Saturday, September 16, 2017

Back to School Reflection with Computer Science

This year I am teaching Computer Science to all 6th grade students.  My schedule entails having a group of students for about 20 days then rotating to a new group. This rotation allows me to teach the same concepts to all of the students, and it allows me to use different manipulatives, such as Bloxels, Ozobots, and LittleBits, and internet tools, such as, CS First, and Scratch, for each group.   My goal is at the end of the school year, having all of the 6th grade students being introduced to Computer Science and exposed to coding.

When I found out I was teaching Computer Science, I was excited and anxious to teach the students everything I know about the subject.  Then, I had a reality check.  Having a group of students for about a 20 day cycle would not allow me to teach them everything I wanted, so then I focused on just the basics.

Since this is the first time Computer Science is being offered at my school, during the summer, I had to write curriculum.  Knowing that I would have a group of students for about a 20 day cycle, figuring out the topics and the tools to implement into my class was a bit challenging.   I decided to have four units, and teach one unit per week.  Of course some units will overlap with others, but at least it is a start.  Throughout the year, the curriculum will be a work in progress and I will be revising it accordingly.  The units are listed below.

Unit 1:  Introduction to Computer Science
Unit 2:  Introduction to an Interface
Unit 3:  Computational Thinking
Unit 4:  Logical Thinking

In Unit 1, I go over the basics of Computer Science, the affects it has in our daily lives, binary code, digital etiquette, teamwork and relationships.  The picture below shows students completing an unplugged activity by using buttons to write their names in binary code.  Another unplugged activity I used was using a Computer Science BreakoutEDU game to build teamwork and relationships.

In Unit 2,  I will go over a block based interface, and the students will start to code.  While they are coding, they will be using computational and logical thinking, which are units 3 and 4.  Additionally, they will learn important skills such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Furthermore, I will be using social media and a class blog to document our class journey and to give students a voice.  Students can use #CS4WDMS on Twitter and Instagram to show their work to a global and authentic audience. They can also reflect on their experiences using a class blog.   Because I decided to implement social media into the classroom, I included online safety and digital etiquette into Unit 1 of the curriculum.

Next week, I plan to implement Unit 2, which will introduce students to a visual programming language, or a block based coding.  This can either be Blockly, Scratch or the Ozobot Blockly editor. Whatever I decide, it will expose the students to similar concepts commands, the tool box, the workspace, the output area, and much more.

Please follow our class journey on Twitter and Instagram using #CS4WDMS and read the class blog at  Stay tuned for the next blog post.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Back to School: What's in your Tech Toolbox?

As educators, our minds are always turned on. We are always learning, and we are constantly thinking of new ways to help our students be successful. Let’s not forget, however, that as educators we also need guidance to be effective, efficient, organized and successful.

Being a technology integration coach and a Google Certified Trainer, I wanted to share some tech tips and recommendations with you to help you get started this school year. Many of my recommendations revolve around G Suite for Education (GSFE).

Tips for Google Classroom
  1. Instead of listing all of your classroom resources, websites, and so forth on the About page, list them in a Google document and attach that link to the About page. This will allow you to sort them in any order you choose, format them and manage them more easily. Be sure the setting permissions to the Google document are set appropriately. Additionally, you can insert this link onto your school webpage.
  2. Title the assignment with a number and a description, and provide the same naming convention to any attachments for that assignment. This will allow you to easily associate files to the assignments in Google Drive. For example: “001 All About Me.”
  3. Always include general directions and technology directions in all of your assignments. This will provide guidance to the students when the assignment is completed.
  4. Install the Chrome extension “Open Side by Side” by Alice Keeler. This Chrome extension will split the screen and have the Google Classroom work page open on one side, and the student document open on the other side. This will allow you to easily navigate between the student document and Google Classroom grading page without having to tab back and forth between windows. It is available in the Chrome web store. If you cannot install it, contact your Google administrator or your IT department for assistance.
  5. Use Topics on your posts to organize and filter your stream so that the information can be found easily. For example, create a topic called “Week of ...”, and insert it on any assignment for that week. This will allow students to display all the posts for that specific week.

Tips for YouTube
  1. Use your channel to upload screencasts and animations. This will help you flip your classroom and allow students to learn at their own pace.
  2. Create playlists on your channel to organize your content.
  3. Have your students subscribe to your channel so they get notifications when a new video has been uploaded.
  4. Use Snagit, Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic to create short tutorials of your content.

Tips for Google Forms
Here is a list of new features of Google Forms that may help improve your workflow:
  1. All consumer users now have the ability to upload a file into Google Forms. Previously this option was only available to GSFE users. This can be helpful for parents and guardians to provide you with notes concerning their child.
  2. Another update is having intelligent response validation. This feature will allow you to quickly add a validation to a Forms question, making your workflow quicker.
  3. Another new feature to Forms is the ability to set up default values when creating new Forms. This is a huge time saver. This can be found in the Preference menu and can be applied to all new Forms that are created.
  4. You have the option to rearrange header sections. Now you can quickly and easily rearrange sections in your Forms.
  5. Finally, you now have the ability to use a checkbox grid question. This new question type will allow you to select multiple options in a category. One example use for this tool is scheduling.

Introducing Flipgrid

I recently learned about a tool called Flipgrid. When I realized how powerful and easy it is to use, I immediately fell in love with it. Flipgrid will allow you to create a video dialog or discussion with your students. Students use their device’s webcam to respond and participate in the discussion. This tool gives everyone a voice, and I recommend that you try it. I will be using this tool with my students as a reflection or exit ticket. The best part is it’s free! Simply visit for more information and to create an account.

I work with and train many educators, and most of them want easy and practical ways to implement and use technology in their classroom. With this article, I hope I was able to provide you with some information and guidance that can be helpful to your during the school year.

Check out the digital version of the article from the NJEA website.