Python – I have survived!

At the beginning of February I enrolled in the University of Canterbury’s first year paper – COCS121, Introduction to Programming (using Python). I decided to take the plunge as in our Year 12 Digital Technology class we are going to be teaching Python in Term 3 and I have never done any programming whatsoever!!

python logo

I decided I needed a course where I would have deadlines that had to be met. If I had just used an online resource like codeacademy, it would have been too easy to not to do it. Also, I like to interact with others and with the UC course we would have a tutor and tutorials plus able to use forums to talk with other students.

Uc Banner

Tim Bell and his Computer Science department at UC are working hard to support digital technologies teachers and they offered this course as an online option for teachers. (UC also paid the cost of the paper!) Twelve started at the beginning of the year and five of us made it to the final (written) exam.

It was really full on and hard work. I had thought it would be maybe 5 hours extra work a week but for me it was probably more like 10 to 15. With having no background in programming I had to find the time to watch all the lectures, do all the labs and complete all the assignments.

I think the only reason I was able to finish the course was all the support I got. From my partner (lifesaver!), from Jack Morgan our online tutor and from Tim Harford – my DT colleague at school and I also connected in with the UC Computer Chicks Club. We had online tutorials two times a week with Jack, who was great, patient and really good at helping me solve problems. Tim was fab, he sat with me most Tuesday mornings before school so I could bounce ideas and questions off him and talk about what was working and what wasn’t in the programs I was writing. I know I would not have been able to finish this course if I didn’t have all of this help.

Positives out of this (besides completing the course and getting a good grade) are that besides the stress I really enjoyed it. It was exciting and interesting being a student again, it has made me think about my teaching and the students in my class. It has made me think about having extrinsic motivations –  deadlines, grades etc – credits. However, it would be interesting if I was a student in an environment where learning was the final goal – not completing a course. In such an environment I may have made a program that I wanted to, rather then ones about words and word counts!

Even though I did enjoy the whole course and was really excited when I got things to work, I think it would have been better if the assessments were interesting. Or perhaps does there need to be a set formula when teaching the basics of programming? And when teaching such a large group? Something to think about and explore, particularly when we are just about to start teaching Y12 students at an all girls’ school.

Another thing that would have been good would have been working collaboratively. However, again with the set up of a first year uni paper, perahps this would be too hard, as assessments are individual so how can you be collaborative? Perhaps this is something that occurs later on in a university setting. I would like to think about how we could make programming collaborative in NCEA but again have the hurdle of assessments needs to be jumped over. Is anyway out there doing collaborative programming with NCEA assessments?

I have now ticked off part of one of my goals – Goal 3: learn Python so can teach effectively and engage students in this learning area – I have done the learning bit! I hope I can do the next part! Who else uses Python in NCEA for the programming / planning standards? How do you go about teaching it?

Now that I have had the time to process and reflect on the course (and get over illness following the course!) I can see that taking on this learning was a mammoth task while teaching full time! I recently joined a group on Google+ called Code Club for Teachers and was looking at the Code.org activities that people were completing and posted a question “How do you all find the time?”. I had a think about this yesterday and decided that I used up all my spare time (and energy) for the whole year in the first half of this year completing COCS 121! So, I’m going to take a breather for the rest of the year and not run head first into doing extra things – even if they look like lots of fun and could be useful!

So, what do you think about the questions I have formulated in this post – does there need to be set formula when teaching the basics of programming? Does it make it easier when teaching a large group? Can we introduce collaborative work in NCEA with programming? Are you getting students to work collaboratively? Are you teaching Python? How are you teaching it? Or are you are teaching another programming language? If so, what language and how is it going?

Advertisements

Challenging my teaching #hackyrclass

My first blog post on #hackyrclass – setting the scene received a tweet from @NZPEteacher asking me what my end goal is by hacking my classroom.

I have had a bit of a think about this and to be quite honest I started without having concrete, clear goals in mind. It came out of reading people’s posts and chatting with a couple of other teachers at school and the boredom that I felt with teaching the way I was.

We, predominately, use a paper workbook (that we have created as a department) and a range of individual, pair and group activities based around a Health issue / unit. I guess a lot of the content is teacher driven and involves a lot of the teacher on the stage. I have gotten bored with teaching like this and I think with what Claire Amos and everyone else involved in #hackyrclass is attempting made me feel “safe” to try something different. I have put safe in quotes as it isn’t exactly safe changing it up like teachers all over the country are with #hackyrclass but it has given me the push to step outside my comfort zone!

Coming back to the end goal, so I thought with me getting bored I am sure the students are, so I am hoping for more engagement. I am actually seeing this from most students already. I also probably need to say that a goal is that they learn what they need to about Drug Education, so as I fill the requirements of meeting the curriculum. I will need to look at this closer though. Others goals that I hope to see are higher order thinking and learning happening that is worthwhile and authentic. Getting completely away from students just filling in pages in a workbook.

I haven’t been doing much planning for the lessons. I have a loose idea of the outline for a lesson but not much structure. I think this allows for me to be more flexible and means that students are not constrained by my thinking. This isn’t the best for all students though, as some do need structure. During the lesson I am dealing with this by checking in with groups and those that are stuck or aren’t doing much I have a chat with and guide them to a point where they are keen to keep exploring ideas.

One thing I am thinking about doing, as I suggested to the class when we were discussing growth mindset, that I should let other staff in the school know what I was doing and invite them to come and visit! This rather petrifies me – so might be a good idea to run with it? I would be interested to know what others think about this idea?

where it happens

Creative Commons License
This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Quick #HackYrClass post

So have been watching all the tweets and blog posts following Claire Amos’s initial post about hacking your classroom.
Didn’t think I was really going to have enough time to get involved with it (madly busy learning python!) but sat down with two colleagues who are doing some hacking as well and came up with how I could do it.
I teach PE and Health and we have 1 lesson of health a week. We still use a workbook set up and I often get pretty bored taking those lessons (not sure you could really cool it teaching, maybe preaching!). So I have decided to hack my Year 10 Health class. Upcoming unit is drug education and I am throwing the book out the window.

It is great that others are blogging about what they are doing. Someone I just followed that teachers science had some good ideas which I am going to hack!
It has also been great having a couple of people at school who are keen to do this as well, as good to bounce ideas of each other

Traffic light self assessment system – geddit?!

I’ve just found this site – http://letsgeddit.com/ – that seems a good tech replacement for the old traffic light paper system. A few year ago when I was teaching Year 11 Physical Education and anatomy and biomechanics, another teacher introduced me to using the traffic light system. You would have a sheet with terms or questions on one side and a column on the other and students needed to colour the empty column in with the colour that reflected how well they understood the term or question – e.g. red if the didn’t at all, green if they were sweet with it.

I am no longer teaching anatomy or Y11 PE but I straight away thought I could use this in Digital Technology, firstly with my juniors learning Scratch – to get a quick gauge of those that have used it before or not. And as we progress through the teaching and learning, checking in with where they are at with understanding Scratch as well as where they are at with their project. Oh I think this could work quite well. And with seniors learning HTML and programming etc.

Here is the page on how to get started – http://letsgeddit.com/public/articles/how-do-I-run-my-first-lesson.

I will have to have a bit more of a think about how to use in Physical Education and Health.

Have you come across geddit? How do you use it?

Keen to hear what other people are using – do you use something similar? If so, what and how?

geddit

My Goals for 2014

Goal 1: integration of student BYOD devices into learning activities in Year 9 Health with student choice of what, when and how to support their own learning.
This has started well and isn’t too stressful as only have one health lesson a week! And nearly every student has their own device and we have enough laptops in PE to be able to cover those that don’t or might forget. The one issue that I have come across so far is students on tablets, particularly iPads and them not working so well with Google Apps.

Goal 2: to work closely with HFT to consolidate the Level 2 Digital Technology programme with the aim to increase student numbers at L2 and strive to be given a L1 DT course in 2015.
Working well with new assistant HOD so far!

Goal 3: learn Python so can teach effectively and engage students in this learning area.
Starting this soon by doing the Canterbury University COCS121 paper! Will be a busy semester!

Classroom Management for BYOD – My Top Tips

Thanks to @catwooller for this great post, will be using ideas from it this year with my Year 9’s

Mrs Wooller's Blog

I would like to start this post by saying that I am in no way an expert in this topic, and in actual fact I have only been teaching my two year nine BYOD classes for two terms so far this year. So I am purely going to share what classroom management strategies I have put in place to help my classes get and stay on task.

  • The 5 minute Rule
    Initially when I arrived in term two, I am sad to say that I got played!! The “I can’t get connected”, and “the wifi isn’t working”, enabled my students to get away with doing very little work. So I came up with the 5min rule. Basically, if students can’t connect within the first 5minutes of the lesson, they are to put their device away in their bags and get paper out to work on or use an offline method…

View original post 970 more words

2013 Reflections

A bit of a reflection on what I got up to in 2013.

Professional goals –

Goal 1: to continue to develop my own learning of how to use Moodle so that I can support teachers in creating asynchronous learning opportunities.

Definitely did this well in 2013. I attended the NZ Moodlemoot in Hamilton in the April holidays. I took the Moodlebites for Course Designers 8 week online course. Attended the online iMoot conference – looking forward to the next one of these, great learning from all over the world. And I also was a participant in the Learn Moodle MOOC.

I have worked with a lot of staff over the year to help them implement their teaching and learning ideas using Moodle.

In 2014 I am looking forward to working with Moodle 2.6 (as we upgraded at the end of 2013) and using badges! However, I know that I need to work on looking at the effective pedagogy and not just getting focused on giving out badges just for the sake of it. I am planning on trying to have our Year 9 Health content all online and not using a paper workbook. I have been collecting information about learning and instructional design plus gamification to help me with this, as I also want to make the Health content more engaging.

Goal 2: develop and implement a Project Based Learning unit for Year 10 Shaping Up (Inner Beauty? Lets get real!) that helps develop critical thinking.

The unit ended up being called ‘What Matters Most…is what you think of yourself’ – shortened to What Matters Most (see previous posts) It was a huge step out of my comfort zone with my teaching and took a lot of time to set up but so worth the effort!! I am planning on using it again this year with some changes to it following great feedback my students and I received. I will think about how I might be able to do something similar with other units in our junior health courses this year.

Goal 3: learn and use iPad as a effective teaching and learning tool in Physical Education.

This didn’t really happen last year. This maybe due to not having enough iPads or not putting the time aside to think about how to use them effectively in class. What I did get happening in my Year 9 class was students using their own devices more for the creation of content. I would like to build on this in 2014.

What I have done in 2013 is used the iPad for my own uses very effectively. I find some of the apps on it great for planning and I have reduced down the amount of paper I use.

Ideas for 2014

With my senior Year 12 Sports Studies class I would really like to utilise Google Apps a lot more, particularly to make it easier for them to record information. For Social Responsibility, I would like to set up a form for them to enter in their reflections and have something like a rating system, so it is really easy for them to do, so they can do it on their phone for example and it collates it all.

I would also like to use Google Apps for all of the written assessments as I think this made a difference to my ability to give constructive and timely feedback. I don’t think all the students particularly like it but I think overall it was more effective then a written report on paper.

For Digital Technology, I am planning on using Scratch in 9DT. I would like to have two topics, one on computer science – ie Scratch, and the other on digital media – which I think I will stick with Photoshop and Pixlr and have the students creating a digital poster. What I need to work on is creating units where the students have stakeholders outside of the classroom.

Then there is Year 12 Digital Technology! There will be lots of learning going on with this, php, MySQL, programming, Python!!

So, roll on 2014 and the joys that it is going to provide!