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.

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?

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Github, html, css – starting out!

Early this year I was introduced to Github at the RailsGirlsWgtn Weekend back in March. Over the weekend there was the chance to create your own Ruby on Rails app, using Github and other sites to get it working. I must admit it was all a bit of a mystery to me and I doubt I could go back and recreate any of it, including the command lines to get stuff onto Github.

Since then I have learnt quite a bit more about programming (see posts about Python) and have developed my knowledge of HTML / CSS. For our Y12 Digital Technology class this year we have done quite a bit of website stuff and I have learnt more about using divs for layouts and cool sytling in CSS and my skills and confidence have improved.

Not long ago I came across Alyx Gillett’s website, which I think has a really cool and simple layout and design. So I started to look into creating one for myself. I looked at what hers is made in, which is www.squarespace.com. Looks cool but you have to pay after a free 14 day trial and it gives a bunch of stuff but nothing I think I need at the moment. And the  i had a brainwave, as I am a DT teacher wouldn’t it be cool if I made my own site completely from scratch. So I started have a play around with some ideas, look at some sites that had layouts I liked. This one provides the HTML & CSS – www.maxdesign.com.au. I started playing around with the Two column fixed width example and the One column fixed width layout.

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After playing for a bit I got busy with other things until just the last few days. I decided I wanted to have a crack again and also thought it was about time I started a wee project of my own. I thought creating my own site and getting it up online would be a good place to start plus it is a chance for me to really embed my own learning and think about how I can improve my own teaching of HTML & CSS.

So, after doing some Google searches about using Github and discovering Github for Windows and Mac, and learning about being able to use gh-pages to host a static website I pushed my wee site out into cyberspace. Using Github for Windows/Mac is so much easier then using the command lines – although I am sure it will be useful to know those sometime in the future.

Here is my site – http://schuknight.github.io/schuknight-site/. Still very much a work in progress and a learning tool for me.

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Here I am on Github – https://github.com/schuknight. Useful stuff from RailGirlsWgtn Github page.

Next few steps with my site will be planning out what I want and also in November I am doing a 2 day HTML course at Yoobee, so hoping to learn some cool stuff there. It will be good to learn properly after a few years of picking things up here and there!

I have also rediscovered Sublime Text text editor. I like it as it just seems nicer then Notepad++ and can put on Windows and Mac!

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How did you learn about HTML/CSS, webdesign? Got any goto sites that you think are essential? Either that you use now or learnt heaps from? What site do you recommend for me to keep developing my HTML/CSS? What site is good to start learning about Javascript?

Learning Ruby – Rails Girls Wellington

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Today I spent my day at a Rails Girls Wellington event. The aim of the two day workshop is…

 We aim to take a range of skill levels and form smaller working groups based on experience.

The day started with coffee and mingling and then an introduction from the two fantastic organisers – Merrin Macleod (@merxplat) and Kelly Cheesman (@kellective). It was interesting hearing Kelly talk about how her interest in technology started at high school with a program called Tech Angels.

We moved onto having a chat with the person next to us and I chatted with Nat (@NatDudley) from Vend in Auckland. Great conversation about how important it is to get more women and girls into coding and about Gather Workshops – more investigation needed (@nzgather).

It was then time to hear from Charlie Ablett (@charlieabettnz) with the heading of her talk being ” Software is the closest thing we have to magic”. She discussed what she sees as that three main reasons that women don’t continue with computer science / programming:

  1. programming is done by yourself and therefore not very interesting
  2. working on programs that are boring, trivial and simple – so computer science is boring
  3. it is not creative

Having started a first year programming paper via the University of Canterbury at the beginning of this term, I would agree with this with what I have experienced so far, although I am very very new to it all.

However, Charlie made it clear that programming is not actually like that when you get out there into industry.Paraphrasing  – “It is not true that you program by yourself, it is collaborative and social, whether in the same physical space or not. It is all about solving problems and coming up with the best solution for a problem. This is a very creativity process as there can be lots of solutions for a problem but not all of them good solutions. Being able to express your creativity in programming can be limited when starting out but as you learn more you can express yourself and do amazing things.”

Charlie ended with saying that programming is about consistently growing and learning. That you can make changes in the physical world by writing software and turn thoughts into real world change.

We then moved on to trying out Ruby by using Try Ruby – http://tryruby.org/. Then a talk from Amy Palamountain (@ammeep) about GitHub – Code.GitHub & Animated Gifs. Great start talking about how code is just really text and how would you manage a wall of text adn 50 people on your team etc. Excellent introduction to GitHub with cool demo and interactive as participants were invited to add the the Animal Party (plus free stuff too!).

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We then got into doing some Ruby on Rails by following the guide railsat http://guides.railsgirls.com/app/. This was good, slightly frustrating as I seemed to keep hitting hurdles but there were plenty of great coaches to help me out. My progress was also slow as I networked with a few people, which was great and brings me onto some questions.

One conversation I had we talked about Python and Ruby and how Ruby is used more in industry and Python is more used within scientific areas. This got me wondering about whether there are teachers in NZ teaching Ruby in schools. Or are we mostly teaching Python because there are a lot of good resources available.

So, my questions:

  1. are you or do you know of anyone who is teaching Ruby in high schools?
  2. would Ruby be a better programming language to teach in high schools?
    • would it be easy? would it be more interesting for girls? (I am already finding what I have done to do more interesting as I am making something that I can see / use on a webpage straight away)
  3. anyone interested in exploring developing resources for Year 11 / 12 / 13?
  4. who is interested in coming into school (local Wellington school, all girls’) and talking about how they got into the industry and the work they do now?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Goal 3 – learning Python

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So, after getting through enrolling at UC I have managed to get onto Learn2 (UC Moodle site) and into COCS121. So far so good. Have bought the recommended text book (Practical Programming) and loaded on iPad. Have got link to the interactive text book (How to Think Like a Computer Scientist), which looks pretty cool.

Have started catching up on the lectures that I missed due to not being enrolled. Am finding it quite interesting and not stressful so far!

There are 10 other teachers from around the country enrolled in the course, all doing it by distance and the set up for us is pretty good. I am going to have to allow probably at least 5 hours a week to it to keep on top of everything. Which will mean a very very busy first half of the year.

Quite excited about it though. Oh and if it wasn’t enough am of to the Rails Girls Wellington 2 day workshop in a couple of weekends. (@RailsGirlsWgtn)

Goal 3: learn Python so can teach effectively and engage students in this learning area.

Footnote: a small thing but see real life application for me, writing program to convert metres to feet, as I am mad on surfing!
Was going to link to text file but Google Drive having a hissy fit, so this is what I wrote:

def m2ft():
metre = float (input (“Wave height in metres: “)) return metre * 3.2808
print(“Wave height in feet is “, round (m2ft(),2))

So then how do sites like this – metric-conversions.org – make it come up with feet and inches?? Rather than decimal points. Something I will hopefully learn.

Just thought of another use – in PE students run the Cooper 12 minute run and we then get them to calculate what there time would be over 4kms. Would be cool to have little program to do that quickly (I am sure I could find one on web but cool doing myself!). Even better would be getting the students to make it themselves – cross curricula!

First day of 2014 – Teacher Only PD

School goals – Suzanne and Penny

2014 Annual Plan 

Annual Plan PDF / PPT presentation – start working on one SMART goal of your own

SMART goal planning – 1 Goal from Schools goals
1. Our learning pedagogy
——– 2. to be at the forefront of quality teaching and learning
————— to extend the use of BYOD within our anytime / anywhere learning environment

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.

The above is from my 2013 Reflections post. I will endeavor to turn it into a SMART goal.

Alex Perry on BYOD

BYOD in YOUR Learning Environment – Prezi

Small part of e-learning.

Different models of BYOD you could try…

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“You will use a digital tool to ……..” / Try to embed into my lessons learning activities.

Not knowing or being confident using BYOD yourself can help you build connections and relationships with the students who help you learn!

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Know what devices your students are using. Google form that Alex has created to gather this information (Student Devices Survey).

Term 1 – Alex was quite controlled, was clear about what were and weren’t allowed to do. Had to ask if they were able to record things. Y10 though, gave them free range to start with. Have discussions with students about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour with use of BYOD.

Good blog post for Classroom of BYOD Management.

Setting up the BYOD behaviours with your class

BYOD bevhaiours

Make it clear that your expectations will be different to expectations in other classes with other teachers.

Get students using their devices to support learning and achievement – e.g. reminders, homework. Note on board – could you use your device for this? easier, better.

using devices

Good ideas from Prezie – Tools for Self-Management / Capturing and accessing learning artifacts / Tools for student collaboration / Tools for creating.

Next year maybe their maybe an app on the stationary list for students to purchase?

BYOD Resources folder with resources for teachers to use to help implement using BYOD in the classroom.

Points to consider when setting up tasks:

blended learning

There was some discussion around the use of WGC4me (our school Moodle site), and that to use it really well then something had to change or be different – for it to be dynamic rather then static. How could you implement this?

One image from Alex’s presentation that I really like is the one below. I am going to work with my Year 9 Health class on the second row as I would really like to embed the use of BYOD.

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