Category Archives: EC&I 831

Final Coding Adventure

Well, I did it.

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I finished my calculator! I am so proud. It actually works and actually calculates what I asked it to.

This is a link to all of my videos I posted along my journey, or you can check out the list through my blog. (I’ve learned all kinds of ways to collect my information into one accessible place!)

If you don’t get a chance to watch all the videos (it’s ok, honest.), essentially what I’m trying to say is:

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In the playlist is a quick overview of some of the social media I used when learning to code:

I just barely scratch (ha! Scratch Jr!) the surface of the amount of information that exists about coding on social media platforms. I didn’t even look at Reddit or explore any forums on the video.

But, speaking of Reddit, this is what I found when I searched “python”:

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The top Python community has existed on Reddit for nine years! That’s ancient in terms of the internet!

Coding is everywhere. It’s hard to escape and seems to find me if I try and hide. As I mention in the above video, even the Google Doodle is trying to get me to code more often.

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I cover a lot of my struggles in my Summary of Learning. It was really challenging because coding is so overwhelming. In the Social Media and Coding (brief) Overview, I called up over 4 BILLION results from looking up simply “how to code”. There are SO many resources out there about how to code and what the best language is for coding and what the best product is and how many jobs there are.

I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for the effort that goes into coding an app such as Instagram. Making a simple, barely there code calculator like I did was a monumental effort on my part. To code something which boasts 800 million users is frankly a wee bit mind-boggling.

Coding to me is like one of my favourite analogies: ducks on ponds:

Sure they look really cute and calm from the top. Dive below the surface and you’ll see their little feet just paddling like crazy to stay afloat.

This is how I feel about coding: it seems all pretty and calm on top, but underneath there’s a mess of code and programmers just trying to stay on top of their syntax errors.

Wait.

That sounds an awful lot like teaching, too. Hm. Maybe I have more in common with a programmer than I originally thought…

Till next time, keep on paddling!


Digital Project Summary

Wow! I can’t believe how fast the time has went by! I’ve learned so much in the last few months and have definitely utilized social media in the classroom more than ever before.

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My original project was implementing a classroom Twitter account and involve students in sharing their learning. However my project quickly began to evolve after I realized how little my class knew about digital citizenship and responsible online use – and yet nearly every student was using social media platforms, whether it be Snap-chat or Facebook, in some way or another. I was shocked and knew that before I just hop into using Twitter, we needed to have some important discussions and lesson around responsible internet use. What seemed to work well was using Twitter in authentic moments, while having regular lessons each week that evolved around …

  • Twitter etiquette – The language, the hashtags and all that jazz
  • The use of private and personal information
  • The power of words online
  • Keywords to give you the best search results
  • Plagiarism, it’s consequences, and when it’ acceptable to use people’s work – including citations

This wasn’t the initial direction of my project, but I quickly learned teaching about digital citizenship was going to be essential and almost more important than simply using social media in the classroom. Having conversations around appropriate internet use is going to be where most of the learning takes place this semester for my students. How could I expect them to jump in and know how to use social media without preparing them with background on responsible internet use.

As I look at our use of Twitter in the classroom I was happy about the growth I made and the lessons learned. I do believe this will become a staple within my classroom as it is a quick, easy way to share what we are doing in the classroom and connect with others in our community and around the world. There was a learning curve associated with transitioning the Twitter account from me onto the students and some difficulties associated with not having a classroom iPad. Instead students used my phone for the photo and then we drafted the tweets together from my computer projected onto the whiteboard.

Drafting Tweets:
Students learned Twitter etiquette though modelling and practice on our “Twitter Board” which involved students writing their Tweets, editing mistakes, and creating hashtags before they actually tweet it out online. This also helped us to THINK before we TWEET – something we discussed many times this year.

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Here is how I see our progression of learning based on our Twitter history. At the start of this project, I set up our Twitter account, it was very little used and I was doing most of the Tweets. I was using Twitter to share our learning to parents and the community but not really giving students any ownership until my project really got started.

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Slowly but surely students began taking ownership of the Tweets, at other times it was a combined class Tweet. We talked and decided as a class to use “Quotation Marks” to capture what the student said about their picture and “signed” the Tweet using first names only. I think this process of taking baby steps and working together to compile tweets, in unison of the digital citizenship curriculum made an impression on students and hopefully how they will use social media independently moving forward.

I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility within this course to learn about something I’ve always wanted to do, but have never had time to explore and try. I’m confident that this project has helped me lay the foundation for making Twitter a staple in my classroom for future years.

Check out my summary of learning here!

 

Thanks for an rewarding and enjoyable learning experience!
Tayler


Coding Adventure #3

I’m feeling like I’m FINALLY getting the hang of very beginning coding. Things are starting to become more intuitive the more I practice.

Still really frustrating when I go through inputting a bunch of information only to get a syntax error, but it’s becoming easier to find out where that is.

I’m also discovering lots of similarities between stylistic English and stylistic coding. Never thought that would happen….

Also, Screencast-O-Matic is better than Screencastify. Just putting that out there.


ScratchJr

Warning: This is an image/video heavy post. I wouldn’t recommend viewing it on data. Wait until you have a stable internet connection.

Because my final project is about coding, I decided to take some time to look at different coding apps. Also, because the coding I’ve been focused on it higher level, I wanted to try out some junior coding apps, which led me to ScratchJr and Hopscotch.

 

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I played around with ScratchJr more than Hopscotch, so I’ll review that one. (But this isn’t the last you’ll hear of Hopscotch…)

ScratchJr started out as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, where it raised over $77K (which is incredible for a crowdsourced campaign).

Now, it’s available on mainstream sites like PBS as foundation educational tool. PBS offers different lesson plans for ScratchJr using their channel’s characters, like The Kratt Brothers.

ScratchJr is available on the App Store for iPads (recommended iOS 9+) and on Andriod tablets (Kit Kat or higher). It is only available for tablets, not for phones.

When you launch, you’ll notice the colourful interface immediately:

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It is obvious this is geared toward a younger crowd through it’s primary subject matter (locations of animals, dealing with friends etc).

I went through the intro video in the app and got started “coding”:

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What I noticed right away was the similarity to the Codeapillar, which started me on the whole coding journey.

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Both use direction arrows to get their character moving (caterpillar or cat). I think this could be a good feature for a preschooler moving into more advanced coding because it allows for familiarity with controls and commands.

Also, entering arrows instead of >>>print(“hello world”) commands was a huge shift. It struck me how diverse coding is.

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My end result was a nonsense story about a cat, a chicken, and a grandpa having a fun day outside, playing. I wanted to try as many characters in a variety of strings of commands as I could while trying to maintain some coherence. It worked, for the most part.

Strengths:

  • ease of use
  • can be as difficult or as easy of a product as the user wants (to a point, obviously)
  • layout is easy to use
  • cheap (can’t get any cheaper than free!)

Weaknesses:

  • export — couldn’t figure out how to export my final product to another source (maybe it’s me? Is there a way to upload the video to Youtube from the app? Or email it as an mp4?)
  • once you’ve figured it out, the novelty wouldn’t last very long and kids may want to move onto something more complex quickly

Potential for the Classroom:

  • I can’t see why a teacher wouldn’t want to use this as a jumping off point for teaching primary students about coding. It’s free, easy to use with very little prior knowledge needed (the prior knowledge I do have about coding — i.e., Python, was not a help in figuring this out)
  • Using this is perfect timing as Hour of Code is December 4-10, 2017

 


Connecting With Others Via Twitter

Follow my learning journey of bringing Twitter into the classroom by following our class @CameronsCorner1

We have been primarily using Twitter as a communication tool with our families. Students have been very eager to share what they are doing in the classroom on Twitter and caption their photo.

I’ve personally tried to connect with other teachers more by following another teachers tip given to me on Twitter – connect with teachers in your division by following Regina Public School’s as they often share other teacher’s tweets, allowing me to follow how others use Twitter in their classroom.

After one of my students found a rock (in the music room of all places) students began wondering what kind of rock it is. This was the perfect opportunity to reach out the Twitter Universe – and of course we learned a few things by making some mistakes!

 

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First Mistake – We should have tagged some geologists or geology related Twitter pages to help us with this question – oops! Rookie move! After realizing this, my wonderful intern Jessica Weber who is teaching science right now re tweeted our question with some key geology related hashtags.

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Second Mistake – When taking pictures of rocks – take focus your camera on the rock (duh!). Although this seems like common sense, we took the photo without thinking too much about it but our photo focused more on the background item then the rock itself. Lesson learned….

Since we haven’t been on Twitter long, I was surprised and really happy that we actually got some responses and guesses by others – and my students were too! One person even shared a resource chart which led us to a flow chart to use on the projector. It felt really neat to bring the outside world into our classroom and see who responds to our question.

I’m excited for the next question that lends itself to a classroom tweet!

Tayler


Share and Share Alike

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Sharing seems to be a common thread through my Master’s degree. The concept of sharing has dogged my every class in some fashion, whether it is sharing content or sharing ideas. It seems “sharing” is something a lot of teachers struggle with.

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I think the biggest personal barrier to my sharing with others is the concept of not being good enough to share. As I indicated in a previous post, teachers, in my experience, have an inferiority complex when it comes to their own work. Teachers are constantly comparing themselves to each other and how much better another teacher is doing something compared to what they’re doing now.

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for the next cool thing, but I can also see how some teachers like what they do because they’ve done it for  so long that to do something else would be very uncomfortable. So they don’t seek out new ideas or lessons. It seems that teaching is a profession of extremes: you either share or you don’t. There doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground that way.

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As Dean Shareski says, I think teachers have an obligation to share ideas and content because teaching can be such a collaborative profession, if you let it. If there’s no sense of collegiality fostered, it is too easy to shut your door and do your own thing for the next 40 years. It’s contingent on teachers to share with each other and to reach out to others, without waiting to be approached first.

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I think in order to create a culture where sharing is encouraged, there has to be a value placed on it, from above. If sharing amongst teachers is considered a priority, if creating things collaborative becomes paramount, there will be a corresponding increase in sharing with teachers. But, right now, teachers are strapped for time and are limited on resources, mentally, physically, and time-wise. Teachers are stretched thin. Sharing becomes a back burner issue when just getting through the day and planning a lesson at a time is life. (I find this especially true with new preps — I have all new preps this semester and have never felt so like a first-year teacher again!)

If teaching were to have an oath, like the Hippocratic one, I think the first commandment would be: First, share and share reserving judgment.


Sharing for Growth

In my opinion of the advancements in education, technology and many important areas have to do with sharing.  In fact, when I think about the advancements I have made in my career, I can relate almost everything I have ever learned to the concept of sharing and open communication with others. This isn’t limited to the sharing of lesson resources alone – but on a larger scale that includes the sharing of ideas, feedback, problem solving and open communication with friends, colleagues and and other grad students.

Steve Johnson’s Ted Talk titled,  Where Good Ideas Come From speaks to the importance of collaborating with others and sharing ideas. He draws attention to the importance of not only sharing good ideas, but how sometimes talking about problems or what my kids and I call in the classroom “speed bumps” can often lead to new and noteworthy ideas or innovations.

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I believe a popular misconception, at least for me, is that often a good idea is a sudden light bulb reaction that happens out of nowhere, or so it seems. However, Johnson’s Ted Talk addresses the fact that often good ideas are built over long periods of time. Johnson had me thinking about the push companies like Google make for employees to have 20% release time from their regular duties just for to focus on generating new ideas. It’s an interesting concept but one I can really see the value in. When I think about my own workday, I am so stressed for time and literally make too many minute by minute decisions to think about much else. That is why I can really appreciate the common prep time given aside from teaching to share, discuss new teaching resources and problem solve with other grade alike teachers within my school. It’s not google – but I always walk away learning something new from someone else.

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This common prep time set aside regular work, or even regular prep times is built with sharing and collaboration in mind. We often share and develop new teaching projects, ideas, problem solve or share interesting PD resources with one another. We may be in a different category then Google, however this time does benefit my learning as an employee and as a result has an impact on my performance which is in turn good for my employer. A key factor in creating a culture of sharing between educators is providing time and opportunity within the school day to do so and exploring online avenues to explore PD opportunities, including developing your PLN (Professional Learning Network) outside of the school day using tools like Twitter.

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However, many teachers are very reserved when it comes to sharing  – many who do not share at all – at least in front of an audience. Non-sharing, in my opinion, limits one’s growth and creates a culture of non-collaboration. Why do some people believe not sharing is best for them? Perhaps it’s not an issue of believing what’s best for them, but rather a fear of being ridiculed or judged for their work or ideas. Is it merely an issue of self-confidence? I was once guilty of not sharing my ideas in front of others unless I was literally asked or absolutely had to. I was always open to sharing my resources and what I knew, but avoided being put on the spot in a large meeting to “share” at all costs. As Marley mentions, “There is no need to reinvent the wheel” but rather lets build upon what we already know and whats already out there to take our work to the next level. I preferred to blend into the crowd until a mentor of mine began to highlight my skills and strengths and encourage me to share what I’m doing in the classroom with other teachers. For me, it was the fear of what others thought. What if others don’t agree or like what I have to say? With age, this notion of “What will others think?” became less and less important and my thinking shifting towards the importance of sharing from others. If I could help just one teacher by sharing what I am already doing in the classroom was more meaningful to me then worrying about what others would think.

I think confidence in one’s self is a key issue regarding one’s level of comfort in sharing. Also the more one seeks information to learn, the more like they are to establish a similar sharing attitude. When I began teaching several years ago, I was so grateful for new information, ideas and resources that were shared with me – both by colleagues I

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knew, and strangers online from different education resource platforms. The more things I “borrowed” from others, the more obligated I felt to share what I had with other teachers who are looking to learn about a certain subject or needed help. I was much more willing to make suggestions based on what has been shared with me when I noticed a colleague struggling with the same issues I may have already experienced before them. I think of this as my “duty to share” and given the amount of great ideas that have been shared with me, it is my duty to pass them along to others. As Amy so nicely put it in her most recent blog post that “A big part of openness is being adaptable” and I think this is so true. We must be willing to be flexible in our thinking and actions as we learn and grow. I believe that in order for that to happen there needs to be a willingness to accept new ideas and in turn share with others.  A culture of sharing is just so critical to developing in our profession.

Speaking of the culture of sharing, as leaders within the school I think sharing is a big part of building your team up and highlighting the strengths of others within the school. Not only does Parkland School Division’s website titled 184 Day of Learning highlights the great work of teachers, but they are also sharing ideas of what quality teaching with their employees. Whether it was their main goal or not – this website makes learning visible and but it always demonstrates the value they place on creating a culture of sharing.

Heather Duncan’s Ted Talk makes reference to the need so “share our secrets” as teachers with others. Within the day, it can feel isolating within our classroom and the need for collaboration and sharing is more important than ever. She emphasizes the need to “break out of our comfort zones” and initiate these conversations with students within our grade groups and then venturing further to meet other teachers.

I enjoyed Christina’s most recent blog post which stressed the importance of focusing in on the basic needs of the student and collaborating with an entire team to ensure the individual student succeeds not only in academics but also in terms of social growth and having their basic needs met. So often I think of sharing in terms of resources for academics, when often the need for sharing entails a holistic approach that addresses the whole child. I spoke about many in-house “key players” in collaboration and appreciate Christina’s reminder about the outside agencies that are often needed to provide proper supports with students – it truly does take a village to raise a child.

Until Next Time!
Tayler


Education for All

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I have so many thoughts on open education. I’m trying to get them in order so that I sound somewhat coherent.

I am conflicted about the idea of open education.

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On one hand, open education is just that. Open, free. No holds barred. Places like Harvard have open courses available online. But, something tells me that if I turned up at the STF with a certificate I printed out at home saying I now have a degree from Harvard I would be laughed out of the building.

However, this goes against what I stand for we we discuss democratization of education . I believe education should be open and available to everyone. Having education as a paid concept is a very capitalist movement that goes against the Marxist that lurks beneath the surface of my heart.

I’m all for education that’s open, which is why I’m a public school teacher. This article by the Independent has a whole list of universities which offer free (or almost free) education to their students.

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But, the conundrum I run into is am I legally allowed to offer free education? Can I offer or post something to the internet in the name of open education within my ethical limitations?

I am paid by the Regina Board of Education, who in turn derives money from taxpayers. By allowing someone else to use something I created using taxpayer money, am I violating some kind of ethics? The person using my work may be half way across the world and have no connection to me.

This concept really hit home with Larry Lessig’s video on Laws that Choke Creativity and then with Everything is a Remix. Is my creativity being stifled? Is my students? How do I balance my obligations to my employer while still honouring my desire for a free, open education? Who are these laws really protecting in the end? The trespassers (to borrow a phrase from the video) or the people on the ground? How original is my work in the end? As a teacher, you’re always told “don’t reinvent the wheel” in terms of creating new material.

These thoughts led me to this declaration:

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If education is then framed like this, money doesn’t matter. Respecting human rights becomes the most important thing.

Education belongs to all and I’ll end with a quote (which speaks to me as an English teacher):

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