Hour of Code 2014: Day Two

On Friday, December 12, 2014, four of my Honors Civics students stayed after school to participate in an Hour of Code.  I would have had more students, however many students had an early release for the Christmas Dance which was later that evening.

Two of my students came back from the previous day’s activity to continue their work.  This was the first time the two new participants were available to stay after.  All four worked on iPads and used one of the free Lightbot apps available for an Hour of Code.  We continued to use an Edmodo group dedicated to this endeavor as the platform for communication and organization.

I stood back after a brief overview and let the students discuss the events of the previous day.  The two students who participated Thursday opted to continue on with the Lightbot puzzles instead of creating code via PageStudio.  The new students joined in and they began working on individual tasks.  I mirrored one student iPad onto my Interactive Whiteboard, IWB, using Apple TV.

The students were very quiet as they worked on their tasks, which was not what I was hoping for.  The students were super-focused on what they were doing which was good, but I was hoping for more teamwork.  As I observed what each was doing on their iPad, the student who was mirroring her iPad onto the IWB hit a snag and was stuck on a puzzle.  I encouraged her to ask the others for help and reiterated that I was hoping for a group effort.  As she asked for help, the students realized that they were all around the same puzzle and having similar issues.

JACKPOT!!!!

The four students began to talk, collaborate, and test out possible solutions on their individual iPads, sharing their ideas with each other using the mirrored iPad.  This went on for the rest of the sessions, almost the full hour.  Their ability to work through the increasingly complex tasks increased in speed and the tasks were less tedious as they joked and talked out the solutions.

Overall, the session seemed to be a success.  I posted an assignment in the Edmodo group to add to the enrichment assignment; write a reflection blog post on the Hour of Code, or record a short podcast reflection of their efforts.  I am looking forward to seeing their thoughts on the activities and hoping for honest opinions.  I would like to expand upon this event and getting their opinions on how to improve it is key.  I also offered to continue with activities like these throughout the year if they are interested in doing so.  Hopefully I will find out soon via blog post or podcast if they thought the effort was a success.

My major epic fail for the project was forgetting some Christmas cookies on my dining room table at home that I bought as a snack for the participants.  I did remember to bring juice pouches for them, and had some animal cracker/cookies for snacks, but forgetting the good treats bothered me.

Hour of Code 2014: I Hope I Have a Safety Net

This year I am stepping way out of my comfort zone and attempting to learn something new with the help of my students:  CODING.  I have been a technology coach in my district, starting with Pennsylvania’s Classrooms For the Future initiative, CFF, then through an EETT grant.  I would like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable with using technology in an educational setting.  I have had extensive formal training through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a second Master’s Degree in Instructional Design for Online Learning, a rockin’ global Professional Learning Network, PLN.  I have presented at numerous local, regional, and state conferences about ways to effectively use technology in the classroom, not to mention many, many, many Twitterchats, and global virtual discussions on using technology.

That being said, I am not well versed in fixing devices, my Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver aside, nor do I have much experience building apps and tools for educational use; that is what tech support and edupreneurs are for.  My app building experience stops with the what used to be Google App Inventor and my old Android Droid X phone.  I used the drag and drop technology to make several apps that would take me to predetermined websites using two clicks on the screen.  Oh yeah, I was cutting edge until App Inventor went away, though now it is with MIT I believe.  I also moved on to an iPhone, no App Inventor for that device.

I have been wanting to learn how to CREATE tools that I can use and to understand how the educational tools that I use actually work…no more man behind green curtain mystique.  I am also working with other educators on organizing maker-areas, gamification in the classroom, and planning how I need to adapt to the future of education.  I need to get my head wrapped around coding.  This year I happen to have a great group of Freshman who have been learning the concept of coding, I saw a fantastic opportunity…I need to learn what they either know or are cureently learning.  My plan is to try and learn the how to create code and discuss my progress with them; sharing what I am learning and asking questions about concepts that are difficult for me.  Basically I will be modeling learning, which I have done before, but never with a concept so foreign to me.  My starting point is this week with The Hour of Code.

I am am hoping my students are willing to provide a safety net for this old dog who is trying to learn new tricks.

 

End of the Year: Edmodo Clean-up

The end of the school year is upon us; time to wrap up loose ends and organize everything so summer is productive after a brief shut down and decompress.  It is at this time I usually archive my Edmodo classes for the current year, deleting them erases everything, archiving saves information for later access if necessary.  Yes, I am a hoarder…but that was a previous post.

This year, PAECT pushed out a student survey for inout about technology, I received it yesterday.  The link to the Google Form was promptly sent out to students via Edmodo, with an update via Cel.ly.  Archiving needs to wait until the survey closes out next week.  I thought about what to to do with the classes in the mean time, I have good students, but I did not want to chance inappropriate comments being posted in the group feed.  If comment were to show up I could delete them, but there would be no way to handle the issue with the students.  I am fairly certain that 99.99% of my students would not post anything inappropriate to the class feed, but when it comes to silly comments and goofiness, the number drops to 95%.  *

I decided to go in change students in all of this year’s classes “Read Only.”  Students can still message me with questions and concerns, but they can no longer comment in the classroom feed.  To do this I clicked on the “Members” tab on the left side of each group.  This pulls up my students in alphabetical order where I click on the “More”  tab to the right of each name.  A drop down menu appears and you click on “Read Only.”   It may seem a bit cumbersome if you have a large number of students, but it is nice safeguard against a possibly bad decision.  In reality, it did not take long to accomplish this task.

*Yes, the numbers are unscientific, but I did have a large number of students who forgot to sign out of accounts on the shared iPads this year.  The students who found these issues gleefully shared the incidents with me, but did not post anything in the other students name.  Therefore I think my numbers are fairly accurate based on informal observations.

Touchcast App for iPad

“Wow! Why have I waited so long to try this out!!!!” Those were the initial thoughts I had yesterday when I finally tried out Touchcast. Touchcast is a video recording app for iPads and in beta for PCs. I have had this app on my iPad for awhile now, but never attempted to use it. My personality changes when I record myself, I become very introverted and quiet, not very good qualities for recording oneself.

Nevertheless, I jumped in yesterday to record a couple of short videos to introduce myself to my next school year’s Honors Civics Classes, you can read more about this here. After about 15 takes I came up with two videos that explain a few things about my class, important links, what is expected, and attempted to show a glimpse of my personality.

Videos are limited to five minutes at a time and you are given sixty minutes of storage on their site, which is not an issue since you can automatically push videos to your YouTube account for archiving. Touchcast has some neat built in perks such as sound effects, green screen, audio file insert from iTunes, and whiteboards. Best of all, it is FREE!

The videos were pushed to YouTube where I grabbed the embed code and shared to my Edmodo classroom for my incoming students to view. Super easy, super quick, and a great way to communicate with students and parents.

Check out Touchcast here.

School Year 2014/2015

Well, the current school year of 2013/2014 is coming to a close…as of Thursday, June 5, 2014, my students are sone for the year. Before the end of the year we started having what was called “Step-up Day” where students would go around with their next year’s schedules and meet their teachers for the upcoming year. We are a smaller school, so most of the high school students and teachers can at least recognize each other on site if not know each other already. The big introduction comes from the Eighth Graders who come up from the middle school. This year due to a myriad of issues, there will be no “Step-up Day.”

I will have two Ninth Grade Honors Civics Classes next year. The transition from 8th to 9th Grade is a tough one for some students; add to that jumping in to an honors course AND the non-traditional structure of my course…it can take a bit of time for them to adjust. To combat the changes I have already set up my Edmodo classroom for the Honors Classes and emailed the code to their 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher. Students will not be given mandatory summer assignments, but will have the opportunity to voluntarily check out resources and items that will be posted over the summer.

Those who participate will receive badges, or some sort of fun reward for taking the time out of their summer to peruse the Edmodo group. The direct benefit for them will be that they will be comfortable with the online classroom and resources before the school year even starts. Hopefully they, and their parents, will also be comfortable enough to communicate and ask any questions that may arise during the upcoming year. My goal is to make them more prepared for the challenges they will be facing next year and beyond…(sorry Buzz Lightyear, I could not resist stealing your line.)

It has been less than 24 hours since the students have had the Edmodo join code and 4 students have already joined the group. They will be greeted with a typed message and two Touchcast videos from yours truly, but that is another post…

Collaborative Assignments

So, my students are winding up their collaborative projects that I have posted about previously, click here to view.  The last couple of days students have made a a concerted effort to finish up the projects.  Students have been staying after school, using my open door policy by coming in during their study halls, lunch periods, or any other free time, and asking questions after hours via Edmodo.  While I admire their efforts, I believe that if they started out this focused on the project, there would be no need for as much effort now.  I do realize that the dreaded, state mandated, standardized tests were last week which created a different atmosphere for the start of the project.  Being entrenched in the holiday season and weekly threat of “SNOWMAGEDDON X” from the local weather forecasters has added to the ongoing list of distractions for this project.

Voki and Wix

Today a learning opportunity arose with a student who was working towards completing a project for my Honors Civics class. The student had embedded a Voki into his Wix website. The Voki was showing on the page, but no audio would play.

Several quick tests eliminated browser compatibility issues, java and/or flash issues, and web filter issues. Other students who were in my room from their study hall soon joined in. We experimented a bit, re-recording another Voki, checking the audio in the original, we even looked at the html code, though neither of us know code. None of the experiments turned up a solution, although I noticed that the Voki was being cut off at the bottom on the webpage. Wix does state that html is in beta and not fully supported, but I did not believe that was an issue.

One last trial turned out to be the solution and it was so easy, even an old teacher like myself could do it. We simply clicked on the html widget box,on the edit view of the Wix page, and dragged a corner of the box to resize the widget. We republished the site and found that Voki now had the “Play” button partially showing on the webpage. The student repeated the process and realigned the widget on the page. There were several more alterations needed on the site, but the lesson worked across the pages.

It was nice to see an easy fix to a unique situation. All students involved learned more than just a quick fix to a simple issue. They learned to not stress when things go wrong and sometimes it takes more than one try to fix a problem; even for someone who seems to usually know what he doing with classroom technology.