Algorithmic Thinking + Literacy = ?

Since attending the GAFE PD at Sacred Heart a couple of weeks ago, algorithmic thinking has been on my mind (yes, I am a total nerd!). I attended a session with the fabulous, Dr Rebecca Vivian that focused on how to implement algorithmic thinking in practical ways.

We’ve been studying number patterns in Mathematics so this workshop was brilliant timing, allowing me to implement ideas straight away. We’ve also been focusing on writing information reports. An idea began to boil in my mind… what if instead of designing success criteria, students could use algorithmic thinking to create a flow chart for a successful information report.

I decided that I would attempt this task through Literacy Rotations. This meant that while other students were engaged in their specific rotational task, I could explicitly teach students in small groups about flow charts and the symbols… and it would link with the algorithmic work we were doing in Maths… even better!

I distributed to the students a template of the flow chart symbols (an example of the symbols but my example was much simpler) accompanied by an information report work sample (from ACARA work samples) which we’d previously studied and labelled.

As a small group, we then worked through the symbols and their meanings and I modelled how they might start their flow chart (Are you writing about something people will want to read? Yes? No?). In their small group, students then continued these draft diagrams. Here’s an example of a starting point.

FullSizeRender (3)
A flow chart for a successful information report.

From here, students began using the drawing tool in Google Docs to create flow charts that could be added to and adjusted more easily. Check out the example below:

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 3.13.40 pm
The start of a flow chart using Google Docs.

This continues to be a work in progress and these flow charts will develop as we continue to delve deeper into interesting and effective information report writing.

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Scavenger Hunts with Google

PRIOR TO THE SESSION

Today I tried something quite new (what a surprise!) and it was also quite complex. After reading Stephanie Perretta’s blog about Creating Self-Checking Scavenger Hunts with Google, I gave it a go myself. Stephanie has set up the resources for a first-timer so beautifully – thanks, Stephanie. Her instructions are so detailed that, for once, I had to read through something in a systematic way in order to accurately replicate the process.

Since we’re studying the Order of Operations (AKA BIDMAS, BODMAS, PEDMAS, BIMDAS etc.) and it’s a fairly linear process, I decided to create my scavenger hunt around this topic. I also wanted to add more than YouTube clips for remediation, too – this required some trouble shooting as I also wanted to use PlayPosit and Brainpop.

QR treasure hunt 2
A student completing a Brainpop PEDMAS game.

Setting it up was quite a process and, for once, I knew I actually had to test it myself as there were so many variables in play. Luckily, I did as there were a few aspects that didn’t quite “add up”.

However, not everything went exactly to plan but I’m a life-long learner with a growth mindset. Thus, I reflect on my experiences and work out how I can improve them next time;)

JUST BEFORE THE DAY

I set the QR codes in place the afternoon before –  ready for our lesson after recess on the following day. Then, at about 2.45pm the day before, a student came up to me saying “I found this QR code on the ground.” Annoying. I then had to search through the classroom to find where it may have been missing from.

JUDGEMENT DAY

I had prepped the students about the scavenger hunt just prior to the session. After recess, the first thing I did was provide students with a rubric and ask them to self-assess their knowledge of each aspect so far. I then asked the students to add a Chrome extension – The QR Code Extension – via an announcement on our Google Classroom page. Following this, students were free to scan in the QR code (strategically placed on the back of the rubric) and complete the first quiz.

QR treasure hunt
A student scanning a QR Code to go to the next quiz.

Here’s where things got a bit crazy. I didn’t consider that from that point at least half the class would be going to one site (the next question) and the rest would be going to the second site (the remediation for Q1). This had many students waiting around and also resulted in QR codes going missing.

We troubled-shot (?) through this quite quickly though and then we were off. There were a couple of other speed-humps though that I’ll navigate more carefully next time:

  1. Students neglected to actually press ‘Submit’ and therefore, they got confused and just started following friends around.
  2. Students neglected to return QR codes to their hiding place which meant that QR codes went missing.
  3. Some students didn’t watch the remediation videos which meant that they just re-did the final quiz until they finally chose the correct option rather than learning how to do it accurately.
  4. I neglected to mention that PEDMAS, BODMAS and BIDMAS are all the same thing which confused students.
QR treasure hunt3
Students remediating with Khan Academy clips.

WHAT WILL I DO TOMORROW?

I’m going to start our Maths session explicitly teaching BIDMAS (order of operations). Then students will pick-up where they left off in the scavenger hunt.

On Wednesday, we’ll debrief the whole process in our class meeting so we can make it better for everyone next time.

Thanks again, Stephanie Perretta, who inspired me to think outside the box.

Classroom Redesign 101

The start of 2016 allowed me a great opportunity as I was starting in a new class space. I had decided early on that I wasn’t going to set up the class space for my students as I believe strongly in the “Third Teacher” principle.

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It was hilarious on the first day of school to see the students’ and parents’ faces whilst looking at the the desks and chairs neatly stacked up and the walls bare. What was funnier was how tentative they were about entering the space… I felt like I was mustering cattle to get people in there!

The only thing up on the walls were photos of the students and teams I had randomly placed them in.

We started the morning in Circle Time. I love starting with Circle Time as it’s a great way to connect as a whole group. We played a few “ice breakers” and then split up into our teams.

I handed each team an article about effective learning spaces. I’ve created a Blendspace of these articles that you can see here –  Learning Space Design Blendspace (NB. Normally, we would have had laptops on day 1 so I would have asked teams to conduct their own research using the SOLE framework). In their teams, each students read the article and then chose 1 word, 1 phrase and 1 sentence to highlight and to share with their team.

I then split the teams into expert groups in which they shared their different articles. Each member of the expert groups took turns to share and take notes on the various articles and research.

I enjoyed the way that my students were informed about what makes effective learning spaces prior to them beginning to ideate.

Check out my next blog entry in which the students start ideating.

Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Competence and Character

One aspect I find difficult to teach is character. What I mean by this is that I love teaching about character but actually giving students the skills to develop their character is a whole other ball game.

Something I’ve blogged about a lot is Austin’s Butterfly and how I play that clip to every new class. I love Austin’s craftsmanship. I love that he did 6 drafts. The students love to see his progress and how skilled he became through persistence.

“You taught me the pleasures of craftsmanship. I used to be a slapdash, but now I take real pride in producing work that is as good as I can make it… I don’t want to let others down, but, more importantly, I don’t want to let myself down. It’s not about determination; it’s about being careful, and thinking about what you are doing, and taking time to reflect and improve, and going over your mistakes and practising the hard parts.”

Educating Ruby, p.133

So, what is it that children really need to learn? Educating Ruby (p. 153 – 158) states that children need:

  • Self-protection
  • Intercultural empathy
  • Financial management
  • Sexual understanding
  • Practical labour
  • Science
  • Statistics
  • Scepticism
  • Talking clearly and confidently
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Navigation
  • Cookery
  • Horticulture
  • Caring for others and things
  • Religion
  • Relationships
  • Morality
  • Self-presentation
  • Driving
  • Leisure
  • Fitness
  • Relaxation
  • Attention
  • Craftsmanship

The text implores each one of us to consider which of these should be taught, when and to what age group.

In the next section, the text reminds us of how contagious mind-habits are; we pick up the mental habits of others so easily. It is vital to ensure that we collaborate with others who have strong ‘habits of mind’. When students can get the grades without employing resilience, independence and self-discipline (not obedience); they are less likely to be successful in life (according to Paul Tough).

Learning is often a collaborative rather than (or as well as) a solitary venture, so the inclination to be a good sounding board to others, and the ability to give feedback in a respectful and useful way and take criticism yourself without getting hurt and defensive, is also needed.

Do you, as a teacher, teach 3D shapes or First Farmers or Colour Theory that extends your students to ask deep questions and conduct deep thinking? How can you make your students less dependent on you? How can you facilitate a safe mistake-making environment?

 

The Case of the Missing Glue Sticks – FINALE

So, I had been struggling as to how to end the mystery of our missing glue sticks. Who, should I say, had taken them? and, why? I had wrestled with asking a colleague to say he/she’d borrowed them and had forgotten to ask. Perhaps the glue sticks should just reappear and we should never know what happened to them.

When Skyping with @Miss_Para on the Thursday eve, we concocted a plan. NBCS were having a Maker Day on the Friday and would need a lot of resources. We decided that @Miss_Para would Skype into our class on the Friday and let the students know that she and her students had, in fact, borrowed our glue for their Maker day.

Students were very confused when they arrived on Friday that there was no clue. They were also surprised when my iPad started ringing in the middle of the day. I answered it and the students heard how their glue sticks had been used for a good cause and how they were excellent sharers. They also were able to see pics of the Maker day.

They were quite unimpressed that someone had taken our glue sticks without asking but they were also relieved that the mystery had been solved.

The students wrote their final entry about the mystery and edited their work. Many students were so proud of their writing that they wanted to publish their work. When I asked if they liked writing about a mystery, the acquiescence was resounding.

If you try something like this, I’d love to hear/read about how your students go.

Hmmm… now, what’s the next mystery I can concoct?

The Case of the Missing Glue Sticks – Part 4

Thursday was to be the final day students would receive a clue about their missing glue sticks. I wanted the level of engagement and commitment to the solution to hit a climax at this point so I did this:

Mysteriously small footprints leading to the final clue
Mysteriously small footprints leading to the final clue

The final clue was purposely vague as I wanted students to challenge who they thought had taken the glue sticks. I also wanted the students to focus on describing the footprints in their recount. We brainstormed as a class what information about the footprints would be important for the investigation.

Clue #4
Clue #4

I was excited by the way students described the size, colour and pattern of the footprints as well as who they supposed owned the footprints.

Following this, students had a second attempt at giving peer feedback using the same Visible Thinking routines as the previous day. However, this time they needed to focus on their peer’s detail in their writing. Students definitely found this challenging but there were some great examples. One student wrote:

“I like how you wrote about the size of the footprints. Even better if you had written about the pattern of the footprints.”

I chuckled when, at recess, one student pointed at me and exclaimed “I’ve got it! Our principal is NOT on holidays; he’s smuggling glue sticks around the world!”

Uh-oh.

The Case of the Missing Glue Sticks – Part 3

I had to be a bit more organised for Day #3 of our mystery. My students needed to use the Aurasma augmented reality app to access the next clue so I ensured that I teed-up the download with our Head of IT the day before.

The new clue looked like this (and was found by the first child in the door on Wednesday morning):

Clue #3
Clue #3

The note was accompanied by the following Aurasma image (otherwise known as an ‘Aura’) that links to a Bon Jovi song. This was a tricky clue for students so I directed them to look on their iPads for an app that looked like a big A. Eventually, I guided them to use Aurasma to scan over the image below.

Bon Jovi Aura

To be honest, the song had a tenuous link to the missing glue sticks, but it was still cool to see how students creatively linked it to the overall mystery in their writing.

After the students had finished writing about Day 3’s clues, we had our first attempt at pair feedback using a Visible Thinking routine. Students completed the following statements in relation to each other’s writing –

  • I like how you…
  • Even better if…

As we’d previously viewed Austin’s Butterfly together, students had a bit of direction as to what made helpful feedback. It was heartening to see how invested students were in writing well and in helping each other to write well.

Tomorrow’s clue would focus on accuracy of detail and reporting like a detective.