Coding in 2004 – Looking back to move forward…

Sometimes there are moments that bring you back in time to reflect on your teaching practice, and a visit to YRDSBs Quest Conference this week certainly did that for me.  Brian Aspinall @mraspinall was mentioning his early efforts in coding with kids in a club that he started while he was a University student in 2005.

During the 2004-2005 school year (it actually may have been after the May ECOO 2003, although my memory escapes me), I began using MicroWorlds Jr Logo with my Grade 2 students as a result of being introduced to it by people who had been on board with programming with children since at least the 70’s.  Whoa! I had some background to catch up on and began to learn and read about the giants behind this educational reform.

Beginning my Master’s degree at OISE in 2003 led me to inspiring people like Clare Brett, Jim Hewitt, Earl Woodruff, the work of Seymour Papert and the notion of constructionism.  Being an ECOO member and attending the 2003 annual conference led me to meet inspiring people like @peterskillen who got me started with MicroWorlds Jr, @garystager, Karen Beutler @kbbeutler, @dougpete, @andyforgrave and Mitch Resnick, all of whom had been programming with kids for ages! I was WAY behind and knew it!  My first workshop for teachers in 2005 was my effort to share what I was learning from this amazing community of educators who had sparked my passion and who were teaching me about new ways of teaching that suited my desired classroom culture: inquiry and student-driven project based learning. Coding became another way to engage students in the authentic application of math skills already at play in my classroom: art, music, building things and cooking, to name a few.

There was no problem connecting coding with my curriculum, as you’ll see in the slides below. Computational thinking was not a term I was using back then, but it’s interesting to look back and see connections to cross-curricular authentic applications of Math, as well as references to teacher-student co-learning and what we would now call global competencies or 21st century skills, especially in the areas of problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, inquiry and learning to learn.

My biggest advice to teachers, in this time where many voices are telling us that we must have coding put into the elementary curriculum, would be to take the freedom you are given with our Ontario curriculum and innovate your own examples to go along with overall expectations!  I’m so glad that I didn’t wait and many other teachers like the ones at Quest and ECOO (BIT) are not waiting either.  Don’t wait….Innovate!

 

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GO Station Library – Book Sharing

When I first started commuting, I ended up at the Barrie Go Station to find this great innovative idea for book sharing that was setup close to the train tracks. The definition of innovation is to improve on something, and if you’re a lover of public libraries, like me, you’ll love this idea.

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Seriously Folks, Can We Just Get On With It?

Most days, I’m really upbeat. I go into schools, I give workshops, I help kids and teachers, and at the end of the day I feel that I’ve been successful in helping someone shift their practice and perhaps try some new things that will ultimately give students a wider variety of learning experiences.

Most of the time, it’s not actually about tools, but it’s about celebrating good practice. So when I was at a school today and seeing all kinds of purposeful play in kindergarten and primary grades, would I have suggested putting students behind a screen?  No way!  Would I have wanted teachers to capture these learning moments digitally to be archived, shared with parents or developed into stories that students could revisit?  You bet!

And then I saw this. I’m trying to help a teacher get a Smartboard going.  He believes it may not be working, but actually he just needs a really long VGA cord because the outlet is in a very awkward spot along the side of the room, crowded with some other attachments.  I look up, and see that a LCD projector has been mounted in the ceiling about 2 feet out from (and in the way of)  a big television screen that is also wall mounted.  My mouth literally dropped open.  Who on earth would have thought that was a good idea?

Honestly, it’s even hard for upbeat me to see electricians deciding how teachers will teach, non-users of technology buying technology, deciding (with apparent lack of logic) where it will go and therefore impacting teachers and students forever after (or so it seems).

Once again I quote my friend Peter Skillen, who says, “It’s like the illiterate, telling the literate what to read.”   Seriously folks, just how long is it going to take for us to get this right?