Have You “Hour of Code”-d Yet?

hour-of-code-logoOn Monday, my former colleague, Martene Herbert reminded me it was the annual Hour of Code this week.  Each year, in early December (during Computer Science Education Week in the US), millions of students from around the world participate in Hour of Code activities.  Being that I don’t have a classroom of students, I had totally forgotten about this event!

These activities introduce (or extend) students’ experiences with computer coding.  The resources (on the official website and all over the internet) ensure students of any age can participate.  Martene’s class is in Grade 1 at Valleyview Public School in Kenora, Ontario and they had a great experience with their Hour of Code. I’ve worked with Grade 6, 7 and 8s and have found the same – students enjoy learning to code!  In addition to that, they end up collaborating with their peers, problem solving and developing a sense of perseverance.  Here’s some photos of Martene’s class coding (and collaborating, problem solving & persevering!).

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At Dryden High School, teacher Spuro Sourtzis uses the program Scratch (developed by MIT) for his Grade 10 students’ coding work.  In Sourtzis’ class, students move from this program to other coding languages (Python, HTML, C) which prepares them for Grade 11 and 12 computer classes.  Students have experiences in these classes that prepare them for careers in computer sciences BUT ALSO for any career.  Coding is well-recognized as a valuable learning experience.  From the site The Guardian.com and reiterated on many other sites as well, this thinking:


Will every job in the future involve programming? No. But it is still crucial that every child learns to code.

This is not primarily about equipping the next generation to work as software engineers, it is about promoting computational thinking. Computational thinking is how software engineers solve problems. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches you a new way to think about the world.

Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It allows you to tackle complex problems in efficient ways that operate at huge scale. It involves creating models of the real world with a suitable level of abstraction, and focus on the most pertinent aspects. It helps you go from specific solutions to general ones.

I just finished perusing the work of one of Dryden High’s students – take a look here.  It’s pretty impressive to think of what is actually behind what you see .

For teachers, the Hour of Code is set-up so that there is very little prep work.  In fact, once you navigate to the official website, you can filter by grade level, educator/student experience, classroom devices, topic, activity type (self-directed or tutorial), length of time and language.  There’s loads of options – really, something for every student and educator.  Also, if you want to have your class count in the total tally of world-wide participants, you can enroll at this link too.

But, BUT – what if you don’t know how to CODE?  Well, like any other tech-based program/programming, your students can teach you!  They catch on so quick, why not let them be the teachers and you be the student?  A few years ago, I abandoned the idea of learning programs before I used them in my classroom and I haven’t looked back!  My suggestion is “let them play, have them share their learning with each other (and you) and THEN later use the program/site in instruction and assessment“.  This hasn’t failed me yet!

Here’s some code.org promotional videos for the 2016 Hour of Code.  Check them out, I’m pretty sure you’ll be inspired to get an hour of coding in this week. And if you do, please let me know (in the comments below or via email) as I’d love to share your work with others.

This one is a bit longer as it includes some instructions.

I’m off to do some coding, I hope you are as well!


Branding my Learning Space (and Unsubscribing)

Earlier this Fall I spent some time making my new location (an office!) a bit more “me”.  It’s still missing some things (like say….25 students!) but it’s starting to look and feel like it should, like a classroom!

I started with the essentials – organizing my book shelf, tidying my desk and organizing table and chairs. Once that was done (10 minutes!), I started thinking about what I needed for my thinking space.  Since I started my teaching career in 1996, I’ve always had the space that surrounds me represent my day to day work.  Adding a couple of plants and some paint certainly wasn’t going to do that here!

With some creativity and patience, I’ve laid the foundations of my new work-home.  The learning goal is show-cased (like it would be in my classroom), the priorities are highlighted (like they were in my classroom) and there’s space for representing my thinking (like there was in my classroom).  It’s a just-right start to getting my space organized.

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With my physical space taken care of, I’ve dug in to the vast amount of learning I’m needing to do to catch up with my 21C team and the dedicated educators across KPDSB.  There’s been a lot of Ministry-article and KP-document reading, some conferencing with my supervisor and many many emails (aurgh! the emails!).

So, here I am (November 21st already!) and thoughts of how to organize my thinking and share my learning have led me back to my blog!  I’m looking forward to making some time to think out loud and share both my learning and the work of my colleagues.  It’s always been one of my favorite spots to reflect on my work as an Ontario educator!  If you’re a follower of this blog through my classroom practices (as a student or parent), you may want to unsubscribe.  To do so, just “Unsubscribe” on the link below.  If you’re staying or new to the blog, “WELCOME! I’m glad you’re here!”

Signing off to read and clean emails…. (sigh!).

Time for a Nap or Two

Day 10. 
I hit a wall today (figuratively not literally, although who knows – I totally could run right into a wall and not realize it, I’m LITERALLY SO TIRED!).  

Waking up at my parents farm, I knew that I needed some sleep (badly) and that I would have to get some on the bus this afternoon. I’d worry about setting a bad example for the kids (seeing as we have a rule about not napping) but they’re mostly asleep whenever we get on the bus, so I don’t think it really matters!
Not sure why they needed to sleep so much today as they all slept in at the farm. I couldn’t believe that they would be able to have such a good sleep in their “spots” but they all claim they have…..(if they’re texting you and saying it was AWFUL, I don’t even want to know, cuz IGNORANCE IS BLISS and also IGNORANCE is not having to deal with it!!).

Our bus driving team told us that the kids are “so wonderful” this morning (which clearly indicates to me that they ARE NOT FIT TO DRIVE!). 🙂 They have noticed how many of them are very helpful and polite. This morning, they went to load the suitcases on to the bus as the mechanic finished up. They selected a few random kids to help (which they did) and then a few more gave a helping hand as well. I’d love to tell you that they’re going to be as HELPFUL and COURTEOUS upon their home arrival, but I’m pretty sure it’s all Ms. From’s and my influence (so you’re out of luck, sorry about that!).

From the farm (where apparently my mom makes the “best cinnamon buns I’ve ever had” and “your dad let me drive the tractor even though I’ve never it done it before’) we were quickly enroute to Regina. Our arrival at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum was met with dismal news – there was a live snake exhibit and it was feeding time! You’d think I’d have more of a stomach for this seeing as I did HUNT rattlesnakes with my older cousins when I was kid (that’s why I’m so tough, you see!)….Even given that experience, I wasn’t too into it.  

Many of your kids were though, which makes me even more sure that I’ve profiled them accurately when I take on a defensive stance whenever they approach me! They watched in GLEE as the little mouse babies were consumed by the snake (so gross, I’m just saying!) and then as the mouse moved through the snakes body. The detail they used to describe this would have certainly come in valuable during their Literacy lessons in the past year!  

We shortened our museum visit from 90 to 60 minutes to make up a bit of time and the kids were on the bus soon after the one hour mark. Except THAT ONE KID. Poor Aubrey got left behind because she was “so into” the exhibits and was reading loads of information and learning lots of stuff. Which endeared her to me A LOT because it was all about Saskatchewan and she’s usually running late because she’s doing her hair and makeup, THEREFORE I knew that this Saskatchewan information was REALLY, REALLY important to her!

Departing from Regina, it was a sleep for me (after threatening SUMMER SCHOOL to any kid who woke me up!). They took this pretty seriously, most of them went to sleep themselves just to ensure they didn’t end up waking me. At one point, I think the saying, “Don’t wake the sleeping bear…” was tearfully whispered between a couple kids….

After the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (which I totally recommend to anyone travelling through Regina) we were back on the highway and heading East. I asked a few students if they liked the life-size dioramas or the miniature diaromas more? They were divided mostly, but some asked, “what’s a diorama? I only made it to the gift shop….” (sigh).

Our arrival in Brandon was a bit later than usual so we went straight to supper (Montana’s!) and planned for a late check-in. Supper on the last evening has been a tradition for years (with kids typically dressing up in their fanciest clothes, doing their hair, wearing perfume/cologne and then still acting like they’re on the playground!). We called it the “un-fancy” supper because most of them didn’t shower at the farm this morning (don’t worry…I did!) and many of them look carazy after sleeping on the bus most of the day!

The staff were great though and didn’t mind at all that we brought them 29 ravenous, unkempt, stinky kids! They were more than happy to accommodate their meal requests (Allyssa, “Mac and Cheese with no bacon please.” – Ok. What? Me, “Just throw that bacon on whatever I order!”). Some shared meals because it was “have a dessert if you want to….” The staff expressed some surprise at our travel itinerary and commended us on lasting this long (it’s amazing what existing on adrenaline can accomplish).  

From there, we had our LAST HOTEL CHECK-IN! (Woot!). In other news, they’ve also finally learned to enter quietly, stay in their rooms and converse so other rooms don’t hear you. If we’ve accomplished nothing else this trip, it will all have been worth it!  

It was midnight as they fell asleep (some are “staying up all night but don’t tell Mrs. Parrish… (ummmm, I’m right behind you!)) and not long after when I was tucked in as well (with zero intentions of staying awake even a millisecond longer than I had to….).  
We’re bringing your kids back to you tomorrow (that’s a threat OR a promise, depending on which kids we’re talking about!). Good night! 🙂