Monday, December 15, 2014


Just ran across this and had to share.  I love this!!


Comment re: the above movie from

In the old days, we rummaged through our parents' garages turning soda cans into hockey pucks, cardboard boxes into magical forts, and bedsheets into magician's capes. We found joy in using our imagination to transform simple and unassuming things into the building blocks of something truly extraordinary.  
Technology runs our world today, and our children are becoming more and more glued to their screens. We want them to grow up not being mere consumers of these digital tools. We need new ways to play that take them beyond the screen. As parents, we want our children to find their own joy in learning and become shapers of their own worlds.
... remember the spark of inspiration you got from that cardboard box or tire swing while you played as a child. 
So here's to creativity. We hope you'll keep exploring with us on this next phase of our journey - helping every child question, think, and create. Every day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Testing Camera

One of my favorite authors, Peter Reynolds, recently released this short animation.  As with all of his stories, I loved it!  I have, for a long time, felt really badly about the amount of testing that our students go through each year.  It seems as if there are tests every day of the week.  I know many of my colleagues agree with me.  Thinking back to my school days -- I remember tests ... but I remember thinking that school was more than that.  It was fun!  We learned by playing and singing and exploring and creating!  Gone are the days when teachers had plenty of time to provide exploration and creative opportunities for their students.  Moments that allow a student to ENJOY their school experience.

One of the best parts of my job as a computer science teacher in an elementary school is that I don't really have to "test" my students.  I have to assess -- yes.  But, test -- no.  I can assess acquired learning in many ways.  Observation, evaluation of projects, and individual/class discussions are some of my go to strategies.  I know that kids learn in my room.  They learn how to use the computer as a tool and not only as a toy.  They learn to research, to keyboard, to code and to create.  I see it.  I hear it.  I KNOW it.  My classroom -- and the other specials classes they enjoy -- are pretty much the only subjects that they are free to explore, to create, and to question without the looming presence of a cumulative test to worry about at the end of the day.

We have to remember, as educators, that our goal is help our students become life-long learners.  Assessing that learning is important.  It helps us plan and strategize our next steps in the classroom.   I worry, though, that the "picture" our kids see of themselves isn't a truly accurate impression of who they are -- that they are going to be limited or hindered by the "images" that are on those test results.  

Watch the movie.  Encourage your students to respect the value of the test -- but to also see that the results don't define them.  Help them explore.  Find ways for them to create.  Make learning fun.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hour of Code - Unplugged

As the Hour of Code gets closer -- I'm getting more and more excited.  This year, I am going to incorporate more unplugged activities into my lessons.  I recently took one of the unplugged lessons and made a Google Slides presentation incorporating the main ideas.  I'm attaching a Slideshare of that presentation below.  I start the lesson by defining the word "algorithm".  An algorithm is a list of steps that you can follow to complete a task.  It's fun to ask the kids if they can think of simple algorithms for things we do every day -- brushing our teeth, making a sandwich, etc.

After our introduction discussion, the kids are given a sheet of paper with 6 four-by-four grids (graphs) printed on them (see image below).  They will follow the simple directions (or algorithms) on the slides to create a design by shading in certain squares on their graph paper.  The directions are in the form of visual arrows (left, right, up, down) and a lightning bolt (shade in square).  If they are correct, their four-by-four square will look like the example shown to them at the finish of each activity.

After completing four whole group practice runs, the students are given the opportunity to use one of the two remaining squares to create their own design.  They will then partner with someone and give them verbal directions (left, right, up, down, fill) so that they can copy the design on their last remaining square.

Simple.  Fun.  Engaging.

Happy Coding everyone!