Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Amazing Educational Opportunities

As I see it, my job is to provide amazing educational opportunities for students and teachers. And while my focus is on educational technology, those amazing educational opportunities (as far as I am concerned) can happen with or without the use of technology.

One such amazing educational opportunity happened this morning. But first, some background.

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Stephanie Coleman, aka Kahoot Steph. Steph is in charge of teacher happiness at Kahoot. Steph works in Kahoot's London, England office. My friend Josh Allen was connecting schools together to play a Dr. Seuss Kahoot. Steph saw us Tweeting about it and asked if she could join us. So through the magic of Google Hangouts, one of my first grade classrooms and a classroom in Josh's district joined Steph in London for a game of Dr. Seuss Kahoot. Steph was kind enough to answer some questions that the students had prepared. A great time was had by all.

Fast forward to this past summer. I was fortunate enough to attend the ISTE Conference in Denver. And who did I get to meet in person?! Why Kahoot Steph of course! She even remembered our Kahoot Google Hangout.

Two of my third grade classrooms (Jolene Groninger at Woodland Park Elementary and Lori Coffin at Grant Elementary) wanted to challenge each other to a Kahoot. As I was discussing with the teachers how we could do this through Google Hangouts, I mentioned that Steph might be able to join us from London. What an amazing opportunity for our students to talk to someone in another country. So I reached out to Steph and she was game!

So this morning, Mrs. Coffin's 3rd grade classroom at Grant Elementary took on Mrs. Groninger's 3rd grade classroom at Woodland Park and Steph joined in from London.

The Kahoot was personalized with student names from each classroom. I even made an appearance as a Kahoot question!

After the Kahoot was over, Steph answered questions prepared by the students. Students wanted to know everything from what children in London wanted for Christmas, to Steph's favorite song (the Kahoot theme song of course), to what she calls potato chips and has she ever met the Queen.

As Steph was answering questions, Mrs. Groninger and I wrote notes on the board of things the students might want to research. Steph talked about mince pie and Christmas pudding as well as Big Ben and the Thames. The students were going to be busy researching to learn more about the things Steph talked about.

What started out as a challenge from one classroom in Norfolk to another turned out to be an amazing global event.

As I said in the intro, my job is to provide amazing educational opportunities for teachers and students. I am not sure how I will top this one, but I will try.

Thank you to Lori Coffin, Jolene Groninger and Kahoot Steph!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Good Struggle

For the second year in a row, Jefferson Elementary is doing a school wide #HourofCode event. Jefferson is a K-4 building and is 1:1 with iPads in K-2 and Chromebooks in 3-4. We decided to participate in #HourofCode last year as a unique way to take advantage of the technology the students had access to. Principal Angie Hausmann and her staff were willing to take on the challenge without knowing much about coding themselves. I liked the idea that every student in the building would be focused on the same activity at the same time.

Coding is a great activity for students. You can actually see the students thinking as they build blocks of code to complete the puzzles and mazes. Magic happens when one student figures something out and then can show her classmates. And really, coding is just learning how to think. And who couldn't benefit from that?

Tynker has become my favorite app to use with elementary students. This year we are using it with 2nd grade. The directions do require a bit of reading but 1st graders could probably use the app with help. Yesterday I spent time in the 2nd grade classrooms helping students. A lot of students were on the Lost in Space activity in Tynker. While the first level is similar to activities they had done earlier in the week, the second level, Lockdown, is a bit more challenging. As the classroom teacher and I were watching her students work I commented, "They are struggling but it is a good struggle."

Coding is an activity that requires perseverance. If the code doesn't work the first time, you need to try something else. And sometimes you have to try again and again and again. Students have definitely learned that this week.

"It is a good struggle." I think a lot of times teachers (myself included) give up the answers too easily. It is hard to watch students struggle with an activity and you want to help. But in this case, when they get the right code and you see the excitement in their face, that is a good struggle.

As the coding time was ending and the teacher was transitioning to the next activity, the kids were reluctant to put the iPads down. Some of them had spent the last 45 minutes struggling through the activities. And yet, when it was time to be done, they didn't want to stop. That is a good struggle.