School holidays are a great time to get stuck into techie projects! Today I had a play around with MaKey MaKey and Scratch to program two games with links to the science and technology curriculum.The intent is that students could code their own games, providing them an innovative, challenging and engaging way of demonstrating their knowledge of materials and properties.
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.
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.
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.
I am unashamedly enthusiastic about the transformation Twitter has made to learning in my classroom. Twitter has ignited my students’ excitement about sharing their work and learning with others around the world. I continue to encourage other teachers to jump on the Twitter bandwagon to see the positive effects for themselves.
This week it was the class’ turn to present at the year level assembly. Naturally, we decided to share some of our memorable moments from our use of Twitter since the beginning of the year. We recorded our presentation while practising our phrasing and fluency. Maybe the video will encourage more teachers to give Twitter a go!
We have recently started a class Twitter feed to extend our classroom beyond its walls and share our learning with the world. The students are so thrilled to upload their work samples for parents, teachers and other classes around the world to see. They excitedly wait to see whether we have any new followers or replies and my inbox is crowded with emails from my students sending me examples of their iPad work to post. They love to hear my laptop “ping”, indicating a new email, and announce matter-of-factly to the class “That was me, just sending you my work for our Twitter”. This latest technological venture for us has brought a new-found sense of enthusiasm to our learning environment.
Last week as part of our History studies we connected with experts via Twitter to completely transform our History assessment. The existing assessment task required students to observe photos of old and new technology and pose and answer questions based on what they could see in the images. I immediately thought of Twitter and the possibility of engaging with experts to answer our questions, and provide us with new information that we could not gain ourselves by analyzing a photograph.
I sourced images of old techology from the Queensland Museum‘s online catalogue and as a class, we discussed our prior knowledge of these objects. Each student then chose an object and created at least three questions about the object, relating to changes in technology over time. I flicked them the image of their chosen object via the Flick app, and in Explain Everything, students used the image to accompany one of their questions. We tweeted our questions to a range of companies and were very pleasantly surprised to see many of them happily answer our queries.
Those companies probably don’t even realise, but they made my students’ days and extended their learning beyond what we isolated in our classroom would have ever been able to achieve. Thank you!
Following the huge success of my “Snazzy Jazzy” puppet in vocabulary lessons, I bought another puppet for spelling lessons, naming her Tricky Vicki. The spelling cheerleader was an instant hit with the kids and I am excited to introduce my second Aurasma Apptivity to the class this week, featuring Tricky Vicki. When the students hover their iPad over a Tricky Vicki card she will give them instructions on how to complete a spelling task.
Here is an example of one of the task card overlays.
I hope the Apptivity will be received with the same level of enthusiasm, and provide my students with a fun and engaging way of completing spelling tasks!
My 2014 Learning Labbers are with me for another year, and now that they are quite tech savvy, we are ready to open our classroom to the world through our own class twitter feed. We are looking forward to communicating with experts on topics we are studying at school to make learning more meaningful. We are excited to extend our learning beyond the walls of our classroom and share and engage in educational discussions with other classes around the world. You can follow The Apptive Learning Lab on the next step of our learning journey @2EwithMrsBB.Tweets by @2EwithMrsBB