Tag: coding

Local Leaders Get Hands-on With Coding

Elementary campuses in Seguin this week have had several visitors attend technology classes to participate in Hour of Code activities. We have been privileged and excited to host current  and former school board members, a city councilperson, the president of our local chamber of commerce, the mayor of Seguin, and our county judge. Our guests tried their hands at a variety of coding tools, including Code.org, CodeMonkey, Lightbot, and CodeCombat, were introduced to the campuses’ 3D printing and design programs, and got a first-hand look at some of the ways the district is trying to give students a wide range of computer science experiences.

Block coding tools like Code.org have been used to intruduce basic concepts.

Block coding tools like Code.org have been used to intruduce basic concepts.

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City Councilwoman Fonda Mathis joined Jenifer Wells’ students at Rodriguez Elementary.

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Trusty Cindy Thomas-Jimenez received pointers from a Rodriguez Elementary coding pro.

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Trustee Ben Amador observes student coders using CodeMonkey at Patlan Elementary.

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20 levels of CodeMonkey have been added to Learning.com resources this school year.

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Code.org resources include educational videos, such as this one featuring one of the founders of the videogame Minecraft.

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Seguin mayor Don Keil joined students at Patlan Elementary for his second Hour of Code.

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Patlan Elementary students are excited about learning about coding!

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Mayor Keil and team work through a particularly challenging task.

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Seguin Councilwoman Fonda Mathis brought her computer science background to Rodriguez Elementary.

Trustee Amador also paid a visit to Mrs. Casiano's lab at Koennecke Elementary, where students were learning Python code using CodeCombat.

Trustee Amador also paid a visit to Mrs. Casiano’s lab at Koennecke Elementary, where students were learning Python code using CodeCombat.

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Trustee Cinde Thomas-Jimenez joined Rodriguez Elementary students in an Hour of Code.

Computer Science Education Week Resources

National Computer Science Education Week is fast approaching–December 5-11. I have copied the text of an email I sent to our campus technology teachers to help them plan for the week. I thought there might be some usefulness to others out there wanting some options in terms of ways kids might participate in the week or in Hour of Code. If you have other resources or classroom activities that you have come to find particularly successful, please share them in the comments.

Good afternoon to all,

This one is a bit of a long-winded email, but I ask that you take the time to read it all. I wanted to clarify a few things for our new folks in the Tech Apps family regarding National Computer Science Education Week, December 4-8.

  • That is one of several weeks in the elementary and, I believe, middle school curricula in which we emphasize computer coding. You should already be planning to have kids coding.
  • Starting last year, I invited special area guests to attend a campus and participate in a lesson with kids that week. No big deal–they just come in, see how cute your kids are, and enjoy learning the tool they are using. Oh, and I’m sure a picture or two will be taken. If your campus would like me to try and arrange a guest, I would be happy to. I just need to know some good days and times. Feel free to invite whomever you like, just please keep me in the loop.
  • Speaking of the tool you will be using, here are some options for you to brush up on before then. Choose what fits each group of kids best. I have put an asterisk by the ones most often used in our district.
    • Daisy the Dinosaur — fun, free iPad app teaches basics of computational thinking. Emphasis here is on getting the right steps in the right order to complete challenges. There is also a free-programming mode for kids to experiment.
    • ScratchJr — free companion iPad app to the Scratch website focuses on primary kids. Commands are simplified and fewer in number, icons and sprites (characters) are bigger and more colorful to make it more engaging and user-friendly for younger students.
    • *Code.org — great site has self-guided lessons for absolutely any age group, from the kindergartener still trying to master the mouse and keyboard to the high school kid ready to tackle javascript. It is free, and you can set up your classes with an easy upload. The site gives you usernames and passwords–bonus!
    • *Scratch — if your kids are ready for more open-ended learning, maybe upper elementary and middle school, Scratch is a great tool to use. There are tons of how-to vids and lessons out there to help them (and you) get started. Accounts are necessary and free, but there is no bulk upload. You’ll need to do them 1 at a time. Most work is done by arranging blocks for specific tasks, but students can get pretty advanced–things like variables and functions.
    • Code Combat — see the statement above regarding accounts. This fun site does actually require students to type lines of code as they navigate medieval-themed challenges. Students can earn armor and weapons upgrades (Don’t worry–it is comical, not violent.).
    • Swift Playgrounds — fun iPad app that teaches basics of the Swift programming language. Students type code to complete increasingly challenging tasks, all the while learning important coding concepts. Also includes downloadable content to learn to program games, such as Rock, Paper, Scissors or a Running Maze. This is a great step up for middle school kids, and 5th graders would probably also successfully enjoy it. Swift is a great language to learn, because it can be used on any platform, including mobile, desktop, or even the Apple Watch. (Note to middle school peeps–I REALLY like the possibilities for this with middle school kids, and there is a ton of curricula on iTunesU. It might be enough to persuade someone to buy a complete set of iPads for your classes. I plan to lobby for that.)
    • Code Monkey — now included in our Learning.com curriculum, this game-based tutorial teaches kids the basics of coding and the CoffeeScript language and how to create HTML5 games. Probably a bit challenging for the K-4 crowd, but worth a look for older kids already using the Learning.com curriculum.

I hope this helps clear up any confusion. If you feel worried about this unit of study, Code.org is where I would start. It has great classroom curriculum management resources and is super easy to learn. Please do not hesitate to email me if you need help getting set up or just learning the tool you want to use.

Code Breakers Presentation Slideshow

I’ll be sharing some info on getting kids started with coding at the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Digital Learning Conference tomorrow and Thursday. The short slide show is below, as are links to all of the sites referenced (and a few more).

Tech Fair Re-Imagined

Hands-on with Lego robots in the Robotics Playground

Hands-on with Lego robots in the Robotics Playground

This past Saturday, Seguin ISD held our 11th annual technology fair. These are common events in school districts around the country. I’ve been helping organize them in Seguin or, previously, in Birdville for at least a decade. They have been, in my experience, opportunities for teachers and students to share how they are using technology to transform learning, Students present technology-infused class projects to audiences primarily of parents, sharing their feelings about the experiences. This is certainly a worthwhile format. It gives kids valuable opportunities to take on the role of presenters and speakers and reassures parents (and taxpayers) that their technology dollars are being wisely invested.

Learning programming concepts in the Coding Lab.

Learning programming concepts in the Coding Lab.

This year, though, I decided to tinker with the traditional model. Rather than simply showing off what was being done, I really wanted to make the experience more of an interactive learning experience for all attendees. To that end, I decided to include several opportunities for families to engage in fun, hands-on activities that would expose them to the opportunities afforded their children when focus shifts from the tools to authentic, 21st century skills. A few of the additions to this year’s event included:

  • Getting face-to-face with a real robot.

    Getting face-to-face with a real robot.

    Coding lab–parents worked alongside students to take on challenges using Code.org or Scratch.

  • MakeyMakey lab–families played and built computer input creations using MakeyMakeys.
  •  Robotics Playground–attendees tried their hands at programming Lego robots to do simple tasks.
  • Cardboard Challenge–teams of family members and/or friends designed and built cardboard dinosaurs.
  • Geekbus–the mobile maker space gave families experiences with 3D printing, robotics, Raspberry Pis, and more.
  • Guest speakers Nancy Giordano and William Hurley shared TED-style presentations with students about the importance technology and innovation would play in society’s future and inspired them to find ways to explore their own creative and inventive spirits.
Cardboard Challenge champions and their amazing dinosaur.

Cardboard Challenge champions and their amazing dinosaur.

The experience was richly rewarding for me as the event’s organizer, and there won’t be any turning back. Watching students and parents work through dinosaur designs, tackle the challenge of coding for the first time, playing banana piano keyboards, and hang out at the Geekbus well past the day’s “official” end was exciting and inspiring. Even hard-to-impress high school students’ faces gave away their approval and enjoyment. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that technology can be a source of joy and inspiration when we give students opportunities to express their imaginations, or when we challenge our kids to build, create, and invent. Too often we limit technology to old, tried-and-true activities that stop far short of the ideal. The next great inventor, engineer, programmer, or artist that will change the

Exploring the Geekbus mobile maker space.

Exploring the Geekbus mobile maker space.

world may very well be sitting in our classrooms. How rewarding would it be to know someday that we played a part in lighting the fire that sets them on their path to greatness?

TCEA 2014: Failure to Innovate (Updated Presentation)

I’ve embedded my TCEA presentation for Wednesday, February 5th and added a list of resources with links, including several recent additions.

 

Resources for developing innovation and creativity skills:

  • Scratch–free, online tool that introduces students to programming using a drag-and-drop interface and share projects with a global community.
  • MakeyMakey–electronic “invention kit” that allows users to turn any conductive objects into computer input devices.
  • Picoboard–expands scratch by allowing users to incorporate input from a variety of sensors, including light, sound, and more.
  • Arduino–open-source, inexpensive prototyping platform that can be programmed and used to build endless electronic devices.
  • Raspberry Pi–$25 Linux-based computer; great tool for introducing students to computing, programming, inventing.
  • MinecraftEDU–educational resources and lesson plans for using Minecraft in the classroom.
  • Hopscotch–easy-to-use iPad app that teaches programming skills with a drag-and-drop interface
  • Tynker–Scratch-like programming site with ability to create classes, assign and monitor projects.
  • DIY–site with dozens of categories of challenges to promote creative and inventive thinking.
  • Squishy Circuits–conductor & insulator Play-do type dough recipes & projects
  • LittleBits–child-friendly, no soldering electronic activity kits and components.
  • Lego Robotics–robot kits and supplies for primary (WeDo), intermediate (Mindstorms), and advanced students (TETRIX)
  • MyAtoms–electronic modules that can be used with Legos to create animated objects.
  • BuildwithChrome –virtual Legos; create Lego buildings or objects and share online–requires Chrome browser.
  • Hummingbird–robotics project kits using electronics and cardboard.
  • Lego Digital Designer –free tool from Lego lets students virtually design their Lego and Lego robotics creations.

Other resources:

  • Makezine–online magazine of the Maker movement, great source for project ideas.
  • MakerEd–resources for incorporating Maker ideas into the classroom.
  • Growing Innovators–resources for a variety of innovative technologies for the classroom.
  • Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit–resources for teaching coding using Scratch and other tools.

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