I have just discovered that my favorite phrase to hear in a classroom is, “I did it!” I heard that a lot while working with students in Ellicottville. As of November 2022, I am back at CABOCES as a tech integrator and one of the first schools to have me come in was Ellicottville. The first day I was scheduled to come in got snowed out, so I went in on for my first visit on December 1st. December 1st in Ellicottville was challenging. I had Shawne Hunt, Director of Technology, push out the app Pyonkee to all the student iPads I would be working with. Pyonkee is built from Scratch 1.4, a free program from MIT (scratch.mit.edu). Pyonkee works on iPads and is a whole lot more like regular Scratch than Scratch Junior.
I learned the hard way that Pyonkee was too hard for first and second graders. So, the next time I was in on December 7th, I asked Shawne to push out LightBot Hour, which is an app for students who are emerging readers and is one of the free “hour of code” apps. This was much more successful. First and second graders could work on their own and at their own pace. The teacher and I had to help with some basic reading, but the “learning game” was played independently. Eventually, what seems to happen in every classroom is a student saying, “I am on lesson 2-1.” Then another student says, "I am on lesson 1-7”. I always state to students in plain language that learning is not a race, and that we all learn at different rates of speed.
With the older students, third and fourth graders, we used Pyonkee successfully. Students experienced right angles (90 degrees was not familiar to students). Students programmed the iPad to draw a square and then learned to modify their code to draw a square using a repeat. Repeats are possible in all coding languages, so for third and fourth graders to learn this concept is important when moving forward with technology. Students were given the learning adventure of creating a hexagon, an octagon, a heptagon, a decagon, and a dodecagon (12 equal sides). Students were not given the “turn degrees” to these shapes and had to use trial and error to figure them out. As they did this, I said, “You are being computer scientist because using trial and error is what scientists use all the time.” I saw some students doing math on post-it-notes to try to figure out the angles.
Students and teachers had fun and learned a lot. Currently, we are building skills to help with math. After these foundational skills, I will be teaching students and teachers how to make their own video games. Don’t tell anyone, but there may be more math involved! If you are interested in having me come to your school or classroom to do some coding, or other ed tech things, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Rick Weinburg, CA BOCES Model Schools
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