Rest on Your Laurels with Tynker

laurel-wreath-297040_640As part of the Fifth grade Laurels, the students used Tynker, a block-based programming platform, to show evidence of learning about each of five ancient civilizations: Sumer/Mesopotamia, Egypt, Maya, China, Greece. This was a multi-level process as it involved first the gathering of the facts in a skeletal outline, finding and saving images to illustrate these facts, uploading these images to Tynker, then writing the code for each “actor” including the “Stage”. The students worked for approximately three class periods on their outline, basically scripting their story. Each civilization represents a scene in Tynker, and each artifact from the different civilizations will become the actors. We likened this to writing a screenplay and the students were the authors and directors. Once the outlines were written the students used Pixabay, WpClipart, Pics4Learning, or Wikimedia Commons to find images that are in the public domain. Occasionally they could not find what they were looking for so they used an advanced search on Google for images labeled for reuse. Some students chose to find and gather all their images for all the scenes prior to getting started in Tynker, others chose to do this one scene at a time and then gather for the next. Writing the code in Tynker was painstaking. The students wrote hundreds of lines of code for their story to run, many without any actions on behalf of the viewer. They encountered “bugs” (problems with how their story ran) and had to go through the lines of code to find the problem. They used creativity, perseverance, persistence, problem-solving, logical thinking, and digital citizenship skills throughout the process all while leaving their legacy and effectively using technology. Please enjoy. More to come as they are completed.

Laurel Project Showcases

Image from Pixabay

It’s About Passion

If you don’t have passion for what you do, then what you are doing will do you in.

Just my opinion of course, but I think passion is the key to turning a “job” into a vocation. After all, when you love what you are doing, it ceases to be just a job.

And, I also believe that for students, having a teacher who is passionate about their subject, who is passionate about teaching, makes all the difference in the world with respect to students’ interest and enjoyment of the class, and, I believe, their performance.

Case in point: my son who is a junior in high school has the most amazing US history teacher. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject is palpable. The students eagerly go to his class and engage with the material and the teacher in a completely different way. They are not memorizing facts and figures, they are discussing motivation, reasoning, impact on society and impact on their lives. Now, one could say that passion alone will not make a student like a class or even do well in a class. But I will say that it is a large part of what makes a class or subject come alive for them.

Case in point number 2: I happen to have introduced coding to my eighth grade students during the Hour of Code this past December. Many of the students enjoyed it so much that I decided to suspend my regularly scheduled class programming so the students (and I) could explore a bit more of the coding. We are using code.org and Khan Academy and we spend about 48 minutes once a cycle solving puzzles and creating code. It’s been very exciting. One of my girls who started off as a reluctant participant (she preferred the discussions we were having over the coding we were/are doing) told me today that she is going to be participating in the LEAD program this summer and she will be continuing to learn computer programming! Now this is quite a turn around for this student who begrudgingly started coding with me just a short time ago. But, because of the excitement and enthusiasm in our classroom environment, she has become excited and enthusiastic about learning how to code! Quite wonderful if I do say so myself.

SO what can we as teachers do to keep the passion alive?

  1. I think we need to begin every year as if it is our first. We should not just open our plan books to see what we did last year at this time. New students, new interests, new personalities, teach them differently; one size does not fit all.
  2. Try something new. Coding is not something I knew a lot about. I had taken a Coursera course from Stanford, which I loved, and tinkered around in Tynker, but it was not until this year that I really began embracing the excitement and challenge of solving these puzzles.
  3. Keep learning. As John Cotton Dana says, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
  4. Find other teachers to learn with and from- create your PLN
  5. Lastly, take risks. There is nothing difficult about doing everything the same. It’s easy certainly, and comfortable, but you can’t grown when you don’t change.