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Don’t Take Down the Coding Decorations

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I have always found the Holidays build to a climax.  You can feel the warmth and the spirit leading right up to December 25th. The next day, unfortunately, we are in a rush to remove the decorations and store the lights.  We move on too quickly almost as if Christmas never happened.  I feel the same way about Hour of Code.  This week has been wonderful for promoting Computer Science and coding.  My twitter feed has been inundated with Hour of Code events.  I have coded with a new group of students who have received it warmly.  They thirst for more.

This year’s Hour of Code has received unprecedented coverage.  Hadi Padovi from code.org opened the Nasdaq stock exchange and celebrities came out in full force to push computer science.  We heard the same alarming statistics that 95% of CS jobs will go unfilled.  Millions of students worldwide participated in activities that resembled puzzles.  Padovi tweeted a reply to me when I asked how the popularity of HOC compared to last year:

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As good as the activities are, they lack some needed elements.  The Hour of Code activities are not tied into curriculum. They are a one day event centred on puzzles.  One hour is not enough.  I would draw a parallel by saying we do not host “hour of gym” or “hour of music” activities once each year.

What happens now?  The need for students to learn code and computer science will not disappear over this week.   In fact, we resolved very little.  My hope is that this week will be a springboard for more coding.  If students are to benefit from Hour of Code, we need to:

  • Bring Coding into the existing curriculum and into the classroom
  • Push STEM and find ways to bring it to every school
  • Ensure that every teacher and student is aware of coding, CS and STEM
  • Work with High Schools and the job sector to facilitate these programs

Referring back to Hadi Padovi, he said that he will not stop until every school provides access to Computer Science.  We know the need exists.  In preparing a presentation for BIT2015, I asked a few of my students how they felt about coding.  Their responses were more than what I expected:

I am really good at math.  I usually finished my work and just put it aside.  Coding allows me to dig deeper.  It challenged me to do more than what was expected.

I really like coding.  I understand how it relates to computers.  It pushed me to understand math and science more. I’m glad to have the choice to code even if I prefer to use Minecraft at times.

In conclusion, I ask that you read my dear friend and colleague’s post on the same topic: “Beyond the Hour of Code” by Brian Aspinall.  We are working together to come up with a plan for teachers to bring coding beyond that single hour.  I also ask the School Boards across the province to tell me how they plan to support coding and computer science in the future.  It is not time to take down the decorations yet.  We need to find a place for coding in every school.

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Upon Recognition, I Say Keep Pushing

These last couple of days have been a whirlwind for me.  I am very pleased that my classroom was featured in the Hamilton Spectator this week for our efforts in coding.  In 12 years of teaching, I never sought or endeavoured towards any reward for my work.  So all the tweets and emails are really overwhelming.  Some people would say I was “deflecting” praise by thanking so many people.  But the truth is, no good idea or accomplishment in teaching was ever achieved alone.  I thank Brian Aspinall, Lisa Floyd, Jonathan So, Aviva Dunsiger, Sonya Clarke, Sean Kelly and Jared Bennett.  Also, I feel very grateful to have such a lovely group of students.  What would have happened if they did not embrace coding?  There would have been no article!

Maybe the one thing I can say about myself is that my focus on teaching has increased exponentially this year.  I think about teaching constantly and I never feel like I’m doing a very good job.  It is so easy to get distracted in education with politics, job demands, the social needs of students and gossip.  This year, I have turned away all distractions to fixate on teaching and assessment like never before. In my personal life, I am big fan of Formula 1 racing.  I think about Ayrton Senna who used to drive for McLaren-Honda.  To paraphrase his words, he once said that drivers must always find a gap to push themselves forward.  If they sit back and allow things to happen, you will not win.  Drivers have to keep pushing the performance of their car.  He also said that he is so focused on racing that it has become part of him.  Couldn’t you say the same thing about teaching?  If you can’t, then it’s no longer teaching.  So as a teacher, I’ll keep pushing.

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Fun Stuff with Tickle

Sphero

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In a review of distance and angles, our class programmed a robot to perform certain tricks.  The class was amazed.  He travelled 3 metres, rotated 90 degrees.  He jumped and changed colours.  It was amazing!

Banana Piano

Recently, our class programmed a piano using Scratch.  With the Raspberry Pi and the Makey Makey, we made a banana piano.  Here’s our proof!

 

code.org Promotional Video on Learning Code

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