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Handwriting vs Typing - Reflecting on Finland's Changing policy on Cursive Writing

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 13 December, 2014 - 11:15


  • Finland has attracted attention recently for backing typing skills over cursive handwriting but what does this mean for students. - Nigel Coutts

Tags: education, web2.0, technology, learning

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

In a world that is extremely digital, we need humanity more than ever.

The Principal of Change George Couros - 13 December, 2014 - 07:52

This is just going to be all over the place so I apologize in advance but this is writing to learn more than writing to share my learning.

Our world is awesome.

Technology allows us to do things that we could never do before.  We can video chat with people around the world simply, for a much cheaper rate than we could have called them years ago.  I have memories of my dad that I can relive over and over again, even after his passing. Every time we press “tweet” or “publish” it gets around the world instantly.  There is a power in our hands and in our pockets that we could not have imagined.  But with every step forward, we sometimes lose things along the way.

I can now call pretty much any services I have and I can get to anything I want through an automated machine that is often much quicker than any person I could talk to, yet when I get on the line, every single time, I press “0” immediately.  For all that technology gives us, I still want to talk to a person.

I love that I can do online banking, but I also love the interactions that I can still have in the bank.  That choice matters to me.  One time though, I distinctly remember going into the bank to make a deposit and being asked if I was interested in a tax-free savings account, followed by RRSP’s, and so on.  I saw the teller was not looking at mean and reading off their computer a list of questions that were suggested based on my financial situation. In my conversation with a person, I had been reduced to an algorithm.  When I actually called them out on this, they were embarrassed not only because of me saying something, but because their company put them in the situation in the first place. This example is crucial to the work that we do in education.

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools.

I am guessing that some parents feel this same way when they call schools to report of the absence of their child.  Yes, the technology makes it convenient, but sometimes a person needs to talk, and sometimes they need to be heard.  The “tech” sometimes leaves them lacking the piece of mind that they needed from that phone call.  It is not simply about what is convenient, but sometimes what is needed.

Although I think technology is so crucial to our roles today, I think the more digital we are the more “human” our schools and leadership needs to become.  Sharing our stories and connecting through social media brings a lot in creating a human connection, but I still love the teacher that welcomes kids to their classroom every morning and has a conversation with them, or the principal who stands in the middle of the hallway to have conversations with kids about almost everything except for school.  Although things like supervision might seem like an “add-on” to our day, I started to look at it as an investment into people.  Talk to someone for ten minutes and take a sincere interest in their lives, and that ten minutes will come back to you exponentially.

There is something that we lose sometimes in our interactions on social media.  Many people (and rightfully so) do not share many aspects of their lives through what they share online.  For me, I share with people that the safest “guideline” to follow on social media is that you would not say anything online that you would not say to a group of kids.  Yet that doesn’t mean that people share their lives openly online, but what they are comfortable with other people that they may consider “strangers”.  You might not see the whole picture and there is so much more to a person than what they share online.

With a world that is increasingly digital, our “humanness” is more crucial than ever.  I am reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s speech in the “Great Dictator” in 1940, and how some elements of that speech from that movie made years ago are as relevant as ever.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery ,we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.

So with all the talk of technology, we just need to remember that there is so much more to schools and some of the best things in “20th Century Education” are just as relevant today.  If you are a school that does not focus on building relationships, you are on a faster road to irrelevance than one that doesn’t use technology.  In a world where information is easy to access and I can always find better content online than I can in school, the refocus on relationships is more crucial now than ever.

Embrace technology; it will provide people opportunities that we could have dreamed of when we were kids.  But just remember that people will always be the most important part of the education system.  As soon as we reduce everyone to a number or an avatar, we will have lost more than we could have ever gained.

Categories: Planet

Dot and Dash–My New Robots

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 December, 2014 - 02:54

I got some robots the other night. Dot and Dash come from Wonder Workshop which is a Kickstarter project I backed. That is Dot on the right and Dash on the left in the picture below.

Right now I am programing them using a version of Blockly for iOS. I guess it is a good thing I picked up that iPad a while back. More APIs and a version for Android are promised. There are several apps for iOS available besides Blockly. Blockly seems about right for my students though.

Since I just got them I haven’t fully thought out how I will use them yet. I did demo them for a couple of classes though. We talked about how simple the instructions were especially compared to the process people use for walking around a room. And we talked about limited sensors as well as interpreting data from sensors.

The students like them immediately. The girls all think they are cute. The boys are a little more reserved but are also interested in them. I had one student come into the computer lab during his free period. I did a demo and the next thing I knew the iPad was in his hands and he was figuring out Blockly and getting the robot (Dash) to move a round in different ways.

I think that they will attract interest from a lot of students. There are many students who get more excited moving physical objects around than they do moving pixels around on the screen. These robots may be a good way to motivate and interest those students.

Now if only there was a Windows API. Or perhaps a TouchDevelop interface. A guy can dream.

Categories: Planet

International 3D Game Creation Activity for CSEdWeek

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 December, 2014 - 02:11

I saw this on the CSTA mailing list this morning. Looks like fun.

A collaboration between the University of Colorado, USA, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Nordwestern Switzerland has created an exciting international CS EdWeek activity featuring tutorials including videos in English, Spanish, German, and Italian (French still in progress). This activity is an extension of the NSF funded Scalable Game Design project.

The activity requires no download or signup and combines 3D authoring with a drag and drop programming web tool. One hour is sufficient to get students started and excited. Participants will receive a link to continue their projects if interested.

About the activity: Make a 3D Frogger-like game or create any game that you can imagine. Design 3D shapes, create 3D worlds, rule your world through programming and share your games with friends. Become 3D Programming unleashed! AgentCubes online, is the world's first 3D web-based programming & modeling tool. No prior programming or 3D modeling experience is required.

More information: http://sgd.cs.colorado.edu/wiki/Computer_Science_Education_Week

Categories: Planet

The Unexpected Math of Turbulence via Van Gogh [Video]

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 12 December, 2014 - 22:53
This Ted-ED video uses Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night” to explain turbulence. Remember that there are lesson plans around these and you can customize lessons for your students if you are using the flipped classroom or in-flipped methods of teaching.

Level up a little bit every day. I challenge you to head over to Ted-Ed and find at least one video you can use with your students. You might be surprised! There are some new anatomy lessons on the liver and lungs and so many other concepts.

If you don’t know where to start, visit the Frequently Asked Questions about Creating a Lesson on TED-ED.

The post The Unexpected Math of Turbulence via Van Gogh [Video] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

The radical centre

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 12 December, 2014 - 22:05

On Monday night I had the pleasure of hearing Noel Pearson deliver the annual Bishop Manning lecture.  Pearson is founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.  In discussing the complexities and challenges facing indigenous communities, Pearson explained that he saw himself as a radical centralist – someone committed to left wing objectives through right wing policies.

As Pearson explained, the free market approach assumes that everyone is educated and can therefore make an informed choice.  The paradox is that if you have no education, the market isn’t free.  The problem with the left wing approach is that you get caught in a cycle of more programs, more money, more administration.  One side wants to keep handing out fish, the other the rods.  Pearson’s view is use both to achieve an effective and equitable outcome.

At the centre of schooling is the child but for decades we’ve focussed on either the fish or the fishing rod.  It resonates with Michael Fullan’s theme that educational change will only ever come from the middle. The top (government) cannot be relied on because governments and policies frequently change.  On the other hand, when you give the bottom (schools) too much autonomy, you cannot build systemness.

The middle provides coherence so both school and system grow in tandem.  No-one is left behind.  I believe the teaching profession needs a coalition of central radicals to keep us focussed on the middle.

And that’s what Noel Pearson is attempting to do – build systemness so that no-one is left behind.






Categories: Planet

School’s out Friday

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 12 December, 2014 - 21:43

Here’s a big wake up call…

If you think you’re up with the times and know the kinds of things the students you teach are interested in, but you can’t recognise anybody or relate to anything in this YouTube Rewind 2014 video, then I’m afraid you are seriously deluding yourself.

I’m not saying that what is represented here reflects the lifestyle and viewing habits of every teenager, or that what they are watching is necessarily high brow culture, but this compendium of what has ‘made it’ on YouTube this year is something that I’m guessing a large proportion of your students could relate to. And maybe, just maybe, there’s some merit in understanding their culture and being able to converse with them about the things that pique their interest.

If you want to know more, visit the YouTube clip and click on ‘Show more’. You will find links to all of the featured YouTubers. Dang it, why don’t I just make it easy for you and paste the list in here:

Action Movie Kid https://youtube.com/theActionMovieKid
Aichi Ono https://youtube.com/SpinboyAichi0307
Amanda Steele https://youtube.com/MakeupbyMandy24
AmazingPhil https://youtube.com/AmazingPhil
Andy Raconte https://youtube.com/AndyRaconte
Anil B https://youtube.com/WaRTeKGaminG
Ape Crime https://youtube.com/ApeCrimeReloaded
Apollos Hester http://youtu.be/X7ymriMhoj0
Barely Political https://youtube.com/barelypolitical
Bart Baker https://youtube.com/BartBaKer
Bethany Mota https://youtube.com/Macbarbie07
Big Bird https://youtube.com/SesameStreet
Bilingirl https://youtube.com/cyoshida1231
Brett Nichols https://youtube.com/BrettNicholsOfficial
Brittani Louise Taylor: https://www.youtube.com/BrittaniLouis…
Carrie Fletcher https://youtube.com/ItsWayPastMyBedTime
Chris Hardwick https://youtube.com/Nerdist/
Colin Furze https://youtube.com/colinfurze
Conan O’Brien https://youtube.com/teamcoco
Conchita Wurst https://youtube.com/ConchitaWurst
Connor Franta https://youtube.com/ConnorFranta
Corridor Digital https://youtube.com/CorridorDigital
Cyprien https://youtube.com/MonsieurDream
daaruum https://youtube.com/daaruum
danisnotonfire https://youtube.com/danisnotonfire
Devil Baby https://youtube.com/devilsduenyc
Dodie Clark https://youtube.com/doddleoddle
Ella Caney-Willis https://youtube.com/EllaSaysHiya
Enjoy Phoenix https://youtube.com/EnjoyPhoenix
Epic Rap Battles https://youtube.com/ERB
Evan Edinger https://youtube.com/naveregnide
fouseyTUBE https://youtube.com/fouseyTUBE
Freddie W https://youtube.com/freddiew
Gabriel Valenciano https://youtube.com/iamgabvalenciano
Gal Volinez http://goo.gl/zPKRNo
Grace Helbig https://youtube.com/graciehinabox
Hajime https://youtube.com/0214mex
Hannah Hart https://youtube.com/MyHarto
Heart https://youtube.com/ThatsHeart
Hello Denizen https://youtube.com/HelloDenizen
Hikakin https://youtube.com/HIKAKIN
HolaSoyGerman https://youtube.com/HolaSoyGerman
How It Should Have Ended https://youtube.com/HISHEdotcom
IISuperwomanII https://youtube.com/IISuperwomanII
iJustine https://youtube.com/ijustine
Ingrid Nilsen https://youtube.com/missglamorazzi
iTakahashi https://youtube.com/iTakahashikun
JennXPenn https://youtube.com/jennxpenn.
Jenna Marbles https://youtube.com/JennaMarbles
Jimmy Kimmel https://youtube.com/JimmyKimmelLive
John Oliver https://youtube.com/LastWeekTonight
Kacy Catanzaro http://youtu.be/XfZFuw7a13E
Kid President http://goo.gl/D9e40D
Kingsley https://youtube.com/ItsKingsleyBitch
Kosuke https://youtube.com/user/pazudoraya
Kurt Hugo Schneider https://youtube.com/KurtHugoSchneider
Le Floid https://youtube.com/LeFloid
Luke Cutforth https://youtube.com/LukeIsNotSexy
Mamiruton https://youtube.com/TheMaxMurai
Manako (Q’ulle) http://goo.gl/EtLTpW
MasuoTV https://youtube.com/MasuoTV
Matt Bittner http://youtu.be/8UoJ-34Ssa0
Max Murai https://youtube.com/TheMaxMurai
Michelle Phan https://youtube.com/MichellePhan
Mika Shindate https://youtube.com/shindatemika
Niki Albon https://youtube.com/NikiNSammy
PDS https://youtube.com/PDSKabushikiGaisha
Pentatonix https://youtube.com/PTXofficial
PewDiePie https://youtube.com/PewDiePie
PrankvsPrank https://youtube.com/PrankvsPrank
Raphael Gomes https://youtube.com/ItsRaphaBlueBerry
Rhett & Link https://youtube.com/RhettandLink
Rosanna Pansino https://youtube.com/RosannaPansino
Sadie Miller https://youtube.com/amillerfull
Sam Tsui https://youtube.com/TheSamTsui
Sami Slimani https://youtube.com/HerrTutorial
Sammy Albon https://youtube.com/NikiNSammy
Sasaki Asahi https://youtube.com/sasakiasahi
Seikin https://youtube.com/SeikinTV
Sione Vaka Kelepi https://youtube.com/sionemaraschino
Sir Fedora https://www.youtube.com/SirFedora
SkyDoesMinecraft https://youtube.com/SkyDoesMinecraft
Smosh https://youtube.com/smosh
Stephen Colbert https://youtube.com/comedycentral
Steve Kardynal https://youtube.com/SteveKardynal
Stuart Edge https://youtube.com/stuartedge
The Fine Bros https://youtube.com/TheFineBros
The Gregory Brothers https://youtube.com/schmoyoho
The Slow Mo Guys https://youtube.com/theslowmoguys
Troye Sivan https://youtube.com/TroyeSivan18
Tyler Oakley https://youtube.com/tyleroakley
VlogBrothers https://youtube.com/vlogbrothers
Vsauce2 https://youtube.com/Vsauce2
Vsauce3 https://youtube.com/Vsauce3
WORLD ORDER https://youtube.com/crnaviofficial

Now there’s a bit of homework for the holidays. Enjoy!

Categories: Planet

Coding for Kids: Robot Turtles Boardgame

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 12 December, 2014 - 09:19

Want to help your youngest kids (4 and up) learn the basics of coding? There’s a screen-free way to learn and play called Robot Turtles Game.  I know some of you like to find things for the young children that are not in front of the screen. This would be something that you might want to consider. From the company:

Robot Turtles was a Kickstarter sensation, graced the front page of the New York Times and has garnered awards since its national introduction last summer, including Teachers’ Pick by Scholastic Instructor and Best Toy for Kids by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association. Robot Turtles was invented by Seattle software entrepreneur Dan Shapiro who wanted to spend quality time with his then four-year-old twins and share what he feels is his single greatest superpower – the skill of programming.

I received a copy  of Robot Turtles over the summer and it was a delight. Since we’re all celebrating Hour of Code (and we’re all shopping for presents), I thought some of you might want to know about it. A good game for young classrooms too.

My Amazon Affiliate Link: Robot Turtles Game

Or, you can go to their website to learn more: http://www.thinkfun.com/robotturtles/

The post Coding for Kids: Robot Turtles Boardgame appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Something’s Gotta Go…

The Principal of Change George Couros - 12 December, 2014 - 07:49

I really had some great conversations at TIES in Minneapolis over the last couple of days, but one of them kind of stuck out to me.  We were talking about the “Hour of Code” and how popular (and important) it has become to many schools.  I think the power in this program is that it is not meant to only last an hour, but spark something more not only in kids, but schools.   It is definitely going to have many teachers thinking about ways they can implement coding as part of the work that they do in schools everyday, and I’m excited to see schools move forward with this.

But here is the problem…

There are only so many hours in the day.  The time frame of school from when I went in the 80’s, is the same time allotment that is given today.  So with every new thing that comes along, something has to go.

The first thing that many people debate about is “cursive”.  Some schools are getting rid of it, and some schools are trying to bring it back.  The debate should not be about cursive, but about what do our kids need now, and what will they need in the future.  Even when I went to school, there are many things that I learned that I do not use at all either on a consistent or semi-regular basis.  Yet I have many skills that make me a successful learner today; did my “schooling” play a role in that?  In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  That is the tough part of the conversation.

There are a lot of thoughts and questions that go into making these decisions, but one that should not be included is a feeling of nostalgia.  Schools should not teach something solely for the reason that we learned it as kids.  The world has changed, and with access to all of the information in the world, as well as people, schools have needed to change as well.  I don’t think should only be about what kids want to learn, but should have a balance of things that we know will be important, but also about providing them skills they will need in the future.  Schools should also provide opportunities to explore things that students might not necessarily want to explore on their own.

There are a lot of tough decisions that we have to make moving ahead in schools, but really, if we try to teach everything, do we develop a group of kids who become experts at nothing?

Here are two questions for you…

What do we teach now that we shouldn’t?

What don’t we teach now, that we should?

Categories: Planet

Good to Great – The Right People [Quote]

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 11 December, 2014 - 22:33
People are not your most important asset. The right people are. (loc 238)

If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great. (loc 712)

The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake (loc 972)

Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people. (loc 980)

Yes, leadership is about vision. But leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted. (loc 1286) Jim Collins
Good to Great (Harper Collins Publishers, 2011), This epic book has so many applications for schools. Any organization that wants to be great should have leaders who understand how to be a “level 5 leader” and how to take the organization from good to great. Hint: It is not the flamboyant that make the great leaders. It is also rarely people from “outside”. Great read for all leaders in all professions.

The post Good to Great – The Right People [Quote] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Predatory journals – watch the scams

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 11 December, 2014 - 11:13

Part of our information literacy expertise is to engage in reading of (and contributing to) quality research.  This requires that we understand exactly what ‘reputation’ is!

If you are not ‘up-to-date’ with the evil intentions of “predatory journals” you’ll get a kick out of reading this article from Science Alert and learn something along the way. From Science Alert: A study by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel has been accepted by two scientific journals.

A fictional paper authored by Simpsons characters Edna Krabappel and Maggie Simpson, as well as someone called Kim Jong Fun (who we can only imagine is a slightly more approachable relative of North Korea’s leader) has just been accepted into two scientific journals.

Perhaps most troublingly, in Feburary 2014, a pair of science publishers (Springer and IEEE) retracted more than 120 papers, some of which were pure nonsense (created by the same program used for the Simpsons paper) but had made it into their published conference proceedings. Both these publishers are generally seen as reliable — showing how far the problem of substandard quality control goes.

Open Access has become a major theme of interest within the research community and those interested in dissemination of information and knowledge. In most cases, open-access publishing will occur through electronic institutional repositories – university websites where one can freely download researchers’ articles. Search engines such as Google Scholar will automatically index these articles and link them to related research. The resulting stream of freely available research will be a boon for our society and economy. But it’s not perfect, just a step in the right direction, as publishers also get ‘a say’ in what happens with published information.

Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers

The gold open-access model has given rise to a great many new online publishers. Many of these publishers are corrupt and exist only to make money off the author processing charges that are billed to authors upon acceptance of their scientific manuscripts.

Scholarly Open Access showcased the Beall List of Predatory Publishers 2014. The first includes questionable, scholarly open-access publishers. Each of these publishers has a portfolio that ranges from just a few to hundreds of individual journal titles. The second list includes individual journals that do not publish under the platform of any publisher — they are essentially independent, questionable journals.

In both cases, the recommendation is that researchers, scientists, and academics avoid doing business with these publishers and journals. Likewise, students should exercise some caution when reading and referencing these articles in their own academic learning.

Follow Scholarly Open Access for more insights into the contentious field of Open Access publishing.

Filed under: Communication Tools, Information Literacy, Open Access, Research Tagged: Open Access
Categories: Planet

Distractions Help You Learn? [Quote]

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 11 December, 2014 - 05:38

In the end it didn’t seem to matter what the distraction was during recall as long as subjects had had a distraction during learning. Everybody who had been distracted in both learning and recall performed better than those who were distracted while learning but undistracted during recall.

An important finding was that the effect Song measured did not depend on keeping the external context – for instance the ambient surroundings – consistent. There just had to be the same degree of distraction at both times.

Another task is to figure out what might be going on in the brain to allow divided attention to be a boost for recall, rather than a hindrance for learning.

“For now my working hypothesis is that this creates an internal representation in which divided attention is associated with the motor learning process, so it can work as an internal cue,” Song said.

Song said she is curious about whether understanding the effect could improve rehabilitation. It may be better, for instance, to help patients learn to walk not only in the clinic, but amid the degree of distraction they would encounter on their neighborhood sidewalk.

Psych Central News
Brown University (quoted on Psych Central, December 10, 2014), This fascinating research is worth a read if you’re following neuroscience. Distractions may not be as problematic as you think. The question seems to be whether the learning environment is similar to the environment where you will recall. Fascinating research. I look forward to my researcher friends digging deeper so we can all understand more.

The post Distractions Help You Learn? [Quote] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet


Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 11 December, 2014 - 00:01
Categories: International News

Free Download: 5 Steps to Internet Safety [Link]

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 10 December, 2014 - 22:15
Free Download: 5 Steps to Internet Safety Vicki Davis – on Docstoc

I am amazed at how many people shorten their Internet safety guidelines by saying “Stop, Block, and Tell.” As I’ve shared in both of my books, this is a grave disservice. When you block, it often deletes evidence of what happened. Students should: Stop, Screenshot, Block, Tell and Share. Some time a go, my sister helped me create a 5 Steps to Internet Safety Poster. You can download it for free.

If you need a full sized poster as others have asked, I set up a store on CafePress that will make the posters for you. If you’re a non profit school I give you permission to copy and share these as a way to help you. (If you’re for profit, you’ll need to contact me.)

I embedded it below for you.
5 Steps to Internet Safety


The post Free Download: 5 Steps to Internet Safety [Link] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Change Is Happening

The Principal of Change George Couros - 10 December, 2014 - 11:14

I was recently sitting with the awesome Nancy Kawaja Kalil (make sure you follow her on Twitter because she is awesome) at a conference in Ontario, and she shared the following picture with me:

What I loved about this picture, is that it is the opposite of the narrative we have heard from many schools that believe shutting down is crucial to learning, where this picture says the opposite.  My assumption is that this school doesn’t use technology all of the time, nor does it have zero problems with technology use in school.  I am sure that, like in any school, things are not perfect.  But this picture shows to me a shift in mindset of an organization more than anything, which ultimately leads to growth and the creation of new ideas.

I sat and listened to Lisa Jones this year, talk about taking three years off for a maternity leave, and come back to school and see significant changes.  Wanting to push her own growth as not only a teacher, and a learner, she really shifted her focus on student learning, as opposed to her teaching.  It was a great story because it reminded me that every teacher wants to be better for kids, but there is always a lot on their plate.  Support is necessary to growth.

But the one thing that really stuck out to me from what she shared was her perspective on how much has changed in three years from someone who was out of the system, who has now returned.  If you really think about even the last three years in education, have you not seen a major shift with many organizations?  It is really hard to be around the same people or in the same building every day, and not realize how much education has grown, but if we were to take a step back, would we realize that a major shift is happening?

Although I think it is imperative that we continue to push, I also think it is important that we see that many educators and schools are not only wanting a better way for their students, but are creating it.  This is especially important to remember and recognize at a time when many teachers are either going into break or finishing school (depending on where you live) and they, like the students, are exhausted.

All great learning organizations see the need for growth, and realize that, like learning, it is a messy and non-linear process.  But they also recognize and acknowledge steps made by individuals and the group as a whole, that they have made towards something better.  This builds confidence and competence along the way.

No organization in our world is exempt from dealing with the constant of change, but if we all take a step back, there are many areas where we are getting better.  I think it is important to stop and acknowledge that along the way.

Categories: Planet

Tech Companies and Computer Science Education

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 10 December, 2014 - 05:56
It’s Computer Science Education week and my social media streams (blogs, Facebook and Twitter) are full of the news. The president was part of an event at the White House yesterday and wrote a line of code for example. Some of this is actually making it to the regular news media which is nice. Apple stores and Microsoft stores are holding events. This is a regular thing for Microsoft but less common for Apple but its still good. Google has been promoting the event as well. So I have been thinking about the relationship between the tech industry and CS Education this week. CS Ed Week is a great thing and I am glad we have it BUT what about the other 51 weeks of the year?
Tech companies have a vested interest in promoting computer science education. While many people, including a lot of tech founders, learn computing on their own that is not a reliable or sufficient way to produce the growing numbers of people in the field that we need. The idea of pushing for more CS education because of jobs is not without controversy. Likewise the idea of the tech (or any) industry influencing curriculum can be contentious. (See this article on Politico – Seeking coders, tech titans turn to schools )
When I was working at Microsoft I often heard concern about the company just being in it to get more people on their platform. And of course that was part of the goal though there was, certainly on my part, a belief that the tools were good and helpful for teaching concepts.
The question becomes complex. Should tech companies be working on helping to promote and expand CS education? If so, how should they do it?
Aside from Google and Microsoft there are not many companies putting a lot of effort into supporting CS Education. Apple’s store events this week are pretty much the first and only thing I have heard from them on the topic. What are they doing?
Arguably Google is doing the most. At least the most that isn't as directly tied in to their products. Their CS4HS program provides grants to “colleges, universities, and non-profits dedicated to providing relevant, high-quality professional development opportunities for computer science teachers.” They've spent a lot of money on that.   And they have other programs for students such as made with code which is specifically aimed at girls in tech.
Google and Microsoft both support the Computer Science Teachers Association and have supported the annual CSTA Conference. Oracle is the third big tech sponsor of the CSTA BTW. Not many others which is a disappointment to me at least.
This week Microsoft announced MSFT Imagine, “for those who love to code & turn creative ideas into reality!” It looks to be mostly for the self-learner and not about CS education in schools. Their YouthSpark program similarly seems more about outside of school though it does include some inside  school programs.
The Microsoft sponsored TEALS program which places software professionals in classrooms is very impressive. I especially like that one of the goals is to prepare full-time teachers to take over teaching CS after working with the s/w professional.
On a personal level I would like to see Microsoft do more. Two years ago I wrote a post -  Advice to Microsoft Education Marketing–Computer Science – none of which do they appear to have taken. In fact one site I recommend there is no longer available in that form. So that gives you an idea of my influence there.
A lot of industry money these days is funneled though code.org. And code.org is doing some wonderful things. They have hired great people (several are personal friends of mine) and they are creating some great resources. They are also training a lot of teachers and we need a lot of training for teachers. They have built upon years of lobbying by CSTA and others and helped get CS recognized in more states in the last several years. I suspect many in the tech field would argue that funding code.org is enough. I’m not sure I would agree.
For one thing CSTA could use more support. The annual CSTA Conference.is so much more than just professional development – workshops and sessions. It is a major networking and sharing event that helps build and empower the community of computer science educators. I wish more people could attend it. Perhaps some company could fund some scholarships to make it easier for first time attendees to get to it. And that is just one way to help CSTA.
There is a saying that people should think globally and act locally. Supporting Code.org or CSTA is definitely thinking globally. But there is a lot that companies could do locally.
There seems to be a lot going on in New York City though the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education. The venture capitalist Fred Wilson has been a huge part of getting NYC area companies involved in CS education. And companies are involved there with schools and students by supplying mentors, hosting hackathons, field trips and visits to schools.
In Massachusetts the MASSTLC EDUCATION FOUNDATION has been created to encourage computer education in the state. It’s still early but has been having and promoting events and working with non-profits such as MASSCan and CSTA in various ways. Public/private partnerships are going to be especially important until we get more public support for CS education programs.
The important thing in my opinion is for industry to work with educators and not try to dictate or replace educators. Education does not and indeed can not work the same as industry. The knowledge that educators bring to the table about teaching and what has already been tried – successfully or unsuccessfully – is important and has to be respected. Subject area knowledge, which companies often do have in abundance, is not the same as the ability to present it to different types/ages of students. Teamwork is important.
Categories: Planet

7 Ways to Keep Others from Squeezing the Life Out of You

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 9 December, 2014 - 22:37

Picasso was known to be the kind of person who literally sucked the energy out of everyone who spent time with him. Austin Kleon shares this story in his book Show Your Work! (see the book review). Kleon says:

“Picasso’s granddaughter Marina claimed that he [Picasso] squeezed people like one of his tubes of oil paint.”

In what some might call the pre-Facebook version of “unfriending,” Romanian Sculptor Constantin Brancusi said he would no longer be around Picasso. After a day in Picasso’s presence, Brancusi said he had nothing left with which he could create his own works. Meanwhile, Picasso would paint late into the night while everyone he interacted with that day was exhausted. Picasso was a human vampire: he sucked the life out of others.  (He was also a creative genius, so interpret this as you will.)

I think it is helpful to reflect if we have vampires in our own lives. Do you have someone who is squeezing the life out of you? Here are some questions I ask myself as I reflect upon my relationships.

7 Ways to Know if Someone is Squeezing the Life Out of You
  1. How do you feel after you hang out with someone — energized or listless?
  2. Do you find yourself upset and unable to concentrate after spending time with them?
  3. Does this person constantly tell you upsetting gossip or other things that make it hard to do your job or function?
  4. Does this person listen to you? When they do are they encouraging and positive or do they prod you to go deeper into your negativity?
  5. Does this person ever have anything positive or invigorating to say?
  6. Are you a better person for having this person in your life?
  7. Do you look forward to talking to this person or find yourself dreading them?
Aren’t We All Vampires Sometimes?

OK, I know what some of you are thinking — you can’t avoid colleagues who are vampires and if your boss is one — then watch out. But I hope you’ll consider this in addition to how you already think about your relationships.

Some people thrive on drama. Others thrive on taking their baggage and asking you to carry it around. Others are just negative Nellie’s who forget that you seem to find what you look for in the world. We’re all mistake makers but some people stew in the mistakes of others.

At the risk of mixing metaphors – let me mix up some sulphuric acid. Listening to some people for very long is like drinking sulphuric acid – it will eat you from the inside out.

We all get negative sometimes. I totally do it too.

But some people major in minor annoyances. If whining deserved a gold medal, they’d be Michael Phelps. They live it. Stew in it. Wear it between their eyebrows and on their face. If you love that person and can help them turn around, then great. But if they are vampires — look out!!! They will suck the life out of you –(and likely your love of teaching with it).

The Case for Necessary Endings

I really do believe as Henry Cloud says in his book Necessary Endings  that there are times we must make necessary endings in relationships. Surely, there are relationships you cannot easily sever. I don’t want you to use this post as an excuse to walk away from parents, spouses, or siblings. Those are typically relationships worth nurturing and improving.

But there are some vampires you can leave.

While it is excruciatingly hard and can be ridiculously expensive if you’ve intertwined yourself financially with someone, life is  too short to have close relationships with vampires. You can work with them. You can be around them — but do you want to have them as one of your closest friends?

What Do You Do with Vampires?

First, acknowledge there’s a problem. Can you go for 24 or 48 hours without interacting with this person? Is your life better or worse?

If this is a person who you have to work with — how can you guard yourself? If you think this is a person you need to get away from read Necessary Endings – Dr. Henry Cloud gives great advice in this book.

If you think you’re the vampire (who hasn’t been at some point) then acknowledge that you want to change. There are books, videos, and  resources to help you with your thinking. Because thinking leads to what you say and how you live. If the classic book The Power of Positive Thinking is too Pollyanna for you, then try The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews.

Lessons Learned on the USS Petri Dish

One last example I’ll give you is a cruise my family went on this past year. We were so excited to be on the cruise – but by the third day of the cruise everyone (but me) was in their stateroom sick. In two cabins we had cases of strep, flu, pink eye, and mono — and my husband had three of them at once!

This cruise ship is just like a toxic person or work environment. Can you live in it ? Yes. Can you possibly stay healthy in it? Yes. Is it hard to stay healthy when surrounded by disease? Absolutely!

You are more likely to get negative yourself if you are around the disease of negativity all the time. Anything can go viral: vision, joy, and especially hopelessness.

You can be a colleague but you don’t have to be a best friend. If I have a wish for you in 2015, it would be to avoid the vampires.

They’ll suck the life out of you. There will be nothing left for you to live on yourself.

And if the vampire is you — you can change that too!

The post 7 Ways to Keep Others from Squeezing the Life Out of You appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Top Tips for Teaching with Robots (using Sphero)

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 8 December, 2014 - 22:20
Robots are everywhere, they open our garage doors, vacuum our floors and if you are lucky they even park your car.  Until recently there weren’t many robots in the classroom and now I couldn’t imagine approaching STEM without them.  Using the Sphero robots in my after school programming club has opened my eyes to both what can be taught using simple robots and how to do it.  I want to share with you some tools and tips for teaching with robots. This post is authored by guest blogger, Sam Patterson. In addition to being a fun, create guy — Sam is a K-5 Technology Teacher who blogs at www.mypaperlessclassroom.com and shares puppet videos at www.edupuppets.com. You can find him on Twitter at @SamPatue. I love the Sphero and have one in my classroom. We’ll be giving away one of them in the comments on this post. Just reply how you’re teaching computer science or STEM and how you’d use a sphero and Sam and I will pick one of you! Sphero did not sponsor this post. They did, however, give me one last year and I fell in love with it. They gave me one to give away to a lucky reader (see below.) Happy Hour of Code week!

4 Tips to Start Teaching with Sphero Robots 1. Start simple. While I have a class set of Lego NXT robots, it is challenging to put together a good lesson I can do with several classes with these robots due to their complexity.  Both Sphero Robots and Bee Bots are very simple robots and make content integration accessible to all teachers. As a tech integration specialist for grade K-5 I want a robot that a math teacher is comfortable using.  Sphero has several programming interfaces that make meaningful content area application easy without a steep learning curve. 2. Follow a guide. While Sphero is a connected toy, the Orbotix company has free curriculum that models meaningful content use.  The lesson published as part of their SPRK education program are excellent models for meaningful in class use.  My favorite lesson is the Rate Time and Distance lesson. Instead of learning a formula and plugging in values from a series of word problems about Dr. Patterson on his bicycle, now my students program a robot, observe the results, change the program, and observe the changes.  The math activity runs much more like a science experiment.  The students are guided in a process of discovery about the relationship between rate time and distance. Question: Win your own sphero by commenting on this post about how you’re teaching Computer Science or STEM now and how you’d use a Sphero with your students. In case of a tie, we’ll pick the one who responded first. You can leave a comment by clicking here. 3. Support play. When my students begin using Sphero, I give them time to explore what the robot can do, and they have fun.  I don’t have them begin by all doing the same thing.  I show them about one-third of the controls and then I give them some challenges.  Discovery is an important part of learning, and if I didn’t give them the time to explore they would be playing while I wanted them to explore rate time and distance. 4. Invent your own lesson. I appreciate the lessons Orbotix has written because they clearly illustrate how these robots can be used in lessons that support common core standards in math and science.  These lessons can provide any teacher with a great starting point for designing their own robot augmented lessons.

Sphero is one way to do hour of code. This school ordered Tshirts. Remember that while the “official” hour of code is in December, you can do Hour of Code any time you want. You can have an hour of code once a month or a week. You decide. Great program and lots of resources!

4 Top Tools for Robot Augmented Instruction 1. Tape. Masking tape or blue tape can be really helpful to organize a small herd of robots in a class.  I use tape to mark the start and finish lines for robot races, and to designate the goal for a game of robot boccie ball.  Tape goers down quick and comes up easily (as long as you don’t leave it there too long.) 2. YouTube. There are so many great ideas about how to use a Sphero robot on Youtube.  This video inspired me to give my students a design challenge to build and race Sphero chariots. 3. A label maker. Once I had 12 Spheros for my classes, I labeled each one with a number and then I associated each Sphero with only one iPad.  This made it easy to start class, I activated Bluetooth on iPads 1-12 and woke up the robots, within a minute they were all associated and ready to roll. Pedagogy Pro Tip The Sphero programming interface MacroLab enables a teacher to email a program to a student.  this means as I assemble my lesson I can create scaffolding for my diverse learners by writing starter programs for my students. This makes the lesson accessible to all the kids in my class and allows me to deliver extra support discretely, keeping those students involved in the learning without asking them to single themselves out for more help. As you explore how robots can ad to the learning experiences in your classroom, I hope you share your journey with us here.  Everytime I show teachers what I am doing with these simple robots they give me more amazing ideas about how Sphero can support lessons in geometry, math and even color theory. Want to win your own sphero? Just share with us in the comments what you’re doing now and what you want to do with sphero. Sam and I will pick one of you to win your own sphero for your classroom or club. Good luck! (We’ll pick the winner around December 15. In case of a tie, we’ll pick the person who responded first.)


The post Top Tips for Teaching with Robots (using Sphero) appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 8 December 2014

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 8 December, 2014 - 21:56

It’s Computer Science Education week aka CSEdWeek. A lot of links to Hour of Code resources came though my social media stream last week and I thought about listing most of them but decided that it was a bit late for that for most people.

On the other hand both Apple Stores and Microsoft stores are running events this week and those may be useful for people looking for last minute events to recommend.

If you are in the Boston area the Microsoft New England blog lists a number of local events including those at stores and the Museum of Science #CSEdWeek activities - Boston

Fan Letter to Computer Science Teachers: You are the Coding Heroes - With all the hype about an Hour of Code and a single one week event for CS education I think it is important to remember and thank all the teachers who work on this issue all year long with far too little recognition or credit. Know that in the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) you are part of a big family. And we all appreciate each other.

Speaking about the CSTA. We’re looking to do more with teachers before high school. See this post at the CSTA blog. Inviting all “CS in K-8″ Enthusiasts

George Takei: Microsoft's Garage- Eye-Gaze, Skype Translator & Hackathon – an interesting look at a grownup hacker space.

Are you a math teacher teaching CS or a CS teacher teaching Math or a math teacher who would like to make your math more interesting and include a little CS? Checkout Bootstrap. There are two upcoming workshops that I know about.

    Waltham, MA :: February 16th-18th We are thrilled to partner with MassCAN and the Massachusetts CSTA, who are sponsoring a 3-day workshop for MA Math and Computer Science teachers! This workshop discuss best practices for math education and programming, and will model the entire curriculum in hands-on activities. Thanks to MassCAN's generous support, this professional development is provided FREE of charge to all MA teachers. Space is limited, and registration is first-come, first-served. Reserve your space today!
    New York City, NY :: February 27th-28th We are excited to announce a NYC workshop in conjunction with CS:NYC. The two day workshop will be held Friday, February 27 and Saturday February 28 at the Center for Social Innovation (601 W. 26th Street, NY, NY). The cost of the workshop will be $350/attendee and will include two days of training, all workshop materials, lunch, and a light breakfast. New York City public school teachers are exempt from this fee. Please fill out a teacher application and ask your administrator to complete a support application by January 31st if you would like to attend.

Great post by Rob Miles - Writing a Program is not a Fight

BTW the Microsoft Stores run events for young people fairly regularly. You may want to check them out for that alone.

Categories: Planet

The Edublogs Awards – #eddies14

Where does the year go? With the end of our Australian school nigh it is time for the Edublogs Awards. Many people argue against awards for a variety of reasons but these awards are special as they are organic, nominated and voted for by the general public, highlight those who are doing some wonderful things both in and for, education and give us a wonderful resource bank  of trends, thinking and learning. There are no prizes attached but the fact that blogs, resources and other online tools are nominated brings to the attention of us all those that have a special place in the lives and education of many.

In the school holidays, I love to go through the many nominations and see which resources will be of relevance and interest to me. There are new blogs to peruse, apps to try and online tools to experiment with.

It was with some surprise that I noticed my name had been added to the edblogs twitter list for “life time achievement’ awards. Whoever nominated me, I wish to thank you very sincerely. It makes much of the risk taking, the high evergy intake and time taken worthwhile. It also shows the value of the PLN and its wonderful place and role in pushing learning in innovative directions.

However, I was really surprised to read a tweet by my valued friend and colleague, Julie Lindsay asking people to consider voting for this blog as it had been nominated for the Best Teacher Blog. I had no idea that it was on the list until that tweet.

Vote for ‘On an e-Journey with Generation Y’ ‘Best Teacher Blog 2014 Edublog Awards’ http://t.co/IbulSlCiJB @murcha #globaled #flatconnect

— Julie Lindsay (@julielindsay) December 6, 2014

Again it is such an honour to be nominated and although I will not actively persue on a public scale, if you do vote for me, I  thank you so much, not only for the vote but for being a special part of my life!

If you should wish to vote for any of those nominated across the globe, please goto the Edublogs Awards site and ‘get lost’ looking at all the onderful nominations. Click on the like button and follow the prompts.

Others that are special to me include:-



Categories: Planet
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