5 great sites to get your head around computational thinking

This eBook is a great starting point for teachers looking to get started with computational thinking, coding and robotics. Click image to access.

This eBook is a great starting point for teachers looking to get started with computational thinking, coding and robotics. Click image to access.

This year I have been doing a great deal of research around understanding computational thinking, coding and robotics as it becomes a mandatory element of the Australian Curriculum in 2017.

I really feel this to be a huge step in the right direction for our students as Australia's economy is currently built upon unsustainable mining practices which leaves our best and brightest to head overseas as to pursue successful careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Throughout this process I have struggled at times to find some worthwhile resources for teachers but at the same time uncovered a few diamonds among the rough that I highly recommend.  They are as follows.

Teaching London Computing - Has some fun activities for teachers to pick up and run with straight away that effectively reinforce the concepts of computational thinking and computer science to the average Joe.  Regulatory updated also.

CSER Digital Technologies MOOC.  - This is by far and away the most concise resource I have encountered.  A completely free unit from the University of Adelaide with hundreds of participants sharing ideas and insights.  It will take you a few weeks to get through but incredibly thorough.  It is aimed at an Aussie audience but is by far and away the best I have encountered globally.

CS Unplugged - Tim Bell has put together an incredible collection of activities for budding computer scientists and computational thinkers.  Just one catch though.  You don't use a computer to do any of them which I love.  Excellent for those who are a little scared by screens and keyboards.

Computational Thinking for Educators - Google's free mini course on computational thinking  is short but sweet.  In theory you could polish this off in a few hours but there is much to explore and flesh out beyond that.  A great starting point. 

Code.org - Whilst code.org is probably the largest of all of these resources and definitely a must visit for any budding teacher or student looking for ideas in this space it's purpose is a little less defined than all the others on this list.  Or at least I felt so.  Certainly heaps here for coders in particular but go in with an end goal.

If you are aware of any others I would love to hear your thoughts.


Make your own Egg Carton Ladybug

Next time you finish a carton of eggs, put it aside for your next art and craft session with the kids. These cute little ladybug are easy tomake and are great attached to a mobile, used in imaginative play or asa party decoration.

What you will need...An Egg Carton, Craft Glue, Red Paint, Paint Brush, Scissors, BlackPermanent Marker, 2 x Googly Eyes, 1 x Black Pipe Cleaner, 1 x FluffyBlack BallTip...You can substitute the fluffy ball, pipe cleaners and goggly eyes with black and white paper for a look which is just as good.  Click here to see a photo!

Step One... Using your scissors carefully cut out an egg cup from your egg carton as shown

Step Two... Using your red paint, grab a paint brush and paint your egg cup

Step Three... Once dry, using your black permanent marker, draw black dots over the surface of the egg cup

Step Four... Using your craft glue stick the black fluffy ball to the painted egg cup to form the ladybug's head 

Step Five... Prepare your black pipe cleaner antlers by cutting two 2cm (1inch) pieces and bending them as shown

Step Six... Using your craft glue, stick the googly eyes and antlers on

Step Seven... you are finished!

I'd love to hear how you go with this...

Thug notes gives learning some much needed street cred...

Thug notes is a YouTube channel which started out as a series of comedy skits that somehow didn't pan out for it's creators who had dreams of becoming stars on the silver screen.

They created video 'cliff's notes' or quick descriptions of of classic literature and films delivered by gangsters and other highly engaging characters.

Somewhere along the line Thug notes switched from a comedy channel to one of the most viewed education channels on YouTube, as their approach had a massive impact on teachers and students.  It was both cool and well researched material.  And yes, it is funny.  It may not be for everyone, but either is sitting in a lecture theater for an hour listening to an incredibly boring analysis of lord of the flies.

Anyhow take a look for yourself here...

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Introducing the 'Geek of the Week' project to engage students with technology.

Next time someone calls you a 'Geek!' go and thank them for it, give them a hug if need be.  Because if we stop and look at many great people who changed our world for the better through innovation and the pursuit of technology, they were in fact 'geeks.'

In the US alone today 51 billionaires would identify as 'geeks' through the wealth theyccumulated from our love affection with technology.

So I thought it was time to stopped hating on them  and actually encouraged our kids to release their inner geek which has resulted in the 'Geek of the Week Project."

The purpose of this project is to offer a gateway for students and teachers to use the language of technology and computational thinking in front of their peers whilst researching some amazing technologies that which either already changed our world for the better or are in the process of doing so.

This project will open your students eyes to jobs and career paths which may have previously been unknown to them and maybe they may find another 'technology hero' to go alongside the Lebron James' and Taylor Swift's.

You can access this project either as a Google Slide or Microsoft PowerPoint and feel free to alter it in any way to meet the needs of your students.  It is completely up to you and your imagination.

I would finally like to thank the team over at Innovative Teaching Ideas for sharing this resource with us again.  You can either access it as the Google slide below or by clicking here to access it as a PowerPoint presentation.

Enjoy and leave a comment if you have anything to add to this.

Hello, World!

A million minutes of genuine news hits YouTube

Remember the days when TV networks only scheduled an hour of news per day? and a live cross to a breaking story was for a legitimate event worth sticking with...

Well Associated Press does, and fortunately they have made their entire back catalogue of historic news events available to the world through YouTube.

Yes you can relive all one million minutes of the worlds most famous moments, both deadly serious and lighthearted.

The videos date back as far as 1895 and equate to 550, 000 individual uploads to YouTube.  The largest to date.

They are available here and could be applied to the classroom in a multitude of ways...  One thing is for sure though that those boring history lessons are about to get a little more visual.

You can access it here.


Lessons to learn from landing on the moon

Today is the anniversary of the 1969 moon landing, one of mankind's greatest achievements.  It is a little disappointing to think nearly fifty years on we would have done a little more in space but I am hopeful that today's students will take us even further in the future if we share the great accomplishments of the past.

Race to the moon is a good resource for students to gain an understanding of the space race in the sixties and places all of the key events in a simple to follow timeline.  Students can learn about the crew and technology that took us to the moon including the Saturn V rocket which to this day is still the most powerful and fastest 'thing' we have ever created.

Liftoff into Space is a lesson plan that explores the space race and space exploration as a whole.

Finally, what the space race can teach us about collaboration is a useful article for older students to explore the unity and understanding of many required to achieve a common goal.  It could lead into a great activity exploring the collaboration required to send a person to Mars

70 Guided reading Activities for individuals and groups

This collection of 70 Guided Reading activities has all your ELA and Common Core needs covered for grades 3 - 6 and has been a top seller since being released in February. Read the feedback for yourself.

Teachers around the globe are adopting this as their ‘Go-to’ resource for reading and writing activities for months on end without repeat. ‘No-prep’ and maximum engagement. All your students need is a book from home or school.

This bundle of beautifully presented literacy tasks will ensure your students are engaged and on task during literacy rotations either working as a group or independently. Every activity has clear instructions and open ended outcomes to meet the needs of all ability ranges.

These activities have been designed by exemplary teachers and run in our classrooms for over two decades. Each activity is designed to run for approximately 40 - 60 minutes in duration and are ‘evergreen’ meaning they can be applied to any student or text.

Overview of activities included (Please note that most tasks have multiple elements.)
40+ Activities requiring students to use a range of different writing styles.
30+ Activities requiring students to use a range of artistic and creative skills.
20+ Activities that utilize popular technology tools and applications.
20+ Dedicated group work based tasks
20+ Tasks requiring further reading, inquiry and exploration of concepts within a text.
40+ Tasks that can be applied to films and graphic novels.
10+ activities involving drama, music or role playing..
15+ Graphic organizers that can be applied to any text or topic.
Plus much more.

I’ve also added a PowerPoint file that includes all tasks as editable slides on top of a downloadable ebook. The purpose of this is to allow you to share the tasks on a large screen, and if you are fluent in PowerPoint you can edit the tasks to further suit your needs.

This highly sought after resource can be accessed here.

Facts & Myths about Computational Thinking in Classrooms

Whenever I speak to teachers about computational thinking it seems to place a layer of tension and confusion upon their shoulders, as most have preconceptions about this new ‘imposition placed upon them’.  They usually to glaze over and seek alternate discussion topics within minutes...

From experience I find most teachers have this attitude to Computational Thinking.

  • “At some point in time I know the curriculum is going to make it mandatory for me to teach this stuff…”

  • “I don’t know a single thing about coding and robotics, and I think they have something to do with computational thinking.  And that stuff is really hard to learn”

  • “I only teach English or (insert topic here) and it’s not really going to affect me so I am pretty sure all those nerdy teachers will deal with it for my school..”

  • “Maybe if we just ignore it… It will go away.”

Recently, I set about  trying to better understand computational thinking myself through research and professional development, before I had too many more conversations with teachers.

I have good news for teachers getting anxious about how they are going to deal with it when it becomes reality for them…  It’s definitely not rocket science, but it is a little different and can be  quite exciting for teachers and students who are prepared to buy in....

Firstly we need to break down these common misconceptions around computational thinking. So let’s look at the facts.

  • Computational Thinking is a strategy for solving problems that can be applied to any field or situation.  Much the same as the concept of De Bono’s six thinking hats or other problem solving models.  

  • Computational Thinking and Computer Science are two completely different things, and you can successfully teach and use computational thinking without ever touching a computer if you chose to.

  • You definitely do not need to make robots, learn a new language  or program a computer to ensure your students understand computational thinking.

  • It’s not going away anytime soon…  In fact it’s on the rise

If you want to get an understanding of what computational thinking is in  under six minutes then watch this clip from Google Computational Thinking experts.  It should be essential viewing for any teacher  before jumping to conclusions.

Essentially there are four parts to computational thinking as aforementioned which can be applied to any problem.

    Decomposition - Breaking a problem into smaller parts so you may divide a task.

    Pattern Recognition - Finding similarities and differences in order to make predictions

    Abstraction - Identifying the general principles that generate the patterns

    Algorithm Design - Developing the step by step instructions to solve problems.

Don’t get me wrong.  Computational Thinking definitely lends itself to computer science and opens the doors to coding and robotics.  You will certainly need to embrace technology if you wish to go any further than teaching and learning the process of Computational Thinking.

Why are we doing all of this?  Haven’t we already got enough in the curriculum?  I hear you say…

Yes the curriculum is overcrowded, but governments around the world see this as an essential skill in the 21st Century workforce.  If you need evidence around it’s place in our  society simply take look at the look at the world's top companies and richest individuals.  You will see the Apple’s and Google’s of the world fill out a large portion of those lists, and all exist on the fundamentals of Computational Thinking.

In essence we need to turn our kids from technology consumers to creators.  And Computational Thinking allows us to make this change.

If you would like to learn all out Computational Thinking for Educators I would strongly recommend you partake in this great free course from Google.  

from my experience Computational Thinking is a worthwhile problem solving skill  for anyone, and certainly something teachers shouldn't fear.
I acknowledge coding and robotics is a long stretch for most to get their head around but it is not an essential part of Computational Thinking and shouldn't put you and your students off from taking the first steps into a new realm of teaching and learning opportunities.