What Does 40K + Get You?

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.

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ISTE 2014: Sunday – Tuesday of #notatiste14

#notatiste14 badge-finalAnother 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!

notatiste1-dgricerhurleyasmalljpg

notatiste1-dgricepreynolds

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!

ISTE 2014: Friday & Saturday of #notatiste14

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Whew, what a whirlwind trying to follow along with all of the #iste2014 and #notatiste14 activity on Twitter in the last two days. The activity in the #notatiste14 Google+ Community has really picked up, with 241 members currently and growing all the time. It’s very fun to read the introduction slides for everyone. Some of these are so creative. There’s been a couple Google On Air Hangouts and we even have our very own #notatiste14 Photowalk. If you too are Not at ISTE 2014 and want to join the fun, just send a request.

In addition to just following along on Twitter and reading the posts in the G+ Community, here’s what I’ve been doing the last two days while #notatiste14.

Friday at ISTE is a pre-conference day which means there’s not quite as much activity on Twitter. Just because the conference hasn’t officially begun, doesn’t mean there’s no activity – there is still a lot going on as people arrive and get their conference materials including their badges (more about that later), meet with new and old friends, and participate in things like Hack Education.

Hack Education: This unconference is an event I was sorry to miss. It is always an amazing day though the sessions are typically quite large so it can be hard to hear what’s going on. You can see the Session Board for the day on the ISTE Unplugged Wiki. So many of the sessions sounded great as I followed along on the Twitter Stream. In addition to the tweets, some of the sessions added a page to the wiki or took collaborative notes and those are linked from the session board! Go over and see what you missed.

Badges: So about those badges … as people kept sharing pictures of themselves with their conference badge or just pictures of their conference badges, I decided that I needed a #notatiste14 badge. I did borrow the ISTE Conference logo as inspiration for the logo I created for #notatiste14. Ownership of the design remains, of course, with ISTE, and I mean no disrespect and claim no ownership. After playing and creating a badge, I shared it in the G+ Community:

notatiste14-badge-incase-edublogs

I didn’t know what I would start. Badge creation was on! It’s been so much fun seeing all the variations on the badge and I really love that one member of the community said they wished they could create their own badge for every conference. How fun would that be?

I couldn’t stop with just one badge – okay, I could have but I didn’t. I decided I needed a lanyard and after seeing that others had added a photo, I came up with this variation:

#notatiste14 badge

Then, Jen Wagner mentioned ribbons. Ribbons … ah, yes, we need ribbons! After too much time spent in Photoshop, here’s my current badge with ribbons! I have ribbons for the Photowalk and other things to add, too, as I continue to participate in #notatiste14 events.

#notatiste14 badge-saturday

Oh, that EduVoxer ribbon, that’s because we have a Voxer chat for #notatiste14, too. Thanks to Barb Gilman for getting that started. It’s great to not only interact with others through pictures or posts or tweets but with Voxer we have VOICE, too!

Challenges: #notatiste14 has challenges for participants, too! I am not being very competitive with these but thought that getting a few selfies with people I know at ISTE 2014 shouldn’t be too difficult since so many of them take and post photos all the time. This has been tougher than I thought but I did get one friend do do this. Thanks, Diane! Interestingly enough, I probably wouldn’t be doing a lot of selfies with others if I were there but for some reason the idea of this challenge appeals to me.

challenge-selfie01Now, to get a few more of these. Doubt I’ll get the keynote one but someone I know will be on that Ferris Wheel, I’m sure. C’mon, take a photo for me! I have been taking a selfie (okay usually more than one) daily for ISTE and am changing my profile pictures on G+ and Twitter to that day’s selfie. That way if someone uses those for the photo, they have a picture of me from the same day – it’s almost like being there! Okay, not really, but at least it’s a current picture. I’m also collecting all of the selfies on Dropbox in case someone wants a choice of photos.

For me conferences are about connections and the #notatiste14 community has been great about making connections this year even though we span many time zones. It’s not face-to-face, but with all the different kinds of sharing and the addition of voice, it’s definitely a great way to build a community. It’s also awesome that people are being exposed to new apps and new ways of using tools they may already have been using. I saw a lot of “it’s the first time I used Google Drawing” and “I’ve never used Voxer before”, etc. It may be fun but there’s definitely a lot of learning going on, too.

Learning: Speaking of learning, if I had been at ISTE 2014, I know I would have checked out a lot of the sessions on Coding and other Computer Science related topics. I have started a collaborative document on the Coding / Computer Science sessions being offered this year. I would love to try to collect a lot of what is being shared on the topic of teaching kids to code especially for students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade. So far, I’ve been doing this by going through the ISTE Program and putting the session information into the document. I then try to find contact information for the presenters, if I can and add that, too. For the two poster sessions that were on Saturday, I went through the Twitter feed to see if I could find anything shared about them. I did find a few photos but would love more. It would be so awesome if in poster sessions, someone would take video as well as photos and, of course, share those out via Twitter. Better yet, it would be great if some ISTE 2014 attendees became collaborators on the document and added to it as they attended sessions. If you’re at ISTE 2014 and would like to be a collaborator, please email me at [email protected] and I’ll be glad to add you as an editor.

ISTE 2014 Computer Science Sessions Notes

As I was going through the Twitter stream during the poster sessions, I saw something tweeted about a community of educators who are interested in teaching kids to code, edWeb.net: Coding. So far, there aren’t many members nor much activity but I would love a community like this to exist so I’m hoping this may grow and thrive. If you’re interested in teaching kids to code and integrating coding into classroom lessons, please join. Let’s build a community.

I also learned about a new possible backchannel option called 81Dash. I was introduced to this app during the ISTE 2014 Keynote and like the look of it. I can see it being used more with adults (or older students) since you do need to have an account which requires an email address. I like that you can share photos and files (and not sure what else) and that you have more than 140 characters for a message. I’ll need to do some more exploring on this one.

Plans for Sunday: I missed out on the TeacherCast broadcasts on Saturday. Since, I had heard they would rebroadcast, I didn’t bother getting up at 6am but so far, they haven’t been shared online after they were broadcast live. I believe they will be at some point but I know that there are technical problems with uploading. So, for the rest of ISTE 2014, I intend to get up early to watch these live.

I also plan to follow along on Twitter and try to fill in more information on my Coding Sessions document and get the rest of the Monday and Tuesday sessions added to the document. Maybe during a session tomorrow, I can join a backchannel and earn more points in the challenges! I want to take a PhotoWalk at some point tomorrow. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken photos just for me. Oh, I’ll need to take a new selfie, too and then bug those I know at ISTE 2014 to take a virtual selfie with me. Maybe I’ll see how far I can get on the Bingo Challenge, too. I’m sure there will be lots of learning and fun.

So, if you’re #notatiste14, what are your ISTE 2014 plans for tomorrow? If you are at ISTE 2014, want to take a virtual selfie with me?

Preparing for #notatiste14

iste2014Okay, I wish I were preparing to actually go to ISTE 2014 in Atlanta but sadly, again this year, it’s not happening. Why am I not going? I want to but I pay for conferences myself and it’s just too expensive for me to do especially with one daughter just graduating college (that we’re still paying for) and another entering college this fall. Instead I plan to get as much out of the conference as I can virtually and for free! There are some paid options for those not going to ISTE and wanting to “attend” virtually including ISTE Live, but for me, it needs to be free options. I should be expert at this by now since most years I’m #notatiste but …

First a Whine

When I first started following ISTE conferences (ahem, they were NECC at that point), there were some awesome options for those of us following along at home including:

  • ISTE Unplugged - Today, ISTE Unplugged does some great things including an unconference the day before ISTE (that I would love to attend) but not for those of us at home. Back in 2012 and before, ISTE Unplugged (and it wasn’t always called that) was set up so that anyone could propose and present a session which was streamed live via Elluminate (what is now Blackboard Collaborate). This platform let viewers interact with the sessions that were being streamed! It was awesome, not always the best quality, but it allowed those of use not attending the conference to be in “sessions” with those who were actually at the conference. Check out the session archives from 2012 & 2011. Sadly, ISTE Unplugged no longer does these type of sessions.
  • ISTE Video on Demand – Some of the sessions at ISTE are video taped and last year (and before) those session were publicly available on YouTube. This was an amazing way to have access to some great sessions even if you had to wait for a bit after the conference was over. Sadly, this year, it appears that the Video on Demand sessions will no longer be free. I understand as an organization that ISTE needs to support itself, but I’m sad I won’t be able to catch up on some sessions (even after the fact) unless I pay for it. Wondering what type of sessions were available in prior years, check these out from last year and check out what’s being taped this year.:

#NotAtISTE14 Plans

So, enough whining about what I can’t do, here’s what I am planning for my ISTE 2014 experience – even if it is virtual!

  • Twitter:
    • Follow along on Twitter using the official hashtag which is #iste2014 and the hashtag that some people are using (because it’s always been that way in the past & it saves 2 characters) #iste14. You can search for both at the same time by typing the word OR (all uppercase) between the two hashtags #iste14 OR #iste2014. I use HootSuite which allows me to save a search in a separate column on my computer and my iPad. TweetDeck also has multiple columns. Alice Keeler has a great post about setting up a column with multiple hashtags on TweetDeck over on her blog and it’s even about ISTE 2014 hashtags.
    • It’s not just the official hashtag that I’m going to be monitoring over on Twitter. There is quite a community of educators not going to ISTE and they also have a hashtag (or more) to follow. For those NOT at ISTE, the hashtags of interest would be: #notatiste14 OR #notatiste2014 OR #notatiste.
  • ISTE Conference Site: Even for those of us #notatiste14, there is a wealth of information on the actual conference site. Here’s just some of what you can find on the conference site:
    • Program - Dream about what you would have gone to if you were at ISTE 2014. That’s what I’ve done and, hey, a lot of the sessions have links to the resources for the session. I’m bookmarking those in Diigo along with other things shared out during the conference. My list of sessions also gives me things to watch out for on Twitter. Want to see what caught my attention?
    • ISTE 2014 Network - I’ve joined the Conference Ning. There’s often great resources and photos posted on the Ning. Pictures are almost like being there, right?
    • Conference News – This is a page I plan to check daily to see what’s happening at the conference. I’m guessing all of this will be tweeted out with the conference hashtag but the hashtag can get really busy.
  • #notatiste14 Google+ Community:  One of the things I really miss by not attending ISTE 2014 is the face-to-face interactions with my PLN. Jen Wagner has set up a community on Google+ for those of us Not at ISTE. It probably won’t be face-to-face unless there are some Google Hangouts (there were last year) or some face-to-face meet-ups set up where they can be but there are already fun things happening! If you’re #notatiste14, join us for some challenges like having your picture taken with someone at ISTE or playing Not at ISTE Bingo with more to come!>
  • TeacherCast Live Broadcasts: TeacherCast Podcast will be broadcasting live every day from 9am- Noon EDT starting Saturday, June 28th. They’ll be interviewing some amazing people and the episodes will be rebroadcast throughout the day!
  • Google Booth Presentations: There always a lot of action in the Google Booth in the Exhibit Hall. You could just sit at their theater for the whole conference and learn so much about Google Apps for Education from amazing educators. In past years, these have been streamed out live (okay GHO on air actually)! I’m really hoping that’s the case again this year! Check out the action from last year:

  • Prizes!: Who says you have to be AT the conference to win prizes?
    • There’s at least one vendor (Tynker) at ISTE that’s offering those not attending a chance at some prizes. You can’t win if you don’t enter, right? I have, have you?
    • There doesn’t seem to be anything in the rules of ISTE’s ISTEgram Contest that says you have to be there to win – at when this was posted there wasn’t. Hmmm, thinking about how to enter this one.
    • There’s been some mention of prizes in the #notatiste14 Google+ Community though I don’t think we need prizes. Badges, maybe we need badges!

That’s my plans for now. Because I’m at home, it won’t be all about ISTE the way it would be if I were in Atlanta. In fact, I know, I’ll miss part of the action on Sunday because I’m heading up the coast to see a friend of mine, Susan Cowsill, at a house concert!

Are you #notatiste14? How are you planning to learn with those at the conference and those of us #notatiste14?

If I Could Only Use One …

This year in the Computer Lab, all of my classes spent some time learning to code or learning coding concepts. As I look back on what they accomplished and learned and think about what I want to do next year, I had a thought. If I could only use one app/program/website, what would it be? Honestly, if I had to pick only one, it would have to be Scratch.

StM2013-2014Studio

This year, 2nd grade through Middle School used Scratch, among other programs, and I love the flexibility it offers. Here’s some of what my students did in Scratch this year:

Drawing Shapes
Many of the grades created a project that would draw shapes. This was a great project to use for multiple grade levels. 2nd graders could guess and try and when it didn’t work, try again. 3rd graders could think about the math involved and check their guess by multiplying the number of times the loop would repeat by the angle of the turn. 4th graders and above could divide 360 by the number of times the loop would repeat and calculate what the angle of the turn should be. Middle School students could use variables to set the number of sides and set the color to use based on a random number. Check out our Shapes Studio to see student examples.

All About Me
Who hasn’t done an All About Me poster or writing assignment with students? I know I have done these in PowerPoint and in Word. Why not let the students program something about themselves. That’s exactly what my 2nd-4th grade students did with their All About Me projects. This was completed right at the end of the year and unfortunately we ran out of time but I see great possibilities here. What about “All About” a main character in a book or a historical figure?

Games
I don’t know about you, but most of my students love video games. I love that Scratch lets them create their own games! This year, 6th grade ended the year but creating a game of their choice. They ran out of time but had a lot of fun and learned a lot about controlling sprites, keeping score, winning and losing games, etc. You can check out their games in our 6th Grade Scratch Studio – also in that studio are their Shapes projects and a 10-block Challenge Project where they had to create something using only 10 specific programming blocks.

Mission Projects
Every 4th grader in California does some kind of Mission Project. Each year in the Computer Lab, I use Mission Research to help teach students about not plagiarizing and how to credit sources, etc. This year, I decided to expand on that and my 4th graders created a project in Scratch about their missions. Scratch could be used in almost any curricular area and I plan to have more grades do curriculum related projects next year. If you want to check out this year’s projects, head over to our 4th Grade Scratch Studio (which also has their Shapes and All About Me projects) to see them.

If you want to see all of the projects my students did this year in one place, check out our 2013-2014 Studio.

Do you see now why I love Scratch? The possibilities are endless!

You do have to have a log in to save work on the Scratch website and yes, you do need an email address to set this up. My students don’t have individual accounts – at least not for school; some of them do have accounts they have set up at home. I have a single account for the Computer Lab but you could easily have one per class or one per grade, for example. At this point, you can have multiple computers logged in to the same account but my students actually work offline.

We have Scratch 1.4 installed on the computers in the lab and 2nd and 3rd grade have been using that version to create their projects. Next year, I will probably install the Scratch 2.0 offline editor rather than continuing to use version 1.4. For 4th grade and up, students just use the Create option on the Scratch website and Upload (open) and Download (save) their work to their computer in the lab. This is a great teaching moment about why it’s “upload” to open your work and “download” to save your work. When a project is finished then I log in and let the student save their work to the class account. The big thing missing when working offline is the backpack but the few times we have needed this, I just log the student in and when they’re done using the backpack, have them log out again. If you want more details on this, check out my Using Scratch With Class Login Instructable.

Now back to that if I could only use one thing. Yes, it would be Scratch but Scratch isn’t perfect. What is?

  • Scratch isn’t good for students who aren’t reading yet. Scratch, Jr. is scheduled to be released soon but it’s going to be an iPad app which won’t work in our lab.
  • It’s been another teaching moment to have 2nd and 3rd graders use Word to write their text for Scratch so they can fix spelling errors and then use Copy and Paste (must be CTRL+V in Scratch) to move the text into their Scratch project. It would be nice to be able to have spell check built into Scratch to avoid that though.
  • I love the way that the activities at Code.org let you see the code you are writing when you use their block programming environment. This would be awesome in Scratch and in my opinion, would create a truly great transition from block programming to a more traditional programming environment.

Luckily, I don’t have to use only one app/program/website to introduce Computer Science concepts and coding to my students. Even though I have many choices, Scratch will still be one of my primary choices!

Are you teaching coding to your students? What would be your ONE choice?