At my school, coding is done during classes in the Computer Lab which means it’s typically done on desktop computers. As I have mentioned in the past, my students often use Scratch to create games and to show what they know in other curricular areas. I do have a couple of iPads and a few Android tablets that I can and do use with students. For events like the Hour of Code, I will also sometimes borrow tablets from parents for student use. I am always on the lookout for coding apps on tablets and mostly on iPads because that’s what I can usually borrow.
I also do presentations and training sessions on coding at tech fairs and conferences. I always say that coding can be used across the curriculum to let students show what they know using code and I firmly believe this is true. In order to use coding across the curriculum, it is helpful for coding apps (and websites) to allow students to:
- Tell stories which means sprites (characters) must be able to be customized and must be able to interact with other sprites (characters)
- Create quizzes (and games) which means there should be a way to notify if a question is answered correctly or not or if a game is won or lost; often this means a way to keep score
- Use math calculations
- Draw pictures with code
- Import custom images and sounds
Since many schools these days have 1:1 iPads, I am often asked about block-based coding on iPads. Okay, to be honest, the question I am usually asked is, “Can I run Scratch on the iPad?”
Unfortunately, since Scratch is written in Flash, it doesn’t run on the iPad or most other tablets. There are other block-based coding options that run on the iPad (and some on Android tablets, as well) but none I have found have all of the capabilities that Scratch does for creating cross-curricular projects.
Here are some block-based coding apps that I use and recommend. These all let students create projects starting with a blank canvas:
Link to Spreadsheet
Do you have a block-based coding app or website (that runs on the Safari or Chrome browser on an iPad) that you feel is a perfect replacement for Scratch on the iPad? Please share!
In past years, I have had students create a website using HTML and CSS and then upload their site to a folder on Google Drive. The directions that I had in place for this do not work with the new Google Drive but it is still possible to do this:
- Create a folder on your Google Drive and publicly share it. I don’t think this works with anything but publicly shared folders but you could try it and see.
- Upload the HTML, CSS, image files, etc. into the folder created. Do NOT convert the files!
- Copy the ID from the link shown for the folder; i.e. https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B9SpIwhzRZ4odF9uVUdNZzRYcU0&usp=sharing, you would copy the part after id= and before &usp=sharing.
- The website would be located at http://googledrive.com/host/ID_copied_in_Step3/index.html. For example, the “Hello, World” site for the ID above, is located at http://googledrive.com/host/0B9SpIwhzRZ4odF9uVUdNZzRYcU0/index.html If the main page of your website is something other than index.html, this should be changed in the link.
As you can see, the link to the site is long and not easy to remember so I usually have students use a URL shortener for sharing. Google’s URL Shortener is a good choice especially for Google App schools because you can track how many times the link is used using your Google Apps account. I also recommend TinyURL because students can create a short URL that includes a custom name that makes sense without creating an account.
Last year all of my Kindergarten through 8th grade students participated in the Hour of Code. It was a truly great week in the lab and amazing to be a part of 15 million+ participating.
Plans are underway again this year for the Hour of Code in the lab. Can Hour of Code really have 100 million participants this year? The Hour of Code at our school will be a “teaser” for a larger Computer Science unit that will be happening during the second semester. I had hoped to have a Family Coding Night as part of our Hour of Code activities this year. December is so busy with holiday activities that I don’t think that will be happening this year but it may be something we do in the spring instead.
My goal with the Hour of Code is to get the students excited about the possibilities in Computer Science and to, hopefully, create something. Last year, we used a lot of leveled coding puzzles which are great and teach coding concepts but don’t really create anything.
This year, I would like to concentrate on creation options with coding as much as possible assuming we can overcome our technical issues:
- Only 2 iPads available (without borrowing from parents)
- Some online apps (Tynker, for example) don’t run well with the memory and/or bandwidth in the lab
Assuming I can borrow the iPads needed and that our computers & bandwidth can support the web apps, here are the plans for the Hour of Code at our school this year:
Oops, as you can see, I’m not quite sure about Middle School yet. I need to do some testing on the computers at school to see if the Processing and/or Khan Academy will work with our bandwidth and memory.
What are your plans for the Hour of Code?
NOTE: This post is not about educational technology – apologies to my blog readers for the vent that follows.
What does over $40K in tuition at a well respected, college preparatory, high school get you? Well, in this case, it got a recent high school graduate the opportunity to take a remedial course in order to be deemed ready for college level English.
The local community college requires entrance exams for new students to make sure they are ready for college level work. I get this. I really do. There are students that really aren’t prepared but shouldn’t a local community college know the quality of work from local high schools? Shouldn’t grades and transcripts from those schools matter? What if someone doesn’t test well or what if the student is unaware of a time limit until there isn’t time to finish the test? Most importantly, how can an entrance exam that requires no writing samples determine that someone needs to be in a class on how to write college essays?
I’m not sure how, but apparently it does and the student in question is now taking a class in how to write paragraphs and MLA formatted essays. This student has been writing paragraphs since elementary school, essays (though not always MLA formatted) since at least middle school, and MLA formatted essays all through high school. Why has no one asked to see samples of writing?
To add to this, the class in question was full, as were all 4 sections of this class being offered. In order to get in, the student had to go and request permission to be let in. Apparently there were 40-50 others doing the same thing and 5-7 were let into each section. How crazy is that? What are the rest of those students going to do? If they can’t take this class, they can’t start to take the required English classes, which are also full, by the way. I get that budgets have been cut at community colleges but each of those students would be paying about $150 to take the course and there were enough that needed it for at least one more section, if not two. Why aren’t more sections being offered? They would support themselves.
Guess we’re in for a bumpy ride at community college.
Another ISTE Conference (that I didn’t attend) has come and gone.
My hope going into the ISTE 2014 conference as a #notatiste14 participant was that I would be able to learn something new. I have added 117 items to my Diigo Library that are mostly coding and/or Computer Science related. I tried to add resources (as they were shared) to a Google Doc on Computer Science (mostly coding) Sessions at ISTE 2014. This proved to be somewhat difficult as it was often impossible to tell who was in what session when they were tweeting. I really wish that some ISTE 2014 attendees had jumped in and helped to add to the document but unfortunately that didn’t happen – or hasn’t happened, yet.
I did find some new coding and Digital Citizenship resources that I plan to further investigate but here’s that I really learned:
- I learned that crowd sourcing a document is really difficult.
Maybe it would be easier if I had actually been at the conference and could share it face-to-face as well as virtually. I don’t know because I wasn’t there.
- Initially, I had the gDoc set so that people could view but could not comment or edit. I had instructions to tweet at or email me to gain editing access. No takers.
- I thought that maybe having to email or tweet was preventing people from adding to the document. I then set permissions to allow for anyone to comment and tried promoting it again. Again, no takers.
- Today, I set the permissions to allow anyone with a link to edit and promoted it again. Can you guess? Yes, still no takers.
- I plan to try promoting it again on Friday or Saturday after ISTE attendees have had a chance to get home and settle back in. We’ll see how it goes.
- I learned I will now always set up document(s) about the topics I wish to learn when attending conferences.
My thanks go to Sue Waters for her amazing example on Blogging at ISTE 2014. I know that even if I don’t go to all of the sessions, a document like this will help me to organize the program into the things that I want to focus on. It will also give me some information on the topic and some resources and a starting point for searching for more information. Interesting to note, looking at the document I created this year, I think I would probably have spent most of my time in Poster Sessions. There were quite a few of them related to coding this year.
- I learned that if I ever do a Poster Session, I need to bring students with me!
Really. Check out the Twitter stream and see all the pictures shared from a Poster Session about Scratch from a school in Mexico. Really cute kids, too.
- I learned that I follow the Twitter stream much better from home than I ever do if I’m really at a conference.
When I’m at a conference, it seems like I’m too busy to read a lot of what gets tweeted. I will tweet out what I find interesting and check any notifications I get but rarely do I spend the time to go through all the tweets.
- I learned that setting up specific columns for subjects you are interested in works so much better than trying to find information from the entire Twitter stream of a conference.
Since I was trying to collect resources about coding, I spent a lot of time going through tweets trying to find information to add to the coding gDoc. I finally got smart and added another column to HootSuite with this search (#iste2014 OR #iste14) AND (coding OR programming OR Scratch OR robotics). I think I got most of what I was looking for and it was way easier to find things! I’m sure I missed a few things that used code instead of coding or program instead of programming but I didn’t want to add those to the search because of the other things that those terms would bring up. Yes, Scratch can add some “noise” to the results but it didn’t add too many non-related items. Check out the results of this search for yourself.
- I learned that I need to tweet more effectively at conferences I attend.
I noticed that a lot of what gets tweeted out about sessions is that people thought it was great or some great quote from the presenter. That’s awesome, but resources and things to use would have been better for those of us #notatiste14. I have to give major props to Craig Yen who is awesome at live tweeting from events he attends and even from events he’s not attending. I need to be more like Craig.
- I learned that tweets from a conference that contain quotes are more likely to be retweeted than tweets that contain links.
Okay, I can’t scientifically prove this one but it was true in my case this year. The tweets I sent out (or retweeted) that had links were much more likely to be favorited than retweeted. I don’t know why but it seemed to be the case.
7/2: As I think about it more and read comments from others, I think this is happening because people use the favorite to either “like” a tweet or as a bookmarking option for things they want to get back to later. Makes sense that you would save links for later when you have time to review them.
- I learned that it is possible to build a great community and even have social “events” when you’re NOT at a conference!
- Major thanks and kudos to Jen Wagner for creating the #notatiste14 Google+ Community, coming up with the #notatiste14 challenges, keeping the Twitter List, and so much more!
- Oh, and speaking of the challenges, thanks so much to those members of the community that even arranged for prizes for the challenges. The community has really been amazing!
- Thanks to Barb Gilman for the Voxer Chat. For some members of the #notatiste14 community, this has turned into something very special and has even spun off into another ongoing Voxer Chat.
- One thing I love about conferences are Photowalks and our community had one of those, too! Okay, it wasn’t a synchronous Photowalk but it got me out to intentionally take some photos. There were some great pictures shared and I loved seeing where everyone was hanging out while #notatiste14.
- We even had Karaoke! There was both Voxer Karaoke and a Google Hangout Karaoke.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Dennis Grice, for helping both Jen and I with the photo challenge. You’re awesome, Dennis and thanks for playing along, Rushton Hurley, Rachel V. Small, and Peter Reynolds!
One last thing that I learned (okay I already knew this one but it was reinforced), whether at #iste2014 or #notatiste14, it really is mostly about the people and the connections you make. Thanks so much to the #notatiste14 community for such a great #iste2014!