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!!

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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.

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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?

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

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Byte Me! New tech / computer club at school

All of this year I have been wanting to start a computer club at school. I teach at an all girls’ school and feel that it is important that there is a space for those girls who are computer geeks! Or at least interested in learning more about everything digital.

So, I finally got around to making a poster and advertising it. Had the first session last week where about 15 girls turned up (plus a few more who emailed as they couldn’t make it). This session was a brainstorm session of ideas of what they wanted to do in the club, names for the club (they come up with Byte Me -which I think is great! Our Moodle site at school is called WGC4me) and how they could contribute to the club. They had heaps of ideas from websites, making games, programming, to guest speakers they would like to get in.

I thought it would be a good idea to start with something interesting but reasonably basic, so the next session is going to be creating a website with HTML. Now the cool thing with this is that as we are a Google Apps school, not only can you use Google Drive to host websites, there is also an app in the Chrome Store called Neutron Drive, where you can edit your html files and save and your site which is updated straight away! You can also share these files with others!

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You can easily change the URL that Google Drive creates at the moment but there are some work arounds I found searching on Google. However, with just getting students started I think this is going to be really cool, straight away they can have a site that they can share with others!

I am also using Neutron Drive to create and host the Byte Me website. It is going to be very basic to start with as I want the development of it to be a collaborative project that students in the club take on. Exciting!

So, what do you think? Any comments?

Also, are you a woman in the IT / digital industry that would be keen to be a guest speaker? Are you someone who could run a session in something?

 

 

#hackyrclass – setting the scene

Today was my second lesson stepping up to the #hackyrclass challenge. After reading Steve Mouldey’s blog and having a good chat with a couple of colleques last week I decided today to lay the ground work with my class. I felt I needed to make it clear to them what I was trying to do and why.

I created this Google Presentation to explain Growth Mindset and co-construction. I was intending to do enquiry learning as well but as I only came up with the idea of the presentation the period before the class I ran out of time! Whoops!

They got it! Some more then others but definitely felt they understand what I was trying to explain. Some seem really excited about – these students will really push themselves and me. Some will challenge themselves but might not go all out – they will still learn a lot and grow their own learning. Some, I think, aren’t too sure what to make of it and it will be interesting to see how they go.

What was really exciting for me was that I had a short but in-depth conversation with three students about the moral and social aspect to do with drugs / alcohol. I am excited about what learning will happen.

I also felt really uncomfortable at one point when I was talking about the growth mindset – I realise (I said to my students) that maybe what I needed to do was let the other teachers at school know what I was doing and invite them to come and visit my classroom. We will see what happens with this idea!

Pretty excited so far about #hackyrclass.

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?

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LoopEd 2014 Conference

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LoopEd 2014 Conference website

Jane Gilbert: Keynote

‘FUTURE-ORIENTED’ EDUCATION…WHAT IS IT? WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

This presentation will look at some of the ‘big ideas’ in circulation about why we need major change in our education system.

It will argue that, because these ideas are not well-understood, we are largely continuing with ‘business as usual’, and that, as a result, we will not be able to meet the needs of 21st century students and/or the society they will live in. The presentation will then look at how we could begin to do some of the ‘circuit-breaker’ thinking needed to move education into the 21st century.

(link to presentation)

Twitter hashtag – #looped14 – View the story “#looped2014” on Storify

Challenge-  not to get hooked into how exciting these things are; look at what aspect is more of the same and what is actually new stuff, doing stuff that is different.

Education is not about getting more and more students further along the production line.

Purpose is to build the kind of society we want,  to give people the capacity to participate in that society. Lots of tweets of this statement!

Live blogging #Looped2014 – @BENJAMINJRILEY