Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Plea for Your Help

As a tech integrator, it's sort of expected of me to keep current on the latest trends in technology and their impact on education.  While I didn't start out looking to be a tech integrator, and while I still maintain a little (at least I hope it's healthy!) skepticism about how technology is used in education, I've also witnessed a number of educational trends that mirror technology trends in life and in business.  Mostly, I'm really inspired by the growth of the Maker and Hacker movements, where everyday people create DIY solutions to problems and put technology to work making a difference in people's lives, and how that is beginning to be applied in education.  I don't have a lot of knowledge or experience in the Maker movement myself, but I would like to learn and get started, so I can bring that learning to students.  The good thing is that there is no shortage of technology tools out there for kids to get their hands on.  Things like Makey Makey, which let you make game controllers out of everyday objects, or Arduino boards, which let you build and program your own micro-controllers to program robots.  And 3-D printers?  Wow, how awesome would having one of those be?  I think I could help make school a pretty awesome place with this kind of equipment.  But, I have good news and bad news and you when it comes to all of this stuff:

Here's the bad news -- I have access to very few of these things.  

So what's the good news?  I do have access to the Internet, which I can use to connect with you.  So, now that we're here, together (does that sound weird?), I am going to make my shameless plea to you:

I need your help.  

I need better access to materials that let our students be creators and Makers and users of technology that go far and above playing video games and chatting with their friends.  I want students to be connected to the Maker movement.  I want students to build things that are awesome, produce things for other people, and make things that matter.  I want to work with students to stay in tune with their interests, and to pursue those interests in powerful new ways.  So, I've created a Wish List on Amazon to ask for your support.  My goal is to try to find as many things that would support our students that don't cost thousands of dollars, and as I find them I will add them to my Wish List.  I know this time of the year is tough, but if there is anyway that you can help, I would so greatly appreciate it!  And if you do support us, make sure to include your name and a way to get in touch with you so we can send you our thanks!!

If you've followed my blog before, you know that I've been shoulder-deep in LEGO robotics for a year-and-a-half now, and I absolutely love it.  But LEGO robotics is just the beginning.  They enjoy a long and prosperous future at the core of what I do with students around technology.  But I want to go deeper.  My long-term goals were always to bring in the Maker movement into my schools, and I'm having a hard time making that happen.  Hopefully, with the right equipment, and your support, we can make that a reality for the students and schools that I serve.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hour of Code is Back!

One of greatest and most fun projects I participated in last year was the Hour of Code.  The Hour of Code, part of Computer Science Education Week, encourages teachers and students to spend (at least) an hour learning about computer science.  The reasons are obvious:  at a time where computer science is in greater and greater demand in the job market, an alarmingly few number of schools include it in their curriculum.  Hour of Code was designed to pique the curiosity of students everywhere, and then help them access resources to help them learn how to code, whether at school or at home.

Last year, I did the Hour of Code with teachers and students from 6 different classrooms across my four schools.  They joined the nearly 20 million students from across the globe who participated!  Their goal this year is to reach over 100 participants, and I hope that even more of my classrooms will help contribute to that number!

At the elementary level, my colleague Mrs. Hayslip and I created a page with links to the various Hour of Code activities we will be working with on the RSU #20 Elementary Libraries page.  The best part about Hour of Code activities is that there is no experience required for teachers; activities are provided online, and tutorials are baked right into the activities.  And, for classrooms with less access to technology, they even have activities that don't require computers or Internet access!  I am looking forward to bringing this opportunity back to my classrooms again this year!