Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Itching to Tell A Story

I had a wee brainwave over the weekend in the place I get most of my brainwaves - the shower!  Let's actually take this itch we have begun to create with Scratch as our tool and demonstrate how well they can use technology to demonstrate their learning in literacy.  Let's retell a story - any story that is not an original.

Some students have chosen nursery rhymes, others Māori legends and still others fairy tales.  Their parameters also include the use of original sprites, backgrounds and, if required, voice overs.

The original sprites have prompted students into using Google Drawings with some students using this tool for the first time.  We have also begun to explore an online drawing tool called DrawIsland which works with greater functionality on the laptops than the iPads. I have yet to have a whirl at it on the Chromebooks.

Students are experimenting with the ability in Scratch Jr to create your own sprites with some very unique results.  Most are complaining loudly about their lack of skill with tablet art - another area for further exploration, along with music creation, in the future.

A question I was asked by some students as they selected stories has raised another possibility for a passion-based project - using Scratch to create an autobiography.  Yes, they wanted to tell their life story.

There are still questions flying around the room and answers coming from all quarters as varying students acquire, use and dispense knowledge.  I am now looking forward to seeing the final products of their endeavours.  Pictures to come....

Friday, 18 November 2016

Scratch That Itch

The Hour of Code has led us into exploring Scratch as a programming tool similar to the blocks of code used last week.

Today was simply about exploring Scratch.  Students who generally work on either Chromebooks or the class Mac laptops set up accounts using the website with me acting as their parent or guardian to approve and keep track of passwords.  The iPad users are experimenting on the free version - Scratch Jr.  We will look at budgeting the full version of Scratch into the 2017 app purchasing plan.

True to form, the students proved quick learners, collaborating to advance their knowledge of both the use of the programming blocks and adapting the avatars.  Questions rang out around the class with answers coming from all directions - except me.  It was a powerful example of tuakana-teina at work.  Not all of the newly created 'experts' in one area were able to be 'experts' in another, seeking help from those who were.

While at this stage the initial introduction to new ways ad tools of learning are being teacher directed, once the students get their teeth past the initial stages they are taking agency over what and how they learn it.  It is great to stand back a little and become one of the learners in this part of the journey we are taking together.  It is fast getting to the point where the students will outdo the teacher.

There has been discussion amongst the students already about how they could use this - aiming to direct these ideas to help them demonstrate learning will become my challenge.

Now that they have 'dipped their toes' into Scratch it is time to let the itch spread - learn more about the way this coding tool can be used for creation and share their creations with each other.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Hour of Code

Following our cool wee task in problem solving the students were introduced to the Hour Of Code website.  As a school, Waiouru has a bit of a passion for Star Wars so the students chose to work through the 'Build A Galaxy with Code' activities.

It was great to see all students have such a huge sense of success as they worked their way through the levels, working out where the programming blocks used last week looked similar to those being coded with this week.  They quickly deduced that different blocks had different purposes, how they needed to change numbers on movement blocks, begin with a start command and build their ability to code ever increasing requests of their characters.

The students who initially struggled were placed in a support-buddy combination to get their feet off the ground with the block coding format and, as the coding became more challenging, to assist with the knowledge of angles and repeated coding sequences to be successful.  Problem solving their way through these challenges resulted in a sense of achievement some were not accustomed to in such a short space of time.

So what does this mean as far as my inquiry goes?  The introduction to coding has been received with greater enthusiasm than I have seen in past classes, albeit they had slower internet, less flipped learning and not as many devices.  Another difference I found was the girls being equally as engaged as the boys, with some being quicker to solve problems than the boys.  There was great excitement as the students problem solved their way through the levels, with a slight air of competition developing among some students also.

Discussions after working with the activities revealed the students had enjoyed the challenges presented and found the videos that assist at various stages a big help.  They liked the block coding and the opportunity to fail before succeeding as tasks got harder.  They had a greater understanding of the concept of FAIL - First Attempt In Learning, and took the perseverance from their gaming world into coding.  The students who initially struggled were surprised at how quickly they were able to learn the basics of coding, enjoying the power found in collaboration.

I am looking forward to extending these findings further as we transfer their learning into Scratch and other programming formats to create games and control our newly acquired robots.  The 'don't know' from 'They don't know what they don't know' is shrinking as the term progresses.  Bring on the next level of challenges.