Saturday, September 30, 2017

Week 3 - A Computer Science Reflection

Week 3 of #CS4WDMS was a week of making connections.  I am using the accelerated course in, in which the students completed The Maze lesson, which consisted of 20 puzzles, and The Artist lesson, which consisted of 10 puzzles.  

In The Maze, the object for each puzzle was to navigate the bird or zombie to the pig or sunflower. As each puzzle was completed, the next one was more challenging.  Additionally, there were more difficult command blocks available as the students progressed through the puzzles.  A challenge for the students was to complete the program using the recommended amount of command blocks.  If the students used more than the recommended amount of command blocks, did not mark the puzzle as completed.   When I introduced the interface to the students, I pointed out all of the areas of the editor, including this information.  I found they were conscious of the number of blocks needed to complete the puzzle. 

Also, in The Artist, , the object for each puzzle was to use the block commands to trace over the specific shape(s) shown in the output section of the editor.  In this lesson, pixels and degrees of an angle were the unit of measure being used.  As the students progressed through the lesson, the shape(s) shown in the output section were more challenging than the previous puzzle.  Overall, I found this lesson to be more challenging than The Maze.    

Many of the students worked independently until they reached puzzle 5. As they were troubleshooting, I decided to have them make connections with the command blocks and the JavaScript code.   

I displayed the answer key for puzzle 5 on the board, which was written in JavaScript.  Then, I explained each line of code. We compared the JavaScript to the command blocks so they can make connections and see the differences between the two.  We discussed commands, loops, variables, initializing and incrementing variables, units of measure, and syntax.  I also explained that computers do not understand block commands, they understand source code like JavaScript.  At this point, students were able to use JavaScript and critical thinking skills to create the correct block base code in the editor for puzzle 5.  

After that, I displayed the JavaScript code on the board for a few more puzzles.  The students were able to connect the correct block base command to the JavaScript code.  I was amazed to see how quick they picked up on the source code.  Some students were even able to explain it to their peers.  I witnessed a break through moment for my students, in which I knew they felt successful and achieved leadership skills. 

Many of the students  had prior knowledge of because they completed the Hour of Code course on the website last year.  However, they did not complete the accelerated course, and they did not discuss in detail about the sections of the Blockly editor, and the JavaScript code.    

As week 3 comes to an end, next week will be my last week with this group of students.  I will be using Ozobots next week to expose them to more block base coding, Ozocodes, and more computer science concepts.  

I am planning to implement different manipulatives to each group of students such as Ozobots, Bloxels, and Littlebits.  Also, I will be alternating between and CS First, but for now, I will be using  

Stay tuned for my next blog post on my student's experiences using Ozobot.  Follow my class on Instagram at Mrs.Mattina and follow #CS4WDMS on Twitter.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Week 2 - A Computer Science Reflection

Last week was week 2 of introducing Computer Science concepts to my students.  I was happy to see that all of the students followed proper procedures when entering the classroom.  They are definitely getting more comfortable with procedures and expectations in my class.

When entering my room, the students login to the computers, login to the GSFE account, then they go to Google Classroom.  Once in there, they complete the do now assignment which allows them to practice keyboarding skills on for about  7 - 10 minutes.  I use a Google timer to keep track of time.   This application provides a teacher dashboard which  allows me to keep track of their progress.  I created a class and the students used their Google account to sign up and create an account.  I love having the single sign in option for the students. It saves so much time.  Just be sure the students are logged into their GSFE account first. 

Afterwards, all of the students logged into where they completed The Maze lesson which consists of 20 puzzles in the accelerated course.  We watched the introduction videos together about the Blockly editor.  We discussed the output, toolbox, and workspace sections.  I pointed out the resource and notification sections, which are not technically outlined in the editor, but felt these areas are important for the students to be aware of.    We discussed in detail conditional statements and loops and we even did a few simple unplugged algorithms together to ensure they understood the commands and concepts. 

When each puzzle in lesson is completed, more complicated block commands are offered in the next puzzle.  Students are expected to use them in their code.  If they don't they will write a program that has too many lines of code, which will have an incomplete status for the puzzle.  In order for the students to  get full credit for the assignment, I expect all of the puzzles to be fully completed.  I can monitor their progress in the teacher dashboard.  

As students completed the accelerated course, I had them record their progress in a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet consists of the learning goal, the learning goal scale, which is a 3 point scale, the date, and their rating.  This spreadsheet is shared with them in the assignment in Google Classroom. Although I can monitor their progress in the teacher dashboard in, this allows me to monitor their growth from the beginning of the lesson to the end.  Additionally, I am going to have the students reflect about The Maze lesson using Flipgrid.  Stay tuned for updates.  

In conclusion, the students seemed to learn a lot last week and continued to show leadership, ownership, and motivation to complete The Maze lesson.  Next week, the students will move on to lesson 3, The Artist, which consists of 10 puzzles.  Additionally, I will introduce logical thinking to the students, which is an unplugged activity using Google Drawings, and Made with Code, which is another block editor. 

Please follow my class on #CS4WDMS on Twitter and Instagram.  

Stay tuned for more updates next week.

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.