Monday, December 30, 2013

Social Media Advisor and Branding

In addition to my responsibilities as a Technology Integration Coach, I am pleased to announce that I am also the Social Media Advisor for the William Davies Middle School in Mays Landing, New Jersey.  I assist my building principal, Stephen Santilli @SPSantilli with this task on a daily basis.

The William Davies Middle School is on several social media platforms.  Most of our school community is on the top three platforms, which are Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. In addition, I post school related videos to our YouTube account and interesting articles to our Pinterest account.  (The William Davies Middle School Instagram account will be arriving soon.)

Here is a list of our social media platforms.

Twitter:  @WilliamDaviesMS
Google Plus:  +William Davies 
YouTube: +William Davies 
Pinterest:  WilliamDaviesMS

Every day, I post school news, school events, daily messages, such as yearbook information, spirit week themes, activity buses schedule, assemblies, etc.  I get this information from the school calendar.  Also, Steve will post information from classrooms, emergency information, achievements, etc.  In addition, to posting, I will reply to comments or Like comments that are from parents. 

The Workflow:

Since time is precious, one of the first items I created was a Social Media Request Form, which is a Google Form, to help me keep track of requests from staff in the building.  This form will allow the staff to type the post exactly how they want it to appear on social media.  

Once the form was completed, I created an email filter that will notify Steve and I on when the Social Media Request form is modified.  This email notification gets sent to our school email accounts.  Once I receive the email notification, I click on the link provided to open up the Social Media Request form, and the new entry is automatically highlighted on the spreadsheet.  This workflow is very simple and I have become dependent on it because it prevents me from having to "babysit" the responses from the Social Media Request form. Plus, it saves me a lot of time.

After I post the information on social media, I highlight the information on the response spreadsheet in green to signify it was successfully posted.  If there is a discrepancy with the information, I obviously do not post the information.  I highlight the information on the response spreadsheet in red and state the reason why the post was denied.  

Many of our posts contain pictures of staff and students in our school.  However, before posting student's names and faces to the Internet, I always check their AUP's, (Acceptable Use Policy), to make sure they have permission from their parents to do this.  If they do not have their parent's consent, then I do not post their picture and/or name.  In some instances, the student can get a written note from their parent giving them permission to be posted just for that time.  

Furthermore, to continue our efforts to brand our school, the hashtag, #WeAreDavies is included on every post.  This will allow staff and students to be able to participate in many conversations at our school.  In addition, Steve creates a Storify every week to demonstrate a week of review at the William Davies Middle School.  Here is an example of our storify feed.  

I am very fortunate to have a building principal that is willing to take the risk to implement social media into our school.  Although it is not the only way of communicating to parents and the community, I feel the social media connection has been very successful.  It is rewarding to see how many people we reach on a daily basis and to see the positive reactions from parents and other community members.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Google Apps for Education and Screencast-o-matic

As a Technology Integration Coach, it is my responsibility to encourage and support teachers to implement the use of technology in their classrooms.  This year, I am piloting Google Apps for Education with an academy of 6th grade teachers at the William Davies Middle School @WilliamDaviesMS, in Mays Landing, NJ.

In the beginning of the school year, I introduced Google Apps for Education (GAFE ), to the students which included modeling to them the procedures to login to the domain, the apps that are available in the domain, Google Drive, Google Docs, and file/folder management. In addition to my classroom lessons, I created documentation for them and showed them where they can access it on my website.  A few weeks after the introduction of GAFE, I decided it may be a better idea to create short screen casts for the students using Screencast-O-Matic.

My videos are about a minute long which allows the students to watch the videos at any time and at their own pace.  The screen casts that I completed are for 6th grade students who are using Google Apps for Education, but they can be used from middle school grades and up.  I intend to create several videos on document sharing.  For now, this is what I created so far:
Screencast-O-Matic, is a free screen capture tool that will allow you to record your navigation on the computer screen while you record yourself at the same time.  The free version will allow you to save your recording to the computer, or to YouTube.  However, if you make a mistake during the recording, you must start over again.  I recommend that you have a script or an idea of what you are going to say prior to recording.   The paid version will allow you to edit the video so you do not have to start from the beginning. This tool is a powerful one and is not difficult to learn. 

I recommend anyone who provides professional development and/or documentation for teachers and students to try using Screencast-O-Matic instead of typing their documentation.  It can save you a lot of time.  
These videos, and other Technology Integration resources can be found on my school website.  I

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hour of Code - Computer Science Week Follow Up

Last week, 12/9/2013 - 12/15/2013, was Computer Science Education Week, which is a national campaign to encourage students to learn how to code or write a program.  

I had the opportunity to teach middle school students at the William Davies Middle School in Mays Landing, NJ how to code.  I am so proud to have been a part of this campaign.  My students were excited, engaged, and enthusiastic about coding. They all did a FANTASTIC job and I am proud of each of them!

The first day, I asked them, what is a computer program and what is its purpose? I explained to them that it is a set of instructions with a purpose. Some examples are to create an alarm clock app, create a game, or to produce a report.  I compared a computer program to a recipe, in that each ingredient is vital and must be completed in a sequence.

In addition, I introduced proper terminology  and provided an explanation of them.  I spoke to the class using these terms so they would become more acquainted with the vocabulary and use it appropriately.  A few of the terms are listed below:  

            • Source code
            • syntax
            • tags and commands
            • execute and run
            • debug and troubleshoot
            • editor
            • inequalities and special symbols
            • program
            • backslash
            • GUI (graphical user interface)
The Hour of Code campaign gave my students the opportunity to experience the following:  
  1. learn to code complex instructions using logic
  2. pay attention to small details because every detail counts
  3. collaborate and communicate with each other to help write and debug their program
  4. use critical thinking skills
  5. ask three classmates then ask me
I wanted to teach the students how to code HTML. I feel this is important because most or all of the students use the Internet and may have seen HTML code in their experience.  (It is important for the students to connect to the lesson.)  I compared the tasks I had them code to Microsoft Word.  I instructed the students to use Notepad as their editor to write the code.

The students learned how to code the following tasks in HTML:
  • a title on the title bar
  • insert a line break
  • insert a horizontal line
  • insert an image and size it
  • insert a comment
  • insert an ordered list with numbered items
  • formatting text such as; color, size, center justify, underline, bold

They learned that HTML commands are called tags, and that many of the tags have a begin tag and an end tag.  In addition, they quickly learned the importance of using the correct syntax in programming.  After they coded, they seemed to like the fact they were able to execute the program and see immediate results.  If their results were correct, they helped other students who were having difficulties.  If their results were incorrect, they were able to troubleshoot and debug their source code.  

Furthermore, students learned about file names especially file extensions. They needed to save their program as a .html file or else their program would not execute. I explained to them that each file type or extension is unique and is identifiable to a specific application.  I explained to them it is important not to include spaces in the filename or else the program would not execute.  That was the perfect time to mention the importance of details.   

The last day of the week, we were able to complete our program.  They had coded a simple webpage using Notepad that had horizontal lines, formatted text, an ordered list, and an image.  I challenged them to continue with their quest using HTML and other GUI interfaces, such as Scratch 

In conclusion, Computer Science Education Week, the Hour of Code was AWESOME!!!! I am so proud of all of the students who learned and wrote HTML code.  I do believe the students were proud of themselves too! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hour of Code Computer Science Education Week

The week of December 9th - December 15, 2013 is Computer Science Education Week, where students should have the opportunity to learn concepts of Computer Science, such as computer programming and coding, for at least one hour. Having a  Bachelors Degree in Computer Science/Information Systems and being a former Computer Programmer, I am so excited to have the opportunity to share this experience with many 7th and 8th grade students at the William Davies Middle School in Mays Landing, NJ.

Prior to this week, I have persuaded two of my peers, Malika Green and Meghan Fitzgerald to participate in the Hour of Coding Challenge. I found resources for them and we brainstormed some ideas to implement this important concept into their classrooms.  Instead of allowing students to learn about coding for just one hour, we have decided to teach this concept for the entire week.

In Literacy Media Technology class, taught by Meghan Fitzgerald, she is having the students learn how to code using Scratch.  They will create an animated holiday card that allows students to include sprites, which are avatars, images, animations, sound effects, background scenes, and text.  When they are completed, they will be able to share and send their holiday cards with their teacher.  All of these effects are done using coding.

In STEM class, taught by Malika Green, I will be integrating technology by teaching computer programming for the entire week to her classes.  Each day, I will be presenting a different tool to code.

Since students may be familiar with embedding HTML code from webpages, I thought it would be a good idea to teach them HTML, Hyper Text Markup Language.  They will use the Notepad application that is installed on their netbooks to type their code.  I will introduce several concepts such as HTML tags (these are commands), syntax, and debugging skills.  They will learn about the required tags that are needed in an html file, plus learn about formatting tags and others that are listed below.  

            • font style
            • text color
            • text size
            • center justify
            • bold
            • underline
            • page break
            • insert an image
            • line break
            • numbered list
            • horizontal line

They will also learn how to save their file as an .html file and execute it immediately to view the results of their code.  If the results are incorrect, they will troubleshoot and debug the code accordingly.  The purpose of teaching them HTML is for them to understand the complexity of creating webpages.

On the second day, I will allow them to play the Angry Birds Maze Challenge on The Hour of Code website. This is a GUI interface so the students may find it more user friendly then coding HTML.  Students will program the bird by dragging the pieces that are labelled with the command  to the work space.  This will allow the bird to move through the maze to find the pig.  When they execute the code and it is correct, the bird will find the pig and the student will move on to the next maze.  If the code is incorrect, they will have to debug it and try again.  They will complete as many levels as they can.  The higher the level the more difficult the maze becomes.

The third day, I will allow them to play the Light Bot Challenge on The Hour of Code website.  This is another GUI interface that will allow students to program the robot through the puzzle to change the color of the blue tiles to yellow.  Again, they have to program the robot by dragging the pieces that are labelled with the command to the work space.  This will navigate the robot to jump to the space and change the color of the tile.  If the code is correct, the student will move onto the next puzzle.  If the code is incorrect, the students will have to troubleshoot it and try again.  They will complete as many levels as they can.  The higher the level the more difficult the puzzle becomes.  

The last two days, I will teach them how to code using Scratch.  This is a GUI interface that will allow them to drag pieces that are labelled with the command to the work space to control the sprite.  The sprite is an avatar on the scene.  The application offers a few short tutorials on how to get started.  They will go through the tutorials and create an animated card.  When they are completed, they will share their animated card with me using a Google Form.    

In conclusion, this is my lesson plan. However, I will make adjustments if necessary.  If needed, I will have students learn computer programming using Khan Academy.  I am anticipating a successful week of computer programming!  However, I will follow up with my experiences after I complete these lessons.