Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hour of Code Achieved!

The JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon was an incredible success this week thanks to the over 800 students and their teachers who participated in this global event.

I had prepared several backup plans in anticipation of the Hour of Code site being overloaded as experienced last year but was pleasantly surprised that there was only one day that required the use of a backup plan.

Once students had been introduced to what Hour of Code was and had begun working toward their certificate, Pandora Top Hits station was turned on. Ms. Gilliam’s 3rd Block class was delightfully entertaining to watch as the class would unanimously belt out popular song lyrics as they coded.

As students completed the Hour of Code and earned their certification they were encouraged to challenge themselves with other coding activities found on the JCHS #HourOfCode Symbaloo.  The most popular of these alternate activities was Code Combat, Flappy Bird, Made with Code and Scratch.

Highlights from the week included teachers getting into the excitement and earning their Hour of Code certificate and their students telling them, “Yay! Great job!”  Ms. Patricia Williams telling me how “mad” she was that I was doing this activity the week before final exams. She then told me she was wrong to be mad as Hour of Code strengthens all the skills students need every day and especially test taking skills: critical thinking, self evaluation Arion and revision, use of prior knowledge, attention to detail and so much more.

Several students earned their Hour of Code certificates in multiple scenarios, including Baylee who earned FIVE Hour of Code certifications. My favorite highlight however was when a student asked, “Can we do Hour of Code at home?”

It's not too late to try Hour of Code at your school or at home! Coding is now considered to be a basic literacy just like reading, writing and basic mathematics. Going through life in the near future without a basic understanding of coding will feel similar to going through life not knowing how to read.

Get your code on!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Day One: JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon

This week kicked off the momentous world wide Hour of Code! At James Clemens High School we have pledged to do an Hour of Code Marathon with classes doing Hour of Code all week long every block of the day.

Ms. Mendez got JCHS started when she brought her 1st block students to the Harvard Room.  We began the session by talking about Hour of Code and why knowing the basics of coding is important. We watched the introductory video (below) and then started the Star Wars Block Coding challenge together.  

Once students had a grasp of how to proceed through the Star Wars Block Coding Challenge students took off on their own to earn their certificate of completion.

Once students had earned their Hour of Code Certificate they were encouraged to explore other coding activities found on the JCHS #HourOfCode Symbaloo. (see below)

It was exciting to see the day get started and go so well.  Ms. Mendez brought not only her 1st Block class, but her 2nd and 4th Block students too.  Ms. Courtney brought her 3rd Block students and Ms. Laura Smith brought her 2nd Block students.

The only hitch in the day came during 3rd Block with Ms. Courtney's students.  The site apparently had a large amount of traffic at that time and we had to go to Plan B.  Plan B took students to the Code Combat site where they learned how to code in Python or JavaScript while inside of a video game.  This seems to be a favorite alternative!  Made with Code is another site that is usually accessible and has a variety of fun coding activities.

The day was busy but fun and I am sure that many students who had never heard of coding before left feeling confident in their abilities to code!

Follow our Hour of Code adventure all week long via SnapChat and on our Instagram album.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon Challenge

The third annual Hour of Code is rounding the corner next week to the delight of students and teachers around the world.  James Clemens High School is joining in this monumental collaborative event with an #HourOfCode Marathon.

Classes at James Clemens High School have signed up to use both the Harvard Room and the Library to simultaneously throughout the week of Hour of Code so that students can participate.  Teachers are also encouraged to use our laptop carts, Chromebook carts and iPads carts as well as student's personal devices to participate in Hour of Code from their classrooms.

If this is your first year to dip your toes into the wonders of Hour of Code I hope that the resources and tips below will help your adventure run smoothly.

First, Hour of Code is a GLOBAL event reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries.... all at the SAME TIME!  This means that even if you have done everything to set your students up on the Hour of Code website to participate, the site itself during the Hour of Code week may run extremely slow or not work at all.  Have a BACKUP PLAN!

To help with this mass flooding of the Hour of Code site I have set up a Symbaloo with alternative sites and activities that can be used in lieu of the "official" Hour of Code activities.

The first row of links come directly form the Hour of Code website and include some of the online coding activities students can access.

The second row takes students to the Tynker website and the variety of coding activities available there.

The third row consists of coding sites that teach coding using JavaScript.  

The fourth row contains links to unplugged coding activities.  Have a few of these activities ready to go just in case the Internet gets bogged down from so many people participating in Hour of Code.

The fifth and sixth rows contain "other" coding sites that your students might enjoy.

My Plan:

I like that when students access and compete the "official" Hour of Code activities the receive a nice certificate.  However, I don't feel that these activities appeal to all students.  Therefore I have a multi tiered plan for the JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon.

Students will begin with learning about what Hour of Code is and why James Clemens High School feels this event is an important event to participate in.  We will review the site with an emphasis placed on the map that shows where Hour of Code events are taking place.  

We will watch the video below and then answer student questions about Hour of Code before beginning our coding activities.

After watching the video we will attempt to access the Hour of Code Star Wars coding activity (blocks) as a group and I will model the first few stages of the lesson with student guidance.

Students will begin independent coding activities by taking a brief Google Form survey to see what their level of coding ability is.  Based on their answers students will be directed toward a variety of coding sites that suit their individual coding levels.  Students will be directed to be aware that some sites may be sluggish or not available and to simply move to a different site among their choices if needed.

Some my favorite coding sites I will have recommended for my high school students to access include:
  • Code Combat- This site allows students to choose from six different coding/programming languages.  Students learn how to code with the programming language while inside a video game.  They must code correctly to get their character to move, fight, jump, etc inside the video game.
  • Scratch- This site used block coding and has really good step by step directions that middle/high schoolers should be able to follow with a little help from friends or the teacher.  My 3rd & 4th graders last year created interactive virtual holiday cards and emailed them to their parents during Hour of Code 2014.  (Be sure to have parents send their current emails ahead of time)  
  • Made With Code- This is a year round favorite!  I look forward to coding the National Christmas Tree but there are some many other fun activities at different levels of coding ability available on this site.  
    • Yeti lets you program a monster to dance.  The kids get a kick out of this!
    • Accessorize lets you have coding fun with selfies! 

  • Hot Wheels via Tynker lets your car enthusiasts build courses or hack a race track! 
  • Code Monkey is good for the little ones.  I did Code Monkey with 1st graders.  I started by modeling and thinking out loud as they helped me write the code to move the monkey to the banana.  Once I felt they understood the concept I challenged them complete a level all on their own.  You could almost see the wheels swimming in their heads!

My Unplugged plan is to code a dance.  I love this because it brings music and dancing into our Hour of Code week which the kids love.  I had PreK and Kindergarten students as well as 6th graders pretend I was a robot and they had to write code to program me to do a dance.  I did the Hokey Pokey with the little ones and the Cotton Eyed Joe with older students but any song and dance will work.

Hour of Code has a good variety of Unplugged activities you can choose from is dancing isn't your thing! Just scroll down the page and look for "No device or Internet?"

Donna Macdonald, Librarian at Orchard Elementary School in Vermont, wrote a great article for the School Library Journal last year about how she organized her school's Hour of Code, including some pretty cool unplugged activities! Her school even received a check for $10,000 from Hour of Code just for participating! 

What are YOUR plans for Hour of Code?  

What activities, websites, or apps do you recommend? 

Share on the Padlet below:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tech Tips of the Week from the JCHS Library

Collaboration: The Ultimate Hands On Professional Development

School librarians know that collaboration is an important if not vital role we play within the school learning environment.  However, a litany of factors can often cause collaboration to be sparse to nonexistent.  

Sarah Deringer, Head Editor, INALJ Mississippi points out in her article,

“Because of the many duties a school librarian has, collaboration with other teachers can be put off to the end of the list if not forgotten entirely.  Besides the time crunch, other factors can weigh in – cliques among teachers, lack of knowledge in collaboration, a undervaluing of the school librarian, and more.”

Sarah goes on to give some great tips that super busy librarians can use to encourage collaboration.

Sarah’s article is but one of many that address and readdress the topic of school librarians and collaboration.  

I propose looking at collaboration from a completely different point of view.  We all know the value derived from getting to visit other schools or to even just sit in the class of a colleague in your own school for a class period or two.  Observing and learning from others helps to make us better in our own educational fields.  

Let’s kick that up a notch and think about how our students learn best.  Do they learn better through passive observation or from active  engagement with peers to discuss, explore, learn, create and deliver what they have learned?  Yup. Hands on collaborative learning wins out every time.  So why are we not applying the same methods that work best for students to our professional learning as educators?

I propose that we look at collaboration as the ultimate professional development experience, not only collaboration with the school librarian but collaboration with other educators as well, whether in your school, your district, your state, nation, or around the world.  Through true educator collaboration great minds come together to formulate never before thought of lessons that ultimately enhance the student learning experience.  

This week I had the opportunity to work with and learn from four incredible colleagues.  On Monday Ms. Meleighsa McLaughlin brought her 9th and 10th grade English classes to the Harvard Room so that I could show them a few helpful tips and tricks for their upcoming research paper.  In Alabama we are fortunate to have the Alabama Virtual Library (AVL) that supplies all Alabama students with access to a large variety of databases.  One thing the students like the most about the AVL is that the works cited information is already created for them to simply copy and paste to their research paper.  (Where was this when I was in school?!) Not all information students will use in their research papers will be accessed through the AVL so I also introduced students to the EasyBib Google Docs add on.  The students  absolutely LOVED this!  The last thing I showed to Ms. McLaughlin’s classes was the Goblin Threat Game.  This game was designed by the Snowden Library of Lycoming College.  It is a fun interactive game that teaches students about plagiarism and works cited.  

Wednesday is Story Time Day! YAY!  I look forward to Wednesdays every week.  This is the day that Ms. Shannon Humphrey  and Mr. G Watters bring their special education self contained students to the library!  This Wednesday we read the book, A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz.  This book is the true story of how Alan overcame stuttering and became know as  "the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation".  After reading the story we watched a video where Alan talks to the students about his journey and how it felt to have a disability.  While the kids love storytime their favorite part of coming to the library is the MakerSpace! The JCHS Library MakerSpace can be loud and overcrowded most days especially during Refuel Hour so Wednesdays a special day just for our storytime students.  I love that I have this opportunity to spend time working with such awesome students and their teachers.

Thursday I went to Ms. Leah McRae’s Biomed class to teach students how to make infographics using Canva for the data they are collecting on proteins.  We also explored Thingiverse so that students could create 3D models of their proteins in the JCHS Library MakerSpace 3D printer.  As I was getting ready to leave Ms. McRae’s class it occurred to me that we could make the projects even better by adding the element of augmented reality to them with Aurasma.  I am super excited about continuing to work with Ms. McRae and her students as they bring their projects to life.

Friday brought Ms. Laura Smith and her Career Prep students to the library to explore, discover, tinker, and create in the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  Believe it or not, many students in our school have yet to discover the changes that have taken place in the JCHS Library this year.  It was invigorating to get the opportunity to work with Ms. Smith’s students as they explored the robots, green screen, 3D printer and more.  I hope that more teachers will take some time to bring their students to discover the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  
If you have been inspired to collaborate why not get started with the Global Skype-a-Thon, December 3-4, 2015.  

“Amazingly Simple Graphic Design.” Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software – Canva. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“A Boy And a Jaguar | Alan Rabinowitz.” A Boy and a Jaguar | Alan Rabinowitz. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Home.” Home. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Inspire Collaboration: A Quick And Easy Guide for Super Busy School Librarians.” INALJ. N.p., 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Methods And Tools for Information Literacy Assessment – a Collaborati...” Methods and tools for information literacy assessment – a collaborati... Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Microsoft In Education Blog.” Join the Global Skype-a-Thon, December 3-4, 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Plagiarism Game.” Lycoming College. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>

Friday, November 6, 2015

Library Displays: Do Yours Matter?

Earlier this month Jennifer LaGarde, aka Library Girl, wrote a timely blog post, Six Tips for Building Book Displays That Matter that made me take a second look at how I approach the book displays in the JCHS Library.  Out of the six tips Jennifer features it is tip number 5, Build Displays That Generate Meaningful Data, that will present the greatest challenge.  I'd love to see some examples of how others have achieved this type of data as related to displays.

After reading Jennifer's blog post I have since designed two new library displays.  The first is seasonal and will be taken down after Thanksgiving Break.  The title of this display is, What Are You Thankful For?.  Students and teachers can choose to either write what they are thankful for and why on a construction paper leaf and place it on the display wall in the JCHS Library OR they can add to this display virtually via a Padlet.

The other display created, READBox, is intended to stay up throughout the year. This display includes input from our Not Your Average Book Club members, other students, teachers, administration, parents and community members. We hope that our principal, Dr. Brian Clayton, our superintendent, Dr. Dee Fowler, Mayor Troy Trulock, school board members, city council members, parents and others will all contribute their top picks for students to enjoy.

To get feed back and book suggestions to add to the READBox display I created a Google Form and sent the link to the form out via a QR Code using

It will be exciting to watch this display grow and see how our students use it.

BTW: Students have already started checking out books from the display even though it just went up during the course of this week. It will mean so much to them to see their teachers and administrators names associated with books they have recommended!


OK Jennifer...I'm ready for your feedback! How have I done so far in meeting your 6 tips?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The School Library & SPED

Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week in the JCHS Library.  Every Wednesday Ms. Humphrey brings her students to the library for story time, to check out books and to explore, tinker, discover & create in our MakerSpace.

Story time is all kinds of fun! To accommodate the visual needs of some students in Ms. Humphrey's class I take pictures of the book pages and turn the book into a Google Slide presentation.  We use the Harvard Room with it's three large projection screens to read the story.  Some days we will also do arts & crafts activities associated with our story time book.

My favorite books for story time so far this year are The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers was so much fun to read because it was based on a true story and had just been made into a movie.  After reading the book I showed the students the movie trailer.  Everyone was enthralled...even those students that normally find story time to "baby" for them.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was a beautiful story based on an Academy Award winning Best Animated Short Film.  After reading the story we watched the animated short film on which the book was based, but the best part of the book was that it is an augmented reality book! I downloaded the app to my iPhone and then attached my phone to the system in the Harvard Room so students could see the pages of the book come to life on the three giant projection screens.  It was SO COOL!

This week we read Interrupting Chicken.  The kids thought it was so funny how Little Red Chicken kept interrupting the stories her Papa was reading to her.  Each student made their own Interrupting Chicken to take home with them.

My 4th Block student aide, Jonathan, always helps with story time....even getting into character!  Below is a picture of Jonathan as the main character in the book, Baghead.