critical thinking

4 Unplugged Activities for Hour of Code

Hour of Code is a time when teachers show students why they should love-not-fear coding and students find out that these activities — often seen as geeky or impossible — aren’t. They’re actually fun.

Every year in preparation for December, I post lots of coding activities that students can complete with their computers, on the Internet, or using iPads, but this year, I want to do something different. Let’s go back to the roots of coding. The idea started as a clever way to teach students to think critically and problem-solve. The easiest way was to gamify coding, put students on a digital device they loved, and set them free. One hour, according to Hour of Code, would show them that deep thinking was fun and problem-solving was exhilarating.

I happen to agree. Some of my most gratifying moments are when I accomplish the impossible, unravel a Mobius Strip-like problem, or force myself to do what I’ve never before done. Hour of Code does that every year for oh many students. But here’s my issue: Too often, kids forget that the goal is to practice critical thinking and problem solving, not pursue a career in programming.

This year, I want to reinforce that goal by stepping away from technology. I want students to recognize that these skills — critical thinking and problem-solving — apply to any part of life, even without a computer, iPad, or smartphone in hand. All kids need is their brain which happily, every child carries with them.

Here are some of my favorite unplugged activities:

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Categories: critical thinking | Tags: ,

Websites for Hour of Code by Grade

This December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:

hour of code

  • abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
  • creativity – think outside the box
  • if-then thinking – actions have consequences
  • debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Look at what happened and fix where it went wrong.
  • logic – go through a problem from A to Z
  • sequencing – know what happens when

If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are a series of activities — broken down by grade — that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.

Continue reading

Categories: critical thinking, problem solving | Tags: , ,

Hour of Code 101

December 9-15th, 2019, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to students on coding, programming, and why they should love it, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. This year’s theme:

Computer Science for Good #CSforGood

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike.  It feels like:

When it should feel like:

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Categories: critical thinking, problem solving | Tags: ,

10 Unusual Projects for Hour of Code

Coding–that geeky subject that confounds students and frightens teachers. Yet, kids who can code are better at logical thinking and problem solving, more independent and self-assured, and more likely to find a job when they graduate. In fact, according to Computer Science Educationby 2020, there will be 1.4 million coding jobs and only 400,000 applicants.

December 3-9, 2018, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Here are ten unusual projects (each, about one hour in length) you can use in your classroom to participate in this wildly popular event:

  1. Alt Codes
  2. Animation
  3. Coding with pixel art
  4. Human robot
  5. Human algorithm
  6. IFTTT
  7. Macros
  8. QR codes
  9. Shortkeys
  10. Wolfram Alpha widgets

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Categories: critical thinking | Tags: ,

What to do when you lose a digital document

can't find my fileWith classwork and homework now heavily digital, the days of “the dog ate my homework” are gone. It’s simple to track, isn’t it? It’s right on the student’s LMS account or in their digital portfolio, somewhere in the cloud.

Maybe. But the latest excuses are even more frightening — “Someone stole it from my digital file” or “The cloud ate it”. Every adult I know (myself included) has lost a critical, time-sucking digital file. It was saved wrong or got corrupted or simply vanished. The reason doesn’t matter. All that matters is that a week’s worth of work is now forever-gone.

Saving work correctly on a digital device isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s a learning curve to knowing where to save, how to do that correctly, and then ultimately how to retrieve it. It can be especially complicated for students who use a different digital device at home than the one they use at school. Sure, it’s pretty easy if saved to a school-centric cloud account (like Google or One Drive) but that’s not always the case. If students use an online webtool, their work could be saved in that webtool’s server or as a link rather than a file.

Most kids learn how to properly save/retrieve digital files by suffering a painful experience. Before that happens, teach them this first place to look when save fails and they must search for it:

  • Go to the digital device’s general Search field. This will find the file if it’s on that digital device or any drive connected to it.
  • Search for the exact name or whatever part of the name is known. If you’ve taught students to always include their last name in a filename, they will now thank you!
  • If they don’t know the file name but do know the file extension (maybe it was created in Google Docs or Excel), search for that using the general search term: *.[extension]. In this case, * is a general search term and replaces the file name. If they don’t even have that much information, look down this page under “When did you create the file?” for help.

I start students saving their own files and understanding what that means as soon as they create work on a digital device they want to be able to find at a later date. I start very (very) simply and scaffold year to year. When they can’t find a project, here are six questions they can ask themselves:

A note before starting: Don’t answer these for students. Let them experience the thrill of critically thinking through how to solve this problem successfully.

Where did you save it?

Most programs have a default location where files are saved. This may be preset by the school (or parents) or it may be the system default. Where is that? If the student doesn’t know, this is a good time to have them ask that question.

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Categories: critical thinking, Tech Tips

Fake News or Fact? How do you tell?

fake newsKeeping up with national and international events was a lot easier when all the news came from one of three major TV news outlets and a few newspapers like The New York Times. Now, there are dozens of channels, hundreds of newspapers, thousands of bloggers, and tens of thousands of social media journalists — all trying to get your attention with the latest apocalyptic news flash. Stories based on gossip as much as fact used to be designated Yellow Journalism. Now, in what has been called a post-truth society (defined by Oxford Dictionary as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”), it is the reader’s responsibility to differentiate between fact and fake news.

What is fake news?

Here are two definitions of fake news:

“false stories that appear to be news, spread on the Internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke” — Cambridge English Dictionary

“a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.” — Wikipedia

In layspeak:

“Fake news is information reported as fact without reliable evidence, trustworthy sources, and/or proper vetting” — Jacqui Murray

Sounds like something every thinking person would want to avoid but a recent Stanford Graduate School of Education report shows that 80-90% of high school students had difficulty judging the credibility of news. So how do we teach students to know the difference?

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Categories: critical thinking, news

Hour of Code Lesson Plans by Grade

hour of codeThis December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:

  • abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
  • creativity – think outside the box
  • if-then thinking – actions have consequences
  • debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Fix it.
  • logic – go through a problem from A to Z
  • sequencing – know what happens when

If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are activities by grade that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.

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Categories: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, critical thinking, high school, lesson plans, problem solving | Tags:

10 Unusual Projects for Hour of Code

Coding–that geeky subject that confounds students and frightens teachers. Yet, kids who can code are better at logical thinking and problem solving, more independent and self-assured, and more likely to find a job when they graduate. In fact, according to Computer Science Educationby 2020, there will be 1.4 million coding jobs and only 400,000 applicants.

December 3-9, 2018, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Here are ten unusual projects (each, about one hour in length) you can use in your classroom to participate in this wildly popular event:

  1. Alt Codes
  2. Animation
  3. Coding with pixel art
  4. Human robot
  5. Human algorithm
  6. IFTTT
  7. Macros
  8. QR codes
  9. Shortkeys
  10. Wolfram Alpha widgets

Continue reading

Categories: critical thinking | Tags: ,

Hour of Code 101

December 3-9th, 2018, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to students on coding, programming, and why they should love it, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Throughout participating websites, you’ll find a variety of self-guided tutorials that say “anybody can do, on a browser, tablet, or smartphone”. You’ll even find unplugged tutorials for classrooms without computers. No experience needed.

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike. Confess, when you think of coding, you see:

coding

 

…when you should see

coding

It feels like:

When it should feel like:

Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. If you’re not sold 100% on the importance of computer science in a student’s future, watch this video:

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Categories: critical thinking, problem solving | Tags: ,

A Thanksgiving Poll for Students–What does ‘Turkey’ mean?

Last year, I did a poll on the meaning of the word ‘turkey’. This was to demonstrate how powerful symbols are to your students and do so with an authentic use of technology to support discussion on math, language standards, and the holidays.

As a summation to your discussion with students on symbols, idiomatic expressions, geography, farms, or another topic, post this on your Smartscreen. The poll includes lots of definitions for the word ‘turkey’. Have each student come up sometime during the day (or class) and make their choices.

What definitions did your students come up with I didn’t list?

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Categories: critical thinking, holidays, lesson plans

Innovative Ways to Encourage Writing

Knowledge is meant to be shared. That’s what writing is about–taking what you know and putting it out there for all to see. When students hear the word “writing”, most think paper-and-pencil, maybe word processing, but that’s the vehicle, not the goal. According to state and national standards (even international), writing is expected to “provide evidence in support of opinions”, “examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately”, and/or “communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose”. Nowhere do standards dictate a specific tool be used to accomplish the goals.

In fact, the tool students select to share knowledge will depend upon their specific learning style. Imagine if you–the artist who never got beyond stick figures–had to draw a picture that explained the nobility inherent in the Civil War. Would you feel stifled? Would you give up? Now put yourself in the shoes of the student who is dyslexic or challenged by prose as they try to share their knowledge.

When you first bring this up in your class, don’t be surprised if kids have no idea what you’re talking about. Many students think learning starts with the teacher talking and ends with a quiz. Have them take the following surveys:

Both are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Harold Gardner’s iconic model for mapping out learning modalities such as linguistic, hands-on, kinesthetic, math, verbal, and art. Understanding how they learn explains why they remember more when they write something down or read their notes rather than listening to a lecture. If they learn logically (math), a spreadsheet is a good idea. If they are spatial (art) learners, a drawing program is a better choice.

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Categories: critical thinking, education reform, Web 2.0, writing | Tags:

What is a Growth Mindset?

growth mindsetIt’s no secret many parents are frustrated with public schools. Are kids learning to think or just to pass tests? Are they spending classroom time wisely or just doing what’s always been done? Are we developing lifelong learners or simply kids who can’t wait to graduate?

If this describes you, you’re not alone in your concerns, but there’s hope. Consider a pedagogy that transcends rote memorization and the stock drills often found in today’s classrooms, expects critical thinking that teaches how to learn anything — not just school subjects. It’s called a “Growth Mindset”. In an Edsurge article by Rupa Gupta, former Redesign Administrator at Burnett Middle School in San Jose, Calif., she summarized the issue like this:

“In a recent national survey, 97 percent of teachers agreed that all students can and should have a growth mindset, and that same number said fostering a growth mindset is an important part of a teacher’s job. Yet only 50 percent said they have adequate solutions and strategies to shift mindset.”

So nearly everyone agrees this type of cerebral approach is important to real learning but few know how to make it happen.

What is Growth Mindset?

Let me back up a moment and define “Growth Mindset” more clearly. Most people believe basic human qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits: nature supersedes nurture. Kids are born with the characteristics that will mold their future. They are good at math or they aren’t. They can throw a football well or not. As kids grow, they figure out what they can and can’t do and adjust learning and life as needed to these truths. They come to believe that understanding and adapting to this process equates to success.

In a Growth Mindset, people believe ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. The cerebral and physical traits they were born with are just the starting point. Students are responsible for setting the patterns and strategies that allow them to succeed, by evaluating what they can do at any given point and making a plan for learning everything else.

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Categories: classroom management, critical thinking, education reform | Tags: ,

10 Projects to Kickstart Hour of Code

Coding–that geeky subject that confounds students and frightens teachers. Yet, kids who can code are better at logical thinking and problem solving, more independent and self-assured, and more likely to find a job when they graduate. In fact, according to Computer Science Educationby 2020, there will be 1.4 million coding jobs and only 400,000 applicants.

December 4-10, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

Here are ten projects (each, about one hour in length) you can use in your classroom to participate in this wildly popular event:

Continue reading

Categories: critical thinking | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Websites for Hour of Code by Grade

hour of codeThis December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:

  • abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
  • creativity – think outside the box
  • if-then thinking – actions have consequences
  • debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Look at what happened and fix where it went wrong.
  • logic – go through a problem from A to Z
  • sequencing – know what happens when

If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are a series of activities — broken down by grade — that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.

Continue reading

Categories: critical thinking, problem solving | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Hour of Code 101

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike. Confess, when you think of coding, you see:

coding

 

…when you should see

coding

It feels like:

When it should feel like:

December 4-10, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

Continue reading

Categories: critical thinking, problem solving | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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