Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 3 & 4

2014 Day 4 (7)

Days 3 and 4 have been filled with lots of young learners for hour of code.

Kindergarten class have continued to come to use the iPad app The Foos.  In each session, we start by talking about the word “code”.  Lots of them mention passcodes on iPhones and codes to get into gates or buildings.  We link this to the idea of giving a computer a code.  Then, we watch the video from President Obama.

Before we start the app, we talk a lot about how coders don’t give up, they try small pieces and test, and they collaborate when needed.  The teachers and I have made some interesting observations about students while they are coding with The Foos and other coding tools.

1.  Students who might easily give up or struggle with other subject areas in school are fully engaged and putting forth tremendous effort when coding, while others who like to get things right the first time are easily frustrated.

2.  We talk a lot about stamina at our school and how long you can spend working at a task whether it’s math, reading, or something else.  The stamina of students in coding is very high.  Working for almost an hour was easily obtainable by most students regardless of age.

3.  Students who might not normally share their thinking with other students in order to help or collaborate were very willing to share their coding strategies.

4.  Some students still needed some direct instruction or nudges.  With the Foos in particular, I noticed students repeatedly pressing the run button in order to get a character to move rather than write enough code to make it happen with one click.  I observed students repeating the same code over and over that wasn’t working and never trying something new.  There is a lot to learn from tinkering, but it is still essential and necessary for a teacher facilitator to step in with some instruction, tips, or nudges.

In addition to the Foos, we had 2nd graders who continued to enjoy using the Made with Code site.  They loved programming a yeti to dance, but they thought it was super cool to be able to program the lights on the White House Christmas tree and actually schedule their code to light up in Washington.

Our preK students had a blast using the Sphero draw app to practice drawing shapes and programming Sphero to drive around the carpet in their shape.  You can read more about that here. 

Finally, we’ve been having an interesting occurrence in our makerspace.  It started with a couple of students asking if they could come in during their recess to build and program a robot.  Then, another student asked.  Before I knew it, the word was spreading and more students who were new to making were showing up during recess.  It’s sort of like an underground movement.  It’s exciting, but I’m trying to figure out how to manage it.  Just today, a student came in on her own, designed an object in Tinkercad, exported it to Makerware, uploaded it to an SD card, and began printing it on the 3D printer.  Another student uploaded a file to Thingiverse that he made at home and prepped his own file for printing.  Two students started assembling a robot and pooling their knowledge to create the code that lived up to their vision for what the robot can do.  Another new student appeared, and started tinkering with how to program Sphero.

Students want to dream, tinker, create, and share.  I’m thankful that our library is a place that they can do that.  Hour of code once again opens my eyes and teachers’ eyes to what students can do.

Coding and Beyond with PreK Using Sphero, Osmo, iPads, Computers, and Books

PreK Coding (27)

I love it when a small seed of an idea turns into something much more.  A few weeks ago, I approached PreK about using our Sphero to practice writing letters.  I knew that PreK was working on forming the letters of the alphabet and I thought that the Sphero Draw and Drive app would be a perfect way to merge letter practice with some programming.  I originally thought that small groups might come to the library and use the Sphero with me, but further brainstorming with Ms. Heather resulted in us deciding to do 5 centers that students would rotate through in order to experience many technology, math, and literacy experiences.

Ms. Heather’s class has been bubbling with excitement about coming to the library to try out all of these centers.  Ms. Heather split the class up into 5 groups which was 4-5 students per group.  Ms. Heather, Ms. Melissa (parapro), Ms. Callahan (parent), and I all led a center and one center was independent.  Each center lasted about 10 minutes and took up about an hour with transitions. Here’s what they did.

Center 1:  Hour of Code programming with Sphero

Since this week is our hour of code, I was so glad that PreK got to experience an aspect of coding.  While coding didn’t fill up our hour, it certainly sparked their interest in how to make a computer or robot do what you want it to.  Students sat in a row and each took a turn to think of a letter to practice drawing.  Using the Draw and Drive app on iPad, students drew a letter and pressed play.  The Sphero drove around the carpet in the shape of that letter.  With a shake of the iPad, the letter was erased and the next student had a turn.

We repeated this process over and over until we were out of time.  Each time the robot rolled around the floor there was a burst of excitement.  As the facilitator, I asked students about the letters that they were drawing to make sure that they understood what they were trying to draw.

Center 2:  Osmo Tangrams and Words

Our Osmo devices are one of our favorite tools in the library.  The Osmo is came out this summer.  It includes a base to put the iPad in and a red attachment to place over the camera.  Osmo comes with 2 sets of tools to use with the apps: a set of letter tiles and a set of tangrams.  The three apps are free to download but you must have the base and attachment for them to work.  For this center, students used the Junior version of the Words app.  This app gives students a picture with a matching word.  The beginning sound of the word is missing and students have to lay the correct letter tile in front of the iPad.  If it is correct, the red attachment “sees” the letter tile and magically adds it to the word on the screen.  If it is incorrect, students have to try again.

Students also used the Introduction to Tangrams in the tangrams app.  This app shows students 2-3 tangram pieces pushed together.  For this beginning phase, the colors of the tangrams on the screen match the colors of the actual tangrams.  As students correctly place the tangrams on the table in front of the iPad, the red attachment “sees” them and fills in with black on the screen.  When they are all correct, a new combination is shown.

This center was one that needed adjustment as we went along depending on student needs and strengths. Some needed to focus more on the shapes while others were ready to think about letter sounds in words.  All students had a blast watching the magic of the Osmo happen on the screen and table.

Center 3: Starfall on Computers

Ms. Heather facilitated the computer center.  I put out a computer, mouse, and headphones for each student in the group.  One part of this center was simply using fine motor skills to practice using a mouse.  The other part was to use Starfall to continue practicing letters and sounds.

Center 4: Reading

A parent volunteer read aloud stories that I pulled.  The selections were Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, Job Site, and Stars.  She had students engaged in discussion about the story and the pictures all along the way.

Center 5: iPads

PreK has 5 iPads in each classroom.  Students have a variety of word apps that they can use at their own center time in class, so they are used to using these apps independently.  This made the perfect independent center since we didn’t have 5 adults.  Students sat on the bean bags by the windows and used the iPads by themselves for the 10 minutes of this center.

I think many times people think that our younger students can’t use technology or they are unsure of what to do with younger students.  I love giving things a go and seeing what happens.  We were amazed by students’ engagement and excitement today.  Some asked, “Can we do this every day?”  That was a sure sign of success.  When working with younger students, you have to think about what your barriers might be.  For us, we wanted smaller groups in order to have more adult support if needed.  We also wanted smaller groups so that students wouldn’t be waiting around since we only have 1 Sphero and 3 Osmos.  Using the teacher, parapro, parent volunteer, and me helped to make this possible.  You might have a different barrier, but I hope that you will consider what you might leap into with your youngest learners in your building.

Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 1

We had a great day of hour of code even though there were many technical difficulties.  We wanted to start our day with coding snowflakes using Anna and Elsa, but unfortunately much of our day gave us messages like this:

code dead

Just as great coders do, we didn’t let a road block get in our way.  We had many backup plans.  Our 2nd graders used Tynker to explore block commands.

I loved their pride when they reached the end of the hour!

2014 Day 1 (9)

Our Kindergarten and 1st grade students used the iPad app “The Foos”.  This was a new app for us, so we all had a lot to learn.  I quickly saw that students weren’t necessarily writing their full code and were still being successful in getting their character to perform by repeatedly hitting the run button.  This was great learning for me and helped to adjust my setup as we went.  I loved how groups of students would gather together to code together and offer tips.  I saw very little frustration, no tears, and lots of perseverance.

We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Problem Solving and Science in Action with the Rube Works App

RubeWorks (2)Back in December, Kate Wright, 2nd grade teacher, told me that the grade level would be studying force, motion, pushes, pulls, and simple machines in the late part of 3rd quarter and they wanted to incorporate the art and inventions of Rube Goldberg.  It was a seed of an idea which I absolutely love.  I love when a seed is planted early enough that it has time to grow and expand with new opportunities.

Over the winter break, I had a follow on Twitter from Electric Eggplant , and in miraculous fashion, the seed idea began to develop.  Electric Eggplant is the developer of a new iPad app called Rube Works.  It’s the official invention game of Rube Goldberg.  I started having a Twitter conversation with them and found out that the app was on sale until the end of December.  I went ahead and purchased 30 copies knowing that it was going to be a perfect fit with the seed of an idea.

My Twitter conversation continued and I was connected with David Fox, the developer of Rube Works.  He agreed that once we got the project going, he would love to connect with us and see what the kids thought of the app.

Since that conversation, a page on Skype in the Classroom has been created for Rube Goldberg which includes the chance to Skype with David as well as Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer.  We added both of these to our growing seed of an idea.

RubeWorks (3)Over the past 2 days, the 2nd grade has been working in the library to use the Rube Works game.  This is a kickoff to their study of force, push, pull, and motion.  We started by watching some videos of Rube Goldberg inventions because most of the students had no idea who he was.  They were fascinated by the zany inventions to do simple, everyday things.  Some of them even launched into a brainstorm of what they would invent (which is coming as a part of our seed of an idea!)

Next, I showed students the Rube Works trailer.

They were eager to get started.  Because the Rube Works app has a reading component that does not have text to speech, the teachers paired students together so that a stronger reader was in each pair.  This helped lift this reading barrier for students, but it also gave students a brainstorming partner.  Students quickly saw that creating a Rube Goldberg invention is not a piece of cake.  It takes trial and error, risk taking, failure, problem solving, perseverance, working through frustration, and creativity to make these inventions work.  In our 35-40 minutes of work time, most pairs managed to finish the first scenario and some made great progress on the 2nd.  A few even made it to the 3rd level.

RubeWorks (5)

Even though there were moments where students could be heard saying, “This is so frustrating!” and “I just can’t get this to work!”, I didn’t see a single group stop working.  I overheard one student say, “I thought first levels were supposed to be easy!”, but she didn’t give up.  When we gathered back on the floor, we talked about how we all get frustrated, but it’s what we do with that frustration that matters.  The teachers brought up a classroom discussion that they have been having with students about perseverance, and this was such a great connection to help them feel what it’s like to persevere through something even when it’s hard. It was so rewarding to students be successful after multiple attempts.

I encouraged students to keep their solutions a secret but to feel free to give one another hints, which is yet another skill that we pulled into this lesson.  We wanted every person to work to figure out these puzzles without someone just giving away the solution.  Students didn’t want to quit after our hour together and they are eager to continue working with this app in their classroom.

When I asked students and teachers about some things that they love, they mentioned things like:

  • clear instructions
  • hints
  • the ability to test your invention multiple times along the way
  • that the app shows you the actual drawing that Rube Goldberg made after you finish a level
  • that it was challenging but fun

We look forward to continuing to explore this app and incorporate what we’ve learned into our own Rube Goldberg inventions.

RubeWorks (6)

Hour of Code Days 3-5

Day 5 (3)This week has just been incredible.  It’s hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago the planning for this week began.

Even with lots of benchmark tests and wrapping up the end of the quarter, our Barrow teachers found time to bring students to the library to participate in Hour of Code.

No matter which class came, I saw similar results:  engaged students, problem solving, collaboration, suspension of time, perseverance.  Exposing students to coding has opened up a new world for them.  I loved having a conversation with students during every session about the importance of coding knowledge in their future.  Who knows what jobs will be out there when these students join the workforce, but coding is very likely going to be a part of it.

During the week, our internet has  been extremely slow, which has given us lots of problems.  It hasn’t stopped us though.  We did have to abandon some of the computer programs like Tynker because they just wouldn’t load on our machines.

Kindergarten and 1st grade continued to explore Kodable.  Second grade started exploring Light-bot on the iPad instead of Tynker.  An interesting thing started to happen with these students because they got up out of their seats and acted out the moves that their robot needed to make in order to visualize the code they needed to put in.  I loved watching the strategies that students developed to figure out the code they needed.

Students have recorded some of their thinking using a Fligrid this week, which was yet another new tool to many students.  They loved making these short videos about their learning.

Day 2 (11)A group of third graders along with the whole 4th and 5th grade explored Scratch to make an interactive holiday card.  The 4th and 5th grade groups were huge because the entire grade level came together.  I kept our whole group time very short.  I stressed the importance of not giving up, messing around to see how things work, using tutorials, and collaborating.  It was amazing to watch a group of 75+ students disperse, find their own work spaces, and get to work.  When they figured things out, they shared.  For the 4th grade group, we did a Google Hangout on Air with Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic) and her students who were using Blockly.  During the hangout, we each setup a computer and headset and students were able to talk to one another about what they were doing.  I picked up our laptop and walked around our library to show her students what my students were doing.  Sherry got on the microphone several times and helped some of my students with their questions too.  It was a great experiment that I definitely want to try again because it opened up our walls to student-to-student collaboration across states.  I wanted to try the idea of coders on call, and this was a step toward that for the future.  You can see how the conversations turned out in this video:

Next week, we hope to connect students again with Sherry Gick’s students in Indiana and Shannon Miller’s students in Iowa to share some of their learning and creations.  This week has sparked interest in coding, and I’m sure that coding will make its way into many of the collaborative projects during the year.  Thank you Code.org and Computer Science Education Week for putting together such a great program, inspiring videos, and helpful tutorials.  The word is out that coding is a critical skill needed by our students.

Here’s a glimpse of what happened at Barrow this week:

Hour of Code Day 1 and 2

The entire 5th grade came together to code using Scratch.

The entire 5th grade came together to code using Scratch.

I am so energized by the excitement I saw from Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 5th grade students yesterday and today during our Hour of Code.  Here’s what each session looked like:

1.  I asked them how many of them liked to play video games, iPad apps, computer programs, or knew someone who used Facebook.  Pretty much every hand shot up.  Then, I asked them how many of them knew how those programs were made and their hands shot down.  However, when  I asked how many of them would like to explore how computers and games are programmed, pretty much every hand went up again.

2.  We watched 1 or 2 videos like these:

3.  I briefly introduced the tool that students would use and gave them the short link.

4.  I gave some ground rules:

  • Coders don’t give up.  They try, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.
  • Coders collaborate.  Ask 3 other students for ideas or help before asking me.
  • Have fun!

Kindergarten and 1st grade students worked with Kodable to program a rolling fuzz ball to move through a maze collecting coins.  Our 2nd graders used Tynker to program a puppy dog to perform various commands.  Our 5th graders used Scratch to design an interactive holiday card.

At tables, I watched students leap into coding.  They hit speed bumps right away.  Many began asking one another, but there was still a tendency to ask me.  I helped at times but facilitated students talking to one another most of the time.  Since I had seen all of the tables, I knew which students had figured out some of the coding tricks.  I used this knowledge to nudge students toward one another.  Many of them really stepped up to help their peers and students who weren’t always looked to as an expert suddenly found themselves being the go-to person.  It was empowering!

holiday on ScratchAnother amazing thing was having the entire 5th grade working together in the library.  They were eager to jump in and use Scratch, which most of them had never seen or heard of.  For the most part, they quickly settled in around the library in groups or by themselves and got to work.  As they figured out things, they shared.  Some of them left having a complete card made.  Others left with a start.  All of them left with a better understanding of how to use Scratch and an excitement for coding.  There is great potential in this energy that has been generated.

Day 1 (21)Our days were not without problems.  Our school internet seemed particularly slow.  The Hour of Code sites were also swamped with visitors, so these two combinations made some of the tools impossible to load.  We had to completely change our 2nd grade Tynker lesson on day 1 because it wouldn’t load.  Instead, students used blockly and Kodable.  Kodable was our reliable app of the day.  When students all tried to login to Scratch, they kept getting bumped out.  Also, they had trouble signing in, so several left without a chance to save their work.  All of these glitches didn’t dampen the excitement for coding.

Throughout the days, students added some reflections about what they learned to a Flipgrid.  This grid was also shared on Twitter so that students in other schools could add as well.  We have several more lessons planned across Wednesday-Friday and next week students will participate in a coding smackdown in Google Hangouts.  They will have a chance to share their learning and creations with others around the country.

Hour of Code is Coming This Week!

We are very excited about the opportunities planned for our students in the library this week.  It’s Computer Science Education Week and to celebrate several classes in grades K-5 will participate in Hour of Code, which gives kids hour-long experiences in a variety of kid-friendly coding tools.  The hour of code site has multiple step by step tutorials to help kids learn some basics of each coding tool, while allowing them the freedom to be creative.  Theres’s something for every age from 5-106 🙂

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is an annual program dedicated to showing K-12 students the importance of computer science education.

Organized by the Computing in the Core coalition and Code.org, CSEdWeek is held in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906).

Why would we want our students to learn computer coding?  Take a look at some of these statistics.

more-jobs-than-students

job-student-gap

2012-hs-ap-enrollment

Some of our Kindergarten and first grade students will use an iPad app called Kodable.

kodable

Second and Third grades will be exploring both Blockly and Tynker.  Some first graders will also try Tynker.

https://i2.wp.com/www.tynker.com/image/hp/course-intro-to-programming-videotutorial.jpg

Tynker Intro

Fourth and Fifth graders (and perhaps a few other students too) will make holiday cards with Scratch.

During the week, we plan to make connections with other schools around the country who are also participating in Hour of Code in order to allow our students to share, brainstorm, and problem solve across the miles through Skype and Google Hangouts.  On December 17, we will participate in a live Google Hangout On Air where students will share their coding creations and learning with students in multiple states simultaneously.

The intention of Hour of Code is to give as many students as possible experience with coding, which will hopefully lead to both individual exploration or class projects in the future.  I’m prepared to be amazed this week by what students discover.  Look for posts throughout this week to share our progress.