MuseForJews

muse: n. a source of inspiration

The Programming Dilemma

Like everyone else, I’ve been reading all the back-and-forth about the need to teach programming. Like everyone else, I’m wondering when we’re supposed to find the time to do it. “How many languages can we teach in one day?” I ask…

An article in Mother Jones addresses this issue, stating that “computer literacy is the key to winning the 21st century.” I’m not exactly sure what winning the century means, but I found the article a fascinating read.

During this past school year, I had the opportunity to run two specials for 6th graders who were interested in coding. As it happened, one was a small group of boys, and the second a small group of girls. The differences were interesting. For example, the boys were mostly interested  in designing games via Gamestar Mechanic, and the girls were more interested in a methodical class in an actual programming language; working through Khan Academy’s JavaScript course. Differences aside, one thing that I did observe across the board, though, was that we needed a lot of time to go through the lessons.

Time? We just don’t have so much of it.

One way our school addressed this was to start an extra-curricular Code Club run by parents. Students sign up (and pay separately) and come to school on a Sunday evening to learn how to code. It was immensely popular…with the kids who were interested in coding. Obviously, since this was a self-selected group, it was, well, great for the kids who identified an interest.

But it occurs to me that “winning the 21st Century” needs to be about getting everybody on board, or at least more students than the ones who self-identify as wannabe programmers.

The article at Mother Jones brings up a different tactic, one that I’m interested in exploring; the principle of computational thinking. This intrigues me. It’s about teaching kids how to approach solving problems in a systematic, logical manner.

I recently worked with our 7th graders to design digital scavenger hunts using ARISgames. It’s a terrific platform, and requires no programming skills. But it does require some careful thinking about what needs to be in place in order to make things happen. It also requires careful attention to syntax (and what 7th grader cares about syntax? Slashes…we don’t need no stinkin’ slashes…).

Most of the kids loved it.

Maybe that’s the way to go…computational thinking, not programming. If they want to learn to code later, so be it. But maybe, for now, we’ll teach them how to create, how to use systematic thinking to solve their problems and get from here to there.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Programming | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Planning to organize your smart phone or iPad apps this summer? Check out Mashable’s guide to creative organization strategies.

We’re so excited that we’re “going Google” next year! If you’d like to learn a little more about Google Apps for Education, visit Google’s overview.  There are some great tutorials here.

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Links | | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Need a place on the web to quickly post graphics or information? Check out Tackk.

Should schools still be teaching cursive handwriting? This New York Times article explores the issue. Read more here.

GoSoapBox is another student response website (like Socrative or Nearpod). You create an “event,” and your students join using a computer or mobile device. You can embed quizzes, polls or discussions. There’s also a cool “confusion barometer” so you students can let you know if they’re stuck (could we have one of those in life, please?). Teachers can download graded spreadsheets or activity reports.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | | Leave a comment

What happens when you show kids an Apple II computer? Check it out:

For a fascinating look at how quickly data is generated on the Internet, check out The Internet in Real Time.

SAMR is a method of integrating technology into your teaching (SAMR – Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition). This graphic takes apps and websites and arranges them in a way that helps you decide what is the best technology to use to achieve your goals. Love it!

More free art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art! Full size images! Copyright-free for non-commercial use!

The Yivo Institute has just released their digital archive featuring some fascinating artifacts from life in pre-Holocaust Poland. There are photos, amateur videos, audio clips and more. Access it here.

If you’ve used PowToon before with your class, take a moment to check out the changes. If you haven’t used it, give it a glance. PowToons are animated presentations – think PowerPoint with oomph. My 7th graders are using it right now, and I think they’re really enjoying it!

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Links, Links You'll Love | , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love – 5-16-14

The end is coming! Yes, folks, we are getting ready for the final days of school! Here are two great links for preparing end-of-year activities. Purpose games is a free site where you can create multi-choice games, image games and more. eQuizShow  is a site created by a student where you can create Jeopardy-like game shows.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, listen to this interview with Professor Elizabeth Lawley, and learn more about Rochester Institute of Technology’s efforts to introduce social gaming into the undergraduate experience. It’s just a fascinating experiment – and I think it could be modified for lots of other frameworks.

Teachers have long been using reflection activities such as exit slips, journaling and more. We just know that these techniques work! A new study finds we’re right (duh)! This article discusses the long-lasting merits of taking time to have your students reflect on their learning.

Okay – this is unique… Booktrack Classroom is a web service that allows your students (or you) to take a book or their own story and add a soundtrack. Basically it looks like you paste in your text and then add background music to enhance it. I like this a lot – I think it would be a fun end-of-year activity for your students! Learn more at Booktrack.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Poster My Wall is a cool site to create a poster online. You can upload photos, customize the background and colors, and add text. You can download a basic quality image for free or order a printed poster.

There is absolutely no reason for This is Sand to exist, except that it’s really cool (and not a little zen) to be able to digitally “pour” sand onto your laptop screen and change the colors. Way cheaper than buying sand sculptures at the fair and no mess!

Wanna play a game? Check out National Geographic Kids. You can choose among geography games, action games, arcade games and more. Arcademics offers educational games (Demolition Division, anyone?) that are categorized by both subject and grade.

Go take a hike! Really! A recent Stanford study found that people are more creative while walking. Read more here.

For a while, it seemed like everyone was doing their own cover of the “Frozen” soundtrack. Well, finally, here it is… b’ivrit. Yup. You’re welcome.

If you want to quickly create a Jeopardy-like game show board to use with your student, check out FlipQuiz. The basic account is free and you can save your boards online.

Here’s a thought-provoking article at Te@chthought about the 22 things we currently do in education that will embarrass us in the future. I definitely don’t agree with all of them, but I think that it’s surely food for thought. Read more here.

Tal Fortgang is a freshman at Princeton University and is, by many accounts, an example of a young man who enjoys “being privileged.” He’s written a powerful essay about being middle-class, Jewish and white…and judged for it. Check it out here.

We love word cloud generators! You know, those fun applications that take a chunk of text and make it into a pretty picture where the most-often used words are bigger than the others… Here’s a great article that points you to ten – yes, ten – sites for creating word clouds, and gives you some neat ideas for using word clouds in the classroom.

If you’re thinking about flipping your classroom, check out hapyak, which allows you to add links and quizzes to videos.

There’s no question that the use of online video has grown exponentially over the last few years. The Pew Research has created a cool video on, well, video. Check it out here.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love – 4-11-14

Can sharing a film stop bullying? Interesting question. The makers of this film have created a little film with a meaning. The film is a plaintive black and white animation with the simple message that sharing bullying – talking about it – will end bullying. Every time you share it the film gets a little shorter, metaphorically wiping bullying out. Check it out (but don’t use Chrome – it crashed my Chrome browser several times).

Next week, we will participate in what writer Maya Bernstein calls “a model of creative education.” I’m talking, of course, about the Seder. Read more here.

Looking for SMART Board lessons? Check out Modern Chalkboard.

Tackk is an online space to create, well, anything you want to share with anyone. It kind of reminds me of Glogster, except that you don’t need to register (but your Tackkboard will expire in 7 days if you don’t), and Tackkboards can be any size. They kind of expand as you add more stuff to them. It’s super easy to add text, videos or photos. Layout options are limited (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Visit Tackk using a computer or an iPad for more information.

April 11, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love – 4-4-14

Check out this article about Google Drive and how to make it work like desktop software.

Students love to play games in class! Here’s a great site that will create random Bingo cards from a user-defined vocabulary. If Jeopardy’s your thing, this can help.

Litpick is an awesome site with reviews of preteen and teen literature. Kids can become reviewers!

Visuwords is a cool graphical dictionary. Put in a word, hit enter, and a graphic with similar words will appear. Double click on any of the linked words to expand the illustration. Very fun!

You deserve a break today…Want to give your class a brain break? Check out GoNoodle. Sign up for a free account, specify your grade level, and choose from among a list of break activities. Whether you’re looking for a calming exercise (Flow is a nice one), an active one (Zumba kids, anyone?), or a stress reliever, GoNoodle has colorful, entertaining videos that will be fun to show on your SMART Board or projector. The site does require Flash, so it can’t be played on an iPad.

Have you been following The Story of the Jews on PBS? The companion website has featured videos, photos, extension lessons on such topics as the Cairo Genizah, Zionism and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Well done!

A restaurant with no cash register…think about a different kind of “soup kitchen.” Read about Masbia, a restaurant chain in New York that feeds the hungry and endeavors to preserve their dignity at the same time. Feast on it here.

Interested in flipping your class? Free Technology for Teachers has some terrific suggestions.

Remembering those we lose…my friend Esther Kustanowitz writes about inheriting a gold ring, and the memories that come with it in her essay here.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Links, Links You'll Love | , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love – 3-14-12

Happy 25th birthday, World Wide Web! Yup, a quarter century ago, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a decidedly unexciting proposal for “a “hypertext project” called “WorldWideWeb” in which a “web” of “hypertext documents” could be viewed by “browsers.”” Yeah, that’s so sexy sounding, right? Anyway, if you’re interested in reading a little more about the origin of the web, check out the article (with Berners-Lee’s original diagrams). True geek observation: I love that the slide show features Next computers (the company Steve Jobs founded during the time he was ousted as Apple’s president).

Here are a few sites that are useful for student collaboration or mind mapping: Padlet - create a wall and your students can put sticky notes on it. Today’s Meet is a more linear display – comments will appear in chronological order. It’s super easy to use. Bubbl.us is terrific for mindmapping, but it is Flash based, so you’ll want to use it on a laptop or desktop.

Similar Site SEarch is a great way to search for sites that are, well, similar to another site. Let’s say you’re looking for YouTube alternatives. Type YouTube.com into the search bar, and alternatives will appear. Nice!

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love – 3-7-12

It’s Purim time! Time for some shtick(ers)… download G-dcast’s Shticker App and put, well, shtickers all over your photos. You know you wanna!

GoIsrael has a nifty new Discover Israel Interactive Movie, which you can access from a computer or via mobile device app. Check it out.

Instagrok is a really cool way to research anything. Type in your search term, hit the “Grok” button and watch the fun! You’ll see key facts, links to websites and online videos, images and more. Register for a free account and you can even save search results to an online journal and even share results.

A colleague and I presented a six-hour workshop on using ARIS from the University of Wisconsin to create digital scavenger hunts. That’s what we used to create the digital Purim quest in 2012. If you’re interested in seeing what materials we shared, check out my wiki.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , | Leave a comment

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