From ICT to Computer Studies

Last year at Saint Maur, the Technology Department decided that, starting in the 2012 – 2013 school year, we would offer the IGCSE Computer Studies course to grades 9 and 10 instead of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) course – the course we were offering at the time.

In the ICT course, students learn to manipulate a typical office suite (i.e. word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, web design and database software.) We were finding, however, that students taking the course at Saint Maur already possessed half, if not all of these skills. We needed to find a more challenging technology curriculum for grades 9 and 10.

In addition to this, we’ve noticed a real interest in computer programming from the students who frequent the Mac Lab everyday and computer programming simply can’t be learnt through the ICT course.

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The Computer Studies course is quite different to ICT in that it doesn’t prescribe a particular type of software that needs to be mastered. Rather, it places emphasis on the Systems Design Cycle (some times referred to as simply the Design Cycle) and leaves it up to the individual classrooms to decide the software or programming languages they will learn.

This year, we will be teaching Computer Studies through a number of software development projects using the Java-based Greenfoot development environment. (If you are interested in finding out more about Greenfoot, start by visiting the official website at www.greenfoot.org.) We are all very excited here in the Technology Department at the prospect of students developing their own games and simulations.

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Weighing Up My Project Options

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my blog – roughly two months I think. Anyway, it’s good to be back.

In the style of my other posts, let’s get straight into it.

Over the past week, my project has undertaken some major changes. (It feels really good to be blogging again, by the way.)

Originally, my plan was to have my grade 7 math students make imperial to metric converters (and vice versa) using Google Forms. Next, the students would embed their converters into either their own blog or into the class blog.

I feel this task would score quite high on the SAMR model, as the use of technology is transforming the task itself. In fact, this task would be impossible to complete without the use of technology.

Students would also be learning how to use Google Docs and WordPress – two things I’m a big fan of.

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But then some time this week, a better idea came to me – have the students make short two minute tutorials using ShowMe on their iPads and then upload them to some video sharing site. The plan is to then embed these videos in a site called Kids Academy, which has yet to be set up.

I’d like the students to make a video, or a couple, on something they’ve learnt in Math since the start of the school year – operations with negatives, HCF and LCM, prime factorisation, and sequences are topics they’ve learnt about thus far this year.

This idea scores high on the SAMR model too, in my opinion, as the use of technology in the task transforms the task itself.

I also really like the idea of this Kids Academy site – a site where kids can teach other kids (and no doubt adults too) practically anything.

Anyway, it’s been good getting these thoughts down on blog.

Any comments and/or questions, please leave below.

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NETS Revisited

What I’ve Been Reading:

This Week’s Question:

  • Whose job is it to teach the NETS standards to students and how do we ensure they are being met in an integrated model?

Next school year, my role within the school will be changing. I will continue teaching IGCSE Computer Studies to Grades 9 and 10 and math to Grade 7, but will be relieved of my elementary technology classes so that I can become a technology coach.

I’m over the moon with the decision because COETAIL has directly and indirectly introduced me to some great ideas for technology integration in the classroom and I want to share these ideas with the teachers at my school. And being a technology coach will enable me to do this.

Anyway, enough about me – on with the post.

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So whose job is it to teach the NETS standards to students?

Well, next year, at my school, I’m pretty sure this responsibility will fall onto myself and the teachers I coach.

Do I think this approach should be adopted by other schools?

Well, I don’t know. I’ll be able to give you an answer to that next year. But, in theory, I like this approach. Because anyone that expects a teacher to go out there and get familiar with a bunch of different technologies and then get familiar with the NETS standards, in addition to teaching their regular load, in my opinion, is expecting too much. (COETAILers, I’m not talking about you. You guys are special.)

The technology coach helps bridge the gap between teachers, their classrooms, and, ultimately, the NETS standards.

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iMath

This Week’s Question:

  • Reflect on your own use of laptops in the classroom.

Next academic year, we’re going 1:1 with iPads in Grades 6 and 7 at my school. And, it just so happens that I’m the Grade 7 Math teacher. Below, I’m going to discuss how I plan to integrate student use of iPads into my lessons.

I want to add here that most math apps I’ve seen are just animated textbooks: You’re given a question. If you get it right then a nice little animation plays. If you get it wrong then you keep trying until you get it right.

I want to avoid apps like this.

I want students creating.

Apps like this, however, might come in handy as a supporting tool before and during the creating. I mean, how can I expect a student to create a video of a math concept if they don’t really understand the concept to begin with?

But, no. I don’t want iPad usage being limited to these animated textbook apps only.

My Bokeh

Bearings and Scales with Google Maps
I touched on learning about bearings through Google Maps in my course/project reflection. The idea is really quite simple. Students create a new map in Google Maps. They then choose two locations and drop a placemark on top of each location. The two locations are then connected by a line. We now have a “visual”.

Next, I would get the students thinking about how to describe the location of Placemark 2 from Placemark 1.

After coming to the realisation that NSEW won’t be sufficient, I would then introduce the students to bearings.

Algebra with ShowMe
ShowMe is a nice little app for, well, showing people stuff. Rather than trying to explain it, I’ll just provide the link to ShowMe’s website.

The idea here is to get students making their own Khan Academy.

They make a short video of a concept they’ve learnt recently, using ShowMe, and then embed this video on their personal blog for math.

As always, questions and comments are more than welcome.

Image Credits:

  • My Bokeh by Jsome1. Found on Flickr. Creative Commons Licensed.

Course Reflection

Final Project
Next academic year, I’m intending to do a number of flipped classroom lessons and Dan Meyer-esque lessons with my two grade 7 math classes. Considering flipped classroom lessons require videos and Dan Meyer-esque lessons require “visuals” (as he calls it), I decided to make a blog, for my final project, that would house all this media… and add to it a couple of posts.

Before I forget, here is the link to the grade 7 math blog. Please note that most of the posts on the blog are works in progress.


Dan Meyer-esque Lessons

Dan Meyer brilliantly observed that math textbooks, or rather the chapters in math textbooks, are laid out in the wrong order. The order is this:

  1. Structure
  2. Visual
  3. Question

He thought the order should be more like this:

  1. Visual
  2. Question
  3. Structure

So what I’ve done is created a number of posts which deal with the 1 and 2 of Dan’s order. It is my intention to introduce the structure when, and only when, the students understand what it is the visual is communicating and what it is the question is asking.

One Step Further
I’m thinking of taking Dan’s order one step further and letting students create their own visuals… and even their own questions.

If you go to the blog and, in particular, take a look at the posts dealing with bearings, you’ll see a couple of maps I’ve created followed by a question. Why not let the students do this?

The Adjusted Order

  1. Visual (by student)
  2. Question (by student)
  3. Structure

Games Programming… in Grade 3!

What I’ve Been Reading/Watching:

This Week’s Question:

  • Write a blog post reflecting on your understanding of connectivism, MOOCs, global collaboration and/or badges and how how it applies to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom.

First, I don’t think I’m going to discuss how connectivism can be applied to my curricular area as I have already done so in the post, Googlepress. Instead, I’m going to discuss the games development platform, Gamestar Mechanic.

Two to three weeks ago, I started my two grade 3 technology classes on a new project – the objective of the project being to create a real computer game.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds like a lot of work and that maybe I’m aiming a little high for a grade 3 technology class and I would totally agree with you, had I not been introduced to Gamestar Mechanic.

Over the first couple of lessons, the students worked their way through the Quest.

The Quest is, well, just that, a quest (a game) in which students learn the fundamentals of games development. They learn about two common types of games: top-downers and platformers. They learn about sprites (good guys, bad guys, blocks, coins). They learn about important game elements like timers and player life.

Along the Quest, students accumulate badges which, in turn, unlock items that they can later use when making their own games.

All of my grade 3s have just about finished the Quest and are now creating their own games.

Gamestar Mechanic is more than engaging, it’s addictive. I’ve had numerous students working on their games outside of class. I’ve had one student upgrade to the premium account. I’ve also had one student develop a 20 level game – well beyond my expectations for the project.

Gamestar Mechanic is a fantastic way to introduce students, in particular, elementary students, to games programming.

EDIT: Here’s a link to a game made by David in Grade 3.

Image Credits:

  • Payneful by me