Notes from Code Studio elementary coding training

My notes from yesterday’s Code.org elementary coding workshop…

Notes

  • Code.org’s elementary school courses overview [VIDEO]
  • In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing… and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner. – Mark Zuckerberg
  • The average car has 15 computer chips in it. The average high-end car has almost 100 computer chips in it.
  • Very few students are taking AP Computer Science. And of that small sliver, only 15% are girls and only 8% are not White or Asian.
  • Code.org is a public nonprofit dedicated to bringing computer science to every school and to increasing participation by women and underrepresented student populations. Organizer of the Hour of Code campaign. Computer science PD partner for 30 of the largest districts nationwide, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Producer of online courses in 30,000 classrooms.
  • Code.org elementary curriculum was created in conjunction with Cal-Berkeley.
  • Short 20-hour courses for elementary school
    • Course 1 – for early readers, ages 4-6, grades K-1
    • Course 2 – for beginners, ages 6+, grades 2-5 (can skip Course 1)
    • Course 3 – for ages 6+, grades 2-5, kids who have completed Course 2
    • Course 4 (beta) – for grades 4-8, kids who have completed Course 3
    • Each course is about 20 lessons, about 40 minutes each
    • Can reinforce existing math, science, and English/language arts standards
    • Any PC, tablet, and also ‘unplugged’
  • Code.org Teacher Dashboard
  • Code.org YouTube channel
  • Each lesson usually has a couple of videos, one for the teacher (lesson video in the lesson plan) and one for the participating students
  • Getting loopy, Course 1, Stage 12 (an unplugged activity)
  • Maze:Loops, Course 1, Stage 13
  • Code.org’s Pair Programming video is an excellent conversation starter for teachers and students
    • Pair programming leads to fewer errors and fewer dumb errors
    • Consider having kids do all the exercises on one kid’s account, then going back and doing them again on the other kid’s account – solidifies learning, helps them understand better (sometimes they just get lucky), fosters more creative solutions the second time through, etc.
  • Often students get the problem right but they don’t understand why or can’t explain why
  • In Code.org, students can’t break anything – “let’s try it and find out together”
  • Group breakouts
  • What’s the difference between a conditional and an event?
    • Event = WHEN = continually asking ‘Is it now? Is it now? Is it now?’
    • Conditional = IF = only asking ‘Is it now?’ if particular circumstances are present
  • Try to create a story and/or program Flappy Bird
  • Challenges we’ll face when attempting to implement these courses
    • Lack of a formal, articulated, vertical set of curricular/extracurricular experiences for students across K-12 grade levels
    • Time
    • Professional learning
    • Concerns about students already spending too much time in front of a screen
  • Somebody somewhere has to start the ball rolling!
  • Get contact name(s) for each Iowa AEA that Ben has been working with
Images
 
Pair Programming 

Go deep

Bob Lenz said:

Teachers have long struggled with the tension between breadth and depth.

It’s a hard choice, hard enough that we are tempted to avoid it, dismiss it as a false choice, or contend that it is a dilemma we can dissolve through tinkering. Maybe we don’t have to choose between covering a lot of content and focusing on a particular concept or skill. Maybe we can find a way to do both at the same time.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves. The tension is inescapable, and the choice is unavoidable: go with depth.

Depth is what the world demands of us. The explosion of human knowledge is not a 21st century phenomenon; it happened in the last century. Today, in this era of Big Data, explosive can hardly describe the exponential rate of growth. “Every two days,” says former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”

So the answer to exploding knowledge is not more schooling but a different kind of schooling. This is what the concept of deeper learning is all about and why it came to be. To pretend that we can “cover” everything that students need to know is to tilt at windmills. We must rid ourselves of any residual notions that education is the transmission of needed knowledge. Rather, we must embrace the reality that we are teaching skills, and one skill most generally: how to ride a tsunami of knowledge whose future content we can’t even begin to imagine.

What this means, ultimately, is that content, though still vitally important, is always a means to the end of some underlying, conceptual understanding. Decades of research bear this out: when deep, conceptual understanding is achieved, learning is enduring, flexible, and real.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2015/03/designing_for_deeper_learning.html


School is broken

Will Richardson said:

I think the fact that only 44% of our kids reporting engagement in high school strongly suggests [that school is] “broken.” I think the difference of educational opportunities for the kids in Camden v. the kids at Lawrenceville Prep is “broken.” I think spending an inordinate amount of time on curriculum that will soon be forgotten, curriculum that most kids don’t care about despite our best efforts to make them care, curriculum that then gets assessed in ways that really don’t show if kids can actually apply it and is used to evaluate teachers in a blatantly unfair way… all of that is “broken.” 

via http://willrichardson.com/post/114524327210/can-we-talk-about-change-without-hurting-feelings


Notes from the 2015 Iowa STEM Summit

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

Here are my notes from today’s 2015 Iowa STEM Summit

Welcome, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds & Mary Andringa

  • STEM should be a catalyst for active learning
  • Launching a STEM Council Seal of Approval for programs (e.g. Exploring Iowa Archaeology)
  • Over 5,100 applications were submitted for STEM Scale-Up Grants
  • Numerous STEM externships are available for teachers
  • Peek Into a STEM Classroom: Sioux Center High School
  • Peek Into a STEM Classroom: Davenport West High School
    • Design a lunar space station

Opening Address, Kwizera Imani

  • Used to live in Kigoma, Tanzania
  • Family fled genocide and was chosen by the U.N. to move to the U.S.
  • Learned enough English to transition into regular classes in 8th grade, finished all high school coursework by 11th grade, now taking 5 AP classes as a senior
  • Will attend Iowa State U. this fall, majoring in Aerospace Engineering
  • In 9th grade, participated in an aviation program at the Des Moines International Airport

Iowa’s STEM Teaching Endorsement Partnership – Higher Education Plan, Jeff Weld & Kris Kilibarda

  • What does best practice for integrative STEM pedagogy look like?
  • How do endorsement seekers get engineering experience if the university doesn’t have an engineering program?
  • Can we graduate preservice teachers that come out of the gate with interdisciplinary STEM competencies?
  • Is ‘STEM pedagogy’ just layering applied PBL and inquiry lenses onto STEM subject areas?
  • There are many questions about these endorsements that still need to be answered

Lunch and STEM Education Awards for Inspired Teaching, Gov. Terry Branstad & Chris Nelson

STEM in Iowa’s Re-Envisioned Economic Development Roadmap (2014 Battelle Report), Kathryn Kunert & Carrie Rankin

Northwest Iowa STEM Region Breakout Session, Molly Faber & Mary Trent

  • Created a STEM and Scale-Up Introduction short course on AEA PD Online (explains each scale-up grant in ways that are easier, more accessible for teachers)
  • Wish this wasn’t locked down behind AEA PD Online (with quizzes!) instead of being openly accessible via a blog, web site, wiki, etc.
  • Breakout group questions
    • What’s going well in the NW region?
      • Outreach that Mary’s doing – PD for teachers – STEM day for 6th graders – there’s a lot of outreach occurring right now that is creating awareness
      • We also are seeing more business partnerships, co-sponsorships
      • Scale-up grant impacts have been favorable – are using them well in our district
      • World Food Prize – lots of supportive communities – we believe in making this happen
      • First Lego League – still getting emails about what’s going on – possible grants that are coming up – great communication
      • Girls Scouts – all girl Lego leagues, Engineering is Elementary – girls are empowered – Flying Monkeys prosthetic device patent!
      • Belie-Blank – Spencer CSD is doing math-science extracurricular with 6-8 graders
      • Prairie Lakes AEA – seeing lots of depth with Defined STEM
      • Sioux City CSD – opening a K-5 STEM specialty school in Fall 2015
    • What would we like to see more of in the NW region? What’s missing? What/who/where is the solution?
      • How do we assess student growth / development? Our current assessments aren’t up to the task.
      • Teacher preparation – higher ed isn’t giving us what we need – it could be better
        • Higher ed should be ahead of us, not behind us
      • We need more volunteers / mentors
      • Transportation is an issue – have to get a bus to get home
      • A continued focus on extracurricular instead of curricular – need to get this stuff into core classes, not just after school
      • Ongoing PD for teachers is an ongoing need
  • Rock Valley CSD – student-run manufacturing business?
  • Local college of education just touted this past fall that they had a smartboard that preservice teachers could learn on!
  • Can DE help us align all of these initiatives (e.g., STEM, Teacher Leadership, MTSS) together in better ways?
  • We need to do a better job of attaching learning standards to our STEM activities – we want to see learning progression occurring

STEM Education Award for Inspired Teaching Awardees (Panel), Kacia Cain, Lisa Chizek, Jason Franzenburg, Allison Gregg, Shelly Vanyo, Mike Wedge

  • SV – I no longer think of our space as a classroom – instead, we’re an innovative learning center – no textbooks, we’re a community that solves problems using every resource available to us (including others elsewhere)
  • LC – I try to model learning from mistakes
  • KC – I bring scientists into my classes a lot, but not as talking heads in front of kids – they help with projects – I identify where I could use an extra set of hands, brains, etc. – my kids then send a mass thank you note! – 
  • Jeff Herzberg – why aren’t we giving $20K+ award to a school, not just individual exceptional faculty? – a group of teachers and administrators working together to make this happen?
  • Embrace the chaos, embrace messy learning
  • As a parent of an elementary student, my son has had no science this year – his principal says it’s because of the increased emphasis on reading and math [UGH!]
  • SV – I create opportunities for myself to give up control – I create dramatic chances for other teachers to ‘help me out’ – teachers were getting upset so I had a semester where I pretended that I wasn’t doing SBG – parents are our biggest advocates – I send brown bag experiments home with students to do with parents – homework: teach parents and have them email me what they learned
  • What have administrators done to infect others with your STEM awesomeness? 
    • LC – I lead an annual STEM excellence fair and bring other teachers, community members in that way
    • KC – all of the people at Central Campus are experts in their areas so I had to be sure that I was on my game from Day 1
    • JF – teacher leadership program – we’re doing PBL training for all teachers – I assumed they already knew and were doing it, had to start over and go slower
    • AG – admins just let me set up a science club and I talked a colleague into joining me
  • Differentiation is often easier during hands-on performance tasks – have to listen, keep eyes and ears open to see/hear what they’re doing

Promoting STEM Careers From a School Counselor’s Point of View (Panel)

  • On average, Iowa counselors serve 429 students each
  • Counselors are uniquely trained in career theory and career development and uniquely positioned to bring various resources together to bear for the whole child – when you have 800-900 students, it’s physically impossible to do this, however
  • Most counselors have 60+ graduate hours – that’s a lot of expertise to waste serving on bus duty
  • At no time in my administrative licensure training did I receive guidance on how to most effectively use my counselor
    • Could say this about any role, not just counselors?
  • Local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations are nice resources for career / workforce information, speakers, data, etc.

Closing Remarks, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds & Mary Andringa

  • A book for everyone who made it to the end of the day, courtesy of DMACC

[As is typical for these statewide summits, the day was heavy on sit-and-get with extremely little interaction… As I’ve said before, can’t we figure out some way to tap into the collective wisdom, expertise, and experience of the 500+ people here?!]


Humility

When you approach your work with the humility that everything you do is open for dialogue and can be made better, the rewards you reap are immeasurable.

#makeitbetter


Be awesome, 7th graders [VIDEO]

The 7th graders at the International School of Brussels had an entire day of technology- and Internet-suffused awesomeness yesterday. I was asked to send them a short kickoff video for their day since they had previously watched my TEDxDesMoines talk. Here’s what I sent them…

ISB 01

ISB 02

ISB 03


Students already know much of what we’re supposedly ‘teaching’

Graham Nuthall said:

Our research shows that students can be busiest and most involved with material they already know. In most of the classrooms we have studied, each student already knows about 40-50% of what the teacher is teaching.

via The Hidden Lives of Learners, p. 24

We could solve this by pre-testing, yet not enough of us do…

Hat tip: Carl Hendrick


It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics

Storm cell

It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics. For example…

Our governor wants Iowa schools to return to the top of the NAEP rankings and reclaim their ‘world class’ status but is endorsing a 1.25% budgetary increase that doesn’t even keep up with inflation (while requesting a 9% increase for his own office). As a result, most schools will have to cut people just to keep the lights on and the buses running. We can expect teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and other disinvestments in the needs of students, despite a solid state economy and a healthy reserve. We may fall as low as 40th in per-pupil spending. So much for being a state that allegedly cares about education.

Our outdated school start date legislation clearly fails to meet the needs of schools (336 out of 338 school districts asked for a waiver last year) but suddenly is being tightly enforced. Our state department of education says that it believes in principles of ‘local control’ but then this year notified districts that it no longer would automatically grant school start date waivers and that essentially every reason they might give for an earlier start date will not be considered legitimate. The school start date consternation is apparently being driven by the tourism industry. Educational needs are being given short shrift.

Of course we’re seeing lots of posturing from both sides of the political aisle (e.g., polarizing comments, Twitter wars, and ‘public’ hearings in rooms that are too small for the public to attend). And we’re seeing some really goofy stuff occurring during what should be important discussions and debates.

We’ve got a superintendent who’s decided he must break the law just to meet the needs of his district’s students. He’s being condemned by some legislators, despite the fact that they themselves break the law year after year when it comes to meeting deadlines for setting school spending authority.

Last week we were notified that our state department of education has now chewed up and spit out its second talented director in less than two years. We’ve got a misbegotten student retention law that’s about to go into effect. Our state assessments don’t align with our state standards. Budgets for our regional educational agencies – which provide essential services to our districts – keep getting reduced. And we’re starting to see proposed legislative attacks on teacher unions that are inconsistent with our rhetoric that we honor and develop teachers. I don’t know if we’re one of ‘those states’ yet when it comes to education but it sure seems like we’re getting closer.

After last year’s legislative session I said to several folks that I was glad it was quiet and positive compared to years past. Apparently last year was just the calm before the storm… [sigh]

Image credit: Storm cell, Tom Gill


A culture of teaching and learning often produces great achievement but a culture of achievement rarely results in great teaching and learning

Drew Perkins said:

Perhaps the most saddening part of a Culture of Achievement is its low ceiling. While it may be politically and strategically smart to pursue the quick hits of raising test scores, it’s a fool’s bargain that limits the potential of our students in a myriad of ways.

What if we pursued a Culture of Teaching and Learning? One that placed an emphasis on things like deep, rich inquiry and craftsmanship? What if the learning had no ceiling and students were authentically assessed and did real-world work where they uncovered and discovered content? What if instead of disaggregating data our teachers engaged in quality professional discourse about their work in ways that excited them and their students? A Culture of Teaching and Learning often produces great (test scores) achievement but a Culture of Achievement rarely results in great teaching and learning. A Culture of Teaching and Learning rewards and professionalizes teaching and helps create students who are empowered by their possibilities and less than concerned with test performance.

If your school is looking to create great thinkers and learners and not just students stuffed full of content take a look at your culture. If your school is wishing your students were excited to be there instead of feeling the tension of just trying to attend and endure take a look at your culture. Is your focus on test scores and “achievement” or do your teachers and students engage in ways that allow them to grow and make meaning out of their learning in ways that tests don’t measure and quantify? Is the purpose of your school to produce great test scores or students capable of thinking creatively and critically about things that matter? 

via http://perkinsed.blogspot.com/2015/01/how-culture-of-achievement-is-hurting.html


Forcing students to read certain books

Pernille Ripp said:

Why do we continue to force students to read certain books when that is the number one thing ALL of my students report kill their love of reading?

via http://pernillesripp.com/2015/03/21/can-we-discuss-the-whole-class-novel-for-a-moment


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