For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Since today is “Fun Friday”, here is an element of fun I want to emphasize more next year – doodling!
I need to encourage more doodling in my class – maybe even model it more for my students. I’m not talking about the distracted kind of eyes-staring-out-the-window-while-you-scribble type of doodling. I’m talking about doodling with purpose and panache. The Vi Hart kind of doodling:
Sunni Brown can give tell you all of the myths about doodling in a fun, doodly way:
For more examples of doodling, you can see “10 Brilliant Examples of Sketch Notes: Notetaking for the 21st Century.”
Below, you can see one of the 10 pieces, based on Seth Grodin’s talk, “Stop Stealing Dreams.” (I had to look up “one-buttock playing”, which I assure you is completely appropriate in context!)
For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about the benefits of teaching programming to our students.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you have probably noticed that I am a huge advocate for teaching programming to kids. You can see this trend building in a lot of the education blogs and professional publications. Like all trends, it needs to be done right so that it will not be a colossal failure or a “flash in the pan.” Here is why it should be done, and how I plan on doing it next year in my classroom.
Why We Should Teach Programming to Kids
I think that there is a misconception that this is all about teaching kids a new “language” that is useful in the career market. While that is, perhaps, one of the benefits, I think that it should not be the main purpose. Programming languages evolve quickly, and teaching a specific one might be likened to teaching Latin. It can help you to decode other languages, but it is unlikely you will use it daily.
I learned Basic when I was in high school. I haven’t used it since. But I still remember some very important lessons that I learned in that class that can be extrapolated for real life.
The most important lesson was that, if you are not getting the results you want, you can’t keep doing the same thing. I remember the first couple of times a program did not work the way I wanted it to, and I kept saying to the computer, “That’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Once I realized that I only had myself to blame, I would set about finding out what I had done wrong. This led to the next life lesson – find the real source of the problem or your “fix” will make things worse. Sometimes I had to dig deep into the code to figure it out, but would not realize that until I had tried one or two simple revisions that would end in disaster.
When programming, you also advance through the Scientific Process, and learn to change one variable at a time if your conclusion is not what you expected.
And finally, programming is not all about logic. Once you understand the code, you can use your imagination to create unusual, unique, and even beautiful programs.
What I Plan to Do Next Year
As some of my colleagues pointed out this year, Programming falls very easily into something that we already have in our curriculum for elementary gifted students – Systems Thinking. Now that I am becoming familiar with Tynker through the online summer class I’m offering, I plan to use Tynker with my 3rd graders during our Systems Thinking unit. If you want to start anywhere with programming (from about 7 or 8 years old and up), I would highly recommend Tynker as you can create classes and monitor student progress very easily. Plus, it has an engaging curriculum of projects.
I want to weave programming throughout my K-5 gifted classes, so I will begin my Kinders with the iPad app Daisy the Dinosaur. For 1st, we will move on to Kodable, and for second, Hopscotch. (I may switch these last 2 around – I need to play with them more to determine difficulty levels.)
If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment. Also, for even more links for Programming for Kids, feel free to visit my Pinterest board on this topic.
I know this is a topic that is getting a bit repetitious on my blog, but I really can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is that we offer programming to our students at an early age. This article from MindShift, explains how learning programming has far-reaching effects, and should not be reserved for only those who aspire to careers in technology. ”Why Programming Teaches So Much More Than Technical Skills”, by Ian Quillen, explains 4 specific benefits of receiving an education in this area: Subject Mastery, Systems Thinking, Collaboration, and Passion.
Robotics clubs are a good start in the elementary schools, but we need to think about adding more. Here is my Pinterest board of resources for “Programming for Kids” with links to app, websites, and other articles of interest in this area.
I would be the first to raise my hand in a Superdome full of people if the following question was asked, “Who is the worst art teacher out there?” But if I can find a way to integrate art and technology, my lessons are sometimes fairly successful. This was one of those activities.
To complete this project we used the iPad camera, Tracing Paper Lite (free), and TypeDrawing ($2.99). There is a web site, Texter, that performs like TypeDrawing, and is free. However it does not have the font choices and the ability to import a picture as a background.
The students took pictures of each other in profile on the iPads. Then they opened Tracing Paper Lite, imported their pictures, and traced their silhouettes. If traced so that the silhouette has no openings, the students can then fill it with black paint. Because they were using Tracing Paper Lite, which did not have an easy way to export their silhouettes, I had them take screen shots (be sure to get rid of the grid in the background first), and crop them in the Photo Album. Then they opened TypeDrawing (here is a SnapGuide to using this app), imported the silhouettes, and added the traits that they felt characterized them.
I have seen this done without the use of technology, but the students enjoyed the freedom TypeDrawing gave to personalize the fonts, the colors, and even the direction of the words. Does anyone else have ideas for how this could be used?
Joe Hanson featured Kyle Bean’s “Brains” on It’s Okay to Be Smart – not his actual brains, of course – and I knew it would make a great Fun Friday post. When I visited Bean’s website, however, I found so many other works of art that I could tie into my curriculum, I had to take notes. Here are some of the links and my ideas…
Brains – what other objects could you use? (that’s toothpaste in the first one!!!)
Stick Insects - make matchstick art of their own
Interconnected Senses - what other systems could be represented this way?
The Sea of Time - assign students to represent an idiom with 3d objects
The Future of Books - have students design other futuristic hybrids
Paper Plane – they will just think this is cool!
The Science of Play - I think this is cool!
10 Ideas - great graphic to show when you want students to make a “Top 10″ list – like “Top 10 List of Top 10 Lists”
Pencil Shaving Portraits - make your own (maybe a Mother’s Day gift?)
What Came First - what else can we sculpture with eggshells (thoroughly sanitized, of course)?
In our district, most 5th grade GT students read the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry. This amazing piece of dystopian literature spawns endless discussions about topics from the meaning of freedom to the potential consequences of genetic engineering. I have read this book with a group of students every year for 14 years, and I have never heard the same conversations twice.
Lisa Johnson at TechChef4u recently featured some iMovie trailers, and included some that were done about The Giver by Mr. Weinert’s 8th grade class. I hope to use them to get my class excited about the book next year, and perhaps have them create some of their own for one of the sequels to the novel.
Lisa Johnson also included a link to some storyboarding templates for iMovie on the iPad by Timothy Jefferson which you might want to check out as well.
My students love doing S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activities. It gives them the chance to be creative – and a bit silly. I’ve made a couple of S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packets for different themes, and my fourth graders got their first glimpse of the Summer Pool Party packet yesterday. I currently have the Summer Pool Party packet on sale for a $1.00 (.50 discount) at Teachers Pay Teachers. You can also purchase other S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packets at my TPT store. They are a great activity for the last weeks of school!
I absolutely LOVE this idea from Miss Trayers at Not Just Child’s Play. She asked her young students to use some of Margaret Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity icons in a frame centered on their moms. As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to try it with my own first grade GT students. I broke out our Depth and Complexity stamps, and they went to town. You should have seen the look on one boy’s face when I asked the class to use Multiple Perspectives to think about what it would be like to be a mom. It’s a good bet that’s never been at the top of his list of goals! For more examples, you can click here.
I have a Fun Friday video for you of a young man named Audri and his very complex Rube Goldberg contraption. Audri was 7 when he made this video, and aspires to one day study robotics at MIT. I have no doubt that he will achieve all of his dreams! If you feel like playing a virtual Rube Goldberg game, you can head on over to Goldburger to Go at PBS Kids.
I found out about the Video Writing Prompts site from one of my new, favorite blogs, Technology Tailgate. Video Writing Prompts is part of teachhub.com. What’s nice about this resource is that it has done all of the work for teachers by collecting the videos and offering thought-provoking questions for different sets of grade levels. Many of the videos are movie trailers, and not all of them would work with elementary kids. But if you click on the link, you will see the appropriate grade levels and questions. (As always with videos, however, please preview before you show your class.) I can think of some higher level questions to go with some of the videos, but the fact that they are already curated and have some suggestions gives me a great jumping off point.