Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ready, Set, Go(ogle)!

Google Tool Bar Scavenger Hunt 
My school year has been flying by. Or so it seems. We started our year back in early August and I can't believe it's already October. We are in the full swing of things with our 1:1 Chromebooks. So far I'm loving the transition to these nifty devices since we are a GAFE district. This means my students have access to school gmail accounts, which we now use like second nature for submitting assignments and projects. Here's a glimpse of what we've done so far.

1) Getting Acquainted with our Chromebooks- As with any device I implement, I go through procedures and guidelines for both handling and assigning devices. Students that have gmail accounts (upper grades) have assigned devices that they log into with their gmail accounts, which gives them access to their Google Drive and Google Classroom. My lower grades log in as guests and only use web-based programs that I will later get into.

2)  Google Classroom-After my students logged into their assigned device, I let them jump right into Google Classroom. Following a quick tour, I then had them complete their Inner Selfie Project, which was inspired by this lesson. For this particular project, students were not only using Google Docs for the first time, but also importing their selfie through their gmail, and then submitting the final project in Classroom.

3) Google 101-Each week as we complete assignments and projects in Google Classroom, I also introduce different Google apps/tools (also known as GAFE).  I usually post an assignment that has students explore the app and then create a quick product (or assignment) to show me that they know how to use that app. This idea was inspired by a Growing Up Google presentation I attended at the last Google Summit in Atlanta. Some apps they will explore in greater detail are: Google Drive (Folders), Gmail, Google Forms, and Google Slides.

4) Programs We Use- Along with Classroom, we have also used a variety of other programs with our new devices.

  • Digital Passport (Blended Course)- My 2nd-4th graders complete a module each week and the accompanying activity in the Student Handbook. 
  • Everfi- My 5th graders are going through a module each week. Because this course is higher level, I let them go back and review their module before they take their post quiz to move on the next one. 
  • Typing.com- I signed up all my 3-5 graders to this site to practice basic keyboarding skills. As students progress, I encourage them to take the quizzes to test their speed and accuracy. 
  • BBC Dancemat Typing Games- I have all my 2nd graders start with this course to practice their keyboarding skills and once they finish it, I will sign them up to typing.com 
  • Code.org- I have all my students on this site and each have different courses they start on. My 2nd graders start with Course 1, while the rest of my grades start on Course 2. Once students complete their course, they move on to the next course at their own pace. I also have students explore other tutorials for the Hour of Code if time permits to design their own patterns (Frozen), create their own stories (Play Lab), to actually using coding (Khan Academy). 
So there you go! Are you a 1:1 Chromebook gifted classroom? I would love to see what you are doing with your students and what has and has not worked for you. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Do You Really Want to Program?

"Do you really want to program?" If you stopped by my room this summer, you may have heard me singing this to the tune of Frozen's "Do You Want to Build a Snowman." Why was I cheesing out so much you may ask? Well, all thanks to coding!

For this summer's enrichment program, I decided to bring coding to students in our district. After having tried the Hour of Code in December with my gifted classes, I felt there was a need to keep spreading computer science to our elementary students. I wasn't surprised to find out that a majority of them have never tried coding or any type of programming as this is the case for most schools in the U.S.

Code.org: An Overview 

During our 4 week program, my goal was for our 3rd to 7th grade students to not only do an hour of code but try different tutorials offered by the amazing site, code.org. These folks have done a wonderful job of providing different tutorials and mini courses that break down the concepts of programming for beginners. They even offer video tutorials with tips and testimonials from people in Computer Science and those who have dabbled with it. What's even more is that these "faces" represent diverse and relevant folks in the field of technology.  And that to me deserves praise.

My Course 

Here is a break down of my course, where I saw each group of students twice a week for 30 minutes. My time was limited so we needed a structure where I gave students minimal guidance and focused more time on exploring.

Because I did not create an account for each student in the program, I had them track their progress and reflect on our Tech Time Log instead. Below are a few samples.
Click here for a Tech Time template. 
All programs can be found at: code.org/learn
YouTube Video Playlist, click here

Week 1: Introduction to Pair Programming/Angry Birds

  • I showed the video on Pair Programming and established guidelines for collaboration and problem solving. I also stressed that I would not figure anything out for students because it was their responsibility to problem solve. 
  • Students started the Angry Birds Tutorial and had the option of completing levels at home for the remainder of the week. 
*Note: If students struggled with certain levels/concepts, I showed the brief videos to review those concepts that were included in the tutorial. For example, the If/Else Blocks in the Angry Birds (Zombie Levels) were an issue with my lower grades. 

Week 2: Frozen 
  • I showed the Intro video for Frozen and reiterated the guidelines for collaboration and problem solving. 
  • Students started the Frozen tutorial and had the option of completing levels at home for the remainder of the week. 
  • Assessment: When students expressed that they completed either Angry Birds or Frozen, they got their own computer and completed the last level on their own. The indicator would usually be that they complete that level without any problems. I would indicate completion on their Tech Time Log at this point. 
Week 3: Flappy Bird/Play Lab

At this level I was able to differentiate for my learners.
  • Beginners: Students continued working on their Angry Birds and Frozen tutorials. They then moved on to Flappy Bird and Play lab for the rest of the week. 
  • Intermediate Learners/Advanced Learners: Intro to Flappy Bird/Play Lab. Students worked on these for the week. 
  • Advanced: After completing Flappy Bird/Play Lab, students could try Khan Academy Tutorial with their own computer! 
  • Coders Club!- Those students who have finished Angry Birds or Frozen (or both!) received a Certificate of Completion and were enrolled in Course 2 on code.org. 

Week 4: Explore! 

  • Students will be able to continue their learning path (see above) and explore other sites such as Scratch. 


Overall, our students truly enjoyed working through the courses and were very excited to be included in the Coders Club! This resource is a fantastic way to introduce students who have had minimal to no experience coding. Of course, you can extend the activities and try other programs such as Scratch. Next year, I hope to continue coding and find other ways to integrate literacy and creative writing now that our students have learned the foundations of computer programming. Stay tuned!