There is always something new to learn!
We are now into the second semester at our high school. This is the Advanced Computer Science class, again not expected to be covering AP material but they are a good testing ground. Some students are working on Unit 3 - the sorting algorithms. In addition, we have purchased a few raspberry pi units and some students have set out exploring these. I don't know much about them myself so this is uncharted territory. Today they were able to set up a way to turn LED lights on and off when logged in to another computer - it is great to see them take charge and move ahead on their own - collaborating and coming up with ideas of what to try. My hope is to come up with a few introductory lessons and projects and then provide this as yet another option for the projects in the upcoming AP course.
There is always something new to learn!
Next week our classes for the 1st semester will end. I am going to ask the students to write one more blog post about how they felt the class worked out for them. This is an intro class so the range of ability and interest is wide - some of the students will be continuing on next semester into the advanced portion, and next year we will be offering intro, advanced and the AP class - exciting! Also feeling a bit of stress - I am trying to keep up on everything and get ahead in my own knowledge and comfort level. We are also experimenting with Raspberry Pi units - this is still in the getting started phase. So many new ideas to work with along with revisiting how to structure the classes.
Students in this intro class also wanted to try a video of their own for a tutorial. While entertaining, in retrospect they agreed that it could have used a bit more detailed explanation of why certain code was being used. It also pretty much gives out the solution for fahrenheit, but I don't mind too much as I can always create a similar problem for them to do on their own. This is a learning experience...
here is a link to the video:
This first semester will wrap up in January. Then another group will start and these students will be more advanced so I expect to be able to continue to explore the new curriculum.
I was fortunate enough to be able to bring a group of 35 students up the Harvard's CS50 Fair. Students and staff had an awesome time - beautify weather, great projects and it was a great experience for the kids to see life at a college in a city.
We also have instituted check-in times where I sit with each student and we review their progress and agree upon their grade in the class to date. In one way it is difficult because people are at wildly different stages in the course BUT it allows for individuals to feel successful in their own work and not to get too frustrated. It also allows students to move ahead if they are ready. I like this method and will continue in the next semester to follow it. The only downside would be if the classes get too large - then it might be hard to keep up but I am going to try.
The check-in Skype meeting last night was great! Talked with our high school principal this morning, Dr. Ellin Booras, and she is on board with everything. We will run the new AP course this fall AND continue to run Intro to CS and Advanced CS. Right now these are only offered to grades 10-12 but will also start to offer the Intro class to 9th grade students. Whoo-hoo! The group meeting was informative and the side chat bar even more so - lot's of resources and advice from others who are in the same boat.
Yesterday the CS students (Intro) added a new post to their blog - I wanted to know how they thought such a course should be assessed, and how to manage the different skill levels. Their input is valuable - and I will rework how to assess. Most of them felt that effort and progress should count the most - even if their progress is not all at the same speed. There should be check-in points depending on progress where they take the quiz when ready rather than on a certain day. Some wanted to sit with others working on the same problem, while others felt that mixing in with friends was more relaxing for them. Everyone agreed being a responsible student is key. So, I am going to revamp and make quizzes that will be done at certain points. They also felt the grades should be individualized, which I get - and right now the classes are fairly small (20 and 15) so it is easy to check in with each student.
White Day Class
Blue Day Class
We open the class usually with one of the CS50 videos, a discussion of new concepts, current tech news, maybe an example from real life (Apple goto fail for example) - then work time for the rest of the 80 minute period. Our first puzzle day will probably be during a pre-holiday week.
So back to creating quizzes that are a little more specific in the material covered. Still thinking about when to try and make different lectures - it will make the start of class different unless we always start with something more general - and then move into specific groups. A work in progress...
As I mentioned before - the classes currently in session are 2 introduction to computer science courses.
It is clear that some students are "very comfortable" with the material, some are "fairly comfortable" and there are some that are struggling. Nothing new or unexpected but I do need to stop myself and remember that this is not an AP course (yet) - so maybe I need to back up my expectations a bit.
The new material is so exciting that I want to keep forging ahead as fast as we can - but it looks like in doing so there is a section being left behind.
So - new plan starting this week - let the students can move on go ahead - give them materials and support and let them fly.
The fairly comfortable and not so comfortable groups will continue to get assignments and instruction - just not at the same pace and I will need to adjust my grading expectations. This is a challenge too - so maybe instead of a full class lecture there will be several smaller ones, with groups as they are ready for the material.
Another issue I have is that some students clearly put in a lot of effort, while others... not so much. If I am not going to penalize students for moving at a different pace (I get that, no problem) - what do I do about ones that are simply not putting much time or effort into their work? It can be frustrating at times (we all know that) but there is also an expectation of trying your best. Not so sure everyone in class is onboard with that - although it has been discussed more than once.
I don't want to lose anyone for fearing it is too hard - but I also don't want to hand out passing grades just for being in class. Will need to ponder on the best solution for this.
Right now there are a few students who are moving quickly and I think this week a few can begin to set up the IDE Cloud and this will be a great way to be sure everything is going to work before introducing to the larger group. I am excited to move on to the C programming and hope they will be too !
Students are finishing up Scratch and have enjoyed it. We also talked about and did some binary practice. There can be more of this and there will be this week. The first week we tried a few puzzles and will do the same this week - it lightens up the mood for a bit is a nice change of pace from most of the day.
Starting to ponder some logistical issues: how do I want to collect the code from students once they are using Cloud9 IDE? Possible they can add me as a part of their team - not sure yet.
Also, I want to point out resources such as the Slack group, CS50x Facebook page, and many other possibilities. These are what they would be using in real life but I also need to consider that these are high school students that are my responsibility. It is impossible to control where they go, and who they end up in contact with. What is the best way to integrate this introduction of learning this way and be sure everyone is accountable? Maybe a explanation of what we are doing and why, along with a discussion among students with permission from parent/guardian? This can't be the first time these thoughts have come up so I am wondering what my fellow teachers think of this issue.
Working with the Cloud9 IDE myself to redo starting assignments and wondering when we should dive in. Maybe not quite yet - there are a few more areas of CS to discuss and cover.
So far.... so good
Classes started this week. I am lucky to have 2 introduction to computer science classes - one has 13 and the other 14 students. This is an elective that they chose and most are very excited to learn more and jump into coding. We started with Jamie's idea of them giving me directions. It was fun - they needed to direct me from my chair to writing my name on the board. Then we did the back to back copying of a drawing via directions. Also lot's of fun. This picture is of one result and most agreed that that cat had turned into a satellite.
I downloaded the 1st 3 powerpoint and made a few modifications but am using them to start discussions. We are also completing the first writing prompt this weekend and students will post these on their individual blogs. I am hoping that the results show some thought and are not just quick and sloppy responses. Also feeling a bit nervous about how to move from Scratch to the appliance ... will need to work on this a lot ahead of time myself to figure out the best way to do this. Right now they are following the Scratch demo's from David and their own project links will also be posted on their blogs.
I am really happy to have been able to be a part of the bootcamp and look forward to fine tuning and exploring this year!
class site: kellytechclasses.com or kellytechclass.com
"Do one thing every day that scares you"
This is my new mantra. Joining the AP CS50 Pilot Team has definitely made me take a giant step out of my comfort zone. But wait, wasn't I the one who felt that the CS I teach could be so much better than it was? Wasn't that me telling my co-teachers that I felt I could do a much better job? Isn't this exactly what I was looking for?
So, when I saw a posting about the course I signed up to take it and applied for the bootcamp. After I hit enter there was a sudden panic. What was I thinking? Well, they probably wouldn't pick me anyway. Then the email arrived to let me know I was in and assigned homework. Feeling both elation and terror I set to work.
Fast forward to July. The bootcamp was energizing and full of so much information. Everyone there was supportive and interesting. It became clear that I was not alone with my nerves and that we are all in this together. Most importantly, everyone there is willing to try something new and we will learn together.
Now I am dedicated to using the CS50 AP curriculum and hope to be just as awesome a teacher for my own students. Already our wiki has been a source of help. Here is my new friend Jaime who gave us such great ideas for the Peanut Butter & Jelly demo - since in most of our schools do not allow PB in the room.
So, September is coming soon and I will continue to document the experience. I won't see students until September 8th and then the first week is always a bit confusing. We all have nerves at the beginning. My plan is to also have the students set up blogs - these can be found as a page on our class website where I will also post my lessons, assignments, etc: http://kellytechclass.com/