established the number in a way that is changing
  • Ask for guess
  • If answer greater or less than the number
  • Say so
  • Guess again if wrong until right answer is given…
I was able to tell them about some things they should watch out for when programming. Talking about what we have found in the past to work and what doesn't work.

Then as I was leaving at 5pm today, the Make it Better Colleague tweeted about the 4 o'clock club.  I read the blog post, and smiled.  See he and I had this conversation this summer about keeping each other on track to do more of what we want to do, blog, run workshops, get more involved in associations we are members of, etc.  I took this as a sign to blog again.  So I came home and after I worked out (Got a fitbit for Christmas and was determined to hit 10,000 steps the first day back but that is another blog)  I sat down and wrote this...

It was a good day.  I love talking Programming with both AP and 8th Grade today.  I didn't get some of the other items done, but I had a good day.  Looking forward to another one tomorrow!