Friday, 11 December 2015

Coding at Couchiching Heights

Dash the Robot
by Connor

This is the story about how I use dash.

Dash came into my life two weeks ago. I was soo happy.  Ms. Duncan came to visit us and was the one who brought in the robots.. At the beginning  I took  him for a walk around the school because I get stressed out a lot at school.  Taking Dash for a walk helps me feel better.  I used the app ‘Go’ in the beginning.  It is like a remote control for Dash.  Now I use Blockly to drive it.  I have to program Dash in Blockly.  It was hard, but I am getting better at it.  I will be sad when Ms. Duncan needs her robots back and Dash has to go.  

I think that Dash will be helpful in all schools, and for old people/cleaning homes, but mostly for learning.

*Note* This past week Connor has extended himself and became a teacher to the students in our ASD class.  He took Dash to meet the students, and showed them how they could code Dash to move around and make noises.  The students in Ms. Tremain’s ASD class loved Dash and really appreciated Connor’s time and newly developed expertise.  Connor stated after teaching the students for a ½ hour, ‘I’m tired.  Teaching is hard!  How do you do it all day?!’  He was more than eager to go back for a second session though.  

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

CBC + The Hour of Code

CBC has written a lot about the Hour of Code and why kids should learn to code. Here are two activities they shared for learning to code: 

Code a secret message with Trinket and SPYnet. They introduce a tool called Trinket that you can use to introduce HTML to your students. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language and is a computer language used to make websites. The getting started activity challenges students to decode some HTML and create their own secret message (see my creation here). Trinket lets you learn to write code in any browser, on any device (Laptop, Chromebook, iPad).

The CBC created a Scratch activity called The Adventures of Napkin Man. Students open the activity in Scratch and follow the tutorial instructions. Start the activity here.

Trinket also offers free lessons and activities to learn an Hour of Python. Python is a popular programming language for creating and deploying web apps.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Hour of Code 2015

Organize an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week December 7-13, 2015

Step 1: Learn about the Hour of Code

Step 2: Share your participation in the Hour of Code

Step 3: Determine your technology needs - Computers are Optional
  • Will you have access to computers? Chromebooks? iPads? BYOD? The activities below are sorted by device to help determine what will work in your classroom.
  • Do you have enough for 1:1? If not, use pair programming. When students partner up, they help each other and see that computer science is social and collaborative.
  • If you don’t have access to devices, try the offline unplugged activities.

Step 4: Select your Activity to try one hour of coding
  • Try the activity before the Hour of Code. This will give you an idea of what students will experience and help you to answer questions during the activity.

Step 5: Do an Hour of Code
Inspire students and explain what “coding” is with a video:

Direct Students to the chosen activity.
  • If your students run into difficulties try these strategies from
    • Tell students, “Ask 3 then me.” Ask 3 classmates, and if they don’t have the answer, then ask the teacher.
    • Encourage students and offer positive reinforcement: “You’re doing great, so keep trying.”
    • It’s okay to respond: “I don’t know. Let’s figure this out together.” If you can’t figure out a problem, use it as a good learning lesson for the class: “Technology doesn’t always work out the way we want. Together, we’re a community of learners.” And: “Learning to program is like learning a new language; you won’t be fluent right away.“

If students finish early challenge them to:

Step 6: Celebrate and Share your Learning

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Coding Apps on SCDSB AirWatch iPads

Coding Apps on the SCDSB Airwatch iPads
Scratch Jr App > activities and assessment ideas on the ScratchJr website.  
K and up

(pre-readers welcome)
Hopscotch > Make your own games!

The Foos > Program lovable Foos to solve puzzles.

K and up

(pre-readers welcome)

Age 9+

Lightbot is a game that asks players to use programming logic to solve puzzles!
Daisy the Dinosaur
Animate Daisy to dance across the screen.
The apps that support Dash and Dot in the classroom:
*Note: Dash robot required for the apps to work.
Go > basic controls of Dash and Dot (drive the robot on adventures)
Path > program Dash to follow a path and go on adventures
Blockly > learn to code with graphical blocks – make your own programs for Dash and Dot
Xylo > program Dadsh to play the xylophone
Wonder > students can learn to code through challenges

Monday, 1 June 2015

Games in Scratch

Check out this small little game:

It will tell you that you can make anything appear in Scratch automatically. 

Stay tuned for a video about how to make this game!!

Your friend,

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Coding Explained by a Student using Scratch

Listen to a student explain coding in his own words with the most amazing enthusiasm!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Scratch: Limited Only By YOU!

Have you ever wondered what you can do with Scratch? Listen to a student explain the power of Scratch as a creation tool:

This video was created using the Google Apps for Education extension Screencastify. This extension allowed us to record all the screen activity in the Chrome web browser and record our voice overtop of the video. When we are finished explaining our thinking we could upload directly to YouTube or Google Drive. We discussed the digital citizenship around publishing our work online, including safety and developing a positive digital footprint.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Inspiring Girls to Try Computer Science shares 4 Ways to Recruit Girls to Try Computer Science

The first strategy is recruiting girls with their friends and making coding social. Pair programming is a great option for making coding in the classroom social. It encourages students to work together to problem solve, question, design, and create. 

Next, they recommend inspiring girls with examples of women thriving in computer science. I am inspired by Heather Payne, the founder of HackerYou and Ladies Learning Code. On her blog she shares her passion for showing people they can do anything they set their mind to, including learning to code. 

The third idea is to fight stereotypes with role models. There are many amazing women involved in computer science that we can learn from and be inspired by such as Jennifer Flanagan, the co-founder and CEO of Actua, a Canadian charitable organization that engages young learners in inspiring and innovative STEM experiences. Their initiative Codemakers, has partnered with Google Canada with the aim to engage kids in becoming producers of technology through dynamic computer science programming. 

The fourth method for encouraging girls to try compter science is to show how it can help them in every field - from medicine to law to business. We need to talk to girls about possible careers in computer science and BEYOND. Coding is a valuable skills that can open up opportunities for learning, creating and making a difference in the world. has provided four great ideas for recruiting girls to try computer scicence. I keep these strategies in mind as I am co-planning activities with teachers to integrate coding into the classroom. A role model makes a great hook at the beginning of the lesson and I have seen the positive results of making coding collaborative through peer programming. When designing activities that integrate coding into the classroom, I listen for something that sparks student interest beyond the initial excitement of the Hour of Code. Listening to student voice can ignite a passion for coding for all of our students, including girls by getting at the heart of engagement and inspiring learners through their interests!
WeTech or Women Enhancing Technology, inspires young girls to try science, technology, mathematics and coding through their Qcamp for girls in STEM. This Qcamp video shows the power of their decoration design challenge which combines student interests with purpose and cognitive challenge. When we build relationships, ask questions and listen, we can find ways to inspire learners to code through their interests and what they care about. 

*For additional information about participation by women in computer science, check out the Girls in IT: The Facts Infographic by the National Centre for Women & Information Technology.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Putting their Skills to Work

Today Tyler and I had the honour of refereeing the Robotics competition, part of the Ontario Technical Skills Qualifying Competition. We had an amazing day of learning with the teams from CCI and BDHS. To begin, both of the student created robots had to pass a pre-competition inspection for compliance with the safety and design rules before they will be allowed to participate. Then the two teams participated in a harvest simulation in which the robots moved crops (golf balls, straight pipes and elbow pipes) from a collection bin to a destination stand. The robots were controlled by a driver, who was directed by a spotter. The spotter could move around the perimeter of the playing court and communicated directions to the the driver. 

After the first game, one of the robots was in need of repair and both teams came together to problem solve. It was impressive to watch the students working together to solve a design challenge with creativity. There perseverance paid off and we were able to continue with tournament play. 

During the playoff round both teams gave their all and the exciting third match ended with CCI qualifying as the team moving forward to the provincial OTSC in May. 

The robotics competition was an engaging learning experience for students in which they were cognitively challenged and having fun. Also, they saw a real purpose in what they were creating. When I asked the students about the process of creating the robots, one of the grade 12s said “creating a robot is about solving a problem and creating ways to make it better.”

Throughout the day I had conversations with students and educators about the robotics and coding involved in creating the robots but one in particular stood out...we wondered: where are the girls?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Coding + Art + Math = Turtle Art

created with code using
created by Gary Stager called Early Turtle Art activities.
Today I was co-learning with a group of students using the Turtle Art software to create awesome pictures while we learned about geometry, numeration and programming.
First I inspired them with my artistic creation so they could see what the amazing little Turtle could do! The Turtle follows the program that you write for it. You create the instructions by snapping together puzzle like pieces in a logical sequence. The Turtle can draw lines, arcs, draw in different colours and even perform logical operations.
Click the block to see the code.
Click the block to see the code.
The first challenge has students create a program and predict what they think it might make. This Turtle Art activity challenged students to use mathematical reasoning, problem solving, counting, measurement, geometry and computer programming to create images.

We showed students the Getting Started with Turtle Art page that has a variety of tutorials and examples. When we had a question or needed to problem solve, we found that a simple YouTube search gave us lots of solutions. There are also a series of Turtle Art Activity Cards that you can use to model the creation of an image.
I learned about Turtle Art from Artemis Papert & Brian Silverman at Minds on Media in 2014. Read their paper Turtle, Art, TurtleArt for more information. 

If you want to try Turtle Art, you can contact me or request the software by emailing
Turtle Art is designed for learning math in a way that empowers artistic expression! Have fun!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Coding in School is about Learning!

Part 3: My last reflection on CBC’s The Current Kids Learn Computer Coding in Class to Help with Problem Solving:

Scratch creator Mitch Resnick believes that everyone should learn to code. Scratch launched in 2007 for kids aged 8-16 and more recently Scratch Jr for younger kids (aged 5-7). Through Scratch kids can express themselves and create dynamic and interactive stories, games, and animations. They can share their creations with each other through the online community. We want students to express themselves through meaningful projects and not get caught up in the syntax, punctuation and grammar of coding. They build their scripts with graphical programming blocks (like putting lego blocks together). The blocks in Scratch give an instructions and you snap them together to create a sequence of actions that is a program.

Getting a job as a programmer is one path but that is not Mitch Resnick’s main goal. His dream is to help students to be prepared for life in tomorrow's society. I think he says it well when he describes how society is changing quickly and specific facts we learn today will be obsolete tomorrow, but what is most important is becoming a good learner and developing the ability to think, collaborate and act creatively. That is what kids are learning through Scratch - skills will serve them well in life.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

CBC Documentary: Code Kids

England adds Coding to the National Curriculum

England mandated coding in their national curriculum in June 2013. The former Education Secretary stated that this new curriculum was designed to raise standards and allow students to compete in the global race. That it was designed to be a long term solution for addressing the digital skills gap and to create opportunities for jobs and careers in the future. 

Rachel Swindenbank, of Codecademy, is the lead on the initiative in England. The new program has three key elements: Computer Science (a focus on computational thinking - coding is a key part), Information Technology (How computers and telecommunications equipment work and how they can be applied), and Digital Literacy (responsibly and safely navigate the world of digital technology - Digital Citizenship).

In September 2014, students in England began learning the fundamentals of programming. Students, beginning at age 5, learn the basic concepts of computational thinking, algorithms, decomposition and pattern recognition through visual programs like Scratch. At age 11 they begin to learn more text based coding.

Concerns or push back in England? Jennifer noted that there is little concern of pulling resources from other areas because it was replacing a very outdated curriculum and coding can be used as a creative too. It can be used to express art, music and anything your imagination can come up with. She describes two implementation challenges: One, teachers didn’t have the knowledge to teach programming. This was addressed through professional learning (provided by the government and other organizations like Microsoft, Google and Codecademy). The second challenge was that teachers didn’t feel ready or confident to teach computer science. However, now after one and a half terms, Jennifer describes how the experience of being in the classroom teaching it and the engagement and excitement of the students is slowly beginning to remove this concern from the classroom.