Think like a computer?

It’s not new, but lately Computational Thinking (CT) is cropping up in every education publication and on ed blogs all over. This New York Times article from today looks at where the movement started and where it is today.

In thinking about how to teach computational thinking, it’s important to go beyond “approaching problems the way a programmer would” as described in the article. For a better understanding, please check out this  practical definition of computational thinking created by the team at Harvard University that brought us Scratch programming (the language used by our fourth graders with Mr. Grant).

Below are some examples of lessons teachers in all disciplines are using to incorporate computational thinking into their classrooms:

  1. Sample lesson on drawing monsters from code.org
  2. Sample lesson including “decomposing steps,” abstraction and algorithms from code.org
  3. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) maintains a project page with their own definition and presentations for teachers of all grade levels to add computational thinking to their lessons.
  4. Another ISTE blog post on 3 easy lessons

Are you still with me? Feel free to start a conversation by answering any of these questions in the comments section.

Where do you see computational thinking at work in our current curriculum? (i.e. the steps in a shop project)

Did you see any lessons or ideas that would be easy to incorporate into an existing project?

 

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Hour of Code

This week is Computer Science Education Whourofcodeeek! The “Hour of Code” project is leading the celebration again. If you have time this week and you want to give your students a sampling of what it is like to program, then this is for you. We have done this for the last few years and the kids seem to enjoy it. Here is a link to this year’s tutorials.

They have the classic Angry Birds and Frozen tutorials and added more including one from Moana, the new Disney movie, and Make Music with Scratch.
If you want help trying this in your classroom, let us know. Also, these tutorials are available all year so you can try them any time you want, not just this week.

Graphite & Mindset

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 8.25.03 AM

I missed Tech Tuesday, so here is Where-did-the-week-go Wednesday!

I have mentioned Graphite before, it is the teacher resources section of Common Sense Media, the organization that we use for digital literacy instruction. Graphite is a great first stop if  you are looking for education apps.

This week Graphite announced a Lesson Plan Challenge that ties in perfectly with our study of Mindset this year. The primary focus is on math lessons, but they said they will accept technology rich lessons from all disciplines as long as they have a Mindset focus. I know a February 29th deadline is difficult with everything going on, but maybe you have an existing lesson to enter? If nothing else, I look forward to sharing the winners so we can watch Mindset in action.

Prodigy Math Game

There are lots of online math games out there. Some of them are kinda fun, some of them are pretty boring. Prodigy is not like those games.

A screenshot from Prodigy.

A screenshot from Prodigy.

Created to be like the sweeping fantasy games that are popular among gamers, Prodigy is a math game that allows users to customize an avatar, pick up new abilities and spells, and make their way through new realms. It is also Common Core aligned, and automatically adjusts to each student’s skill level. Teachers can set up accounts for their students that allow them to track progress.

The folks at Prodigy believe that their product should be available for all, so most of the game is completely free. You can upgrade to a membership, but it is not necessary to advance in the game, and the reports and tracking features that are so great for teachers are also free.

ABCMouse

ABCMouse is the new favorite in the Ed Tech world. It is an entire learning environment with lessons and activities designed to prepare little ones (2-5) for school. Users can either pick and choose the activities they want to try, or follow a pre-set path that works its way through a standards-aligned curriculum.

 

If you have an account, you can log in as a teacher and create student accounts, complete with avatars, ability levels, and pre-set lessons. Students can then log into their own accounts, and have everything set up for them to learn and explore the site. There are dozens of printables, too. 

For those of you with younger students just learning the alphabet, colors, numbers, and other basics, this is a fantastic place for interactive practice. It is free for teachers and librarians, and requires a subscription for parents. 

19 Pencils

Here’s a great pick from AASL’s “Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2014” list. 19 Pencils is a one-stop lesson plan organizer, where teachers can find great lesson plans, save the ones they like, add their own lesson plans, and provide easy access of classroom resources to students. Phew!

19 Pencils features

Once you sign up, you have a Teacher Dashboard where you can save all of your lesson plans, add new ones, and save the online resources that go along with the lessons (all those links that you keep in your bookmarks folder!). Create a Class Page, and upload the resource to it with one click to share it with your students.

Class pages

If you want to spring for the premium version, you can also create quizzes and educational games (like word searches) and track student progress.

What Tech Am I Using Today: Padlet

I thought it might be fun for me to share with you what I’m using today in my classes, and how. That way, you can not only learn about a cool website, but you can see how it can be used to enhance your lessons.

In a recent #EdTechChat on Twitter, teachers were asked what their favorite Web 2.0 sites were. Listed in the top 30 or so was Padlet, a site that functions a bit like an online whiteboard/bulletin board. A teacher can create a wall, and students can sign in and add postings to it. It could not be easier to use, and allows for a fun way to collaborate and comment. Even better, the comments show up as boxes on the wall, and can be moved and organized. Posts can also be Tweeted, Pinned, Tumbled, and posted on several other forms of social media.

How can a teacher use it? Well, a teacher could post a discussion question and ask students to leave comments for homework. Or, a teacher could create their own “magnetic poetry” and students could rearrange words into poems. It could be a very simple project guide site, with each box containing a photo, file, or link to a helpful website.

I decided to use it today on a whim. My second graders have been learning all about alphabetical order, and as we approach Thanksgiving, we’re reading the book I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie by Allison Jackson. In order to tie the two together, I thought it would be fun to have the kids work together to put in alphabetical order all the food the old lady swallowed!

For older kids (3rd or 4th grade), this would be a center where they work independently or in pairs, but for 2nd grade, it seemed like a good idea to work together as a class. That means that I needed a way to move words around on a screen, and Padlet fit the bill perfectly. Its flexibility means that, once all the words from the book have been put in order, we can add our own favorite foods to the list, and alphabetize those as well. The possibilities really are endless.

Want to play with my Padlet wall and put the food in alphabetical order? Give it a try here.