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


FullSizeRender  FullSizeRender

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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4 Truths About Coding

I never blog.  Lately Aviva Dunsiger has encouraged me to blog because I keep texting her my thoughts about learning.  Lately we have discussed the introduction of coding into HWDSB classrooms.  It is my hope that coding becomes an outlet for students to express their learning.

I would also like to thank Brian Aspinall for being a constant support as I try to implement coding into my program.  Coding has provided so much joy and enthusiasm into my teaching.  We have used spheres, coded shapes, flown drones, made a banana piano and my kids love it.  For all this enjoyment, I credit Brian and his passion for coding and computer science.

Last week, the Current featured a program on coding in classrooms.  I thought it would be an ideal time to share my success and observations with such a useful tool.

1.  Coding Clubs do not work: Many schools are attempting coding clubs, and I tried the same twice in this school year.  The only way for coding to take shape is in the classroom.  Coding clubs will gather interest of roughly 30 students.  However, meeting at a break weekly is not nearly sufficient time to grow as a coder.

2. Coding pushes essential learning skills:  My class has become quite proficient with coding.  They are so engaged making it difficult to talk to them as they figure out their codes.  After a while, a student will stand up and shout “YES!”  They figured out a working code.  Coding pushes many learning skills such as: collaboration, grit and task commitment.  What a joy!

3. Curriculum must come first: Often when something new comes along, people want to try it.  It is not enough to want to teach coding.  We must consider how it fits with curriculum.  In my class, it has become an essential part of problem solving.  Last week, students successfully coded an app to determine profit.  See Coding Apps.  We must not fall into the trap of assessing coding because we are always assessing curriculum.  Coding is a tool to achieve learning expectations and outcomes.  It is not an assessable area itself.

4. Not all students can code successfully:  While coding is much easier than most people would imagine, it does not appeal to every learner.  Every student should try coding because of its many benefits.  At the same time, I have a few students who struggle with it.  They benefit from partnering or expressing their understanding of math expectations in a different way.  Aviva has mentioned, and I wholeheartedly agree: “Student needs coupled with curriculum need to drive our instruction.  Coding allows many students to share their knowledge.  It definitely gets them to think, problem solve and collaborate.  If coding is not meeting these expectations for the particular student, we must judge what is best suited with DI.”

Coding has provided much joy for me this year.  I hope you visit other parts of this site to see me having a great time.  When teachers are engaged, so are students!  But I still have questions about coding.  But, that will be my next blog . . .


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