Kids are Cuckoo about Coding!

The title of this blog post comes from one of the students in my coding club as he exclaimed to our deputy principal “I am cuckoo about coding!”. Read on and you’ll see why…

Early this term I was asked to take on the task of running a lunch time coding club in our school for students from grades 1 – 3. While the idea of starting this new project excited me, I must admit I knew very little about coding, other than that it involves programming a computer to follow through a set of instructions.

I set about doing research into coding and how we could utilise our 1:1 iPads in the club. I came across the ScratchJr app and some great videos by Paul Hamilton which provided me the inspiration I needed to get the ball rolling.

We began our first coding club session with an introduction to some of the key ScratchJr blocks by predicting their functions, physically acting out code and testing it within the app to either confirm or reassess our predictions. Students then explored the app’s functionality further, before being given a series of challenges based on some of the teaching resources provided on the ScratchJr website. They worked in teams to program a car to drive across multiple iPads, make a sun set and turn from day to night, make characters run in a race, and make a ball bounce realistically, responding appropriately when it hit another object.

Given that problem solving plays such a large part in coding, I found that my teaching consisted mostly of questioning, rather than showing students the code involved in the challenges, to encourage them to work through the problems they were encountering. For example, when students were programming a car to drive across multiple iPads, they discovered on their own that they would need to set a timer on some iPads so each car would wait until the car on the previous screen had driven across the iPad before starting. However, they didn’t independently see the flaws in their code when the car was still visible on previous screens while it continued to drive across subsequent iPads. Instead of showing the students the code involved I asked, “I wonder if there is a way to make it look like there is really only one car?”. I could see students faces light up as they had that light bulb moment and exclaimed, “We could use invisibility and visibility!”. We have had countless light bulb moments since, as students continue to problem solve through questioning their programming.

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Seeing the benefits of coding in the club I started using coding in the classroom with my year 2 students, and developed a set of my own coding challenges, phrased as questions, to encourage problem solving, critical and creative thinking. For example, ‘Can you make a diver dive down to the bottom of the ocean and collect an object?’ or ‘Can you make a character play soccer?’. Students completed these challenges as part of our maths rotational activities.

Once we had developed a thorough understanding of the app’s functionality, my students were asked to design a simple game to demonstrate their understanding of a maths concept we had learnt this term. Many students decided to make a game related to their maths goal, to show mastery of this skill. The intent was that this game would also be used to teach the maths concept to year 1 students.

I provided an example of a simple game and a storyboard for students to map out their ideas. I didn’t share with students, the code required to create the game. Even as I was introducing the task, I wasn’t sure how my students would go, as the concept of designing and coding a game was not only new to them, but not exactly an easy idea for 6 and 7 year olds to comprehend. I set them to work and within a few minutes I looked around the room and saw students independently photographing mathematical materials and printing out resources to incorporate in their game. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is working!’. Each of my students was able to code their own maths game and in fact, only a very small number required support the complete the task. There was a buzz of excitement around the room, and if you know me, you know I like a quiet classroom, but in this moment I was reminded by the words of Jennie Magiera, “Compliance does not equal engagement”. Engagement is exactly what I saw. Students were excited to tell each other about the code they were creating but that meant that they were involved in meaningful collaboration, as they shared with each other, the working’s of their game. This was truly a “sparkling moment” for me as a teacher.

Adding coding to the curriculum has not only encouraged some fantastic conversations, but it has helped my students work responsibly and respectfully with one another. They have been sharing and getting on better with one another because they are highly engaged, motivated and challenged.

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Planning iPad Apptivities

At the end of last term I presented an iPad workshop for teachers on planning Apptivities based on the SAMR Model. Teachers are all too familiar with the lesson planning procedure: We think of the outcomes of the lesson or task and plan how we will assist the students to reach an end product. In my experience, when presented with new technology, some teachers can become overwhelmed by of a lack of confidence and technological knowledge. At times they forget the planning procedure and rely too heavily on the tools rather than the process and the end product. The aim of my workshop was to remind teachers of the lesson planning fundamentals and show them how they still need to be in the forefront of our minds in a lesson that utilises iPads.

Teachers were presented with an exemplar Apptivity planning sheet and the matching Apptivity. We discussed the importance of establishing the outcomes of the task first, before deciding on suitable apps to help students achieve the outcomes and complete the task. We evaluated the level of the task in accordance with the SAMR Model, aiming to ‘teach above the line’. Examples were provided on how the task could be modified to sit higher in the SAMR model, within the context of the modelled response.

Year level teams were then given their own planning sheets to map out an Apptivity for an upcoming unit of work. They were given laminated cut-outs of app icons to physically manipulate in order to see a visual representation of their app smash. Within a short time frame each year level team followed the outlined plan and produced an idea for an innovative, rich task. All teachers were excited by the app smashing and SAMR concepts, and were eager to get to work on building a bank of rich, relevant, content specific Apptivities for their year level.

Apptivity Planning Sheet Modelled Response

Apptivity Parts of Addition & Subtraction

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No Mess, No Fuss Capacity with iPads

Over the last two weeks we have studied capacity in our mathematics lessons. We began with hands on exploration using containers of various sizes and a big tub of birdseed. This hands on exploration of capacity is a necessary part of teaching this concept but it is messy, to say the least.

To reduce the mess and fuss I devised a series of iPad activities to consolidate student understanding of capacity following our hands on learning.

We created a book in Book Creator to summarise our findings of the bird seed measuring task.image

For our follow up activity I designed a Nearpod lesson that contained videos of me measuring the capacity of containers with water. Students followed along with the videos and were so engaged you could hear a pin drop in the classroom. They made predictions, counted along with the measurements and recorded their findings. Not to mention, everyone could see the measuring clearly, rather than having the students crowd around a live measurement demonstration. What an easy and effective way to revise capacity!

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One of the Capacity Videos

One of the Capacity Videos

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Why Kids Love Nearpod

I have been using Nearpod in my Maths rotations for a little while now and my students just love it! They love this new way of sharing their work with me and the immediacy of feedback the app encourages. They also enjoy being able to analyse their own and others’ samples, which is helping them learn from mistakes, understand alternate ways to complete a task and engage in rich mathematical discussion. They are proud of their work, and delight in telling the other students “This is mine!”, when I broadcast samples to the group for discussion.

Our latest Nearpod lesson is focused on 3D shapes. I experimented with the quiz feature, which I hadn’t yet explored, as a way of establishing prior knowledge before the main content of the lesson. I found this feature of the app quick, easy and effective in providing a snapshot of my students’ understanding.

Nearpod certainly is value-adding to teaching and learning in our classroom. When it comes to apps that allow for task transformation, this one is my new favourite!

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Student Sample

Student Sample

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Student Sample

Student Sample

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Representing Addition and Subtraction with Nearpod

I’ve been wanting to try Nearpod in my classroom for a while now, after having heard about how other teachers are using the app in reading groups. It was when I came across a post on Mathy Cathy’s blog that I really became inspired to incorporate Nearpod into my Maths rotations this week. The way Cathy explains that Nearpod≠Powerpoint challenged me to think about how to use the app to enhance my existing teaching practices and allow for more student input and effective monitoring of their learning.

My Nearpod focused on representing addition and subtraction in different ways. I devised slides as examples and opportunities for teaching points, followed by interactive features such as drawing and open ended questioning.

My students loved the activity and kept telling me how much they were enjoying themselves. They especially enjoyed analysing their own and others’ samples that I broadcasted throughout the lesson. Sharing both correct and incorrect samples led to some powerful and invaluable mathematical discussion. The students and I are all looking forward to our next Nearpod lesson!

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Student Samples

Student Samples

Student Samples

Student Samples

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Increased Engagement with Thinkboards and iPads

After nearly one and a half years with a 1:1 iPad class, it still amazes me seeing how much more quickly students are able to grasp concepts when practised on an iPad as opposed to some more traditional methods of teaching. In our work with numbers we have been using Thinkboards on the iPads to show different representations of two digit numbers. While the Thinkboard is not a new concept, I have found that using them on the iPad where students can use various different apps to make concrete, pictorial and written representations of numbers has helped my students form firm understandings of two digit numbers much faster than when I used them in the past on paper. I could go on and on about how the iPads bring higher levels of student engagement, but the proof is in my students’ work. Today I watched one of my less confident ‘mathematicians’ breeze through the Thinkboard Apptivity, navigating her way through no less than three apps with confidence and ease. Not to mention, how quickly she was able to complete the task by comparison to the amount of time spent handing out materials to complete a paper version. In addition, the “make it” section becomes a permanent assessment record of the student’s use of concrete materials as the blocks don’t need to be ‘packed up’ at the end of the exercise.

Partitioning the 2 Digit Number

Partitioning the 2 Digit Number

Making a Picture Representation of the Number

Making a Picture Representation of the Number

Using Materials to make the Number

Using Materials to make the Number

Inserting the Images and Writing the Number

Inserting the Images and Writing the Number

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Directions with iPads

I was inspired by an Apptivity from the lovely Miss Ward today as we used directional language in our maths lesson. I made some grid layouts in Doodle Buddy and used the stamp tool to place characters and obstacles within the grid. Then using Flick, I sent the pictures to the students and they saved them in Explain Everything. They then had to use two colours to show a route and an alternate route for the character to get to the ‘finish’. They had write and verbally record the directions. Students were so engaged in this task that some extended themselves, seeing how many possible routes they could show. Thanks Miss Ward!

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