CS Teachers Conference at UWaterloo

I had the pleasure of attending this 3 day conference where I was able to learn some older and new technologies that are available from the university as well as things that other educators are doing in their classrooms daily.  For me, it was an amazing opportunity to learn because I have been focused on my math teaching for the past 3 years.   There were come key themes that I took away and some questions I have for the next steps.

The first thing that I continuously thought about (as well as something that I heard from others) was the desire from our students on instantaneous feedback.  Students want to know how they did, if they need to improve, and how they need to improve as soon as they complete a task.  Although this may sound like exciting news, it is not always as great because some students do not want to think about how they can improve, but rather want you to tell them how to improve.

One way the University of Waterloo and other websites provide a way for instantaneous feedback in coding is through “tutorials” where students do not have to download the IDE.  Some examples we looked at in the conference were CSCircles, Codingbat, and Websheets (this is a newer one where you create your own code).  All of these provide some information on the program, the elements you will be tested on, and then a space to code the program required.  When students “ran” the code, the sites would compile and run test cases against the solution code.  It would give error messages and give results based on the test cases.  I found the test cases very helpful because it allowed to student to see that you need a number of test cases and need to make sure that you test a lot to find subtle problems.  They do not all track the students progress as they are to complement the student learning rather than be the classroom they are in.

The other concept that a lot of teachers were implementing was the idea of using cloud services to submit files and to promote collaboration on code.  One industry tool that is constantly being used for coding and other services is Git and Github.  This is a neat tool that creates online repositories and then allows you to share the code with anyone you allow (free Github makes all code public).  In order to collaborate together, you need to give special permission to the other users.  In our session we were all able to access the code presented in an easy way as we didn’t have to download the files and then locate the package to open.  The only downside was that you needed an account and some boards block the use of Git and Github.  Once I get the handle on this, I will hope to use it in my own classes so that students are able to work together and learn skills that the workplace already uses.

The last take away was not the newest concept, but was something that I would like to practice in my classes (even math) and that was the idea of Genius Hour.  The one teacher took it a step forward and talked about how they implement aspects of project management into the genius hour sessions.  In order to work through their personal project they are required to complete the basic components involved in project management.  Every session also included a basic exit card that had key ideas, such as what they learned, what they did, where they need help, and what their next steps were.

As always it was great to go to a conference that stretched my thinking and made me reflect on where I could go next with my learning.

Advertisements

The Power of New Technology

Today I had the opportunity of supply teaching a history class that was completely self-directed.  The students were creating blog posts on a particular topic in World History.  The teacher left the link in the supply notes so that I could look at the posts if I was interested.  I found that because the class was working hard I found myself captured by the posts and topics that the students wrote about.  I even found myself reading these throughout the day because I was interested in the other posts that were available.  Some of the students shared their view on the EU, Terrorism, Torture, and Global Warming, based on the research they have completed to show their new understanding.  The class made me think about how much we have changed in terms of teaching and learning.

Teaching math I have found that I did not think of ways or redefining my class and then integrating technology into it.  I have mainly used it for substitution and modification (through the use of new apps so students can continue to learn outside of the classroom).  But from this class and the computer science class at my current school it has made me start to think about how to foster the power of blogging in my math class. I feel that this would be a fantastic way to have my students truly think about what they have been learning.

In my future classes I feel like I am going to use blogging or even forms more often so that we are using the power of technology to positively enhance student learning. I know that this year I have learned a lot about integrating technology and have tried to use it more often but I am still learning and growing like my students are when they learn something new.