Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coding to get it working the first time...

There are often wonderful coding stories but I never get to writing them on time by which time the details might be a blur. Today's success with a third grade student was really rewarding and I wanted to write about it before it became another blur.

Ever since the second and third grade teachers have started with coding in the classroom, there have been some wonderful interactions between the students, with varied skills coming to light from unexpected quarters. Students who otherwise may not be motivated to do any work or read, asking to do more, asking how they can login from home, etc. 

Today, while in a third grade classroom, I saw one of the shy ones (who also struggles with reading and self confidence) looking up a question on help. That alone was a win, as he figured out what he wanted to do and how to look it up - problem solving. So I did a general checkin on what he was trying to accomplish. Turned out he had a superhero who had to go up or down left or right. While working with him through the problem, he learned positive, negative, the X and Y axis. The first time he inserted the values for his up key and it worked, the smile on his face was so precious, so worth every battle that might have had to be fought to get programming implemented, and then the confidence it gave him to express his other ideas. A big reward in my mind.

Monday, November 4, 2013

More on Twitter in the classroom and Digital Citizenship


When people talk of teaching digital citizenship as a lesson or a set of lessons in silo, it isn't even funny. The lessons are ongoing, need to go hand in hand with specific activities taking place with the students as well as capitalizing on teaching moments, just like issues on the playground and in the classroom. Two entries back when I talked about introducing Twitter in a fourth grade classroom, I mentioned that the do's and don't's and appropriateness, etc was introduced.

The net result - one of the parents talked to me two days later. She put it really well. First, she was really happy that her son came back and explained to her that his class was now tweeting but these are the things they can and cannot do and listed them all. Now, she goes on to add that she is not a Twitter fan but that she was so impressed that he had absorbed all this information and realized the appropriate usage.

I was basically thanking her for her support, that a parent "gets it" - why we want to introduce these tools in a safe environment in elementary school. She said she was thrilled because that is how it should be done. She has a middle schooler. Her analogy was that we throw the kids to the wolves when they turn 13 or whatever the appropriate age is for various tools. Her examples: "We tell kids not to go onto Facebook till they turn 13; then they get on and don't know what to do and do things they shouldn't. We tell kids not to go onto Google+, not to do this, not to do that, but we don't teach them the right way before they get to it. As a result, they are lost and get into trouble, land up doing things they shouldn't."

As a parent of one teenager and one soon to be teenager, I couldn't agree more. My now 12 year old must have been 6 years old when he learned from "Phineas and Ferb" of Disney channel - "Whatever goes on the internet stays on the internet". It has been ingrained in him. We have discussed it since at regular intervals and I couldn't thank Phineas and Ferb more for teaching him a life long lesson :) As I was writing this, he came to call me as he is going to bed. I was telling him about this blog entry and asked him - do you remember where you learned your lesson? And sure enough, he remembered the source. We, as educators want to be sure such life skill lessons are taught in a way that they are never forgotten.

Not only would I love to see more parents jump onto this way of thinking, I would love to see teachers do the same. Instead of "What if students do..." or "What if they do the wrong thing....", etc they need to teach them the right way, guide students when they stumble, use the teaching moments, show them the learning from failure and help build wonderful, global citizens.