Monthly Archives: October 2020

After looking through my list of resources I wanted to review and share and considering some questions I got from peers, I thought the next thing I would write about is different coding and video game design software that I love to use in my classroom.

I know a lot of Math/Science teachers are feeling anxious about teaching coding, especially if it's something that is completely new to you or you have not done before. To that end I wanted to share two of my favourites over the next two posts and explain the different ways you can use them in your class.

Before I get in to that I want to explain why I love teaching coding and video game design and why I think it is so great to have in the classroom.

  • It teaches resiliency.
    • When you code, NOTHING works on the first try. Often students will have to try things multiple times before things work. They will get frustrated and learn how to push through it. They will learn that mistakes are a part of the process and how to move forward. If anyone ever wants to tell a bad coding joke in their class here is my favourite "99 problems with code on the wall, 99 problems with code! Take one down, pass it around, 126 problems with code on the wall!"
  • The feedback is instant.
    • If something doesn't work you will know right away. There is not waiting or worry. You are not waiting for feedback from a teacher or peer. You will also know right away if something does work!
  • It teaches students how to break tasks down.
    • Computers are not mind readers, they will not infer. You need to be completely clear on your code and break down every step of the process. This is a very useful life skill to have!

That being said, here is my favourite way to teach basic coding to students. It's a fantastic software called Code Combat.

Code Combat is a site where you can teach students Python, Java or C++.

In it, students can pick their own avatar and fight through dungeons using code. The levels get increasingly more complex and are surprisingly fun. I have had lots of students develop quite an addiction to solving the problems!

The other thing that makes Code Combat great? It has built in assessments! Here is a sample grade book they have that allows you to keep track of student work.

 

It also creates fun certificates with the student's avatar to show when they have completed a list of tasks that you can print out and give to your students.

The levels themselves can get wonderfully complex for your kids that need enrichment but also are user friendly enough for any beginner.

So, if you are panicking about how to broach coding in your Math or Science class this is one resource I highly recommend trying out. It's free and is very user friendly for teachers.

For my next post I will be showing a more complex software that allows students to design their own video games.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I hope that you can have fun and get messy in your class with this!

 

 

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After leaving our first Face to Face meeting last weekend, I took some time to sit down and really reflect on all the 'How Might We's' that I got to consider during our discussions, and I wanted to think about what was really important to me when teaching in this new world. What was really important to me when considering pandemic pedagogy for grades 7-12?

After going through a few bouts of imposter syndrome, and considering what would fill my bucket in a time when it feels like everything is exhausting, I reached a conclusion.

What really fills my bucket every day, is the mess that I can make in my class. I can throw messy, difficult and hands-on problems to my students that they need to solve using Science and Math. We get to break things, and build them again, we get to seek out problems and try to solve them. That's what fills my bucket, and I'm not sure about you, but with current safety protocols and changes to how we teach, I don't feel like I'm able to do that as much this year.

To that end I have decided on a direction. My goal this year is to gather resources that will allow me to still make my messy classroom whether it be virtual, hyflex or in class but distanced. I am going to find these resources, review them and share them out with all of you. I want to take some of the pressure off other teachers who feel like the day itself was too much and they can't think of what to do next. My goal is to show you things that you can use that will helpfully fill your bucket in class.

I'm going to start with a program I tweeted about earlier this week- Polypad by Mathgion

One of the first things I noticed this year was that I could not use any of the math manipulatives I love to show certain concepts in math. To that end I found Polypad, it's an online platform that allows students to mess around with all the different tools I normally have in class.

The general layout looks like this. You will have a list of manipulatives to choose from on the left and a general blank work space that you can place your tools in and manipulate them. You can see me messing around with fraction bars here.

From there you can also try out different things like tangrams, or even visual representations of algebraic concepts. Overall I found the program very easy to use and I firmly believe students from grade 7-12 will find this easy as well.

They can use this to show patterns, to compare fractions, or even represent the multiplication or differences between x and x^2 and other algebra concepts. They even have cool things like Penrose tiles which I am not entirely familiar with yet but may be interesting to others!

This was useful to me for number talks where I could ask students to consider things like finding fractions between 1/2 and 1/3 or explaining why dividing fractions results in a bigger number.

My hope is that his will be helpful to anyone else struggling to let kids mess around with different things in math and that they will still be able to have some trickier, messy math discussions and show their thinking!

Please let me know if this was helpful for you in the comments and if you looked through this and it resonated. Please also comment if you were thinking of anything in your STEM class you might want to know more about and I will be happy to post about it!

I hope you all have a lovely long weekend and I hope you can take some time to fill your bucket!

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