Video of Sonic Pi, the Music Programming Program
One of the reasons I'm very excited for the 2014-2015 Ed Tech School Year or ETSY is that I get to be involved in tech clubs in the Elementary Schools in our District. So, naturally I took home and ordered some toys and try them out so that I'd have some cool things to share with the kids when we get these clubs officially going early this school year. I'm going to be doing more to keep up my blog this year and with the Tech Clubs starting up, I've got so much to talk about!
I received at about 10:30 am a package from Amazon that contained a Raspberry Pi Starter kit. I spent a majority of the afternoon (well, an entire afternoon) playing with it and getting used to the more command-based interface. At about 2 o'clock I hit a wall and wondered why this complicated tool would be valuable, but after a few exercises found on the Raspberry Pi website I had a breakthrough. The point of this terrific little tool is to teach us how to use line commands to get the computer to do specific things. The more I tried to learn the game, the easier it became. I'm not yet qualified to work for NASA but I'm closer than I was this morning!
So, just an overview of the Raspberry Pi- it's a small computer that is an open circuit board. It costs about $37 and runs the Linux OS. It comes to us from our friends Across the Pond who formed an organization to teach students in the UK to program and understand how computers work. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has a very helpful website that really helped to break the ice for me today.
One of my favorite activities was to program the tune, Frere Jaques in the Sonic Pi application that comes free with the device itself. Instead of typing the notes (CDEC, etc...) I had to program "Play 60, Sleep 0.5, Play 64". It was very fun. I figured out how to program chords. I am looking forward to learning more about this little gadget and getting my students to see what they can control.
If you haven't tried to use this device and would like to, I'd like to share some support helps that were most helpful today:
This is a very cool tool that I'd love to collaborate with other educators and interested folks to find out how this is being used in classrooms. There is a community of Pi People that have provided their supports and resources that I will be frequenting here. I cannot wait to learn more! Please Tweet Me your ideas!
Leadership is rewarding and challenging. When well received, I enjoy leadership very much. Being able to help people with something that they needed help in my Ed Tech capacity is one of my most favorite things. Just as teaching something meaningful to students in my 5th grade classroom contributed to enthusiasm for teaching and were the experiences that reminded me of my reason for teaching school. As I have worked with adults to help them transition to the world of teaching through technology I have had similar rewarding experiences helping them to maintain and often regain their enthusiasm for teaching by reaching students through engaging tools and resources available through technology. Leadership can be challenging when those I am leading are difficult to lead through stubbornness or because I have to figure out why I am not successfully reaching them. Working through these challenges have helped me to become a stronger leader that can anticipate issues and not be shaken when they arise.
Leadership skills must be developed. I have found that although I love teaching, I need to continue to develop my content understanding and be reflective of my approach to teaching to be an effective leader. Technology lends itself to continual development because the rate of obsolescence is so rapid. In order to keep a current knowledge of available resources and current technology I have to spend time researching and finding ways to implement them in the classroom.
I have found that one reservation teachers have regarding technology is the overwhelming changes that seem to come daily. It can seem that once they learn something new and embrace it, the technology is no longer useful and has been replaced by another mystifying product and process. I feel like my role as an Ed Tech, much like my role as a teacher of children, is to help demystify the content for my students. I can help them learn to navigate an iOS device and then show them how the gestures and screens are meant to be similar so that when learning a new app, the consumer will be able to figure out how to use the app without much guidance. Much like teaching a first grader that when a word ends in an “e” the vowel in the middle is going to be long. This knowledge ties into future words and provides the student with the knowledge to decode words they find without being explicitly taught. Learning about technology is learning to play the game.
As a teacher, I know it is important to never stop learning. I had this hope for the children I taught, so I must apply the standard to myself. One of the things I love about being an Ed Tech is that I have opportunities to learn every day. When I become bored or not excited about my job generally, I find that I stop and take time to learn something new. This helps me renew my enthusiasm for teaching and causes me to want to find someone with whom I can share my learning. Creating a website where I can locate my content with teachers has been helpful in sharing my knowledge and giving me a way to publish what I know with teachers and colleagues. Talking with other educators also gives me a way to learn more and become a better teacher. One of the amazing strengths of technology is that it allows a Professional Learning Community (PLC) to interface and collaborate in a way that has not been available before. I have used this feature as a way to grow as a professional and help those I serve as a leader in this Ed Tech capacity.
The challenge of teaching technology to teachers is helping to assuage the fears and concerns that they will never be able to keep up with the changes mentioned earlier. I believe that one of the functions of school as we move forward in technological progress will be to teach students how to use the technology in responsible and effective ways that will make them successful people when they leave school. Often devices and social networking is simple enough to use that students will utilize them without guidance.
I think of an analogy to explain this idea. A piano is pretty straight forward as to how to make it work. You touch a key and sound comes out. You hit it harder, the sound is louder. Touch the key softer, the corresponding sound is softer. Push down on several keys at once, the sound changes and different tones are revealed. Someone could easily figure out this much by touching the piano without any guidance at all. How does one make music? This step would require some guidance. I think of this with students and technology. They can figure out how to use Twitter on their own or with little peer guidance. They will need someone to teach them how to utilize Twitter in a research capacity to find primary source information for a project. They will need someone to teach them how to use an app like Evernote to synthesize learning. They will need someone to teach them about security concerns that arise from posting private information online. Some fear that technology will make human teachers obsolete. I think it will make human teachers more valuable than ever.
Parents are responsible for helping students to become successful just as they have always been. However, an important role of the teacher is to help students and parents see the academic role of technology. This partnership is more important than it has ever been. Teachers are leaders for students, other teachers, and parents. In assuming this role, we have a responsibility to be as literate with technology as we are with grammar and mathematics. We must be critical thinkers who implement thoughtful use of technology in classrooms where it enhances and does not distract from the learning. In order to effectively implement thoughtful use, we must know what is available. Collaborating with peers and other stakeholders in education will allow us to be more effective in understanding the resources available and our role in teaching technology.
I wrote many papers in school. I don't remember most of them and I'm sure many were not a pleasure to grade and evaluate. I have also taken many exams over the course of my school career. I also don't remember most of what was on the tests or what they were assessing. These methods of evaluating understanding have their place and are important to learning how to be successful in school and, by extension, life.
In class this week, I couldn't help but think about some more memorable alternatives to student demonstration of knowledge. Project-Based learning is a very accepted way of learning, but has logistical challenges that can prevent educators from fully embracing daily application of allowing the students to demonstrate understanding through projects that integrate other areas of the curriculum and teach them to use research tools and be discerning, critical thinkers.
I am seeing that technology may be an important bridge over the logistical challenge gap. For instance, we learned about "Fakebook". This is an interesting tool that could help a student to synthesize historical knowledge in a way that speaks to how they understand 21st century interactions in social media. Even though the subjects they research may have been dead long before computers existed, they can still create a fun Facebook-like page that shows how they would have interacted with their contemporaries had it been available. For fun in class this week I made one about Mickey Mouse that brings in some light information about the Red Scare and international relations at the time of Mickey's inception. It is very short, but helped me see the possibilities of engaging students with history in a new way. To learn about the causes of World War II, a teacher could have the students write a term paper, OR they could create a Fakebook page that demonstrates their understanding of figures, dates, and context. I think many students would prefer the latter project.
I think that as teachers find more and more tools and resources available using technology, students will receive a higher quality education. I look forward to learning more about what other "tricks" I could use to keep learning novel and engaging. This is becoming easier and easier as I can connect with educators through Twitter and other PLN building tools.
I had the opportunity to sit in on an installment of the Canyons App Club at Jordan High School last week. I felt really excited about what was happening with these students as I participated in some simple JAVA coding that basically made a turtle move around the screen. It was really engaging nonetheless. It was like learning magic. I left feeling that what's happening with these kids in the App club is very important.
The facilitators explained that there are many computer programming jobs that have to go unfilled because of the lack of qualified applicants. The students' ages ranged from 6th grade to 12th grade and they were all very excited about what they were learning. I was surprised how easily they took to the somewhat technical instructions given them. Even though I just practiced with some simple coding, I felt the process become a little demystified. I saw the trajectory the students had begun that, if followed, could lead them to a successful future in an area where their skills would be exceptional and valued.
If we are trying to help the students to be "college and/or career ready", this is what it looks like. I look forward to seeing more of what the students are doing in this App club and perhaps extending it to younger students. I learned about a website, Code.org, and an organization, Plural Site, that is available to teach kids and adults computer programming. One hang up teachers have about facilitating something like this with their students is not having the knowledge base to confidently teach it. These resources are available to practice and learn the concepts to teach students. Plural Site has some modules that guide students through some simple programming available for free. They are also willing to come to schools and help facilitate workshops for teachers and students.
I haven't seen a lesson in a long time that felt so important. The students seemed to react the same way. It's really a great thing to see the students excited to learn something that is very relevant to their future! Programming uses so many skills that teachers work to activate in students everyday, sometimes without success. Many students are quite interested in technology and would like to work in a related field someday. Teaching them the language of programming opens those doors and helps them to be successful in a field they enjoy. These skills they begin in middle school could lead them to great success as scientific innovators. I can't wait to learn more!
Katie Dewey Hill
This is a space to blog about my thoughts on mostly education technology.