Primary Literacy & Coding

This week I decided to take a look at primary literacy and coding. To be honest, this wasn’t even on my radar prior to this course. I have always had a keen interest in primary literacy, which is why I became a Teacher Librarian, and coding was something I dabbled in (if you could even say that) with our Kindergarten classes using Bee-Bot before my maternity leave. However, putting the two together was a completely new concept until Alec suggested I take a look at incorporating some coding into my online course after reading my course profile and my interest grew even more after some “playing around” with coding in class last week. I decided this something I MUST have in my online course. BUT, how could I tie it meaningfully to primary literacy??

To start this learning journey this week I began looking through Kathy Cassidy’s resources on APPS, ‘BOTS AND CODE: THE NEW ABC’S IN THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM. For those of you who don’t know Kathy Cassidy, she is a trailblazer in bringing technology into the primary classroom, I highly recommend you visit her website and follow her on Twitter. After hours and hours of exploration, I decided that ScratchJr would be a program I would like to use as it hit many requirements for classroom use and more specifically, primary classroom use:

  1. It is aimed at young children (ages 5-7).
  2. It is free.
  3. In programming interactive stories and games, students will learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer.
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Check it out!

 

And upon further exploration, there are teaching resources specifically targeted at primary literacy, which could easily be adapted to fit into my online course. scratch2

Lastly, there are GREAT resources for teachers under the teach tab, with resources, lessons, and videos on how to use ScratchJr in the classroom. It really can’t be any more user friendly or easily accessible. My next step will be creating lessons based on my word study modules for students to code the words we are working on during that unit. I am so excited to continue to explore ScratchJr and make some modules using this app for my online course.

I continued to explore the world wide web to see how everyone else was using primary coding and literacy and I came across a great post by Kelly Hincks on Mixing Reading with Coding in Early Childhood. All I can say is WOW! What a goldmine I found here. She is a teacher librarian just like me and her content is amazing. In her post she says,

As a librarian, my goal is to expose students to all forms of literacy. Coding, to me, is just another form.  Teaching coding allows me to integrate multiple disciplines together. Coding is a process just like the research process. That is why it fits so nicely in the library. Additionally, coding teaches problem solving, cooperation, and how to overcome failure.

With all that being said, I do not believe in just coding for coding sake. I feel it should fit within a bigger picture. Combining coding skills with other literacy skills is always my ultimate goal.

This is so accurate! I want the technology I use to “blend” to be authentic, purposeful, and engaging. It should transform and enhance my end goal and not be used just because it is something “cool” I stumbled across. In her post, she talks about lessons to introduce coding to primary students and lessons to apply coding concepts.

Another site of interest that I explored this week is code.org. They have some spelling lessons and other online courses for primary students that could be used to introduce coding and teach the basics. Although this site probably won’t make an appearance in my online course, it is something I have added to my toolbox for when I get back to school.

In conclusion, I am really glad we had this week to just explore an aspect of blended learning that we are interested in. I was able to find something I could use to enhance and transform my online course and I am excited to see what I can come up with!

 

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Anxious, yet Eager.

It is really hard to believe that this is my fifth course with Dr. Alec Couros. It all started over 13 years ago in ECMP 355 (Intro to Computers in Class), in the Fall of 2006. Around 20 of us huddled in the computer lab working on desktops building websites using code and exploring this fairly new site called YouTube. Fast forward three years to the Winter of 2009 and I was back again with Dr. Couros in ECMP 455 (Classroom Computers Advanced). A LOT had changed in those three years. Twitter was a new and emerging tool and people were beginning to grow their Personal Learning Network (PLN). The concept of 21st century learning and bringing learning outside the 4 walls of the classroom was also beginning to get some traction. ECMP 455 was truly a game changer for me and has helped me become the educator that I am today. To be honest, Dr. Couros is the reason I decided to pursue a masters in education. His commitment to innovative approaches that promote student-centered teaching and learning is something I aspire to.

I began my Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in the Winter of 2015. This is class 7 out of 10! I have taken EC&I 832 (Emerging Media Literacies) and EC&I 831 (Social Media and Open Education) with Alec, but this is my first class on a maternity leave and I am really hoping I can keep things straight! I have two beautiful girls. Isla is 2.5 years old and Scarlett is 7 months old. Needless to say, they keep me busy and there is never a dull moment.

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I am really excited to be taking this course, but I am also feeling rather anxious. As a mother of two (both who aren’t the best sleepers), I am struggling with keeping things straight in my head. It is my hope that I don’t miss anything!

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

I appreciate you all helping to keep my focused and on task through Twitter and our online course community. When I am not full-time ‘momming’, I am a Teacher-Librarian with Regina Catholic Schools. I love this position as it allows me to combine a few of my passions in teaching: literacy, technology, and innovative teaching and learning.

In Regina Catholic Schools, the school library and the teacher-librarian are integral in strengthening student learning.

​Our school libraries are home to dynamic instructional programs that connect with the educational programs of the schools.  Through collaborative partnerships, teacher-librarians and classroom teachers design and implement inquiry-based learning opportunities that support curriculum learning outcomes.

Literacy development is the cornerstone of our school libraries.  They promote the enjoyment of reading, viewing, and listening. ​Our libraries prepare students for the future by developing the abilities and skills necessary to become information literate.​

Taken from RCSD Information and Library Services

My number one goal for this course is to get through it without missing a deadline and being able to produce the quality of work I am used to producing! Three other goals I have are:

  1. To develop an understanding of the pedagogical issues (e.g., learning strategies, developing content, delivery/facilitation formats/options, developing presence, cultivating community, etc.) of blended and online learning. As an elementary school teacher, I see very few instances of blended and online learning (although we do have some excellent examples of it happening right within our school division by extraordinary teachers, such as Matthew Bresciani) and I would like to explore how we can help close that gap.
  2. To examine and evaluate blended and online course content, pedagogical practices, and tools for implementation.  To be completely honest, I don’t know what is really out there (other than YouTube and MOOCs) for designing online and blended learning. I would like to explore, evaluate, and examine the various tools used to deliver the course and the pedagogical practices that need to be in place in order for them the be successful.
  3. To create something that is useful and can be used again. This is one of my favourite aspects of Alec’s courses — everything that we do is purposeful and has true meaning and the ability to impact teaching and learning.

… but in all honesty my number one goal is to not miss anything!

Write On: Improving Student Writing

“Remember what writing is for: to share what we see, think and believe, and invite response.” – Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online

Over my career, I have noticed a common trend in my students when they enter into my classroom. They DISLIKE writing. Sadly, they often come into my classroom with a negative view of writing and when asked to complete the beginning of the year writing assessment, the room is filled with moans and groans. (I hate to admit it, but I was one of those kids too). Just like Elizabeth, writing has never come easy to me and I often struggle with writer’s block, so I can relate with my students when they come into my classroom. Usually by the end of the year my students leave the classroom with a new outlook on writing.

Some of the common trends I see in the classroom that spur on this hatred of writing are:

  • Too much focus on conventions or as Heather says, the writing process. Teachers love their red pen and LOVE marking every error on students writing; however, this is such a small part of the process of writing. In fact, it is on small part of the 6 traits of writing. In my opinion, ideas, organization, voice, and word choice are WAY more important than if you are forgetting a period.
  • Students are told what to write and their only audience is the teacher.
  • Authentic and real-time feedback is often limited.
  • Often the pre-writing process is not authentic and has too much teacher input. This causes students to get stuck on what to write about because they are trying to write what they think the teacher wants.
  • There is a disconnect between reading and writing.
  • When students are allowed to use digital tools to publish their writing it is limited to word processing.

Improving student writing has been a priority within our school division the past few years. At the same time our division has implemented a variety of new technology tools to help enhance and transform the way we teach and learn. One of the ways to leverage student engagement in writing is through collaborative writing tools that help build writing communities. Who are our students writing for? Who makes up the audience? How do they make the audience care?

“It’s not just 21st century skills but 21st century connections and how to make them.”  – Vicki Davis, Reinventing Writing

By reinventing writing and using collaborative digital tools within the digital writing workshop along with traditional methods, we are fostering community, allowing students to explore various perspectives, and with that acquire and synthesize new information. Using digital tools in the classroom doesn’t mean that you can sit back, relax, and let the tool do all the teaching. The teacher must be an active participant by facilitating learning, intervening when necessary, and providing relevant feedback.

It is also important not to get caught up in the bells and whistles of the digital tool. Some key questions to think of when integrating digital tools are:

  • How will this tool further student-centered learning?
  • What outcomes will this tool help to leverage?
  • How is this tool connecting students and creating collaborative learning?
  • Did I sent out information about the tool to parents?
  • How easy is it for me to set up this tool?
  • How easy is it for the students to use it or navigate the platform?
  • How will I monitor student work and passwords?
  • What is the terms of use of the tool?

(Questions from: Writing Assessment & Digital Tools Workshop by Regina Catholic Schools)

When we use digital tools and engage in authentic writing experiences, we are redefining the author’s chair. In my experience a great way to provide purpose for writing and an authentic environment for writing is through a blog. Blogging provides a place for students to develop their voice, make meaningful reflections, connect and collaborate with peers, curate content, and develop transliteracy and digital citizenship. By building your PLN on Twitter and using hashtags, such as #comments4kids, you will be able to connect your classroom with other classrooms around the world to make this process even more exciting, authentic, and engaging.

Wordle – What I have been Blogging About

I was reading through peoples blogs and I came across the application of Wordle.

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

I never knew about this application, but what a great way to see what you have been talking about, what is important to you, the highlights of your blog. Here are some of the key things I have been talking about on my blog:

wordle

What a great way to do brainstorming in your classroom. Each student could type out their key points that they have taken from a unit and we could compile all the words together and see the words that pop out the most. It is also a form of pre-assessment, in that you could see what words came up the most and if a word didn’t come up that was supposed to you could study that word further. Or students could do a reasearch based project and input their words into Wordle and use this in their presentation. Another great way we can use technology in the classroom!