Author Archives: TechnoHella

TechnoHella

About TechnoHella

Hella Comat, Curriculum Writer - Hella Comat is a dedicated professional, who has taught in the education system for more than 30 years. As a pioneer of technology integration in Ontario public schools she was one of the first teachers to introduce the internet, video conferencing, web design, and multimedia learning activities to teachers and students in the Halton Board. To inspire teachers to use technology, she has led sessions for the Touch Technology program, ran workshops at education conferences, and sat on numerous advisory committees related to technology-issues. In recent years she taught the Computer in the Classroom course, at York University. Her lifelong commitment to teaching and learning was acknowledged when she was honored as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Hella's contribution to the blog includes entries about the importance of technology integration. Drawing from her in-depth knowledge of technology in the classroom Hella writes about teaching strategies and useful resources that can benefit your practice. In addition, she provides innovative lesson ideas that you can implement into your own curriculum.

Add the A to STEM Education

Educators agree that STEM education is essential to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century workforce. The skills they learn in science, technology, engineering, and math subject areas also develop vital skills necessary for success: critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. Although there’s quite a debate about whether the A for the arts needs to be added to STEM to make STEAM or if it’s already there inherently, it’s evident that fine arts, language, and music play a key component in a curriculum to prepare young people to face the complex challenges of the future.

steam career readiness

The Arts are a vital part of STEM education

Education Models for the Future

Traditional school curriculum segregates studies into separate subject areas. However, project-based learning is an instructional approach that blends subjects. Students are faced with an authentic, meaningful, real world challenge. And these are non-Googleable questions! Students investigate a problem and propose viable solutions in an interdisciplinary study. Technology is commonly used as a tool. Whatever skills are required to solve the problem – math, science, language arts – must be learned and mastered. Students need to be able to think innovatively, plan, create, and communicate the resulting project. Usually STEM subject areas are needed, and students build valuable job skills such as computational thinking, initiative, perseverance, and communication.

Where Do the Arts Appear?

To answer these ‘big’ project-based challenges, students need to integrate the arts. Creative thinking and design are a central part of innovation. Being able to imagine an outcome, visualize a product, or communicate an abstract idea requires artistic skills integrated with multiple STEM skills.

Here are a couple of examples of the arts integrated with STEM in the real world:

STEM Education requires the Arts

  • Product Design
    Designing an innovative product may require engineering, mathematical, and scientific problem solving. But it also needs an attractive appearance to make an emotional connection to consumers. These are artistic decisions.
  • Advertising
    When a new product is brought to the market, communication skills are essential. Advertisers excel in persuasive writing. In addition, the creation of new logos requires a knowledge of graphic design. The success of a venture often depends on artistic choices.
Arts and STEM education

Infuse the arts into STEM education.

The Arts in Computer Science

We’ve been working with Scratch recently to develop a STEM project, TechnoCode, that teaches coding skills. The students will learn programming skills as they make animations, games, or interactive stories.

Coding design decisions should be engaging so that the user who interacts with the finished product is intrigued and captivated. Also, artistic choices affect if the project is user friendly and fun to play. Some of the stylistic choices students need to make when programming include:

  • Drawing custom characters
  • Designing backgrounds
  • Adding sensory cues – motion, sound, visual – to build interest, express an idea, and hook the user
  • Creating “Game over” messages that encourage and entice the user to try again
  • Making scoring and timing decisions using aesthetic choices that appeal to players

The brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision making involved in programming demand innovation and ingenuity in design choices. To foster the trailblazers of tomorrow, STEM education needs to acknowledge and incorporate the arts.

New Release! Programming Project for STEM Classrooms

In response to the recent spotlight on building STEM skills, TechnoKids is announcing the first of a new and innovative series of computer science technology projects designed to teach programming learning objectives.

Teach Coding

programming

Use Scratch and TechnoCode to teach programming skills

The first of these projects is TechnoCode, just released for junior and middle school grades. The focus of the all new TechnoCode project is to spark an interest in coding. Using Scratch, students become young programmers. They learn computational thinking as they construct a collection of scripts to develop animated scenes, mazes, interactive stories, and games. Additional activities challenge students to create artwork, compose music, construct a diorama, and more! Jam packed with fun programming activities, TechnoCode is ideal for students new to Scratch – a popular, free program that uses graphical blocks to teach logical reasoning.

Programming Fun

Through guided discovery and exploration, TechnoCode teaches students to build algorithms that sequence commands, events, loops, and conditions. After each activity, they complete coding journal logs to reflect on their learning, track their progress, express feelings, and celebrate successes.

coding and programming with Scratch

Scratch is a free program to teach coding developed by MIT. Graphic blocks are stacked to create scripts for animations, games, stories, and more!

In TechnoCode, students follow illustrated, step-by-step instructions to learn how to:

  • Use programming terminology and understand the role of a programmer
  • Code a scene with characters, a backdrop, movement, and sound
  • Build an animated aquarium
  • Design a one-of-a-kind maze game
  • Construct an animated story about a magical place
  • Plan and develop a unique game with timing and a scoring system

Learning is chunked and scaffolded: skills learned in each of the six sessions are reviewed and extended in following sessions. Challenges and extension activities offer optional enrichment opportunities. Junior and middle school teachers can elect to complete as many of the projects as time, grade level, and curriculum learning standards require.

programming with Scratch

Students learn computational thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and creativity as they build scripts.

Foster Digital Citizenship Skills

The collaborative element of Scratch is its online community.

To get inspired, Scratchers can browse a huge gallery of sample interactive stories, music, art, animations, and games. They can remix: start with a project someone else has coded and shared, and then add their own creative touches. When the remixed project is uploaded, Scratch automatically credits both the originator and the contributor, thereby promoting the essential skill of citing the source. The See Inside button on any shared Scratch project allows others to view the code to ‘see how it’s done’, an ideal learning opportunity. Finally, students can share their own work and invite ‘likes’ and comments.

Experiencing success and support of other budding programmers is a key ingredient to building enthusiasm for computer science.

Prepare Students for Jobs

Empower students with the essential, real-world skills they will need in the workplace of tomorrow. Both STEM and CTE – Career and Technical Education – highlight the value of preparing young people with technical as well as employability skills. Ideal skillsets include a diverse combination of higher-level thinking, technology, and interpersonal proficiencies. Teaching programming can do that. TechnoCode is a fun, challenging series of hands-on activities to master a foundational set of computer science standards. As they achieve success, students become enthusiastic, confident problem solvers – critical skills to make them “future proof”.

TechnoCode – STEM, CTE, and ICT Project to Integrate Programming

TechnoCode has everything an educator needs to teach beginning coding skills to students: a teacher guide and student workbook in pdf format, sample completed projects to inspire young imaginations, planning sheets with questions to help design scripts, coding journal logs for reflection, and assessment tools to evaluate student work. Hook tech-savvy young people. Equip your students with practical, creative, and authentic twenty-first century skills.

programming and coding

Coding Journals for Computer Science

coding journals

I’ve been having lots of fun learning to code with Scratch over the past month. It inspired me to write blogs about the benefits of teaching programming skills and computer science standards. But it also prompted me to ponder about teaching practices associated with coding. Many of the resources I researched suggested that students write coding journals or logbooks.

Some technology curriculum even incorporates learning journals as an essential component. A case in point is the Robotics unit of the Prince Edward Island Career and Technical Education Curriculum. Students write routine, specific journal entries and these are included in assessment.

Journal writing is a common task for primary students to build writing fluency. But journals can also be a powerful tool for learning programming, consolidating of coding skills, and self-reflection for young people in junior, middle school, and senior grades.

Guide Students to Reflect Upon Learning

Reflection can be difficult. Providing guiding questions can help students think about the coding experience. In TechnoCode, a STEM project by TechnoKids, coding journals log entries are part of the coding experience. Open-ended questions, rating scales, and checklists guide students to reflect upon their learning. It is valuable to include prompts about the design process, debugging, coding block usage, and attitude towards programming.

coding journals

Include guiding questions to help students reflect upon learning when using coding journals.

What to Use to Write a Coding Journal?

OneNote, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs are common tools with which students are familiar. The app used should be easily accessible for students at the beginning, during a coding class, or as an end of class activity. Anything that can generate a text file and can be kept open on the desktop will work. Students should be able to open the learning journal file as ideas come to them.

Why Write a Coding Journal?

There are many benefits to support writing a coding journal. In addition to the basic journal writing learning objectives of improving written communication, coding journals can:

  • Articulate ideas
    Students write about their creative plans, list coding steps, document their work, and/or set realistic goals. Rather than jumping right in and starting to write code, journals can be a tool to plan and organize animations, stories, or games.
  • Build coding skills
    When natural language is used to express the actions that are to be translated into coding language, understanding and retention is enhanced. As they write in their own voice, students build a firm foundation for coding terminology. Listing both the plain text and the programming algorithms can become a personal ‘how to’ dictionary to be referenced as needed.
  • Problem solve
    Debugging is a routine part of learning to code. When students are stuck, they can turn to a coding journal to figure out a solution. Writing about the problem forces the programmer to slow down their thinking and use self-talk to describe the issue and trouble shoot. Each part of the code needs to be checked in a logical manner. This process has been referred to as rubber ducking. The term came from a programmer who carried a rubber duck around with him. Whenever he had a problem, he would explain it to the duck. In listing the code line by line, he would often find the error and fix it. In this case, the journal becomes the rubber duck to which the author is ‘speaking’.
  • Reflect and track progress
    A programmer can write down all the attempts made to solve a problem in a journal. When the journal is reviewed afterwards, it represents a progress report of all the knowledge gained and growth achieved. This is authentic evidence of learning. Written communication of ideas can make a student become more thoughtful about their new skills. A journal can be a form of self-assessment.
  • Express feelings
    The process of coding frequently leads to challenges and trouble shooting. In a coding journal, students can be encouraged to reflect critically on their feelings, whether it is hope and enthusiasm for new projects or detailing frustrations with algorithms that don’t ‘work’. Writing about obstacles can defuse the feelings and modify perspective.
  • Promote collaboration
    Instead of private writing, coding journals can be composed using social media. Blog posts and tweets encourage commenting. As students help each other they build responsible digital citizenship skills while developing programming skills at the same time. Positive support from peers and input from teachers forms connections, fosters teamwork, and boosts confidence.

What to Write in a Coding Journal?

  1. Develop a learning plan
  2. Celebrate successes and new learning
  3. List problems, describe attempted solutions, and explain lessons learned
  4. Describe experiments tried to promote logical thinking and the scientific method
  5. Record creative ideas and inspirational thoughts to remember and tackle at another time
  6. Take notes of questions still unanswered
  7. Complete a self-assessment
  8. Respond to specific prompts, such as:
    • Write about something you still want to learn.
    • Outline a coding task that you found difficult.
    • Describe what you accomplished today.
    • How would you rate your final project?
    • What are your strengths in learning to code?

Next Steps to Coding Journals

Teachers who use coding journals make a convincing case for their value. There are still more issues to think about. Here are a few of them:

✓ Can the student share the journal with the teacher and/or peers?
✓ Should the teacher provide feedback to the thoughts in a student’s coding journal?
✓ Will the coding journal be part of the evaluation of the programming project?

How to Share TechnoKids Files Using Google Drive

At TechnoKids, we’re often asked how our templates, samples, or workbook files can be shared with students. One common option is to use Google Drive. The only prerequisite is that each student must have an individual Gmail account.

Before getting started it is important to refer to your site license agreement. TechnoKids files cannot be placed in the public domain. The folder MUST BE KEPT SECURE and only shared with approved users.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE TEACHER

Make a Folder in My Drive

  1. Sign in to the teacher’s Google Drive account.
  2. Make a folder:
    1. Click New and pick Folder.
      new
    2. Name the folder with the name of the project you’re using, e.g., Bookmaking, Toon, or Journal.
    3. Click Create.
  3. Upload the files to the new folder:
    1. Drag and drop the files from the folder OR click New and choose File Upload.
    2. Navigate to the location of the files, select them, and click Open.
  4. Copy files from the TechnoKids student folder to a Google Drive folder.

    Convert the Files (OPTIONAL)

    IMPORTANT: Google Docs does not have a native format. This means that TechnoKids templates are Microsoft Office files. To make it easier for your students to open the templates, convert the files into Google Docs files.

    If you are using a TechnoKids project that has templates such as TechnoBookmaking, TechnoMe, or TechnoRestaurateur then do this step.

  5. If the file is a Microsoft Office file type (pptx, docx, or xlsx), double click on it.
  6. Is the file a template? If yes, do this step.

  7. Select Open with and pick the Google application such as Google Slides, Google Docs, or Google Sheets.
  8. Open the file with the Google application.

  9. The file will open in the Google application. This will create a Google file that is easy to share with students. Close the tab (X).
  10. You will notice you have TWO files – one is the original Microsoft Office file – the other one is the new Google file. DELETE the original file. KEEP THE GOOGLE FILE.
  11. Delete the original file and keep the new Google file.

  12. Repeat to convert all templates and delete the original files. For example, the picture below is for the project TechnoRestaurateur.
  13. Google Drive

    Now there is only a Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides version of the files.

    Share the Folder

  14. Go back to My Drive. If necessary, close any tabs that were opened for the converted files.
  15. Select the folder.
  16. Click Share.
  17. share share TechnoKids files

  18. Enter the email addresses of all students. You may have created a directory so they can be all added at once.
  19. Click the edit options and choose Can view only. This step ensures that students cannot edit the file unless they save a copy.
  20. edit options share TechnoKids files

  21. You may want to add a note to your students. Students will receive an email with a link. Click Send

TIP: You may want to share a link with students instead of send an email. To do this, click Get shareable link. Select can view. Share the link with students. MAKE CERTAIN THAT WHERE YOU POST THE LINK IS SECURE AND THAT IT WILL NOT BE ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE STUDENTS

  1. Open the email and click the link to go to their Google Drive OR open their Google Drive.
  2. Click Shared with me.
  3. Open the folder.
  4. Right click on a file OR single click the file and click More actions.
  5. more actions share TechnoKids files

  6. Pick Make a copy.
  7. Go to My Drive and double click the Copy file to open it.
  8. Rename the file. Now students will be able to work on, edit, and have a copy of their own file.

WHAT ABOUT THE PDF ASSIGNMENT SHEETS?

Each TechnoKids project has a Workbook folder. In it, are digital assignments that students can use to follow instructions and type their answers. Your students must make a copy of each PDF assignment. This will save the file to their Google Drive. They can then use the Chrome extensions XODO or KAMI to open the file and type their answers. To learn more read the blog article, PDF Reader for TechnoKids Files or watch the video, Annotate with XODO TechnoKids Workbooks.