Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Pigeon Gets a Dad by Wyat Sheane

Another one of our Pigeon Project stories is ready!  Wyat's story is available to flip through here or you can watch the version below!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Kids Who Code Code-a-thon

On Friday, December 12th our class co-hosted the Kids Who Code Code-a-thon with Mrs. Caldwell's Kindergarten class at Oak Lake Community School.  After preparing for this event over the last few weeks, my Grade 2s were very excited to lead their coding activities and share their coding expertise.  I was incredibly proud of the Grade 2s as I watched them teach other (younger and older) students and community members about coding.  Each group of 2-3 students from our class ran a station for the event, which featured tools such as Tynker, Code Monkey, Kodable, Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, Lightbot , Kodu & Scratch Jr

Over 150 students were involved in the event, yet the OLCS gym was often quiet as engaged learners tackled computer programming challenges using a variety of kid-friendly coding tools. Cheers of "I got it" and comments such as "this is cool" were reassurance that coders were having an exciting and positive experience despite the quiet, focused atmosphere. 

We had great support from our communities, which is much appreciated.  Several special guests, including representatives from Park West School Division, Fort La Bosse School Division, RM and Town of Hamiota, RM of Woodworth and the Virden Oil Capitals Jr. Hockey team were in attendance.  Microsoft in Education Canada also supported us as Expert Educator Fellows.  We are really excited about the success of this inaugural event and we've already starting talking about what's next...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kids Who Code: Preparing for our Code-a-thon

Our preparation for the Code-a-thon has focused on becoming coding experts so we can help others during the event.  Students submitted their top choices for coding tools they'd like to focus on and from there we created teams to "specialize" in each coding tool.  Students were in charge of exploring the app and becoming familiar with how to code using the specific tool.  Each team also created a set of instructions with text and screenshots.  I'm really proud of my students' work and I wanted to share their instructions for each coding tool in case other classes find them helpful.  Click here to see our instructions for Kodable, Tynker, Hopscotch, Code Monkey, Lightbot, Scratch Jr and Daisy the Dinosaur!

We are so excited for our Code-a-thon at Oak Lake Community School tomorrow!  It's going to be a great learning experience!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kids Who Code: Meeting Other Coders

As we build momentum for our Hour of Code event, we continue to learn more about coding and computer science!  Thanks to Skype in the Classroom, today we had an exciting four-classroom Skype conference call about coding.  Our Kindergarten friends in Mrs. Caldwell's class were on the call and we met students from Ms. Page's class at Forest Hills Elementary in Wilmington, NC and from Mrs. Lowe's Class in Winnipeg, MB.  Each class shared some of their experiences with coding and students had the opportunity to share some of the coding tools they've been using. 

During the call, Ms. Page's class showed us The Foos  - a coding tool that we'd never seen before.  They explained how much they enjoyed  the app and even gave us a quick demonstration of how it works. As soon as we concluded our call, my students were asking to try out The Foos, as recommended by Ms. Page's class.     Since we were so excited to try it out, we downloaded it this morning and spent our coding time this afternoon exploring this new tool.  I was impressed at my students' ability to work with a brand new tool so confidently - they really are becoming coding experts (not to mention great problem solvers and critical thinkers -wow!)  I watched and listened as students tackled new programming tasks and worked with peers to overcome challenges.  It is very evident that students are building their skills as young coders!

As we have done with other coding tools we've tried, we took time after our initial exploration to rate the app.  It was quite popular with many students.  I noticed it was very easy for them to get started, yet challenging enough content-wise. I think The Foos are here to stay...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kids Who Code: Exploring and Evaluating Coding Tools

The Kids Who Code project is well underway in our classroom!  Our class has been exploring coding for the last couple of weeks.  We've learned that coding is "giving computers instructions/directions" and students have had the chance to try out a variety of coding tools.  My students have learned a lot (and so have I!)

Here is what we've been up to:

Exploration Time:
Students have used different devices to explore a variety of coding tools including Lightbot, Hopscotch, Kodable, Code Monkey, ScratchJr., Tynker and Daisy the Dinosaur.  These initial explorations were typically preceded by a short demonstration from me or a short video tutorial.  The instructions/demonstrations were minimal since I have limited experience with these tools and I wanted students to discover things on their own.  Due to the number of devices in our classroom, students worked in pairs or small groups to spend about 10-15 minutes with each app over the course of about 1 week. 

Evaluation and Feedback:
We decided on some important characteristics of coding tools and, after trying each tool, students used a simple 5 point rating scale to evaluate the tools.  Students also gave comments and suggestions.  In response to a student suggestion, we sent these evaluations to the creators of the app/tool via Twitter.  (A couple of them even responded to thank us for our feedback!). 

Kids Who Code Code-a-thon:

We are gearing up to take part in Hour of Code, which is an international movement to encourage people to try coding.  The Hour of Code week is from December 8-14th this year and we are co-hosting our own event to celebrate.  Working with Mrs. Caldwell and the Oak Lake Community School Kindergartens, we are organizing the Kids Who Code Code-a-thon.  During this event, my students will act as "coding experts" and teach others about coding.  With this goal in mind, students selected a coding tool to "specialize" in for the event.  We are now working in small teams to become experts with our selected tools and develop activities for Code-a-thon attendees to try out when they visit our stations at the event!  Meanwhile, we are supporting the Kindergartens as they plan the details of hosting the event at their school.  We are very excited to continue with this learning project!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pigeon Meets Flat Matt

Our class has been working hard on "The Pigeon Project" this year, which involves publishing our own books.  Our project was inspired by our favorite author Mo Willems, who writes hilarious stories about a persuasive pigeon that loves puppies, hot dogs, cookies and buses.  When Flat Matt joined our classroom earlier this month, we decided that we'd like to make a very special book for Matt's class back at Glor Na Mara School in Tramore, Ireland. 

After days of enthusiastic writing, illustrating and book-making, the final product is ready to share!  We really hope our new friends in Ireland enjoy this book.  It is available as a PDF file or ePub file or a narrated video version, all of which we created with the Book Creator app!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kids Who Code

This school year, I am working on a very special project with two other educators in Manitoba, Mrs. Connie Lowe and Mrs. Devon Caldwell.  We have been fortunate to receive support for our work from the MTS Reflective Professional Practice Grant.  Our project is called Kids Who Code and it's all about helping our young learners develop coding skills.  

So... what is coding?  According to Code Conquest, "Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites. Your browser, your OS, the apps on your phone, Facebook ... they’re all made with code."  Coding is what many of us call "computer science" or "computer programming" and we're excited to bring it to our classrooms.

So.. why teach coding?   Personally, we feel that coding will help us develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in our young learners.  Code.org asserts that, "Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path." 

Kids Who Code project goals:
  • explore coding tools with K-2 students   
  • provide opportunities for students to try coding, using a variety of tools 
  • get involved with the Hour of Code movement 
  • document our professional learning and our students' learning