COVID-19 and Grok Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many teachers including me with shifting from face-to-face on-campus teaching to an off-campus combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. I thought I’d do my bit for the computing teachers community by sharing my resources.

My first (hoping to share more) installment is for IST. This one is for my year 9s for the Internet and Web Development option. I always run this unit in line with Grok Learning Web.Comp. That it suits off-campus learning is a bonus. Thank you Grok Learning!!!

The Task

In groups of 3, students will design and develop interactive websites. There are deliverables for the team as well as team members. They all have to do Web.Comp to upskill and then apply immediately to their project. Here’s the complete task including schedule and rubric mapped to outcomes (see below). I keep my rubric simple with specific criteria on what I’m looking for.

 

In groups

  • Choose their own topic inspired by pages from our school diary. It covers study skills, well-being, school history. This content is relevant more than ever and I do not have to worry about allocating time for research which really isn’t the focus of my assessment.
  • Choose their own audience; specific is best, e.g. year 9 student who loves checklist
  • Decide on a Site Map, i.e. what pages and features to include
  • Decide on a joint Style Guide

Individually

  • Find their own inspiration before contributing back to the team
  • Define one success criterion based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG); #a11y is a thing! and a practical way of engaging with ethical issues
  • Create a prototype so they can refine their Style Guides prior to submission – and see the cascading bit on CSS in action (and likely frustration but that’s all part of learning!)
  • Log progress (Medals and Missions) for self-regulation purposes as well as to help me keep track of their progress (evidence of engagement and understanding, in teacher-speak)

 

a bit more context

I’ve asked my students to do Grok Learning’s Intro to HTML/CSS course late last term. Most have done about 50% of the course and all of them are familiar with the interface. This is why I chose Advanced stream.

My off-campus classroom is in Microsoft Teams, with a channel for Virtual Lessons. This worked well at the end of last term. Now, I’ve added breakout channels (this post from Alice Leung is helpful if you want to learn how I set it up plus a few other tips there) for each project team as I intended this task to be group work. I considered using GitHub but since I haven’t walked my students through setting it up – and I’m not all that confident in trouble-shooting, I decided to stick to files in Teams. I’ll have to show them how to sync so they can do offline development.

I usually do backward-planning, i.e. starting from outcomes and then create learning experiences accordingly. Here are the outcomes I intend to assess:

5.2.2 Designs, produces and evaluates appropriate solutions to a range of challenging problems

5.2.3 Critically analyses decision-making processes in a range of information and software solutions

5.3.2 Acquires and manipulates data and information in an ethical manner

5.5.1 Applies collaborative work practices to complete tasks

Here’s my planned Term 2 schedule including weeks before and after the assessment and Web.Comp. Not sure what the NSW plan of staggered return will do to this plan but I think it might just be resilient enough!

 

Old posts that could be useful

Here’s a post I wrote for more on how I use Grok Learning in my teaching. Grok Learning is free until July. That’s another bonus!

Here’s a post on how I do my backward planning – this one’s on a unit for Year 11 Software Design and Development.

PBL with NCSS Challenge from Grok Learning

I am such a big fan of Grok Learning and NCSS Challenge. It’s been an integral part of my teaching Information Software and Technology (IST) since 2013. Every year, the challenge is the foundation of my assessment tasks so my IST Scope and Sequence always has Software Design and Programming in Term 3 when the challenge is on. Though the foundation is the same, each task is different and over the years, I’ve explored many of the features provided. (Read what’s new this year from Grok Learning’s blog).

Apart from enjoying learning fundamentals of programming as well as coding in python, I really want my year 9 IST students to be more aware of, and appreciate:

  • growth in their learning
  • diversity in solutions
  • personal relevance of computational thinking and coding

In other words, I want deeper learning. I decided to plan this slightly differently using my two go-to PBL-planning frameworks (1) student-friendly format from Bianca and Lee Hewes, and (2) teacher-programming familiar format from Setting the Standard for PBL: A Proven Approach to Rigorous Classroom Instruction.  This is a similar approach to another unit I loved – Delta X (my X + CS project with year 11 Software Design class).

In doing the NCSS Challenge, how have my knowledge and skills in designing and implementing coded solutions grown, AND what does this mean to me now and into the future?

Thank you Grok Learning for agreeing to feature my students’ work, providing an authentic audience 🙂

 

I’ve not had a chance to make it all pretty. I decided to share now in case others doing the challenge are looking for ideas to use it in their assessments this term. I’m using a class OneNote notebook (I’m also a big OneNote fan) but have PDF’d relevant details, including literacy/writing scaffolds, to share as well. The textbook referred to here is by David Grover et al, it is a good reference to augment the notes from the challenge, and it aligns well with NSW’s syllabus.

 

 

I think it’s pretty self-contained but happy to clarify if needed.

Suggestions for improvement are also welcome! Even if it’s too late for me to change this year, there’s always next year 🙂

 

We write our own reports?

Ever had an idea you just had to act on?

Today with my year 10s, we had 15 minutes to ‘spare’ after we de-briefed their yearly exam paper. Just then, I had a thought to get them to write their own report comment. I figured ‘why not?’

So, I asked my students to spend the next 15 minutes drafting a 500-character report comment for IST. I mentioned that I have already drafted their reports – which was true – and that I wanted to make sure I did not miss anything – which was also true – and that I would use their input – which was more or less true.

One of the more astute ones asked, “Does that mean we write our own reports?”

Boom!

I replied yes, of course. I write the words but in fact, what they do (or not) throughout the year is what is written in the report comment. So technically,  students do write their own reports. Right?

Awesome as they are, they humoured me and actually did the activity.

It was an authentic context to reflect on the year that was, how they were as learners in my classroom and even how they could improve. No scaffold. No prompts. No advice from me….just the time and space to do it…and a bit of ‘rah rah’.

I was so pleased by their honesty and accuracy of self-assessment. I was also pleased that my report comments got validated by theirs which, for my part, means I do know my students and that my data collection (via formative and summative assessments) and feedback systems work.

Writing reports can be onerous, often due to sheer volume and tight deadlines. This has been a ray of sunshine.

I would do this again as a win-win activity. That is, students reflect meaningfully on their learning – content and process and I, their teacher, gets validation and more importantly, personalised insights about them.

 

I do and I understand

Confucius says (oh my, I’ve been wanting to do that for ages…haha):

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

In my random clicking on the internet disguised as professional development (or maybe it’s the reverse), I found a couple of strategies interesting enough to try.

Fishbowl

The first came from an Edutopia video, How to teach maths as a social activity. I’m a big fan of cooperative and collaborative learning and this video has good strategies. What I wanted to try immediately was called Fishbowl (video link). Basically, it’s having a small group sit and discuss while the rest of the class observe. I’ve heard of it before but this is the first time I intended to give it a go.

With my year 10s going into their exam block next week, and coming in from a 2-week school holidays, I thought that Fishbowl would be an interesting way to do some revision. So I set up 3 groups to discuss (1) Bias in algorithm, (2) Use of cookies, and (3) Robotics in employment.

These topics are directly related to the topics we did this year (1) Software Design and Programming, (2) Internet, and (3) Robotics.

I gave them 5-10 minutes to do a quick revision using our class notes or to look up on the web. This had to be done individually, i.e. no discussions. Then, the group took turns to be in the Fishbowl.

While I set this out as a revision exercise, what I found was Fishbowl is also an effective assessment activity. I doubt I’ll use it for summative assessments but as formative assessment, it was really good to see what the small group, and whole class, knew…or did not know…or got confused on. It also contextualised my assessment tips such as – give specific details, use technical terms and make sure you know their definitions, think of positives and negatives when discussing issues, you can link topics we studied,  use Asimov’s Laws on Robotics when discussing issues, and the like.

Tic Tac Toe + Jeopardy

Our current unit of work in 9IST is game design, a culmination of the Digital Media and Software Design and Programming topics we studied this year. They also have a yearly exam coming soon and I thought what better way to do revision than to play games. We will unpack the following experience next lesson and use that to feed into the work they yet have to do.

I found my inspiration in a recently discovered (read: yesterday) differentiation site, daretodifferentiate (link to Choice boards or tic tac toe, though the wiki site warrant more exploration). I wanted to try it straight away but all mu units are already designed so I figured I might as well use it for revision….and as a game!

The plan was to have a choice board with easy, medium and hard questions – that’s the tic tac toe part. Assigning points to the questions was the Jeopardy part.

I’m not going to include all the questions here but here’s a small sample so you get the idea: easy – JPEG is a lossy format (True or False?), medium – Define algorithm, hard – Explain one way that text can be digitised. For points, I gave 100 for easy, 150 for medium and 200 for hard.

Using the simple definition of games = goal + rules, I discussed the rules of tic tac toe and Jeopardy. They work in groups, nominate a speaker (and there can be no repeat speakers) to provide the answer. I also added a rule of ‘stealing’, i.e. if a group can answer a question better then they “steal (the chance to earn)” the points. This was actually good to ensure they all tried their best and that they listened to other groups. Revision and learning were happening at individual, small group and whole class level. Granted, still at different levels but even the quietest student could learn from others at least. I dropped the ‘tic tac toe’ all in a line across three columns because I had 3 groups…but that would be fun to design to get some blocking strategy happening as well.

Speaking of designing the thing, I wanted to implement this in Scratch, or with more time and effort – JavaScript or Python perhaps. But, given that I thought of this on the eve of using it, I resorted to a table in PowerPoint and using animated blocks to hide/reveal the questions. It’s been a while since I used the ‘click on object’ as trigger (default is just click anywhere) that I’ve forgotten about it. On the whole, it worked quite well actually….yep, a PowerPoint hack 🙂

Even with a short activity, I can see the power of differentiation through choice….and of course, I’m convinced about cooperative and collaborative learning anyway.

9IST groups in a huddle, discussing strategies and answers

9IST groups in a huddle, discussing strategies and answers

Back to Confucius

There are so many teaching and learning resources out there and seriously, there are many good ones. Finding ones to try and then actually making it happen help cement them in my mind because I don’t only know of, I also understand.

Also, because I mostly teach via Project-Based Learning, my students have done the ‘do’ bit and yet, as I’ve uncovered in these revision activities today, they don’t always remember or understand. And so then, back to Confucius:

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Revision (look at again) – as an example of reflection (look deeper perhaps over-and-over from different perspectives) – has shown a path for remembering and understanding. In writing this blog post, tired as I am after an all-period teaching day on the first day back at school in 35C heat, I have forced myself to revise and reflect on these strategies.

Ah, I feel wiser now…haha

Learning to code

Software programming hasn’t been taught at my school for years. It was a bit of a gamble for me to include it in my programs for 3 subjects I teach: 9IST, 10IST and 11IPT. I was intending to do programming with the year 9s but decided to extend this to the year 10s in the hope of drumming some interest for the Software Design  HSC course and to the year 11s because the students expressed interest in learning.

Intro to programming

I used different ways to introduce the topic. First up were the year 10s who I got to play with Context Free Art (visual programming) which I barely learned at the CS4HS at Sydney Uni a few days before. Next up were the year 11s and I took them straight to Python for Beginners course with groklearning; the first couple of modules are free and sufficient to get beginning programmers going. Finally, with the year 9s, I went completely analogue. In groups of 3, they had to design a dance move for 8 beats and write it in pseudo-code. Another group gets to execute the move using the pseudo-code.

The year 9s had the best fun and, in my opinion, really learned what it means to design and code software programs. They experienced the challenge of breaking down the problem (dance move) into smaller components and think of sequencing, concurrent processing and even looping. Then there was the challenge of coding the move. Also, they realised that code – if unclear – could be interpreted in different ways or worse, wrongly (not as designed). They got the big picture: developing algorithmic-thinking and coding skills.  As quoted from @gilfer in a previous post, Software is poetry

… programming is not really the practice of writing lines of code. It is the art of taking big, intractable problems and breaking them down into ever smaller ones which can be understood, explained and then carefully assembled into a living, breathing work of art.

Software is poetry. It’s the expression of ideas in the most elegant form a programmer can devise.

Learning Python

I really enjoyed my road-test of NCSS challenge last year and so changed my new school’s IST course so I can include it in (he he).  As mentioned, both my years 9 and 10 are doing the NCSS challenge 2013 in its spiffy new groklearning platform. It fits right in with the IST syllabus (core topics + software design option) as well as my experiential approach to teaching. I even decided to make this one of the assessment tasks for year 9s; I’d have done the same with year 10s except their doing exams instead.

Both classes started the challenge today – Beginners. Starting with a quick campfire, I told them about pair programming (one of the strategies I learned yesterday as good for success in introductory programming – go on read it; I will try the other strategies later) and of course, remind them to have fun. It’s too early to tell but hey, I’m excited because the students were totally engaged in the challenge and were having fun….hard fun….as in, easy is boring kind of fun.  In both cases, I had to boot them out at the end of the period as they wanted to keep going – and we’re talking they’re supposed to go to recess or lunch….not another subject that perhaps they don’t like!

Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me but the year 9s did better than the year 10s. Was it the dance move intro? 🙂

There are a few year 9s who I will have upgraded to the Intermediate challenge as Beginners seem too easy for them. #proudmoment

I thought I’d share my here as well; feel free to reuse, upcycle, remix – if you do, all I ask for is feedback to how it can be better….atrribution would be nice, too. 2013 – 9IST – Assessment 3 – NCSS (PDF)

Using ClassDojo

I used ClassDojo before when I first ran my Digital Media Jedi Academy (also for 9IST). As before, I’m using it to communicate my expectations and award points. The points this time is for a request for an in-school competition outside of the national challenge. I do listen to my students and besides, using ClassDojo really forces me to look at each kid and see if they are showing expected behaviours…and my favourite is “exceeding expectations“. In this way, ClassDojo is my tool to remind me to check in with every kid as I have a visual reminder of eveyrone in my class and the ones who are not racking up points (are they not showing the expected behaviour or am I just not seeing it – go look, Mrs Mawby!). The points system is handy also for the teacher observation component of the 9IST task.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not using the Negative Behaviours (removing points) because in my 6 months with these classes, I’ve never had reason to control negative behaviour….yes, I’m lucky.

expected behaviour

expected behaviour

 

Okay, have shared heaps now and will stop – just wanted to leverage the excitement of the day to churn out a blog post 🙂

UPDATE 12 August 2013: I just added the task in PDF (I forgot to attach it last time….oops!)