Reflecting on Creating Something New

It’s finished. My first online course. It may not make you a rocket scientist, but if you want to learn all about Google and how to use its resources in the classroom, you can master it pretty easily by following the content in my online course. Then you’ll know how to help students become rocket scientists!

Many online programs help teachers be successful. Here’s a short list of what others are talking about. It’s a sampling of resources that help make teaching easier, more fun, certainly more effective, and it’s all online. To learn more about my recent experience creating an online course, check out my project reflection.

  • Code.org
  • Khan Academy
  • CodeAcademy
  • Sophia
  • Curriki
  • Better Lessons
  • AVID

Building Quality Classes

Tqualityhe topic of quality has reared its head several times this week so I thought I would share some thoughts. While working on my newly created online course, Google Tools Workshop, which is nearly finished, I learned a great deal about what makes an online course “good”. In his 2015 book, Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning, which I consulted often, Bates offers multiple resources that include research and guidance about building online courses that are worthy of one’s time. The free, online book is a valuable resource. It’s helped me refocus on quality as I guide others everyday.

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Creative Commons share with attributions: by flickerbrad

Quality in the Classroom

Unintentionally Blending Learning

While developing an online class, I’ve also been working with teachers to evaluate the impact technology is having on student learning in their classrooms. In elementary classrooms, teachers have become fond of using reading and math apps on the iPad. My role, among others is to ensure technology products help students and teachers achieve the learning standards set by our state (at the least) and to understand how, if at all, teachers can provide evidence of improved learning when technology is used. Continue reading

POP Goes Google Online

For those who have followed my work at Prince of Peace (POP) during the imageslast few months you know I have created and implemented a professional learning program as part of my year long  “IT” campaign. For those just joining me on this journey – welcome – and a brief explanation is in order.

“IT” represents many things and my school has agreed to adopt “IT” as the theme for everything we focus on this year. Our overarching goal is to help teachers reach a higher level of comfort with technology so they can take learning into their own hands. In support, we have assembled a Tech Committee of teachers to lead the program. All teachers willingly participated in a 4 week technology education program (with a 5th week for feedback), delivered entirely by skilled faculty. I am thrilled to report it was a success!

Now I am moving the program onto an online platform. This is new and exciting for me. The same lessons provided to teachers in the fall will be available to them again in the spring, through Schoology. Teachers wanting to learn more about Google tools for teaching can attend all six courses, at their own pace. The online courses will help our school keep all teachers up to date in their use of Google in education as well as advance their skill, staying at the top of their game, as teachers.

To view the inner workings of a course as it is being developed visit: Google Tools Workshop; Part 1.

Please visit the Projects Page for other information being used to support the course development.

Finding the Right Code for Kids

greenfoot-logo
Greenfoot.org Programming

So many educators want to incorporate coding into technology education. Is it just a fad? An article from 2014 New Yorker suggests we are jumping the gun. Why is there such a push for children to learn to code in school? As technology director I rarely need to know code except to occasionally modify a default setting in a browser or customize a website, or lookup an IP address. When it comes to coding to make our systems work, I call upon trained professionals who are “coders”; often behind the scenes types, without whom our world might fall apart.

So why are we bringing it into education? Why all the hoopla? I mean, besides the obvious answer that pretty much everything we touch functions because some coding wiz kid made it operational. Here’s my unqualified explanation.

As a technology teacher, coding is as important as the pencil and paper that is a staple in every other class. It is the language of those who rarely volunteer, who neither lead nor follow, and those who can spend hours doing something that requires nothing but intense concentration. You know, those kids who don’t seem to contribute anywhere else.

Some kids are just built to understand the curious nature of code. They are often, but now always, the same kids who sit quietly in the back of the classroom daydreaming; the ones who stay up all hours obsessed with playing strategy games online while their parents see the activity as pointless. And they are likely the same kids who never really stand out – until we need them.

Over the years I’ve observed these traits in students who join my coding classes. They are creative, smart, hard working, and dedicated to mastering their craft. Failure has no effect on them. I am yet to have a student give up, cause trouble, or fail to complete what he or she started. The problem is that many of these same kids have no passion for the mundane riggers of math, history or  English classes, instead they crave the logic of a coding puzzle.

maxresdefaultWhat these students really learn from coding is that they have a place in the world. They discover they are an elite bunch who recognize “friends” as those who conquered the farmer level in Code.org, or make it through the Khan programming animation program. These students are a mix of girls and boys who are self proclaimed nerds, athletes, introverts, and socialites. Why do we teach coding? Maybe it’s because we might just need more than the basics to keep our world humming, and it will be those thinkers who can tackle the jobs that haven’t even been created yet. code-and-minecraft

On a side note, for anyone wanting to introduce coding as a class, an after school program, or even a summer camp, there are plenty of FREE resources for you – the teacher – to lead the way. You don’t actually need to know how to code, you simply need to know how to get the kids connected to it so they can learn on their own.

khan-academy-logoTry Code.org up to middle school. It is a great precursor to real coding. I use Code.org code studio at the middle school level beginning in 6th grade. From there students can easily move into java script using Khan programming intro to animation, which builds on the basics from Code.org.  Finally, consider Greenfoot.org, which teaches how to build games using java developer. Visit my students’ robotics website for more information at www.poprobotics.wordpress.com.

POP Robotics Makes the News

2016-team

Robotics is making headlines in the recent article about the Prince of Peace Middle School robotics team.  If you live in the lower south east states you will find plenty of opportunity to join the fun through BEST Robotics and many other free programs.

The University of Auburn is expanding its outreach to help schools develop robotics education in K-12. Continue reading

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Become a Mentor

Robotics, it’s not what you think it is.


Each year for the past seven, my husband and I have worked with a small group of middle school students ages 11 through 14 in an after school program like no other. We gathered together for a few hours each week in the fall to do the impossible – build a working robot out of virtually nothing to compete in BEST Robotics. I can’t say it’s easy because it really isn’t. We never have enough time, talent, money or adults, frankly, and there’s much more to it than building a robot. Every year about half way through the season I say to him, “this is our last year”, and every year we start again with another group of eager kids excited to conquer the world. Continue reading

Modern Math Education

Are you doing research about what works in education? Are you wondering why the best education systems are always ahead? An interview with Maarit Rossi of Finland tells about her success in developing math thinkers and her efforts to spread the word across the world. Student-centered classrooms and real world applications are key. Continue reading