Sunday, December 10, 2017

And Now the Work Begins

This year's Hour of Code was great! I enjoyed reading the stories, seeing the tweets, and seeing the pictures of students working during the Hour of Code. Seeing students jump up and down with excitement when their coded worked, seeing a gym full of students all working on Hour of Code activities, and seeing older students helping younger ones code brings a smile to your face. The excite for "coding" is there but now the hard part starts...How do we sustain this momentum?

1. District leadership...are you ready to embrace computer science and provide the resources and support to start courses at your school or in your district? For some places, this will be a tangible way to keep the momentum of Hour of Code going. I feel very fortunate that my district supports computer science and we have new middle courses starting next year. That does not guarantee expose for everyone but it does provide the opportunity for those that are interested.

2. Curriculum do we help facilitate computer science integration into the courses we offer our students? This is a tough question but an important one. If we truly want all students to experience computer science, then we have to integrate it into all courses. Integration also helps students see how computer science reaches into different subject areas. This mirrors the real world in which just about every industry has computer science jobs embedded within it. Looking to examples such as this activity from MySci might provide us with ideas on what integration looks like. Other ready made examples might include Project Guts and Algebra with Bootstrap.

3. Classroom have the toughest job of all. You might have students who are really fired up about coding but you might not know what to do next. The Hour of Code is only going to carry your students so far. A good first step might be programming with Scratch. There are lots of resources out there to get you and your students started. Scratch has a low floor but a very high ceiling so it is good for all students to explore. Students can create a variety of different products in Scratch such as science simulations, digital stories, math concept demonstrations, and much more. Students may also enjoy taking their coding skills into the world of robotics. With products such as Vex IQ, Lego EV3 and WeDo to name a few, students can take programming to a new level. The possibilities are limitless.

To make all of this happen, our teachers need our support. From leadership, a message of assurance that failure is ok when we try something new needs to be there for our teachers. Not all of these new lessons and learning experiences are going to go perfect...teachers need to understand that this is ok. From curriculum leaders, teachers need our support to find ways to integrate computer science into the standards for which they must utilize in their classrooms. We all know time is precious so finding these connections to curriculum becomes paramount.

For our teachers, the best advice I can give is treat yourself like a learner. Do not feel the pressure to be the "expert". Show some vulnerability to your students and let them know you are learning with them. Give them a greater responsibility to learn and help each other out. Take the pressure of expertise off your plate and see what happens. It may not always be pretty but the best learning can be messy.

The Hour of Code is over and now the work begins. Together, we can open up new opportunities for ALL students in computer science.

Come along for the ride...who's with me!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Hour of Code...Don't Be That Person

The Hour of Code is here again and this excites many of our students and educators., as always, has a great variety of activities for the beginning coder and the more experienced ones. The Hour of Code is a time to celebrate what is great about computer science, expose many to CS for the first time, and look towards how CS can be expanded in education.

Unfortunately, the Hour of Code also brings out that know, the one who is critical about anything "special".

You might see or hear some things like:
- An hour of code is not enough and does not make up for a lack of computer science opportunities.
- What about an hour of ________________ (fill in the blank with just about anything)?
- What are students really learning in the Hour of Code?
- Playing "games" with code is not "real" coding.
- We need to be going beyond the Hour of Code.

I would actually agree with most of the statements above. It is true that one hour does not constitute robust opportunities to engage in computer science. There is a ton we can do to go beyond the Hour of Code. Yes, there are other areas that deserve recognition too. In education, when we call out something special (ex. - STEM, STEAM, etc.), there is this knee jerk reaction to say what about (insert subject area here). Just because we are highlighting one area, does not mean we are saying others are less worthy. Education should not be a turf war...there should be room for everyone.

So this year, before we jump to criticize the Hour of Code just because it's popular (and sadly this happens far to much in our social media spaces)...let's think about this.
1. The Hour of Code could be a student and/or teacher's first expose to computer science...let's celebrate that.
2. The Hour of Code could be the catalyst to convince school administration that computer science needs to be a part of every students K-12 experience...let's celebrate that.
3. The Hour of Code provides the opportunity for all students to experience computer science, not just the stereotypical CS students...let's celebrate that.
4. The Hour of Code makes computer science accessible to educators with no CS background and perhaps this leads to new learning opportunities for their students...let's celebrate that.

If you are new to the Hour of Code, I hope you have a great first experience. For those of us for whom the Hour of Code is not our first CS rodeo, let's help those going on their first ride. Encourage others and share how you utilize CS in your classroom. Take this opportunity to publicize the great CS activities that you bring to your students.

And for that person, the one who is bound to criticize the Hour of Code and those who participate in it, I hope the above thoughts will give you some pause and new thoughts to ponder.

My plea to you...don't be that person this year.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Here We Go Again

It has been quite a while since I have used this blog. However, I am resolving to change that pattern after being inspired by a few colleagues at work today. As they asked me about my blog, I really reflected on the fact that it has been idle for too long. Blogging is a great way to process thoughts and share ideas for others to critique, celebrate, etc. With all that being said, this post is a new beginning. Writing has always come in spurts for me and maybe this is the start of another one. Regardless, thank you Stacey and Kristen for talking to me about my blog and for giving me the spark to start it up again.