In Honour of Computer Science Education Week

Alas, Computer Science Education week always happens during our black-out week so we are not able to schedule an Hour of Code with our students. But the least I can do is give you something entertaining and thought-provoking  to help you procrastinate with your marking…

Here is a 15-minute podcast from Planet Money entitled When Women Stopped Coding, about why the numbers of women dropped so rapidly in the 80s (1984 to be exact).

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Why not try your hand at one of the Hour of Code workshops? I recommend the Khan academy introduction to javascript or the Code Academy  one!

I have also been reading this interactive article that gives a very in-depth but accessible guide to what is meant when we say “Code”. It is long, so I recommend reading it in chunks, but it is also very thorough!

 

My First Real Makerspace Experience

Last Saturday I attended my first un-conference at McGill called ReMixEd Camp. Hosted by Learn Quebec, it was a free event for educators.

What is an un-conference, you ask? Good question. I asked myself the same thing. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

An unconference, also called an Open Space conference, is a participant-driven meeting. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization.[1]Wikipedia contributors. “Unconference.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Basically, they had organized sessions that you could attend or not. If you didn’t like what was being presented, you could add a session to the board.If you started out at a session and didn’t like it, you could leave and go join another.

My reason for attending the conference was all the Makerspace activities they had listed. I was hoping to get some ideas on how to promote it, some useful tips on how to set it up and hear about some best practices and lessons learned.

Instead, I made something.

It was really uncomfortable at first. I had no idea what I was doing. I kept apologizing for my lack of craft skills, as if the whole room was judging my worth as a human being on how I cut through felt. But then, after a few attempts and a lot of playing, I started to get an idea, a vision that would match my beginner skills.

I spent most of the day in their Makerspace, fiddling with felt, sewing my felt flower into place and learning more about circuits than I have ever known before.I made a circuit with a battery, a LED light, a resistor (now I know what that does!) and conductive thread. I got so into it, I would have skipped lunch if I had not already skipped breakfast.

It dawned on me that I have been so busy coordinating a Makerspace for others, that I was missing out on the true experience of it – how I can lose myself in a project, how learning felt organic and not forced, how satisfying it felt when my project succeeded after many attempts of it not succeeding! How the only thing that mattered, was figuring it out. There were no stakes, no judgment, no pressure. (Honestly, I am inordinately proud of my poor little light-up felt flower).

It made me think of the Brain from The Breakfast Club –  remember his storyline? How he was in detention because he thought he would take shop and get an easy A but he couldn’t get his lamp to work? How he couldn’t cope with a lower grade point average and that the obvious solution was to bring a flare gun to school in order to commit suicide?

 

What if he was graded on his attempt and not on the final result? On his iterations? On the fact that he kept trying and didn’t give up?

I didn’t want to go to this unconference. I was giving up my Saturday for this. I was tired. November was busy and well, November (ugh). Nobody was expecting me to go, it didn’t matter if I showed up or not. But I forced myself and sat down at the stool in front of materials I had never played with before and had no idea how they worked and ended up having a great time and feeling energized by the end of it.

For the first time, I truly experienced the benefits of Maker culture instead of simply talking about it.

Here is my flower:

More than ever I want to promote the Maker concept in our school. The difference now though is instead of always being on the side of coordinating and organizing, I am going to sit down beside the students and embrace all my failed attempts and celebrate my successes along with them.

Wednesday Session: Makerspace@Traf

In case you missed today’s presentation, here are the slides:

We discussed our vision of the Makerspace concept at Traf, which has three components to it:

  • Curricular
  • Co-curricular
  • Tinker stations

The meeting today was to get some ideas for all three components, but mainly for the tinker tables we would like to make available through out the school on a regular basis.

First though, we asked Staff to write down what kind of “Making” they engage in. Here’s a snapshot of the post-its they put up:

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Responses ranged from cooking to ceramic painting, from lego to quilting. So many hidden skills!

Then we asked the staff to think of a skill they would like to learn:

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Again the responses were very diverse from knitting to robotics, from learning how to draw to how to make a spice rack.

Luckily the Makerspace concept has room for all of this!

Then we asked the teachers to gather in their departments and think of three ideas for tinker tables in their department. We asked them to use Padlet, a virtual corkboard – very easy to use and gives a nice visual. Here is a screenshot:

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Sone great ideas came out of today’s discussion – a lot of which I will follow up with in the coming weeks!

 

Wednesday Sessions: Organizational Skills @ Traf Rountable

This morning we had a very productive discussion that focused on how we can promote effective organization skills with a few simple, school-wide strategies.

Here was our goal:

To leave the meeting with 3 core  practical, realistic, and common classroom strategies to help embed effective organizational skills (OS) for students @ Traf!

I am very pleased to say that we did it!

Here are my slides for the presentation:

Although we had a lively discussion which can be seen in the pics below, staff also had a chance to use our backchannel, a basic google doc formatted in sections that corresponded with our slides. A staff volunteer took notes during the whole meeting and populated the backchannel with the staff’s comments. (Thanks so much Annie!)

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The strategies emerged from practices that most teachers were already doing. However, it was a good reminder that certain simple strategies practiced consistently had a lot of effect on rates of timely homework submission and general preparedness. As well, though we did not emphasize this, when speaking of their strategies teachers also mentioned that practicing them lowered level of stress and anxiety in their students. They had time to write down what was going on and consequently were less worried about what they had to do.

Here are our 3 strategies ( I thought they deserved to be prettied up!)

3 AGENDA STRATEGIES

Last but not least:

a-bunch