Over the last summer, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Scratch Conference at MIT. It was absolutely amazing to see all these educators coming together from literally all around the world for one thing: coding with Scratch. Before I attended the conference, I was a complete novice to the coding system. I coded before using similar tools, by arranging blocks to achieve a simple end goal, but this was a whole other world for me. At first I was overwhelmed, because Scratch forces its users to think a different way, and it challenges the user to be more thoughtful and creative during their coding project at hand.
Throughout the conference, there were various sessions to choose from and join, depending on your interests. The first session I joined was one dedicated to learning how to animate your name with scratch. This is presumably one of the easiest projects you can work on with Scratch, and I felt comfortable enough to tackle it. The presenter was fantastic, and within a few minutes asked us to break into small groups and code a name, word, or short phrase. Coincidentally, the two women I joined were also new to Scratch, so we had some work ahead of us. But the next hour or so was fun! We ended up animating “#ScratchMIT2018” and it was interesting to learn the ins and outs through our trial and error technique. We then did a gallery walk around the room to see what the other groups coded. At the end of the session, I felt empowered and energized to learn and explore more, and already had ideas to take back home to my own students in the fall!
I used this session to guide my own students. I introduced Scratch to them, I had them create their own accounts, and then introduced their first coding project on this platform. They dove right into coding their own names, and I was so pleased with their creativity and eagerness. Once they got their feet wet, and grew comfortable with this new coding tool, I had the students push themselves further and create something of their own imagination. I told them they could code ANYTHING as long as they pushed themselves and put forth their best efforts. And, I was pleasantly surprised by just how far they were able to go with Scratch in such a short time. On just their second projects ever, students were able to code simple games and interactive messages. It was fun to see what they came up with on an individual basis, and they seemed to really enjoy it as well.
I took this entire experience as a life lesson, both as an educator and in my personal life; don’t ever be afraid to dive into something new. I remind my students of this every day. Especially when they’re coding with Scratch!
Back in the summer, when I was mapping out my curriculum for my library media center classes this school year, I really wanted STEAM to be the foundation of everything we do. For those of you not in the know with this trending educational acronym, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (and was formerly known as STEM). The first big project that I did with my fourth, fifth, and sixth graders was Designing Your Own Dream Playground. Students had to first sketch out a blueprint for their designs and placement of their playgrounds. Then, they needed to build a small model of their designs using recyclable materials (see left photo above). The entire process was fun and I was rather impressed with the finished products. The sky was the limit in terms of their imaginations, and many of my students pushed themselves to create amazing playgrounds.
I also implemented Free Time Activities this year. Because most of my curriculum relies heavily on project-based learning, my students work at their own pace. And, as anyone who’s ever worked with children knows, kids work at various speeds and abilities. I wanted my students to be productive from the minute they walk into the library media center, to the minute they walk out. So, Free Time Activities seemed like the perfect solution! I created a chart in the corner of my room that colorfully displayed the various tasks that a student could choose from once they’ve completed their required assignments and/or work for that day. These activities range from blogging and reading to building with Legos and K’nex. Additionally, I implemented a makerspace area to help make many of these tasks available. It is simply a shelving unit filled with any item that could possibly help create, such as yarn, pipe cleaners, tape, markers, and paper tubes. Certain Free Time Activities are also supported by “challenge cards.” For example, the Lego station and K’nex kit come with baskets filled with cards with a number of challenges written on them; and the makerspace area has a basket of STEAM challenges. The students have really enjoyed having the right to choose and navigate how they want to explore and learn (see right photos above).
So far I’ve loved the changes I’ve implemented this year, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves with time. I recommend giving it a try in your own classrooms and seeing how you can make room for activities like these. Take that risk! I’m sure you’ll be amazed with the wonderful results!
December 5th through the 11th this year is Computer Science Education Week, and I took this opportunity to go through basic coding with some of my 5th and 6th grade classes. The first couple days have been an absolute success! My fifth graders created their own emojis (shown in picture above) and coded a basic robot game–both provided by Made By Code (a Google project). My six graders, who have already been exposed to coding with their classroom teachers, are doing coding for basic games: Flappy Bird and Star Wars–both provided by Code.org.
It was fun to devote my time with them this week to coding. I always like to think because of the rapid advance of technology, we are teaching and training our students for careers that don’t even exist yet! It’s good to get yourself, as an educator, out of your comfort zone, and explore a new facet with your students! I myself am a complete newbie when it comes to coding, and a couple of my fifth graders were showing me tricks and shortcuts during their robot game coding! It was amazing to see some of them in their element, and the fact that they were all leaving with a smile on their face, just sweetened the deal!
Hour of Code, in honor of Computer Science Education Week, is and continues to be a success! When your students do not want to leave your classroom, you know you’re doing something right…
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet. It is mind-boggling to think how far we’ve progressed in terms of technology and communication. The internet has changed not only our daily lives, but that of the entire world. It has made us all global citizens and connected us forever.
But, it is still fun to look back and see when this thing called “the Internet” first came into our vernacular. The above video clip shows Katie Couric and her co-hosts discussing the Internet–or at least trying to! My favorite part is when they can’t figure out what the ‘@’ symbol is exactly. This clip makes me think about what might seem strange to people looking back on us in twenty years.
I remember getting my first computer when I was ten years old–it was this big clunky thing–but I was so excited. We had AOL as our service provider and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dial tone sound of the computer ATTEMPTING to connect. But, when I did hear the “you’ve got mail” welcome message, I would be elated. Looking back at this phase of technology in my life is comical now, but back then, it was the best computers had to offer to our everyday lives.
Technology truly changes the way we do EVERYTHING and it will be interesting to see just how much more it will all evolve in the future.