Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hour of Code at NCS

Last week was Computer Science Education Week and throughout the world students participated in a Hour of Code - spending 60 minutes or more learning the basics of computer programming.

Right here at Natomas Charter School students in Leading Edge, PFAA, and PACT learned the basics of coding. Through tools like Scratch, Tynker, CodeAcademy, and Khan Academy students built video games and basic programs while also constructing a greater understanding of how some of their favorite websites and apps actually work.  Students learned about sequencing, what-if and if-then statements, functions with parameters, and using counters with these self-paced and engaging resources. Below are two quotes from Leading Edge students in Jennifer Music's class describing the experience.
"The coding really helps with math, because you can figure out how to critique a problem or to help others. It is just a really good way to help kids and adults alike understand things better, in a creative way." (Dillon Garrett, 7th grade) 
"Within the time of playing with "An Hour of Code" I feel that it was a nice game output and it taught us the mechanics of movement within a game. What I loved the most was learning about the "if" function. I was able to see the actual java-script code too." (Jason Abuda, 8th grade)
While the goal was to spend 60 minutes coding last week, for many the hour was simply an introduction that ignited their curiosity to learn more.  At last night's first NCS Student Technology Leadership Team meeting many of the students described spending many evenings and part of last weekend building their coding skills.

Personally, I have to admit I was too busy last week to participate in an Hour of Code. I put it in my "next time around"pile. However, the excitement and enthusiasm these kids shared caused me to pull out my laptop last night and create the code necessary to navigate my Angry Bird around the squares to capture the pig on Code.org. And that might be the best part of all of these resources. They aren't going away anytime soon. You and your students can start building your programming literacy skills today, tomorrow, or sometime next month.

After writing this post we learned a few things:

  • PACT hosted a code-a-thon on Friday and many of our students were so inspired that they started working their way through the 20 hour self-paced Introduction to Computer Science course for K-8 students. 
  • Star Academy 2nd graders started coding today. Yes, you read that correctly...2nd graders. Aside from an occasional cheer you could hear a pin drop in the classroom as they worked through 15 different levels of the first 20 step coding task.

Joe & Jennifer Music

Friday, December 13, 2013

Elementary Bloggers

Blogging has taken hold at Star Academy! Every single one of our elementary classes at Star Academy is starting to share their learning using classroom blogs.

Why are they doing it? Blogging provides an opportunity for the students to publish together as a class for a public audience. It is also a perfect tool for teaching digital citizenship and the differences between online and print-based writing. Additionally, blogs are handy for building classroom community and for connecting your classroom to the larger world through comments posted by parents, relatives, and other classrooms.

What are Star Academy students writing about? Well, it depends on the week, classroom, and types of activities taking place.  However, here are a few sample posts.

  • Gingerbread People - Students in Mrs. Kahler's class created gingerbread people. Using their classroom blog as a digital container the class posted a slideshow of their creations and visitors posted written feedback.
1st Grade
  • Owl Pellets - Students in Mrs. Luhrsen's class dissected owl pellets and used their classroom blog to share some of the things they learned. This class also used their blog to share their class Skype session with another group of students in Monterrey, Mexico.
  • Currently Reading - In Miss Kloczko's classroom the students used their blog to share reflections on the books they were currently reading. This also shared what they were thankful for during the month of November, including this post on being thankful for our moms. 
2nd Grade
  • Author Erin Dealey Visits - In Mrs. Evans' class the students wrote about their visit from children's author Erin Dealey.
  • Student Technology Support - Mrs. Torres describes how students can often be great technology support staff in the classroom with this story about placing your icon on the Google Map. The class also described their first BYOD technology day.
3rd Grade
  • Friday Report - In Ms. Fraser's class students share their learning each week by writing a collaborative Friday Report. Check out this one from December 13th.
Blogs can really be anything you want them to be - a summary of your learning as a teacher, pictures or digital artifacts from a classroom event, collaboratively written stories created by the class, or posts written by individual guest authors. Your imagination is the only limit. However, regardless of the topic a blog post is always a conversation, so when you have a moment leave a comment on a post for our Star Academy bloggers.