Author Archives: kelsielenihan

Final Coding Adventure

Well, I did it.

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I finished my calculator! I am so proud. It actually works and actually calculates what I asked it to.

This is a link to all of my videos I posted along my journey, or you can check out the list through my blog. (I’ve learned all kinds of ways to collect my information into one accessible place!)

If you don’t get a chance to watch all the videos (it’s ok, honest.), essentially what I’m trying to say is:

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In the playlist is a quick overview of some of the social media I used when learning to code:

I just barely scratch (ha! Scratch Jr!) the surface of the amount of information that exists about coding on social media platforms. I didn’t even look at Reddit or explore any forums on the video.

But, speaking of Reddit, this is what I found when I searched “python”:

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The top Python community has existed on Reddit for nine years! That’s ancient in terms of the internet!

Coding is everywhere. It’s hard to escape and seems to find me if I try and hide. As I mention in the above video, even the Google Doodle is trying to get me to code more often.

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I cover a lot of my struggles in my Summary of Learning. It was really challenging because coding is so overwhelming. In the Social Media and Coding (brief) Overview, I called up over 4 BILLION results from looking up simply “how to code”. There are SO many resources out there about how to code and what the best language is for coding and what the best product is and how many jobs there are.

I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for the effort that goes into coding an app such as Instagram. Making a simple, barely there code calculator like I did was a monumental effort on my part. To code something which boasts 800 million users is frankly a wee bit mind-boggling.

Coding to me is like one of my favourite analogies: ducks on ponds:

Sure they look really cute and calm from the top. Dive below the surface and you’ll see their little feet just paddling like crazy to stay afloat.

This is how I feel about coding: it seems all pretty and calm on top, but underneath there’s a mess of code and programmers just trying to stay on top of their syntax errors.

Wait.

That sounds an awful lot like teaching, too. Hm. Maybe I have more in common with a programmer than I originally thought…

Till next time, keep on paddling!


Coding Adventure #3

I’m feeling like I’m FINALLY getting the hang of very beginning coding. Things are starting to become more intuitive the more I practice.

Still really frustrating when I go through inputting a bunch of information only to get a syntax error, but it’s becoming easier to find out where that is.

I’m also discovering lots of similarities between stylistic English and stylistic coding. Never thought that would happen….

Also, Screencast-O-Matic is better than Screencastify. Just putting that out there.


ScratchJr

Warning: This is an image/video heavy post. I wouldn’t recommend viewing it on data. Wait until you have a stable internet connection.

Because my final project is about coding, I decided to take some time to look at different coding apps. Also, because the coding I’ve been focused on it higher level, I wanted to try out some junior coding apps, which led me to ScratchJr and Hopscotch.

 

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I played around with ScratchJr more than Hopscotch, so I’ll review that one. (But this isn’t the last you’ll hear of Hopscotch…)

ScratchJr started out as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, where it raised over $77K (which is incredible for a crowdsourced campaign).

Now, it’s available on mainstream sites like PBS as foundation educational tool. PBS offers different lesson plans for ScratchJr using their channel’s characters, like The Kratt Brothers.

ScratchJr is available on the App Store for iPads (recommended iOS 9+) and on Andriod tablets (Kit Kat or higher). It is only available for tablets, not for phones.

When you launch, you’ll notice the colourful interface immediately:

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It is obvious this is geared toward a younger crowd through it’s primary subject matter (locations of animals, dealing with friends etc).

I went through the intro video in the app and got started “coding”:

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What I noticed right away was the similarity to the Codeapillar, which started me on the whole coding journey.

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Both use direction arrows to get their character moving (caterpillar or cat). I think this could be a good feature for a preschooler moving into more advanced coding because it allows for familiarity with controls and commands.

Also, entering arrows instead of >>>print(“hello world”) commands was a huge shift. It struck me how diverse coding is.

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My end result was a nonsense story about a cat, a chicken, and a grandpa having a fun day outside, playing. I wanted to try as many characters in a variety of strings of commands as I could while trying to maintain some coherence. It worked, for the most part.

Strengths:

  • ease of use
  • can be as difficult or as easy of a product as the user wants (to a point, obviously)
  • layout is easy to use
  • cheap (can’t get any cheaper than free!)

Weaknesses:

  • export — couldn’t figure out how to export my final product to another source (maybe it’s me? Is there a way to upload the video to Youtube from the app? Or email it as an mp4?)
  • once you’ve figured it out, the novelty wouldn’t last very long and kids may want to move onto something more complex quickly

Potential for the Classroom:

  • I can’t see why a teacher wouldn’t want to use this as a jumping off point for teaching primary students about coding. It’s free, easy to use with very little prior knowledge needed (the prior knowledge I do have about coding — i.e., Python, was not a help in figuring this out)
  • Using this is perfect timing as Hour of Code is December 4-10, 2017

 


Coding Adventure Part 1.5

As Alec mentioned, I am woefully behind in updating on my coding adventure.

I’ve been exploring some apps for coding, like Learn to Code with Python (which is shown in the gif below), Code School, Py – Learn to Code, and with Wing 101, which I’ve been using to “actually” code on the computer, not just on my phone.

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Coding on my phone seems much more limited than on a computer, though it’s been much more accessible (I was waiting in my doctor’s office last week and was trying out these different apps while I waited — I mean, what else am I going to do??)

Along with the coding, I’ve been learning other skills. Like the gif above. I made that from screenshots on my phone using Google Photos. I’m also playing around with different screencasting programs. I initially used Screencast-o-matic and for the next videos I tried Screencastify. I can’t say for sure which I like better, but Screencastify will upload to my drive but Screencast-o-matic is just a tiny bit more user friendly.

But I digress.

Coding is a lot harder than I thought. I am having a harder time than I thought keeping up with documenting. Documenting doesn’t always happen due to time/place, but I have been trying different aspects of coding. I guess it’s time for me to settle down and finalize what I’m doing (spoiler alert: it’s a fancy calculator. I try and start it in my video)

Wish me luck as I attempt to finish my calculator!


Share and Share Alike

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Sharing seems to be a common thread through my Master’s degree. The concept of sharing has dogged my every class in some fashion, whether it is sharing content or sharing ideas. It seems “sharing” is something a lot of teachers struggle with.

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I think the biggest personal barrier to my sharing with others is the concept of not being good enough to share. As I indicated in a previous post, teachers, in my experience, have an inferiority complex when it comes to their own work. Teachers are constantly comparing themselves to each other and how much better another teacher is doing something compared to what they’re doing now.

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for the next cool thing, but I can also see how some teachers like what they do because they’ve done it for  so long that to do something else would be very uncomfortable. So they don’t seek out new ideas or lessons. It seems that teaching is a profession of extremes: you either share or you don’t. There doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground that way.

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As Dean Shareski says, I think teachers have an obligation to share ideas and content because teaching can be such a collaborative profession, if you let it. If there’s no sense of collegiality fostered, it is too easy to shut your door and do your own thing for the next 40 years. It’s contingent on teachers to share with each other and to reach out to others, without waiting to be approached first.

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I think in order to create a culture where sharing is encouraged, there has to be a value placed on it, from above. If sharing amongst teachers is considered a priority, if creating things collaborative becomes paramount, there will be a corresponding increase in sharing with teachers. But, right now, teachers are strapped for time and are limited on resources, mentally, physically, and time-wise. Teachers are stretched thin. Sharing becomes a back burner issue when just getting through the day and planning a lesson at a time is life. (I find this especially true with new preps — I have all new preps this semester and have never felt so like a first-year teacher again!)

If teaching were to have an oath, like the Hippocratic one, I think the first commandment would be: First, share and share reserving judgment.


OER Commons

For my OER, I chose to look at the OER Commons. This to me seemed to be the hub from which all spokes derived.

Before I begin, I’d like to shout out to Awesome Screenshot for making this blog entry so painless!

The following is a review of their website in terms of accessibility, interface, content, and visual appeal.

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At first glance, their website seems open and their tag line of “Explore. Create. Collaborate” inviting. So far, so good.

Under their heading banner is a way to create lesson plans to freely share with other educators, like Teachers Pay Teachers, without the paying part. I was interested to see how many lessons or documents teachers are freely sharing with their colleagues, when options to be paid for this work exist (beyond your actual job, obviously). In order to create lessons or resources, you need to login through their system. I created an account in order to see what the process would be like.

Edit Lesson   OER Commons.pngAs you can see from the screenshot, it looks like they use WordPress to create their lessons, as my avatar from WordPress is in the corner. The text editing is smooth and user friendly, perhaps because I was already used to WordPress.

I really liked that I could preview my lesson as a student or as a fellow educator to see what they would see when accessing it.

Next, I went to explore other “hubs” to see what they offered, or where they would take me:

Network Hubs   OER Commons.pngThe list seems massive! Unless I knew exactly what I was looking for, I think I would feel incredibly overwhelmed by the choices presented. Some of the resources were other ones Alec suggested in the Weekly Outline and some were new to me. The one that interested me the most was the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers.

It is a repository of professional resources for teachers:

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This seems like a really neat resource to use as a teacher in order to inform practice, both as a professional and as a way to introduce things to students.

What was really interesting was this:

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It’s a list of countries and organizations which have adopted the system created by UNESCO. The list of countries include places which are generally seen as “third world” or in need of reform in their educational systems. Does this mean that perhaps they’re taking more steps forward than first world countries in adopting a framework such as this?

OER Commons is a vast network of available resources for teachers and students to take advantage of. It seems user-friendly, authentic, and a really neat way to access numerous free lessons and modules to aid in teaching. I think by using this a teacher could possibly make their learning and teaching more global as the resources come from across the globe.


Education for All

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I have so many thoughts on open education. I’m trying to get them in order so that I sound somewhat coherent.

I am conflicted about the idea of open education.

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On one hand, open education is just that. Open, free. No holds barred. Places like Harvard have open courses available online. But, something tells me that if I turned up at the STF with a certificate I printed out at home saying I now have a degree from Harvard I would be laughed out of the building.

However, this goes against what I stand for we we discuss democratization of education . I believe education should be open and available to everyone. Having education as a paid concept is a very capitalist movement that goes against the Marxist that lurks beneath the surface of my heart.

I’m all for education that’s open, which is why I’m a public school teacher. This article by the Independent has a whole list of universities which offer free (or almost free) education to their students.

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But, the conundrum I run into is am I legally allowed to offer free education? Can I offer or post something to the internet in the name of open education within my ethical limitations?

I am paid by the Regina Board of Education, who in turn derives money from taxpayers. By allowing someone else to use something I created using taxpayer money, am I violating some kind of ethics? The person using my work may be half way across the world and have no connection to me.

This concept really hit home with Larry Lessig’s video on Laws that Choke Creativity and then with Everything is a Remix. Is my creativity being stifled? Is my students? How do I balance my obligations to my employer while still honouring my desire for a free, open education? Who are these laws really protecting in the end? The trespassers (to borrow a phrase from the video) or the people on the ground? How original is my work in the end? As a teacher, you’re always told “don’t reinvent the wheel” in terms of creating new material.

These thoughts led me to this declaration:

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If education is then framed like this, money doesn’t matter. Respecting human rights becomes the most important thing.

Education belongs to all and I’ll end with a quote (which speaks to me as an English teacher):

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YES.

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In a simple answer to this week’s blog prompt: yes.

YES social activism can be meaningful and worthwhile.

YES we can have meaningful discussions about social justice online.

It is our duty as educators to make our students see the world beyond the classroom. In order to teach this effectively, we must first participate. As educators, we need to experience the online world so that we can show our students how it works. It’s just like any other discipline: to become an English teacher I had to take classes on literature, on reading and writing, and I had to write essays (so. many. essays.)

Since I was educated on this subject, I feel confident in teaching it to my students.

It is the same thing with social justice. We must apply ourselves to it, as if it were any other discipline: experience it. Live it. Teach it.

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Katia’s comment in her blog post In Online Spaces, Silence Speaks Louder than Words, her final comment:

We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.

made me think about “risking” my privilege, in regards to social activism. Christina’s post about slacktivism and band wagon jumping made me think about privilege and social cache in being “seen” to support causes.

The Atlantic piece on social activism as a meme reveals a more selfish part of the concept of supporting something. The piece discusses the Paris attacks in November 2015. Facebook created a way to have a temporary filter over a Facebook profile picture so that people could express solidarity at their convenience. If your Facebook photo wasn’t changed to reflect support for Paris, there was a question of whether or not you really supported Paris in their time of need or not.

The pray for campaigns that come up on social media relentlessly is experiencing blow back as people start to think about how clicks or likes don’t equal actual help as the below video from UNICEF points out.

This graphic from Popular Science shows just how (in)effective liking something on social media is when translating back to real action.

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So how does this translate to the classroom?

As teachers we must be aware of the disconnect between liking something on social media and taking action. Social media can spur people into taking ownership of something, but there has to be a connection, somehow, to their immediate life. Some tangible way to take part. As the bar graph above shows, if someone is connected to personally, privately, they’re more likely to volunteer their time to assisting a charity etc than if they just like something on social media.