Hour of Code is something that has become a real phenomenon in schools. Taking the word "coding" and making it just part of the vocabulary. I hear kids talking about coding and making games all the time. What's really exciting is that code.org has really added some amazing stuff to beef up the hour of code this year. Including StarWars and Minecraft themes!
The new themes are really creative in how they incorporate the elements of the franchises they use. The Minecraft edition has students break and collect blocks, place torches, and build things just like the super popular game. The StarWars theme really brings out the characters, and lets you program that cool little droid, BB-8, that everyone loves. Both themes are sure to capture the attention of boys and girls everywhere.
What I really like is that it's clear code.org is trying to add some differentiation to the experience. They've added new language, and even the ability to on the fly swap drag and drop blocks for typing commands. This is a big deal as it allows for students who want to push themselves a little bit farther, or for students who are interested in what it would be like to type commands without being totally at the mercy of syntax errors.
I'm really excited to kick this off this year, and I can't wait to see the reactions on kids faces.
Thinking is always at the center of everything we do here in Brandon. We've looked closely at Ron Richart's work about making thinking visible for the last few years. Something I've worked with many students and classroom teachers about is having students show their thinking about a problem using the iPad. We use the Math Learning Center series of apps to show math processes and really explain thinking. Students take screenshots of the models they've built, and share them different ways.
Educreations has been, and remains, a popular tool for explaining thinking. Having the ability to use voice, text, drawing, and images is pretty powerful. Recently, a lot of teachers have been using the built in recording and drawing tools built into SeeSaw. This allows a student's thinking and work to go home in real time. SeeSaw is a pretty incredible application for collecting multimedia and creating a digital portfolio of work for all students. It has some powerful features, like voice recording, and drawing over images. It also allows for the uploading of video. Showing your work has turned into so much more with the iPads. Students are able to capture their work and thinking in a way that wasn't possible before.
Probably the single thing I like to do most in my job is co-teach. It's fun, it's powerful, and the kids get a great perspective from seeing it. Typical teaching involves one person who is either distributing the information or a chief facilitator of kids finding that knowledge. To put it simply, the kids in the classroom learn while the teacher teaches. When you co-teach it divides not just the load, but it also mixes up the roles in the classroom a little bit.
We often ask kids to participate in group work, because collaboration is an important skill. Yet, they don't get to see any of the collaboration we do as teachers. They have no model for how a pair should work together. When kids watch two teachers working in tandem it can lead to some great learned behaviors about working with a partnership. They also get to observe teachers learning from each other. Often co-teaching can lead to aha moments from one teacher to another. Phrases like "I'm glad Mrs. ______ shared that example, because I haven't thought of it like that" are great for kids to hear.
Watching two adults work together, learn from each other, and have professional dialogue is something our kids need. I'd argue that we need to teach collaboration and allow opportunities for it to happen among our students, but we as teachers also need to participate in it so our kids can see what it looks like in action.
Instructional Technology Coach