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The Need for Courageous Leadership

A few years ago, I was astonished to see that Sweden turned over their country Twitter account to a different person that lived in the country for a week.  Even though it was meant to be an “experiment” that lasted only two months, if you look at the account today (about three years later from when it started), they are still using the same process.  What it showed to many people that the country is defined by its people, and not just geography.  Although there have been times where the experiment went wrong, they still maintained the process.

I remember asking leaders in a room if they would be willing to do the same thing with their school Twitter account?  So often we try to “control” the message about our school, but in reality, the branding of the school is not defined by what we say about ourselves, but what our students say about their experience.  You can have the best results in the world on whatever measure you want to share with people, but when a child goes home and says they hate their experience, parents might find any numbers provided insignificant.  Although many agreed that would be so “cool”, I did not see anyone jump in and take the risk.

Fast forward to 2014, and I recently saw Jason Markey, a good friend and principal, share that they have turned over their school account to one person a week within Leyden School in Illinois, similar to the Sweden Twitter account.  If you have followed Leyden Schools at all, you will know that they are doing some amazing things and their #LeydenPride hashtag is a favourite for me to follow because they have really empowered the kids.  I first saw the account when a student started sharing for a week (currently it is the AP for the school) as seen below:

Although Jason is a remarkable leader, he will be the first to tell you that this is the work of his community (and he truly means community which includes parents, teachers, and especially students) coming together and doing some pretty amazing things, but the reality of this account is that it starts and stops with Jason.  If something goes awry, at the end of the day, he will be accountable as principal of the school.  In many schools, it is written into policy that the principal is responsible for all communications of the organization, which doesn’t necessarily mean they are responsible for creating all avenues to communicate, but that they are accountable for what happens.  Yet from knowing Jason, he not only exhibits courage, but the willingness to take risks to create better opportunities for kids, and more importantly, he trusts the community that he serves.

I am reminded of a quote that Shelley Wright wrote years ago:

“But kids often defy expectations if you give them opportunity.”

I have seen schools actually tell their teachers to NOT connect their social media accounts to the school because they were so worried about what could happen, and then I watch a school like Leyden actually turn their account over to their community.

Brilliant and courageous work down by Jason and his team. Major kudos to them. I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.

To learn more about Jason and his school, take a look at his blog, the #LeydenPride hashtag, and  the “LeydenLearn365″ blog.


Categories: Planet


I jumped into a cab to get to the Sydney airport and my driver looked very familiar. As I sat in the car, his phone rang and he started to talk to his son in Greek. Scattered in English and Greek, I listened to him give advice to son, talking about not frivolously spending money, and then asking about his grandkids. I could not help but to start crying in the back because it was like listening to my own dad. When he got off the phone, I asked him where he grew up, and he told me he was from Tripoli which is very close to where my parents grew up and in the same area. I showed him pictures of my dad and he was so moved by what I shared.

I miss my dad so much every day but for a moment I could hear his voice and it was so comforting. I will miss all of the advice he gave me, even though I know I should have listened a lot more.

I saw this cartoon on Imgur the other day and it really hit home so I just wanted to share it.

Categories: Planet

School’s out Friday

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 22 August, 2014 - 22:43

Over the past few years our Toorak College School Prefects have been presenting at School Assembly about adherence to uniform requirements. This year’s presentation was a stand out. You’ve gotta love it when the Head Girl and Deputy Head Girl (Tilly and Sarah) take some creative licence to Iggy Azelea’s ‘Fancy’ and deliver a message about school uniform that had every students’ attention. It had mine too. I love it when I see these girls demonstrate their talent and creativity in such an entertaining fashion. I love it even more that the school has posted it on our YouTube channel and it’s had over 1400 views to date. Watch and share it around. :)

Highlight of my week: Having Rolfe Kolbe from Newington College visit me on Wednesday at school so we could finally meet face to face and chew the fat. You were a breath of fresh air Rolfe; talking to a like mind always injects me with the energy I need to forge on.

Second highlight of my week: A group of students from my class who performed their Spoken Word poem today.

Blew. my. mind.

Hoping to film these next week when all groups share them publicly at the Book Week Poetry Slam event we are holding at school and then share them here.  The commitment to the task the groups are demonstrating has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.

Lowlight of the week: Being sick with a shocking head cold Monday and Tuesday.

Second lowlight of the week: Hearing news of the rumbling Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland that remains poised to erupt according to news sources. If it does, it’s likely that air travel to Europe will be off limits. Given that my family and I are due to board a plane to Europe a week or so from now, I’m feeling pretty edgy about this.

Ah well, you take life as it comes. What will be, will be. I do know that tomorrow will be 21 glorious degrees here in Melbourne. Blue skies and warm rays always make me smile. Have a great weekend. May the sun shine on you. :)

Categories: Planet

Extensity: The Essential Chrome Extension Everyone Needs

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 22 August, 2014 - 21:02

Extensity is one extension to rule them all. Extensity  will turn on and off other chrome extensions and keep your browser running lightning fast. So, this week in Indiana it was no surprise when I shared it as #1 of my essential tips for Chromebooks.

One way to slow down your lightning fast Chrome browser is installing TOO MANY EXTENSIONS!! My #1 tip for EVERYONE USING CHROME: Install Extensity and only turn on the extensions you need for the current task.

Extensity lets you turn on and off other extensions with one click. Let’s look.

Extensity 1 Minute Tutorial Video If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

Here’s a 1 minute Cool Cat Teacher Tip from the Cool Cat Teacher  YouTube Channel where I show you how I use extensity. (You can also see a sneak peak of the Chrome extensions that I use.) Have a great day!

Hat tip to my friends on the teacher voxer group – they share great ideas!


The post Extensity: The Essential Chrome Extension Everyone Needs appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet


Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 22 August, 2014 - 19:28

Time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like just yesterday I got home from this summer’s CSTA conference. But it has actually been a while. And then yesterday I saw the call for proposals for the Annual CSTA conference. Are you doing something interesting that you are willing to share with other computer science teachers? Seriously think about making a proposal.

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) invites you to participate in the 15th Annual CSTA Conference. This event will be held July 13-14, 2015, in Grapevine, Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth area).

The CSTA 2015 Program Committee seeks proposal submissions related to the practice of teaching and learning computer science and information technology in K–12. This year, the conference is seeking 3-hour workshops and 1-hour sessions, and 20-minute mini-sessions that focus on pedagogy and best teaching practices.  Proposals for all three session types must include:

  • the names and contact information for all presenters
  • an overview of the session
  • a description of the intended audience (level, knowledge, …)
  • a description of session activity (in sufficient detail for an informed decision)
  • presenter background and presentation experience

Proposal must also include an expanded description (to be submitted as a PDF attachment) that provides the following information:

  • background for the topic to be presented
  • description of the information to be covered
  • description of why this information is relevant/useful to K-12 computer science and information technology teachers
  • description of what the attendees will learn from this presentation, and
  • description of any handouts

Presenters will have the use of a computer projector and screen. If additional equipment or facilities are required, this should be clearly requested in the proposal; it may be possible to accommodate such requests but this cannot be guaranteed. Presenters will be required to pay for their conference registration.

All proposals will be submitted through the online symposium submission system that can be found at https://www.softconf.com/f/csta2015. If you encounter a problem with the submission system, please contact Duncan Buell at buell@acm.org.

The deadline for proposals is midnight on October 6, 2014. Review of proposals will occur shortly thereafter and notification of a decision will be made around November 15, 2014.  All submission will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • technical quality
  • writing and presentation
  • relevance to CSTA (focus on K-12 computer science)

Successful proposers should expect to be asked to submit a draft copy of their presentation by May 15, 2015. Draft presentations will be posted on the website for attendee reference and note-taking. All final presentations will be gathered by room proctors at the end of each session. Some sessions may be selected for videotaping, which will be shared online post conference. All workshops and sessions will be photographed.

Why present at CSTA 2015? The CSTA annual conference is the only CS conference specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of K-12 computer science educators. Come network with your peers, present your great ideas, and learn best practices. Here is what some 2014 conference attendees had to say about the conference:

  • “Best session and workshops I’ve ever attended at CSTA conference”
  • “First year as CS teacher, and I’ve heard a number of good ideas that I’m excited to research further and implement, via CSTA”
  • “Very welcoming presenters, participants and volunteers”
  • “Excellent conference! Very informative and exciting!”

Additional conference details can be found at www.cstaconference.org.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and to your attendance at the symposium.

The 2015 Annual Conference Planning Committee

Categories: Planet

21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020 | MindShift

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 22 August, 2014 - 00:41

Highlights and Sticky Notes:




Tags: no_tag

by: Doug Saunders

Categories: International News

Hey Teacher – You Can Do This!

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 21 August, 2014 - 21:02

As many teachers go back to school, it is easy to bemoan what is past. You could hit that alarm and moan and wish for another day. But I think the best strategy – at least the one that works for me – is to get up and run into the day. Get up early. Get to school early. Drink Your Coffee. Whatever it takes to hit this excitement head on.

I’ve had a fantastic start to the school year with my students. We’re learning so much and I love our new LMS – Haiku Learning. We’ve got other exciting things planned this year including robotics and app building. You’ve got exciting things in store too.

Better Every Year

Never ever consider teaching the same year 30 times – that would be sad. Instead, if you and I are lucky enough to teach 30 years – we should become better every year. We should level up and move forward. This is an awesome profession that changes lives. It is exciting to start school and to have THEM back.


Those precious, wonderful kids who have all these talents and don’t know it yet. Oh, but I love those who are down. Those who remind me of myself at that age, I guess – they’re the ones left out – the ones who are struggling to learn – the ones who don’t feel like they fit in. As a teacher, you and I are a powerful force for good. We can be the light we wish to see in the world – shining spotlights upon the strengths of these children and helping them work through their weaknesses so the weaknesses don’t become debilitating influences upon their lives.

You Get What You Expect

But all of this starts with what we expect. You get what you think you’ll get. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

So, hit this day with all you’ve got! You’re on your way!!

YYYYYYYEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! I get to teach another day.

And that, my friends, is a very sweet thing that makes every day like a bite of chocolate. So sweet and delicious but always leave you wanting more.

Teach well. Be noble. You’ve got this.

The post Hey Teacher – You Can Do This! appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Jumping In First

The Principal of Change George Couros - 21 August, 2014 - 18:01
#150542282 / gettyimages.com


A common thing I hear in regards to technology and our understanding of it goes along the lines of, “Kids are amazing…we can just learn it from them!”

Although I really believe in the power of learning with our students and that in the area of technology, I wonder sometimes if we use that thinking as an excuse to get out of learning.

Let me explain…

The ability for us to connect and learn from a vast amount of information in a highly networked world is daunting for most, including our students.  Navigating some of these murky waters, can be extremely complicated.  Because of that, I think this is all the more reason that we have to jump in ourselves and learn so we can help guide our students through these networks.  SImply saying, “I am going to learn from our kids”, leaves us often waiting for those moments and we could possibly miss out on many opportunities that we could have created for our students.  Sometimes we “don’t know what we don’t know”, and when we wait for our students to “teach us”, we might miss out on what we can show them as well.

Do I think that we can learn from kids? Absolutely.  I highly encourage it as it empowers our students to act as both teachers and learners.

Is it possible for us to know about all of the technology out there? Not a chance.  Even the most tech savvy educators in the world will not know every facet of technology.  There is just too much stuff.

But for us to simply wait for our kids to teach us, we could miss so many amazing opportunities that we could have helped create in our school if we would have jumped into those waters on our own first.

Categories: Planet

“Meet The Scientists” Virtually

This week is National Science Week in Australia. Many events have been organised and suggested for schools and science classes. Most of these great events occur in Melbourne which is an 8 hour return trip from our school – a near impossibility!

When the opportunity arose for our students to be part of a remote polycom video conferencing linkup to Meet the Scientists , we were quick to take up the opportunity. Cameron Hocking of the Melbourne Museum was keen to reach out to as many rural schools in Victoria and target primarily year 8-10 students, introducing them to some amazing careers and opportunities in Science.

Yesterday, we had the linkup with 5 scientists who have the most amazing careers, unusual opportunities and chances to travel. A backchannel was set up which provided remote students, teachers and classes to be given an opportunity to ask questions of the scientists. This worked really well and many interesting questions came forward. It was gratifying to hear them being answered.

Why it worked well:-

  • many hours had been spent in preparation for this event, ensuring the connections, equipment etc all worked as it was a first for Scienceworks and the Melbourne Museum (at least on this scale)
  • promotions had gone out through social media
  • the scientists were well chosen and strong, engaging speakers sharing wonderful images.
  • the backchannel was great and could be used for questions, sharing of knowledge and also to report any audio, video issues etc.
  • the careers were adventurous, unusual and of high interest to students
  • the bandwidth was sound
  • best of all, we could actually attend!


  • technology and getting the video displays right
  • ensuring all participants muted their microphones
  • keeping within 1 hour, as beyond that time, students get restless in the virtual space
  • getting all students logged into the backchannel

Who we listened to:

  1. Dr Stuart Mills, Geologist
  2. Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist
  3. Dr Karen Rowe, Ornithologist
  4. Dr Kevin Rowe, Mammalogist
  5. Mel Mackenzie, Marine biologist

Britt Gow and her biology students also participated in a Polycom videoconferencing event on Monday for Science Week. Professor Doug Hilton, CEO of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will be speaking to Secondary students on the topic of “I wish I was a Biology student in 2014″. He spoke about current research in gene technology at the WEHI.

There are so many wonderful opportunites to bring the outside world into our classrooms, why aren’t more teachers/classes taking up these opportunities. Did you celebrate Science Week? If, so how?


Categories: Planet

Hacking Away at Little Problems

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 21 August, 2014 - 03:43

We have a fairly nice system for student information and the like. It is not perfect but then what system is? For example, our student management system will output class rosters as PDF, Word or Excel files. The problem with the excel output is that there is way too much information in it to be easily used for many of the things teachers want to use it for.

If it were just a matter of extra columns it wouldn't be too bad but there are also extra rows. It is tedious to strip things out. I’ve done it before but it’s just not fun. Writing code on the other hand is fun. Well for me anyway.

So of course I wrote some code. I saved the Excel file as a CSV, ran it through my program which output a new CSV file with just the information I want. That CSV was opened in Excel, nicely formatted and saved for future use.

Honestly I think it took less time to write than it would have to manually clean the data. It was something under 30 lines of code and a bunch of that was just variable definitions and other setup.

As a bonus, now I have the code for next semester. It's not fancy and it is not bulletproof - I'd really worry about supporting it for use by others - but it works for me. Just one edge programmers have over people who are not comfortable writing code. I did this in Visual Basic. Others would use other languages or tools and I am sure some UNIX/Linux person will jump in without how they would do it as a shell script using utilities. But the point doesn’t change that knowing these things can be useful.

I think lots of people run into simple problems that can be solved with what we like to call “a small matter of programming.” One doesn’t have to be an expert or a professional to write many simple programs to solve simple problems. Nothing is my code is beyond what I teach my beginning students for example. In fact my honors programming students will have a similar, but involving more complicated string manipulation project, later this semester.

In today’s world should basic coding be part of more people’s skill set? I think so.

Categories: Planet

Wikiwand creates a little magic with Wikipedia

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 21 August, 2014 - 01:41

Wikipedia, a collaboratively edited, free-access Internet encyclopedia, was founded 13 years ago, yet looks almost the same today as it did when launched.I can still visualize the day I discovered Wikipedia a long time ago – back when it was new, limited, and certainly not worth using in any productive way. Now the story has changed, and wikipedia is a great place to get a quick bit of information, lead into a topic or get a definintion. I regularly hyperlink to Wikipedia in my blog posts, or in my subjects.

Here’s an example of a sentence;

This digital information ecology demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connections.

The hyperlink leads to  a simple, effective retro-styled answer!

Not a lot has changed since 2004, aesthetically at least. This is where WikiWand turns out to be a great help!

WikiWand is creating  the Wikipedia of the Future. Available as an extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari, WikiWand takes seconds to install and serves up instant access to a very different ‘look and feel’ for Wikipedia each time you click a link to the site. WikiWand reels in all the elements from any Wikipedia article and presents them on its own domain with its own interface. As you can see here by comparing the  entry for ‘information ecology’  from Wikipedia and Wikiwand, the latter livens the presentation. Pages also have up  big, immersive cover photos, as well as more prominent thumbnails.

Here is the same page again – in Wikiwand.  The The same page at wikiwand now looks like this!

WikiWand brings articles to life by featuring immersive cover photos, larger thumbnails and an advanced photo gallery. Navigation within articles has also been improved via WikiWand’s top menu bar and a fixed table of contents that allow users to easily find their way around an article, no matter where they are on the page. The personalized search bar shows results in preferred languages, featuring icons for people, companies, locations, etc. Additionally, WikiWand showcases audio, providing users with easy access to Wikipedia article narration and audio clips. By popular demand, WikiWand also includes a convenient preview when hovering over links. If you wish to use WikiWand’s interface by default, you can install the Chrome, Firefox or Safari extensions.

Wikiwand has gained some funding – let’s see how it develops.  It looks pretty good to me!  In the meantime, I highly recommend you give it a try. The more you use WikiWand, the more you notice little design touches that add to the overall experience.

Check it out at http://www.wikiwand.com/  Easier to view. Easier to navigate. What’s not to like?

From: Wikiwand makes Wikidpedia beautiful http://thenextweb.com/apps/2014/08/19/wikiwand-makes-wikipedia-beautiful/

Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by kassemmounhem: http://flickr.com/photos/122638947@N08/13889171653


Related articles
Filed under: Collaboration, Open Access Tagged: wikipedia
Categories: Planet

Ice Bucket Challenge Bellringer

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 20 August, 2014 - 23:16

I’ll come back and add the video and more information, but the Ice Bucket Challenge gives us a great opportunity to teach digital citizenship and all kinds of great information. I’ll talk more about this later, but here is my bellringer for today in this teachable moment.

My Ice Bucket Challenge Bellringer

You have permission to copy and paste this for your classroom and distribute it to your teachers. You don’t have permission to sell it or put it in a book without my permission.

Ice Bucket Challenge – NAME: ______________________________

Bell Ringer

The ice water challenge is a fundraising program that has gone viral on the Internet in support of ALS. As with any campaign there are good and bad things happening with it. To be wise digital citizens, we need to be able to act with wisdom and know how we need to respond. Look on the web and answer these questions.

  1. What is ALS?
  2. What does ALS do?
  3. What is the Ice Bucket Challenge? What are the rules?
  4. Some have criticized this fundraiser for promoting slactivism? What is that?

  5. It is fun but where are the funds? Are they actually raising money? What impact has this challenge had on ALS Fundraising?
  6. What is one of the biggest criticism of the celebrity videos made on this?
  7. What is the ice bucket challenge fail
  8. What is a pop culture phenomenon?
  9. Are there ways that something like this could be used to promote a cause that is not worthy?
  10. What should you do to make up your mind as to whether you will participate in something like this?


5 Essential Points When You Have a Social Media Fundraising Challenge
  1. Encourage research and education when a challenge is issued.
  2. Encourage donation — funds not just fun when you have a serious disease like this that an organization is fighting.
  3. Use this as an opportunity to teach and educate about digital citizenship.
  4. When you record a video be clear about: the cause and what you’re asking your friends to do.
  5. If in doubt, opt out. Remind everyone that they always have a choice to opt out and not participate. We’re encouraging giving into peer pressure when we don’t make up our minds and decide what we’re doing.

The type of society we inherit tomorrow will be determined by how we discuss this sort of thing today. While I think this is a great cause, there will be a time that someone creates a funny viral challenge for a ridiculous or harmful program. If in doubt, opt out.

I’ll tell you more about what I’m doing later and what I did and I’ll embed it in this post (including a video should I make one this afternoon.

The post Ice Bucket Challenge Bellringer appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

New Widget–CS Teaching Tips

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 20 August, 2014 - 19:50

I added a new widget to my blog last night. It is connected to CS Teaching tips which is a webpage and Twitter account – @CSTeachingTips. The widget provides a different teaching tip when ever this blog is opened in a web browser. It looks like it could be a useful addition. You can of course also go to the CS Teaching tips website and search for specific types of tips.

Some information from the website’s About Page where you can learn more about the people involved.

Project Summary

Problem: CS pedagogical content knowledge (CS PCK) – i.e., knowledge of how to teach computer science – is mostly undocumented.
Project Goal: Develop a set of CS teaching tips to help teachers anticipate students’ difficulties and build upon students’ strengths.
Status: Beginning the project in October of 2013, we are currently recruiting CS teachers who have insights into student learning.
Funding: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1339404. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Categories: Planet

PowerPoint Doesn’t Suck; 10 Ideas To Make it Great

The Principal of Change George Couros - 20 August, 2014 - 04:40

I have often heard of people saying, “we shouldn’t just keep teaching our kids PowerPoint anymore”‘ as if it is some terrible technology.  Presentation software (PowerPoint, HaikuDeck, Keynote, Prezi, etc.) is actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it, but as with many things surrounding the technology, we need to go way past how to create something, and focus on how we use it.

For example, if you create a PowerPoint with tons of text that is hard to read, and you simply copy and paste mass amounts of information into slide after slide, with no compelling visuals, the use of the technology is weal, not the technology itself.  It has done its job.  Now if we teach our students to use limited amount of characters, with great accompanying images, videos, and then work with them to have the ability to tell a story from those visuals, you would probably have much deeper learning from not only the student that created it, but also the students that have been able to hear the presentation as well.

If I wanted to read an essay, I wouldn’t necessarily want to read it from a PowerPoint.

Here are some of the quick tips that I would suggest in teaching these presentation skills:

  1. I like to use a simple font throughout that is easy to read and consistent throughout.  That is a personal preference.
  2. Try to stay away from text on a page longer than a tweet. There will be times where you will have to go beyond, but quick quotes can add a lot to a presentation.
  3. I try to make “one point” per slide.  This is following the “less is more” idea where it is better to go deeper than to share a ton of ideas that no one will remember.  We want ideas to resonate.
  4. Visuals with text are helpful if they help tell the story. I use Creative Commons to find images, rather than going to Google Images since it is important that we teach our students to use “copyleft” materials and provide attribution.
  5. A visual on it’s own should be a mental queue for a point being made.  It should be something that resonates with yourself making it more likely it will resonate with the audience.
  6. When using visuals, try to use an image that will take up the entire page.  A picture in the middle of a black or white background is not as powerful as a whole image.
  7. If you are using videos, they should illustrate your point.  Try to keep them under one minute if possible, but two minutes as a max.  If I want to watch a five minute video, I can do that on my own time.
  8. The only time I like to go over 140 characters is a “quick summary” slide that reminds people of the discussion points.  I like a way of bringing everything together.
  9. Most importantly, find your own style.  Your personality should shine through in your presentation, not someone else’s.
  10. Finish strong.  I like to use a video or image that is powerful to end a presentation, but I never let a video have the “last word”. Try to think of something that will resonate with your audience. “Last impressions” are sometimes as important as your first impression.
  11. BONUS: Think of your audience…if they can see themselves in the presentation and it is relatable to them, it is much more powerful.

If we can teach our students and ourselves how to make high impact presentations, you will find that PowerPoint isn’t so bad (although Keynote is way better!).  It is our teaching and learning that makes the impact here, not the tool.

(Please feel free to add any suggestions you have for making presentations in the comments.  I would love your feedback!)

Categories: Planet

Why AP

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 19 August, 2014 - 20:15

Sometimes you miss something by reading a blog post too early. Such is the case with a recent post by Mark Guzdial - Python is the most popular intro language: But what about CS Principles? There have been some 37 comments worth of interesting discussion since I read the initial post. I wouldn’t have known about it if not for a post by Laura Blankenship. The comments discuss the future of the new CS Principles course as an AP course. A lot of the discussion is about why students take AP exams. There are two main reasons:

  • To get college/university credit
  • To improve their chances of getting into the college/university of their choice

A lot of the discussion on Mark’s blog post focuses on the possibilities for students getting credit at the university level. Most of the people commenting are in fact teaching at the university level and there is some skepticism as about the number of universities that will teach an equivalent course and give credit or placement for the AP CS Principles exam. If students can’t get credit will they take the course?

Some point to the perceived value of AP courses on high school transcripts towards college admissions. With additional weighting at many school and with admissions officers looking at AP courses as evidence of students being able to handle post secondary workloads this is a big incentive for many students to take these courses.

Are these what we really want in a high school course though? Should it be all about university credit or acceptance or something else? Do we worry too much about the post secondary aspect/goals and not enough about both shorter and longer term benefits?

I think we are looking at AP courses, at least in CS, as the only way or perhaps the best (for some definition of best) way to get CS into the curriculum. It may be true but it is also sad.

Categories: Planet

Tech Talk Tuesday: Trending Social Media Apps with our Students

Due to technical issues, this webinar is again rescheduled and will take place as follows:-

What year 7 girls ‘see’ when they hear ‘cybersafety’

When: Tuesday, August 19th from 4-5pm Melbourne, Victoria time (gmt+10) See your timezone in

Where: Click on this link to listen to the recording of this session

About this session: What social media apps do you use? How secure are they? As the young, start to increasingly leave FaceBook, what social media apps are increasingly trending with our students? Why are many of these of high concern? What can be done to customize security and privacy settings to ensure that our students are kept as cybersafe as possible? What role should education take in all of this? Can we ever keep up? If not, what can be done? A recent talk by Greg Gebhart of Cybersmart has provided inspiration for this session.

Discussions from the chat included:

  • how to deal with the face book page of a person who is now deceased. Suggested to create a memorial page.
  • All photos are public by default which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram
  • Peggy George:  “you can’t control social media so you really have to teach the students online safety!”
  • Dotty: “Whole new set of rules need to be written for safe use of social media.”
  • How can I keep my KIK account private
  • Cybersmart page on KIK
  • Veronica:”Learning outside the classroom seems to be more powerful than learning in the classroom with the use of apps in society.”
  • Gogooligans is a search engine for students
  • flipagram for making short videos

Some links shared by Peggy George based on a webinar she attended with Stephen Anderson this same day on Digital Citizenship

Categories: Planet

Independence Day India – Friday August 15th

A skype message alerted me to the fact that it was Independence Day in India.

It came from my good online friend, Sebastian Panakal and he asked:-

When may I call you? Today is Indian Independence Day and I would like to celebrate it together with you and your students, share my happiness with you

Wishing that I had a class of middle school students whom I could connect him with, I in fact had a VCE accounting at that time (which is a subject not so easy to interrupt, due to the tight curriculum timeline). Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, I  asked whether he might wait until the last 5 mins of that class for us to connect. The students were rather shy about greeting Sebastian, but they soon rallied around and wished him a “Happy Independence Day”. In turn, Sebastian showed us the beautiful paper quill earings that his wife had made in the tri-colours of their national flag. They were to be distributed to local school girls.

 We learnt that India celebrated it as s a public holiday. Schools, clubs and associations celebrate by hosting the National Flag  (flag:in) and distribute sweets. Thereafter they sing, dance, party etc. Schools have the same fun and frolic, but a march past in the morning.

Sebastian was hoping to connect with as many of his virtual global friends to share this Independence Day. You can see his linkup with another online colleague, Katherine Zablatnik from Austria.From this linkup, Sebastian shared the following statement:-

As I shared my happiness on Indian Independence Day, an opportunity for promoting Health Tourism evolved.

As I hung up on skype, one of Sebastian’s friends also called me. As I was speaking to him, his mobile phone rang. Fascinated, I was party to a conversation in an Indian dialect as he quickly dealt with the phone call.. Not understanding a word of it, I still felt part of the connection!

Does it matter that we interrupt senior classes for short connections like this, running the risk of falling behind the curriculum. Not at all in my opinion. Students are highly interested in what happens in other countries, they develop confidence in themselves and their communication ability and left my class in a happy frame of mind. Thank you Sebastian for saying hello to us on this day and sharing your celebrations!

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Interesting Links–18 August 2014

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 18 August, 2014 - 19:53

Seems like I spent all my time last week doing last minute tasks before school starts. Getting cars inspected and reregistered for example. And a haircut that my wife insisted, correctly, was overdue. Teachers at my school report back tomorrow. I’ll see students on Wednesday!  I spent hardly any time on line last week. That showed in a shortage of my own posts last week and a brief set of links today.

Favorite quote found on Facebook this week. “Without requirements or design, programming is the art of adding bugs to an empty text file.” -- Louis Srygley

Ray Chambers has a nice blog post about Multi-Dimensional Data Structure – Example

Mike Zamansky wrote over the weekend about the crew (the teachers) of his summer CS program. The Crew

One problem we have getting more computer science in schools is reports like this. Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults via @guardian Even if we agreed (which I do not) that six-year olds understand digital technology better than adults that is not the same as agreeing that they know enough about technology. Ever CS and ICT teacher I talk to has stories of digital technology knowledge that is just a thin veneer

Someone sent me to a link to an interesting infographic and set of information about The Raspberry Pi: The Tiny Computer That Could

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Starting point

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 16 August, 2014 - 14:17

As I wrote last month, we are currently in the midst of creating a new Enterprise Agreement with teachers in NSW and ACT.  It’s been interesting for me to step back and reflect on the big picture.  Too often discussions begin from the wrong starting point. It’s like the Irish joke about the tourist who asks ‘how do I get to Dublin?’  The locals reply ‘well I wouldn’t start from here!’

The starting point should not be focussed on the structure but on how we support teachers within the changing nature of schooling in a contemporary world.  The need to personalise learning and de-privatise teacher practice is critical in a knowledge age.

It calls for new ways of thinking and new ways of working and it’s understandable that teachers feel angst.  I believe the way forward is open dialogue with teachers on what it is to learn and teach in today’s world.  Teaching is undoubtedly more challenging in today’s world but when I speak with teachers I know they are well placed to come up with the best solution for their learning communities.

Dan Pink once said that teachers aren’t motivated by extrinsic rewards but the satisfaction that comes from seeing every child learn, and learn well.  The more we engage in quality dialogue that is grounded in trust, an openness to reflect and a willingness to collaborate, the better the outcome for all.




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