When Control Sinks Your Ship…

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Co-authored by Middle School Tech Club Sponsors Susan Fitzgerald, Library Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach
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In days gone by, the teacher was the sage on the stage –  the expert in the room.  Today educators are working with a population of post-modern learners with needs and learning styles that are very different from their industrial-age parents and grandparents.  Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.[3]
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With that in mind, it is unrealistic nor good instructional practice to presume the teacher remain the expert and captain of the ship.  For motivation, passion and creativity to be fostered in students, we have to stop being the tyrannical Captain and become the endearing Love Boat Captain Merril Stubing.
When we started this voyage, the intention of the Tech Club was to foster student engagement with the district’s implementation  of ePortfolios through Google Sites.  What happened then was much like the legend of Blackbeard, in that our well-intentioned Tech Club was “hi-jacked” and the resources were pillaged for their treasure by a group of Pirate Coders.
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These Pirate Coders, a group of 7th graders, took our Tech Club premise and revamped the course.  They needed a place to congregate, collaborate and create.  Perhaps they saw something in us that we weren’t even aware was in us… but somehow they knew we were up for a mutiny on the Bounty.  They wanted to overhaul the Tech Club for the purpose of learning coding and programming and we seized the opportunity for the challenge.
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The realization that there was a treasure to be discovered was during the HourofCode.org event in early December.  It was at this point that our students began presenting self-written code that created things such as browsers, calculators with square root function, and operating systems.
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As facilitators we shared the message of coding, created an online course to help access resources and allow for collaborative discussion forums.  Every time we met they collaborated, learned, and coached one another.  Soon we knew their message and passion-driven work needed to be shared beyond our school.  Our districts technology showcase TechnoExpo was the perfect forum to share the Pirate Coders’ treasure chest of learning. To a standing-room only audience, the Tech Club presented their message of passion about coding, goals and big ideas.  They were even solicited for their autographs… our Pirate Coders were legendary.
Pirate Coders (Tech Club members)  took the helm from there.  They were ready for their next voyage… they were headed into the winds with full sails. Together the Pirate Coders knew, to achieve their goals, they would have to organize their resources.  A constitution and bylaws was written, an executive council was elected, they collaborated through their Google accounts, and a platform for sharing lesson plans on coding (including languages like batch, c++, dos, and java script),  was developed.
Who knew letting these Pirate Coders take over our ship would have taken us to this place.  We haven’t reached our destination but we are so glad we changed from the traditional educational route.  We are here to keep them in safe waters, but not keep them from taking an exciting new course.  They set the course with their coordinates.  We are here to help maintain the ship… but they are here to navigate the ship.  For that we are glad… had we not seen the beauty in the horizon, we might had never left the port.
All photographs compliments of Sue Fitzgerald and Kirsten Wilson.

[2] “Clipart – Teacher Lämpel – Open Clip Art Library.” 9 Mar. 2014 <http://openclipart.org/detail/10362/teacher-l%C3%A4mpel-by-stefanvonhalenbach-10362>
[3] “Eric Schmidt: Every 2 Days We Create As Much Information As We ...” 2010. 7 Mar. 2014 <http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/04/schmidt-data/>
[4] “The Love Boat – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2004. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Love_Boat>
[5] “Blackbeard – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2004. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbeard>
[7] “TechnoExpo.” 2013. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://technoexpo.nisdtx.org/>

This post is also cross posted at Tech Super Coders Blog.

It’s Not Just an “Hour of Code”

by Sue Fitzgerald, Library/Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach

The “Hour of Code” has proven to be a very exciting adventure for students that has just begun. The development and launch of this event was driven by students’ passion for coding and educators’ efforts to provide the opportunity. It was collaboration in its purest form for everyone involved.

How it Happened

There were several factors that came into play that brought this event to fruition. Here are some of the major factors that made “Hour of Code” a reality:

  1. Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.

  2. Two forward-thinking future-minded student library aides took the leadership role in hosting “Technology Club” during 7th and 8th grades lunches to help answer questions on the ePortfolios.

  3. A group of coders took full advantage of attending the “Technology Club”.

  4. The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the “Technology Club” was about to advance into the world of coding.

  5. The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.

  6. The IT Coach found the opportunity for our students to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Not only did our IT Coach offer this opportunity to our school but spread the word through Twitter PLNs and our district to have many other schools join the campaign.

  7. Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.

  8. During our “Hour of Code” event our IT Coach  collaborated with another IT coach in the district to Skype with a sister Middle School campus also participating during the “Hour of Code” and share as we worked through Java coding tutorial offered through code.org.

Reflection

As the adults in this process, we knew very little about coding . We did recognize the  amazing opportunity this would be for our students by choosing to take on this challenge.  We also saw how important it is for educators to take risks when facilitating students’ pursuit of their passions and facilitate the process for student-led passion-based learning.

At the conclusion of “Hour of Code”our students reflected with enthusiasm and determination that this must continue.  The Technology Club decided they wanted to continue to meet at lunch at least once per week with hopes to meet twice when possible.  They also decided they wanted to try and collaborate on a group project that could be presented during our district TechnoExpo event.  Additionally, they reflected upon the JavaScript coding done during “Hour of Code” compared to students previous coding experience.  They preferred another coding format referred to  by the group as “Batch.”  Students left the “Hour of Code” with plans to take initiative to collaborate and together create some type of product.  As facilitators we hope to encourage these students to take on leadership roles in teaching others in our school to code.

Comments we have received –

L.A. Teacher – “I am so excited my student is involved with this group.  For the first time during DEAR he had a book out and was reading.  It was a book on coding!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “This gave me such a sense of accomplishment!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “I have already talked to my teacher and plan to work ahead in his class so I can come for both lunch sessions as we continue to meet.”

Instructional Technology Assistant Director- “By providing ‘The Hour of Code’ you have just provided a social platform for these students that gives them a place to not only pursue their passion but a place for those that are like-minded to meet.  Their lives will be forever changed.”

Librarian – “I just wanted to thank you for sending this out!! I’ve got 73 kids signed up!”