In the summertime

When the weather is hot, you can stretch right out and….do lots of PD!

So much to do, learn and explore this summer. All my efforts will be focused around CT (Computational Thinking). This became a big interest during grad school work 2 years ago, but apparently it is now becoming a buzz word in education (see article in CSTA ).

My summer adventures start with the ISTE conference, and the first stop is a 3 hour workshop on CT for Every Subject by Martine Paquet. This is of great interest, and I am looking forward to more inspiration and resources to integrate CT into other subject areas. Overall, ISTE will be great – but like a buffet there will be more there than I can possibly consume. I do have my plan of what to see and do and I will follow up by reading materials shared from the conference, and connecting with new people.

I will be giving two workshops this summer on ways to start middle school computer science clubs after school. This will include CS unplugged  and coding activities – Scratch, Finch robots, Makey, Makey, Minecraft. Will also look at other tools and activities to circle in the CT concepts. More about this as it unfolds.

Next school year I will be teaching some new-to-me classes, such as the AP CS  course, so a week in AP Summer Institute to help prep will be my focus the end of July. I will also teach a 3D course next year, and while I have done some 3D activities with my students, a full semester course will take some more in depth work. I am going to a Maker workshop, and will do some online PD to get up to speed with Tinker Cad and 123Design.

Some people say the best part of being a teacher is that you get the summers off. I agree – because you need time to recharge, but also because you get time to be a student, to learn new things, to explore ideas.

Back in Black

Or at least digital black and white. The past year has been full of new learning and new experiences. In my graduate work I have taken courses in Computers as Learning tools (which, coincidentally followed right in with Mindtools, which I had last blogged about!), E-Learning Design which focused on developing curriculum for online learning. Over the past summer I wrote my capstone paper on Integrating Technology into Learner Centered Professional Development. That brings me to this fall, 2015, where I am taking my final grad class for my degree in Masters of Education in Learning, Design, and Technology. The course is Design Studio and we will cover several aspects of learning design including the digital tools (HTML/CSS/JQuery, Photoshop, Illustrator, Databases, and video), as well as user design. Over the next few months much of the skills I develop with the digital tools will be reflected in this site. Some of the other things I will “practice” can be found in my PSU site.

Why code when there’s an app for that?

I just spent the past week at the CS4HS workshop put on at Kean University. This is my third summer attending, and was not dissapointed. Then again, I tend to find interesting bits in any experience. However, we had two great speakers, Dan Garcia, from UC Berkeley and one of the founders of the Beauty and Joy of Computing course. This year we also had Baker Franke from CODE.org. Dan is amazing – he could get anyone excited about computer science! His updates on their Snap! programming tool were very helpful. Baker gave us some great information on ECS and CODE.org’s work on developing a AP CS Principles course. A very different perspective which might work well in my school environment. Overall, I came away charged up, informed, and brimming with new ideas for our curriculum.

However, in the midst of these presentations, local speakers, and great peer to peer conversations, there was one huge gem that came from this week’s workshop. During a presentation about Google tools and apps to help teacher productivity, we had a discussion on the use of Google App Scripts (javascript) to customize or automate a docs process. One of the add ons for Google docs that was presented was Mail Chimp. In the vane of add ons and Google docs, I asked if anyone did much with Google scripting, or used MS Office Macros with their students, as a way to introduce coding in context or making it relevant. One teacher, who has an outstanding CS program going on, commented the following (slightly paraphrased, but words in quotes are direct from him) – Last week I used Javascript to create a mail merge for my Google doc. Now that I see there is an add-on to do that, I feel “stupid”.

Wow – out of the mouths of babes…

We have been talking about why CS and coding is important. Why everyone should learn at least a little bit of coding. This comment, from a seasoned, accomplished CS teacher speaks volumes. If someone, who knows programming and has the skills to create what he needs feels it was silly to spend his time creating his own tool or app, then how do we expect those that don’t have any concept of programming to take an interest in learning it? Programming takes thought and effort. The rewards are great, but as anyone who has programmed something knows, it takes creativity, work, and a bit of persistence. Why bother when “there’s an app for that”.

Here’s why – what if you can’t find the app the does exactly what you want? What if there is no app for that, and you want to create one? I would even argue that by knowing coding, and basic computational thinking, you would have better insight as to what apps might be available to do what you want to do! And, by having this knowledge, even if you don’t create the app yourself, you are a better leader in any field, because you know what the possibilities and limitations are.

IMHO – THIS is why we all need to learn the basics of coding and computational thinking. It develops our logical skills and helps us to think critically, which help us in any area of learning.

Go CS Principles!