Archive for March, 2015

Hour of Code = Big Hit for 4th-5th Grade

Ms. Gehringer and I (Dana) swap off weeks with the 4th and 5th grades. If it’s my week, I have a 45 minute session with each of the classes. Topics vary. On the tech side of things we’ve discussed digital citizenship, creating presentations in Google, laptop care, typing assessments, and a variety of other topics.

Last week, we added to the variety by doing an “Hour of Code” on Code.org. The students programmed with the “Frozen” theme. They had to move Anna and Elsa while just using blocks of code. Of course, the programming starts out with really simple tasks, like making Anna move 100 pixels, turn right by 90 degrees, and go forward another 100 pixels.

The tasks get harder and harder. As I watched the students think through the problems, here are my observations:

  • Code.org could make a great introduction to geometry. Shapes and angles in coding may help students connect mentally with what various angle sizes mean. I think it could be used as a lab of sorts in a math class.
    Collaboration and peer teaching ruled the room. Some students became stumped by certain tasks. When their neighbors were successful, you would occasionally hear, “Hey! I figured it out!” or “What!? How did you do that?”
  • During our exercises, I tried to limit the amount of help I directly gave the students and let them help each other out and try to solve problems together. Best of all, this happened naturally. I didn’t have to force them to collaborate; it just started happening.
  • Overall, the students really seemed to enjoy the easy “drag and drop” programming style. We even had a few students that completed the 20 exercises in the roughly 30 minutes that we used for the “Hour of Code” (no, we didn’t do the full hour).
  • Females and males did equally great. Females are sometimes under-looked in programming fields. This is a shame and I believe females should be encouraged to explore programming if they show some interest.

Since it may be difficult to base success on my observations, I decided to do a Google form and survey the students. Here are the results:

  • 52 students, representing 51% – I really enjoyed it and want to learn more
  • 26 students, representing 25.5% – I enjoyed it
  • 20 students, representing 19.6% – It was ok
  • 4 students, representing 3.9% – I didn’t really like it

IT Blog Chart Code

So, that’s what I call “a big hit!”

MOOCs: Good or Evil?

Are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) a good force in education or not? Like many an education initiative, the results seem to be mixed. There was initial excitement (“The Year of the MOOC“) and/or worry about them (“Before We Flip Classrooms, Let’s Rethink What We’re Flipping Too“), but it seems now people have settled into more realistic expectations: MOOCs can be good in certain circumstances, and unhelpful in others (“Four Lessons We Can Learn from the ‘Failure’ of MOOCs“).

I (Laura) have tried to take a couple of MOOCs before and failed. I have bravely started but never finished–in fact, I’ve burned out pretty quickly. However, I’ve kept the desire to try one, figuring that it isn’t enough to just read about them in order to critique them. That’s almost always annoying, right? I need to experience one before I can really give an opinion about them.

So when my coworker Diane told me about a MOOC-Ed called Cultivating Digital Learning that is presented by the Friday Institute at NC State, I decided to do it. It’s exactly what I want to learn more about and it’s a MOOC, so it fits my needs perfectly. To be honest, I started late and have only done one and a half units, but so far I have a clear conclusion. This MOOC has already been so inspiring I am going to share now and I’ll probably share more later too.

I love the way the course is set up: short video introduction in each unit, great discussion board questions, good and fairly short resources, tips for connecting with others.

I love the discussion board posts I’ve read so far: short, thoughtful, and challenging.

I love the articles they’ve posted: not too long, practical, full of great tips.

I love the course so much I look forward to doing it everyday.  (Well, ok, the approximately 5 days I have been doing it so far.)

This may change.  Life is busy and it is hard to make time out of my schedule to do a class, even a 6 week one. I will report back as time goes on.  Do I finish the MOOC?  Did I think it was a good use of my time? Did I learn as much online as I would have in person?   I will let you know!