Coding, Girls, and The Future Needs

Futuregirlsapathy

For many years I have worked at helping girls to learn to code with a wide variety of tools and techniques. I actually started doing this when I was still a full-time Science teacher many years ago. I think the message that girls get from teachers lead to a perception that they should stay away from certain areas of study. This is of course a great disservice to the girls and the world. Some people call it an unconscious bias. I think that is the wrong way to look at it. As educators we must be aware of the biases we bring with us and work even harder to look at the ones we have due to having grown up in an educational system full of these “unconscious” biases.

I was listening to Leo Laporte on the  Triangulation show interview the Robin Hauser Reynolds the Director of Code: Debugging the Gender Gap documentary (watch or listen here) or embed below. It was a great interview and well worth watching or listening to. I did it in my car on my commute to work as I subscribe to the audio podcast. They covered some of the causes and issues related to why the gender gap exists. As I listened I realized the pace of this gap is glacial as I have been teaching since 1993 and have always tried to improve this notion. They did quote someone who said that biases of this nature take a generation to change. OMG, we do not have that amount of time.

The movie was screened at The Tribeca Film Festival this past week so it is not out in wide release yet. I want to show it to my students today in our coding club (which is about equal female and male) as a way to continue to inspire the girls. Learn more about the movie at http://www.codedocumentary.com and watch the trailer below.

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap Theatrical Trailer from Finish Line Features, LLC on Vimeo.

Giving Students a Chance to Find Their Voice and Face

Speak Even if Your Voice Shakes

Image from Photosforclass.com

Mrs. Howes’s students chose issues they care about, conducted researched to support their ideas, and composed and mailed persuasive letters to people they believed could help these changes come about. This VoiceThread extends their persuasive efforts to the world, as they explain their projects and use their voices to advocate for change!

Below you will find the five VoiceThreads created by her students focused on Global, National, Local, School and Sports issues. Please take a few minutes to listen to what these students have to say about changes they would like to see in their world. Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about these issues. (You will need to log in to view with either a free account or your school’s account)

I asked the students to record video comments as I believe we need to help our students learn how to use their voice and face in order to share effectively. Of course, we all have to get over how our voice sounds which is often the largest hurdle to overcome especially in middle school.

Global Issues VoiceThread

National Issues VoiceThread

Local Issues VoiceThread

School Issues VoiceThread

Sports Issues VoiceThread

Summer Time and the Learning is Easy and Fun

Summercampflyer2

With apologies to George Gershwin, but my camps are easy and fun. I forget how many years I have done camps during the summer but know it has been a few as some of my early campers have moved from being a camper to being a helper to being in college.

I employ 2 helpers for each of my camps as I believe access to help is important when needed. While this may sound contradictory, I also believe not helping is also important as it allows the campers to own the learning. I  strive to be flexible and fluid in how I operate my camps. Last year I was set to use a site to build apps. As we began the camp I could tell that some of the campers wanted to have a slightly different experience so I found another tool to use and let the campers choose which one to work with. We all learned how to iterate and troubleshoot as the new tool was just that, new to all of us. I think it turned out really well in the end although that first morning was different then what I have imagined.

Dan Gilson, Director of Summer Programs, told me my post-camp reviews were very high. He sent me this testimonial to share with you:

Karl Schaefer’s summer camps got rave reviews from parents and kids last summer!  Every single person I spoke with about his camps said that they were extraordinarily run, the communication was excellent and the kids had a blast learning all kinds of new programming and coding skills.  Karl takes the time to make sure every child gets personalized attention and has a positive experience, socially and educationally, in his camps.

I am happy to announce that I will again be offering a series of summer camps. Each camp is the same so you would only want to attend one session as we repeat the camps in the second session. You can register here: http://da.org/summer

Get Tynkering with Mr. Schaefer

Week 4 – June 29 – July 3 – 1:00 – 4:00

Week 7 – July 20 – 24 – 1:00 – 4:00

Tynker is a web-based site which will allow campers to develop the foundational skills of programming through a simple drag and drop interface. Campers with no previous experience with computer programming or game creation are perfect for this camp. Campers will create games that are challenging and fun to play. Campers will learn at their own pace using the step by step guides and interactive tutorials. Campers will be able to create characters and drawings or use any of the thousands of media from the gallery. Tynker is the place to start learning how to code. Once campers master the drag and drop features they can program with Java Script inside of Tynker.

Learn more at http://www.tynker.com

Scratch Programming with Mr. Schaefer

Week 5 – July 6 – 10 – 1:00 – 4:00

Week 6 – July 13 – 17 – 1:00 – 4:00

Imagine, Program and Share are the key elements of what the free Scratch software can allow campers to create. The software is free, the application is logical and campers will be supported in their learning of the programming language by a seasoned crew of instructors. Young people need to be exposed to programming at an early level to learn how the technology behind computers and games actually work and this is a great camp for that exposure. Come to this camp and “scratch” the programming itch!

Learn more at http://scratch.mit.edu

Become a Code Monkey with Mr. Schaefer

Week 6  – July 13 – 17 – 9:00 – 12:00

Week 7 – July 20 – 24 – 9:00 – 12:00

A code monkey is a term for a novice computer programmer. At some point in every computer programmers life, they were a code monkey. This camp will start at the basics and provide campers with an opportunity to become more then a code monkey. We will start our coding journey with Blocky, an online site developed by Google to introduce programming to novices with a drag and drop interface. As our coding journey continues we will spend two days at Khan Academy investigating the fundamentals of computer science and creating simple programs. Our last stop on our coding journey will be Code Academy where campers will delve into HTML fundamentals in an online course which walks users through each step in writing HTML code as they move to working with CSS, Java Script, and beyond. Campers will leave well equipped to continue being a code monkey.

Please contact me if you have any questions about these camps. I look forward to seeing you there.

Feeling Failure

Fail

We read a lot about the need to fail as a way to learn more. As part of my authorized Google Education Trainer program, I must pass 5 exams each year in order to remain a part of the program. With the snow day yesterday, I used it to take 3 of the exams. I passed the first one on Google Sites with a 91% and felt pretty good. I knew from the last time I took the exams that I am weakest with Google Calendar as I do not use it at school and only a little in my personal account. For this reason, I studied pretty hard for the exam. The exam is 60 questions with 90 minutes to complete the exam. It is an open web exam. I thought about doing other exams that I had to take and leave calendar for the last knowing I would struggle with it. I changed my mind and decided to go for it as I knew I would feel great if I had it over and done with. I took all 90 minutes as the questions were hard. I felt good when I pressed the end test button. Within 15 seconds I had my score and the message of failure. I was upset as I thought I had done better. I do not know which questions I missed but do know I can take it again in 7 days. I kept trying to remember the questions to figure out which ones I may have missed. I do not like failing and not knowing where I went wrong. I took a break and thought of ways I can study differently or more in order to prepare for the retest I will take in 7 days. Later in the day, I took the Chrome exam which I felt good about as I use it all of the time and had studied. I scored a 95%. 

What does all of this mean? Failure is different when it is yours. My wife said to me “ I have not known you to fail at something”. I think this is often true due to my preparation (over) and how I approach learning. I have to admit I also experienced my share of exam anxiety as I approached the exam on calendars. I think that anxiety may have played a part in how confident I was in selecting my answers. The good thing is that I get a second chance although I did have to ask for an extension as I am not able to make the deadline due to this failure.

How Long Does it Take a Seed of Change to Sprout

Image from OpenClipart.org

 

When we launched our 1 to 1 iPad program 3 years ago, one of the first services we purchased was Nearpod. With the purchase of the Gold School Edition we have 25 accounts for teachers to use. I have done trainings and offered help to learn how to add it to the learning resources. Heck, I worked with Nearpod to provide door prizes for workshops I have done for schools in North Carolina. Last year, I connected them with VISnet so member schools could get a discount. This is a great pedagogical tool that offers a new way to interact with your students. The company has been a dream to work with and has made consistent progress in adding more features and upgrades in the last few years. I am thrilled to work with them and bring the service to our school. My stomach flipped when I read the message below, as I feel I need to do more or do something different to get more engagement at our school. I struggle with tilling the soil of change so that when someone asks if there is a way to do X, I can toss in the seed of change allowing them to sprout a new way of teaching and for students to learn. I follow the advice of Rachel Avery whom I replaced as Computer Science Department Chair years ago. She told me to “always buy for tomorrow” which I believe is awesome advice. Sometimes, though tomorrow takes too long to get here.

 

Hi Karl

My name is Nico from the Nearpod Team and it’s my pleasure to be in touch. After taking a look at your account, we have determined that there has not been much use by your users.

Your purchase comes with a PD session and you have not taken advantage of it. Please use the following link to schedule the most convenient WebiNear date and time for you and your teachers: 

Our WebiNears combine Webinar and Nearpod elements for an interactive training that covers the basics of using Nearpod. This is also a great opportunity to have your questions answered.

Additionally, here are some other resources for your teachers:

Check out this blog post of our latest features and how to implement them in your classroom

Take a look at a collection of support material and resources at nearpod.com/help

Let me know if you have any questions or need help!

Kind regards,

Nico

Reimaging the Textbook Workshop

Reimagining Flyersmaller

 

I am pleased to announce the Reimaging the Textbook workshop I am presenting for NCAIS. For more information visit the NCAIS website. This is a virtual workshop being conducted at the offices of Senn Dunn Insurance in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington, and the High Point office if Greensboro fills up. The training rooms available here are state of the art and used for training everyday. I am excited to do this type of training as it has been many years since I did a virtual session at NCSSM.

The workshop description and workflow is below:

New tools and the internet now offer a modern day digital printing press for teachers and schools. This represents a shift in how information is curated and shared. No longer must schools and teachers rely on publishers to provide information to guide the learning.

As Audrey Watters wrote in 2012 http://hackeducation.com/2012/03/19/beyond-the-textbook/

“The textbook as written and published also serves as a reminder that experts are outside the classroom. The teacher is not the expert. The students are certainly not the experts. Copyright means that the words of those experts is unalterable, uneditable, unsharable. Fixed. Protected”. “…. we needn’t write textbooks from scratch. We can remix. We can edit. We can extend. We can share”.

The following will be covered in this workshop:

  • Discuss the most popular formats for digital books ePub, AZW/Mobi, ODF and PDF.
  • Investigate leading resources which allow the teacher to create their own reimagined textbooks using free and open educational resources.
  • Practice making class resources with CK-12, Gooru, OER, along with software like iTunes U (Macintosh or Windows) and iBooks Author (Macintosh only).
  • Discuss the delivery to ensure that what you create will be readable by your students online, offline, or both.

My New Years Learning Resolutions

Now is the time to take stock of what I have learned about myself in 2014 and make adjustments in 2015 to become the best Digital Karl I can be. This year has been a wonderful year professionally as I became an authorized Google Education Trainer and an Apple Foundations Trainer this year. I love learning and challenging myself and these two programs required intense effort. I thought about starting my own consulting business to help schools and non-profits with the use and deployment of Google Apps for Education or Business. I have had moderate success in this area as I have worked with a couple schools and one non-profit. Not bad for the first year with no real promotion other then my network and blog. I did recently get listed in the Official Google Education Directory which will help with exposure. I am continually challenged in my day job with helping guide the digital learning of my students and colleagues as well as being a voice for change in how we “do” school. I had the opportunity to work with a collection of educators from local and global schools trying to design a school from scratch as part of a strategic planning initiative. That group was a high altitude and attitude group from which I am still soaring from having attended. I am grateful to all of you who helped me reach my goals for the year!

My resolutions for 2015:

  • I will spend less time trying to convince people it is not about the device, but rather the learning
  • I will stop sharing my ideas and instead put my head down and just do my job
  • I will not talk with anyone who may disagree with my opinions
  • I will not try anything new unless I am an expert at it as I do not want to look dumb
  • I will not follow anyone on Twitter or Google+ that challenges my thinking and beliefs
  • I will encourage less use of a digital learning device and more use of analog device(s)
  • I will not help students find out how to learn but rather isolate them in a learning world where I provide the information
  • I will continue to accept that institutions like schools can not change
  • I will still not use Facebook

As we all know, resolutions are hard to keep, but I know I can do it this year as I have a mindset that will allow me to succeed. If I fail at a few no big deal, as in the end I bet anyone $1,000.000.00 I can do at least one on the list. Do you know which one?

Lego Mindstorms Robotics Class

Image from Lego

You have played with Legos for years, now you can learn to build and program Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots. I wanted all of you Lego lovers to know that I will be offering and after-school enrichment starting on January 22nd. We will meet in the Library classroom to build robots and program them on the Library computers. The class will be on Thursdays from 4:00-5:00 from 1/22 – 5/14 (16 classes) with no class on 3/12 and a make up lesson on 5/21 if necessary. You can attend study hall before class at no charge. Students will work in pairs to design, construct, and program robots that perform a variety of movements and tasks. This Spring class will develop the skills needed to join the planned First Lego League competition teams starting in the Fall 2015. All materials will be supplied and stored at school. Class is limited to 8 students as we will have 4 kits with 2 students working together.

Learn more about EV3: https://education.lego.com/en-us/lesi/middle-school/mindstorms-education-ev3/why-robotics

Learn more about First Lego League: http://www.firstlegoleague.org

Send this link http://www.da.org/page.cfm?p=607 to your parents so they can register you.

Will You Blend?

 

 

I am attending The Perfect Blend conference tomorrow at Cary Academy. The conference is sponsored by NCAIS and VISnet where I serve on the Advisory Board. As a presenter and advisor, I did not need to register so to that degree, I am being compensated. I am excited to hear more about what other schools are doing around blended learning as well as sharing my perspective on how to know if your school is ready.

 

The Evilness of Devices for Learning

Image from Openclipart.org

Yes, I wrote the title as part link bait and part reflection on what has become a common theme to many conversations I am having these days. As we enter our 3rd year of an iPad program which has been recognized as a distinguished program by Apple. Yes, I realize that is sort of like being a preferred customer at the Toyota dealership because you bought so many cars. However, I do know we are moving our school’s learning forward while also allowing for aspects to remain as we find value in them or because change is hard and slow. There is nothing wrong with moving slowly towards the future as long as movement is happening. I prefer to move faster then my institution but that is how I roll and may not be the best solution for our school. However, I had hoped we were past the notion that playing games is bad and a waste of time given that we have explored all sorts of platforms with our students including hosting our own Minecraft servers. Alas, that is not the case although sometimes games and screen time are mixed together.

I wrote this as part of a position statement about gaming at DA.

While some adults see playing games as a “waste of time” or a way to escape into a virtual coma, many of the skills and standards listed above are found in the act of playing or creating games. For instance, Minecraft, is often seen by adults as just a bunch of chopping and blowing up of a virtual space. What is missed when observed as such is the collaboration that must take place to create worlds, the knowledge base needed to understand the game, and how a community of players have created a wealth of tutorials and information on how to play.

Gaming in classrooms and learning has been gaining momentum for years. Durham Academy has explored using games in the Middle School over the years with software like; Gamestar Mechanic, and Evolver (Pre-Algebra). Research shows that game principles are a way to better engage students. http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/06/09/teachers-on-using-games-in-class/ and http://www.edutopia.org/blog/using-gaming-principles-engage-students-douglas-kiang. Jane McGonigal has many resources about games. Watch her TEDX talk about SuperBetter.

Advocacy groups like, Common Sense Media provide resources on what games parents can say yes to after-school. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/24-video-games-you-can-say-yes-to-after-school.Vicki Davis has a nice article on Edutopia on game based learning. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/guide-to-game-based-learning-vicki-davis

As I continue to brace myself for the discussions that are coming, I keep saying to myself this is not a problem with devices or technology. These are human behavior problems which need human solutions that are not just banning or blocking. This is an educational problem that needs to be addressed with our colleagues, students and parents. If a small percentage of students have problems with impulse control so they play games instead of listening to a lecture, do we not help the student? What about the other larger percentage of students who are not having the problem? I help to write the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) each year which was redone to not be Though Shall Not document into a more Though Shall type document. This came about after reading the book From Fear To Facebook by Matt Levinson who at the time was at Nueva School.  It is way too long and still causes my eyes to glaze over. I even created a companion website called iPad Passport to help the Middle School students and faculty understand the concepts and language used. I think we need to be focus on having fewer AUPs and more User Policy. To that end I am adding some links to this post that are shaping my learning evolution on this topic.

Edutopia – http://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-culture-trust-transparency-andrew-marcinek and http://www.edutopia.org/blog/educating-parents-about-education-tom-whitby

Providence Day School’s Parenting in the Digital Age site: https://sites.google.com/a/providenceday.org/digitalparenting/home This site is full of useful and practical resources for starting a school-wide conversation. We are reaching out to Matt Scully and Derrick Willard to get advice.