Coding for All!

Computer science, robotics, and coding are very much the hot topic in education these days, so why not make coding accessible for all?? I just know my dogs Fiona, Dot, and Ryker would LOVE to learn to code. Ryker just completed his very first obedience class, so I am sure he is ready for coding! Thank you Wonder Workshop! #dogscancode

Happy April Fools Day!

The First Several Weeks

It has been some time since I posted on my site. I have wanted to post, but have been uncertain as to what I wanted to post and what direction I wanted my site to go in now that I am out of the classroom.

Adjusting to leaving 16 years in the elementary classroom was an experience I could really not prepare for. I have gone from a highly structured day to one that is much more free form and full of meetings and collaboration. I also left a classroom environment. My classroom was my home way from home, my rather large office, and something that was mine. I had a great deal of control over my classroom. Presently I am in a space that is nothing like a classroom, and while nice, it doesn’t feel the same. I think in making this transition that was something I worried about the most. The space I live and work in is very important and has a good deal to do with my mental well being.

One view of my new work space
One view of my new work space
Another view of my new workspace
Another view of my new work space

I will have to share more images of what my work space looks like now. It is certainly less sterile and more organized looking. It is a communal space shared with two other Linked Learning TOAs. It is a temporary location and I am looking forward to seeing where we really end up and what it will be like when two more TOAs are brought on to complete our team.

Logistics aside, I have done a fair amount of learning. I hope to get some additional posts up soon focused on the trainings I have attended and how the information learned might work into the elementary classroom. My plan for my site as this point is to post my reflections and learnings and hope it might entertain and/or educate those who care to read.

A New Chapter Begins

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It has been a whirlwind of activity since I learned that I had been recommended for the position of Teacher on Assignment/Instructional Coach in the new Linked Learning department of Fontana Unified.

I had been encouraged to apply for this position by a few who knew my passion for educational technology. I had hesitated in applying at first because of the timing of the position (I had just spent a good deal of time setting up a new classroom and had just begun the year with my new class) and I was apprehensive. I had applied for positions like this one before and not been selected. That was several years ago, and I had not completed my Masters in Educational Technology, nor my National Board Certification, nor had I been a Doctoral student then either. So yes, a few things had changed, but my desire to teach teachers how to use technology effectively in their classrooms or help my district move forward with innovative ways to use technology had not. So I applied and made the second round of interviews for one of 3 remaining positions on this new team.

I was surprised how quickly the news of my recommendation came, I was shocked really. Then there was the waiting. I had no idea when I would be expected to leave my classroom. That was all contingent upon my replacement being found. Interviews were held for my position at Grant and my principal made her selection. That teacher accepted the offer and I was told the last day I would have with my students would be the Friday before we went on Winter Break. I got that news three days before Winter Break. I was preparing report cards and now had to prepare to move out of my classroom…again. Thankfully, I had my college freshman nephew visiting again, who seems to enjoy volunteering at Grant quite a bit. His help in moving saved my sanity once again (he has helped me move before). I told my students and their families that I was leaving them, and it was very bittersweet. I have been in the classroom for 15 and a half years, I have taught 2nd – 5th grades, and I have always had a passion for innovation and educational technology. I have been at that point in my career where I knew leaving the classroom would be eminent, I just had no idea how soon that moment would arrive.

Therefore, while I am thrilled to be offered this opportunity, to explore the next chapter in my educational career, it does not come without a price. I will miss my students and doing everything I can for them to bring them the latest tech tools to enhance their education. I take solace in knowing that this shift in my position means I will be affecting more than just my own students, I will be helping students in several classrooms at several schools in my district, and I am very excited about that. Dorothy Grant Elementary has been amazing for me. The staff, students, and their families are a wonderful community I am very proud to be a part of and the decade I spent there will be one I always cherish.

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Computer Science Week

The class is eager to begin coding!

This week is Computer Science Week and to celebrate, Dorothy Grant Elementary is participating in the Hour of Code. Yesterday my class had a special lab time to explore programming and they had a blast!

Matthew G & Jaythan work together on a bit of Minecraft coding.
Matthew G & Jaythan work together on a bit of Minecraft coding.
Madelyn explains how to do some coding to Samantha.
Madelyn & Samantha work together.
Dalia and Malachi explore coding together.
Dalia and Malachi explore coding together.
Brandon is excited to have completed his Hour of Code.
Brandon is excited to have completed his Hour of Code.

I shared the Code.org website with them and there they got to choose from three tutorials: Star Wars, Minecraft, or Frozen. I had them share their selection with the class via an Edmodo poll and after the hour in the lab, they were to return to my post in Edmodo to share their experiences.

edmodo poll snapshot

edmodo post 1

edmodo post 2

The Hour of Code website has been added to the class website on the “After School Links” page. I also wanted to take a moment to share Tynker, one of the more widely known coding apps for tablets. I know it is available in the App Store (for Apple devices) for free and it may be in the Google Play store as well. I will be installing it on the classroom tablets this weekend for the class to continue exploring coding. I recommend it for any personal tablets for students who particularly enjoyed the coding experience.

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Global Cardboard Challenge

This year Dorothy Grant Elementary will be taking part in the Cardboard Challenge. Ms. Matheson and Ms. Belt will be heading up a group of 4th & 5th grade DGE students (selected by a random draw) to create our very own cardboard arcade to be shared at our annual Harvest Festival on October 29th.

This year a group of our students will participate in the “Global Cardboard Challenge.” This is an annual event presented by the Imagination Foundation that celebrates child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it. Students will dream up [creations] using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations ot create a cardboard arcade, inspired by the short film “Cain’s Arcade.”

Students MUST be available to stay after school on Mondays and Thursdays in October from 2:30 – 3:30pm AND work the Harvest Festival on Thursday, October 29th.

If you are interested and your child did not bring home a permission slip, you can download it here: Cardboard Challenge. Permissions slips are due to Ms. Matheson or Ms. Belt by Friday, October 2nd for the random draw.

Any questions about this event can be directed to Ms. Matheson or Ms. Belt.

Minecraft Club Day 2

Mrs. Ruiz at the future site of Minecraft DGE

Our second time meeting on the server went much smoother today. I attempted to deal with any lingering tech issues before we met so I could have the whole time on the server with the kids. I even extended club time from one hour to two hours because one hour just didn’t seem like enough. After two hours today, I felt that was a much more appropriate amount of time and will likely extend the club hour from 4-5pm on Thursdays, to 3:30 – 5:30 pm on Thursdays.

We are still trying to establish our community on the server. I was trying to direct them to build our school, but the kids kept breaking off and building their own homes. I am currently brainstorming ideas on how to bring 20 “lil miners” (as educators in the Minecraft Educator Google+ group I am in call them) into focus. After viewing all of their newest creations, I broke off at the end of the session to try some building on my own. I didn’t want to build our school myself, but perhaps once I give it a footprint, the kids will then be more focused about making it happen.

We are using Edmodo in conjunction with Minecraft and Skype, so I will have to put up some more assignments there, mainly on planning our community, which should hopefully bring them into better focus. I think perhaps assigning them to regions of the school build is a start. I would also enjoy seeing what they have in mind for our Minecraft school, like drawings or blueprints.

Since I am presently unable to use Minecraft EDU, the suggestion of a Bukkit server was made as it allows for more options than a standard server. I am new to not only Minecraft but running a server and mods so it is quite easy to be overwhelmed. This week I plan on focusing my research on what a Bukkit server is like and what additional commands it can allow me and my students that our current vanilla server cannot. I have several experienced “lil miners” who are used to playing with several mods in place and are feeling a bit restricted by our vanilla server. Those experienced miners ask me almost daily (our Skype group is always up and running and chat there is frequent) about when I am going to allow mods and give them more command ability.

Here is a video I put together of some of the kids in the club telling me what they think Minecraft is along with some footage from day 2 in game. Enjoy!

Minecraft Club Day 1

L to R: Carlos, Xavier, Jayden & Daniel

What an afternoon!

After much anticipation (and three Skype orientations), the DGE Minecraft Club was officially in Minecraft together! I expected it to be chaotic and it certainly was. I spent most of the hour in tech support with parents who were not fully prepared for the amount of tech we are using, and I turned 15 students loose on the server I had acquired for our club. I was sad that I didn’t get to be there with them fully for the first meeting, but in the end I managed to get everyone on which should hopefully make meeting 2 easier.

I opened the server again a little while after the club meeting and let the students know via our Skype group. I had a few eager students willing to log back in to help me work out some kinks and we did! I shot a video of what the students were able to accomplish in the tech club hour while I was helping parents. I have told the kids that I am no Minecraft expert and I am looking to learn from them as some have been playing a majority of their years. The video I shot is amusing for many reasons, one being the tone in my voice as I learn from them. Sadly you cannot hear their replies to me since I was wearing headphones, but you will be able to get the idea of the conversation. I just know each meeting will get better and better.

Enjoy!