Monday, December 19, 2016

Hour of Code: It Just Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Four years ago, December 2013, I learned about Hour of Code while laminating posters about the event for our computer science teachers.  At the time I had no idea what Hour of Code was, thinking it was just something for the vocational tech computer science teachers and their students.  The next year, after learning more about Hour of Code and our role as school librarians, I tackled Hour of Code spanning grades PreK through High School.  

Each year I have been impressed with the changes and improvements to the Hour of Code resources and inspired by seeing different approaches to Hour of Code shared by members of my PLN (Professional Learning Network), especially among my fellow school librarians.

This year my school set out for an Hour of Code record by having all 1800+ students participate in an Hour of Code unplugged activity .... AT THE SAME TIME!  We were able to accomplish this feat by using Advisory Time to our advantage.  Kristi Combs (Instructional Partner) and Allison Miller (Assistant Principal) lead a Flight School (our school's version of in school monthly PD) to prepare teachers for the big day.

In addition, teachers signed up to bring their classes to the JCHS Library Harvard Room to participate in more Hour of Code activities.  It was during these times that I stepped out on to that professional ledge of being willing to learn TOGETHER with the students as the impressive array of activities this year rivaled that of years past.

One of my favorite features this year was the ability to filter differently than in past years.  Instead of defaulting to the new block coding activity for the year I went out on a ledge and walked through the filtering process with students so that they could see what we were doing was age and subject appropriate.  Then we tackled these more complex coding activities together, emphasizing the need to collaborate and trouble shoot together.  

For our social studies classes that signed up we used the programming language Python and instruct a turtle to draw flags from around the world.  By far the favorite coding activity was when we coded our very own pixel character! We used HTML to build our characters, CSS to style them, and JavaScript to animate our cute pixel people.

Personally, my favorite activity was with our Special Education Self Contained students.  We created a graph on the floor of the Harvard Room using painter's tape and printed out START, END, TREATS, and MONSTER cards.  Ms. Jefferson was our robot.  DD students had to program Robot Jefferson using BeeBot direction cards to "write the code" that would get her from START to END, collect all the TREATS, and avoid all the MONSTERS.

So what are my tips and tricks for a successful Hour of Code at your school?

First, overcome your fear of not knowing how to code.  I had no idea what CSS and JavaScript were and had failed miserably in college trying to using Python to get the turtle to move!  The best part of Hour of Code is letting the kids work through the thinking process with you! This is actually one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our students on a daily basis, the thought process for working through a new problem and seeing that there are mistakes along the way.

Second, have a backup plan.  The first year I attempted to do Hour of Code was also the year many others got aboard and started doing Hour of Code as well.  This overloaded the Hour of Code website and caused many to be left stranded without access to the websites block coding activities.  This is when having an unplugged activity ready is key.  I'll admit that I was flying by the seat of my pants that first year and had no unplugged activity planned.  Sitting in a classroom filled with sixth graders when I realized the online activity planned was not going to work, I asked the kids for a dance they knew.  They had just learned Cotton Eyed Joe in PE so we decided to write out code a robot could follow to successfully complete the dance.  Several students volunteered to be our robots so we could catch the "bugs" in our code and correct them.  In the end, our robots were having an awesome time dancing!  We did a similar thing with PreK but used the Hokey Pokey as our dance.

Third, share your experience with others.  Sharing our experiences through social media, blogs, etc help us all learn and grow together through our collective experiences, PLUS it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the amazing learning going on in our schools and libraries.  Sharing isn't bragging; it's giving.

To see more from our Hour of Code 2016 click HERE to access our Google Photos Album.

I am also thrilled beyond belief to be headlining with the founder of Hour of Code, Hadi Partovi, at the Texas Library Association's Tech Camp in April 2017!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fast Forward: An MCS Initiative

The Fast Forward blog is the brain child of Daniel Whitt, Madison City Schools Coordinator of Instructional Technology, and is composed of a large collaborative group of elementary and secondary educators from across the Madison City School District.  The goal of Fast Forward is to unite innovative educators across the district and give them a space and place to share how they are working to "move education forward and to challenge long-held, foundational beliefs about the nature of education."

The December 1, 2016 Fast Forward post is near and dear to my heart, combining both my love for libraries and for connecting through Google Hangouts.  Even my dear friend, Andy Plemmons, gets a shout out from Bonnie Howard, librarian at Madison Elementary School.

Check out the Building Readers Beyond The Building video below then click HERE to see more of the amazing, pioneering, innovating, and inspiring work happening in Madison City Schools.