Hour of Code

Students in Princeton have been participating in Hour of Code the past few weeks.

At North Elementary, all students in grades 3-5 participated in the "Hour of Code" during Computer Science in Education week. We held an event called "Let Your Kid Teach You to Code" where students were able to bring a parent and go through a coding tutorial on code.org together. Over 50 families attended! We also were able to provide the opportunity for students to participate in a robotics coding competition using the Dash & Dot robots. We had 71 students join the competition which just wrapped up after 2 1/2 months of after school fun and learning!
Students and parents worked together at North's family coding event.

At South Elementary, students have been using the app Kodable to learn the basics of computer commands and sequences (www.kodable.com).  Students had to use critical thinking, logic, trial and error and perseverance to get their Fuzz through the maze on planet Smeeborg.  Many students commented that it was the "best app ever" on the iPad.

1st Graders coding at South - Programming sequences for mazes is hard work, but they stuck with it and had fun!

The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. It is an attempt to expose kids and adults of all ages to the basic ideas of computer coding. It is a worldwide event that takes place in early December. This year alone, almost 200,000 global Hour of Code events registered with the Hour of Code website.

What is coding? Coding is the ability to read and write a machine language and think computationally. Coding can be taught in many ways, including iPad apps, computer websites, and even paper/pencil.

Kids today are surrounded by technology. It is clear that computers and programming are central to most aspects of our lives. Kids who learn the basics of programming can become better architects of their future world. Kids relish the challenge to become “creators” – be active participants instead of passive consumers. In addition, the computational thinking (analytical, logical) skills that underlie coding will be required for future knowledge workers to continuously adapt to our increasingly data-filled world. There is growing recognition that computer literacy is essential for a 21st century workforce.

For more information about why kids should learn to code, read on: http://www.tynker.com/blog/articles/ideas-and-tips/four-reasons-why-kids-should-learn-programming/

Flash Issue: Simple Newsletters in Gmail

I have gotten several compliments on my email newsletters I send out from time to time.  I have been using a website called Smore (www.smore.com), which I like for several reasons: newsletters are easy to create, they are nice to look at, and I can track how many times they've been viewed.  Some teachers want to use Smore as well, but the price tag for a paid subscription forces some to change their minds.

This week, another tech coach friend of mine introduced me to Flash Issue (www.flashissue.com).  Flash Issue is a Gmail extension (added program that gives you more functions and options) that allows you to make newsletters right inside your Gmail account!  Users can drag and drop elements into their newsletter, such as text and images, to make their content more engaging.  You can also connect your blog and drag-drop blog posts into the newsletter.  Find an interesting article you'd like to include? Paste the URL into the builder and you can add that, too.

It's free and easy to use!  Check it out!

Newsela: Non-fiction Reading at Every Level

Want your students to read non-fiction texts but struggle to find something at their reading level?  Want to have an entire class read about the same topic but reading levels vary widely across your class?  Newsela can help!  Newsela features non-fiction articles, many about current events, that can be viewed at five different reading levels (reading levels start around 2nd grade and go up from there).  Topics include science, sports, arts, and kids.  Many articles also have comprehension quizzes available as well.

Teachers can create an account for themselves and it has a Google login option (no need to create another username and password).  They can then either create a class for their students where students can access the content, or they can print copies of the articles (or better yet, save them as electronic copies and share via Google Classroom!).

To check it out, visit www.newsela.com!

Reaching All Learners With Web Tools

You probably know that the Internet is a great tool for education, but what you might not know is that there are many tools and websites out there that can make learning easier for students.  Unfortunately, many educators believe that the only students who can benefit from such tools are students receiving special education services.  Not so!  These resources are available to anyone - no IEP required!  Any student or teacher can use these resources to help them be successful.

Here are some I've been checking out this week:

1. Announcify
Announcify is a Google Chrome app that reads the text printed on a webpage.  Not only that, but it blurs out any other bits of information or text that are not currently being read.  This can be particularly helpful for students who might be distracted by objects on the page or have trouble tracking while reading.

youtube-cc.png2. Closed Captions on YouTube
Showing a YouTube video but have students who have hearing impairments or have trouble keeping up?  Maybe the text on the video is just unclear?  Many YouTube videos include an option for closed captions. Videos with captions available will have a “CC” icon in the video summary in search results. When playing a video that has captions, you can turn on captioning by clicking the “CC” icon in the bottom right corner of the video window.

3. Speechnotes
For anyone who doesn't want to write or type!  This is one of MANY voice recognition/dictation programs that allow the user to speak their text rather than type it.  They can also add punctuation by voice command as well.  They can then copy/paste their text into a Google Doc or other assignment platform.  One caution: while the dictation programs out there now are pretty good, it is always a good choice to go back and have the student edit his or her work before submitting as you can occasionally get some interesting results!

4. Clearly
Made by the makers of Evernote (another favorite tool of mine), Clearly gets rid of all of the "junk" on websites so readers can see the material more "clearly."  Users can also print the Clearly version (or better yet, save it as a PDF for sharing with others!).

These ideas don't even scratch the surface of all of the tools that can improve accessibility to the web and its content!  Teachers or students who would like to use these Chrome apps and extensions can install them themselves on their Chrome browser.  See below for some helpful videos!

What's a Chrome Web App?

How to Install and Remove Google Chrome Extensions

Who Are You and Why Are You Emailing Me?

This is a common question I ask myself several times a week.  While I have met many new faces in the district, there are still several of you that I haven't yet met.  So, when I get a request for help and the only identifying information is the person's name, I need a little more information.  Where are you located?  What department do you work in?  What age are your students? Are you a teacher, paraprofessional, secretary, or something else entirely?

Now imagine you are a parent, particularly one with multiple children.  Now imagine they're all in middle or high school and they have several teachers at the same time.  You send an email saying they did a great job on a test, or maybe that you're concerned about their grade.  But they have no idea what class you teach because they can't keep all their kids' teachers straight.

A solution?  Create an email signature!  It's an easy way for anyone receiving your email to know who you are and what you do.  It takes just a couple of minutes - see below!