Creative Ways to Integrate Computer Science

Students need exposure to computer science. Whether we agree on not, computers are integrated into our every day life. From banking, to smart phones, to our entertainment, computer science has a huge impact on us.

“In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

~President Barack Obama, 2016 State of the Union Address

To bring computer science, coding, to all learners was launched in 2013 by twin brothers, Hadi and Ali Partovi.  The purpose of the annual Hour of Code campaign is to get all learners K-12 exposure to coding and computational thinking skills that allow learners to take processes apart and find errors in the logic. Currently there is 124,846 events registered across the United States to celebrate the Hour of Code. Globally, this grassroots event will impact tens of millions learners in over 180 different languages.

So what are you doing to engage your learners in computer science this week and beyond? Hopefully you are offering exposure in some way, shape, or form. Sadly, I hear too often I don’t teach computers and coding has nothing to do with my subject. This is wrong and a mentality we need to overcome. We want our students to be prepared for a future where most jobs are dependent upon, if not directly dealing with computers. Preparing students to be problem solvers who can program and fix programming errors in never a bad idea when:

  • Pennsylvania currently has 16,976 open computing jobs (3.2 times the average demand rate in Pennsylvania).
  • The average salary for a computing occupation in PA is $85,654, which is significantly higher than the average salary in the state ($47,540). The existing open jobs alone represent a $1,454,062,304 opportunity in terms of annual salaries.
  • Pennsylvania had only 2,969 computer science graduates in 2015; only 20% were female.

If this data intrigues you, you can find more information here. has committed to making computer science activities that can be implemented with little to no coding experience by the adults in the room and a wide variety of activities that can easily be implemented in math, science, ELA, social studies, or exploratory courses in grades K-12.   I challenge you to take a peek at the opportunities available for our learners on this site and even if you just allow students to dabble during a SOAP or advisory period I am sure you will get sucked into the excitement as they explore computer science in a fun and engaging activity complete with online tutorials and guides.  How can you possibly go wrong by exposing students to a skillset that is in high demand today and will be even higher tomorrow?

“Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”

~Bill Gates


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I’m No Monet…

I have been intrigued by sketchnoting for awhile now, but never really paid it any mind, because let’s face it some people have gifts, and I quite frankly was born without an artistic bone in my body. I can’t draw and sketching seemed like a concept best left to the artistic people amongst us.

However, PAECT hosted a webinar with Sylvia Duckworth and I learned quite a bit about the concept of sketchnoting and the purpose of engaged listening through purposeful doodling. I have always been a doodler. When on the phone, sitting in a meeting, or attending a lecture my pen or pencil magically took over and doodled up and down the margins of my notebooks. Sometimes it was flowers, others it was words, and later in life it was the initials of my future husbands to be (lol).  Sylvia made sketchnoting seem possible for a artistic lackluster like me and I loved her ideas.

Currently the group of educators who attended this webinar, all who are members of PAECT, are involved in a sketchnote challenge called #12daysofsketchnoting.  I am really excited about seeing the sketches our group develops as these next 12 days unfold. In fact I am so excited that I am thinking about running a month of sketchnoting contest with our middle school students the second half of this school year. I think it would be awesome to work some of our desired character traits and academic vocabulary into this competition. My ideas, like my sketches are still a work in progress. Perhaps we should run a teacher sketchnoting challenge as well!?!

Here is our first sketchnoting challenge:  Day 1: Draw Your PLN Tree

12daysofsketchnoting Twitter Search

What would your PLN tree look like? Care to share? If so, please sketch it out and tweet it with #12daysofsketching to share it with our group of educators. We’d love to see more ideas.

How can you see yourself using sketchnoting with your students? If my teachers had used sketchnoting when I was a child, I am willing to bet instead of using sketching to escape, I would be more engaged and purposeful with my sketches making me a better listener. If you are interested in learning more about sketchnoting, I highly recommend following Sylvia Duckworth on Twitter or checking out one of her books.

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Oh the Humanity!

I gave a “talk” to preservice teachers from Grove City College today. What seemed to be just 5 minutes of me rambling about flexibility and meeting the needs of our learners had a ripple effect for me today. I allowed myself to rewind to when I myself was fresh out of college, years younger, and full of ideas and desires about changing the world one child at a time.  Twenty long years later, the only change is that some of my learners are my peers and possibly a few gray hairs.

I am still a firm believer in the fact that educators make a difference in the lives of those children they teach. Some of us cross a student’s path for a year, a semester, or a day as a substitute, while others of us impact a child for multiple courses, or even years.

As an elementary educator I had my 25-30 students who were like my own children all day every day for a whole year. Those kids were so easy to get to know. I knew them,they knew me, and forging a learning family was natural.

However, in a secondary setting forging those relationships is not as easy. Kids come running in and dashing out each period. New faces hold court in your classroom each period. Some students never cross your path, or only cross your path once their entire secondary experience. What will that student take away from that one chance encounter? Will you have smiled at them? Will you have greeted them? Were you too busy fleeing from one destination to the next to even acknowledge them? Did you fail to see the frustration or fear on the face of that child that you groused at him/her for running late? Did you ask that child why they were running behind before you reprimanded?

I firmly believe we pay now or pay more later with kids. Sometimes when we are marching to the beat of the clock and the never-ending stream of standards, we lose sight of an essential fact.  WE TEACH HUMANS. They are not automated robots that learn on command. They have feelings, fears, frustrations, and even more interestingly hormones. Our students are humans and they need us to see them as individuals; all unique in approaches to learning and life. I always remind my students that we are all “imperfectly perfect.” No one who walks this earth is perfect.

The tweets shared today from my “talk” made me reflect. Made me realize that us adults sometimes need a reminder that WE ARE HUMANS TOO. We make mistakes, we get sick, we get frustrated when copiers jam and coverage is needed… again. We can be so hard on ourselves, but we must never lose sight of our focus, the kids. We must soldier on. We need to trust ourselves to fail forward, make mistakes and learn from them, and trust that every other adult in this building has failed a time or two as well.

Today I slowed down. I kept my eyes up as I ran from one room to the other. As I covered another person’s class instead of feeling put out for lost time I found myself thankful that I had earned a chance encounter with a few more students. I embraced the opportunity to be the person who was there for them when their trusted teacher couldn’t be. I listened, I smiled, and I remembered the young lady who launched out of college ready to take on the world.

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I want to give thanks to those who make a difference in the lives of our students. I am thankful for all of my students; past, present, and future. I am thankful for my colleagues who work so hard every day to engage the learners in their rooms. I am thankful for my admin team whom spend hours juggling behavior concerns, parent phone calls, committees, and a whole menagerie of outside agencies to ensure the safety, welfare, and growth of all whom enter our schools.

However that is only half of the awesomeness that is our schools. I am thankful for the wonderful people who serve as our aides working one-on-one with students when we can’t regenerate limbs and reach one more child. I am always in awe of our custodial staff who runs a tight ship and responds to situations most want to flee. I am blown away by the staff that feeds our children, serves their meals, and offers yummy meals made with TLC.  I certainly know we’d be lost without our troop of administrative assistants who meet, greet, shuffle, and manage our offices with style and grace and smiles on their harried faces.

Most of all I am thankful to our students. They come to school, add life to a quiet building, challenge us to be the best we can be, and are the purpose and reason we come to these jobs each day. I hope that they are thankful for us as well. My fervent wish is that when asked, every child can say an educator made a positive impact on his/her life.

I wish all a Happy Thanksgiving. Maslov says our basic needs must come first, so enjoy some good eats, treats, and time to relax and rejuvenate. Then come back ready to roll with our very animated HUMAN learners with visions of winter wonders to come.

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The Times Done Changed

That’s right English majors, I went rogue and completely threw grammar out the window, but I got your attention, so keep reading!

I keep hearing people say times are changing, well I think they missed the boat because the times have already changed. After just spending an hour sifting through iTunes with my 6 year old debating song titles, content, and volume of her iPod, I know how different times are for my little family. Sadly those thinking that they are changing now are going to find themselves stranded on the island of denial as they rest of us are chauffeured around in our self-piloting cars.

Google is a word. Not just a proper noun belonging to a company that makes information easily accessible for all, but a verb. Our students Google… everything. They don’t know a world without information at their fingertips. My 6 year old proves it every day as she demands I look up the weather on my phone prior to selecting an outfit.

Our students will never know what it was like to sift through the card catalog for hours on end, then traipse through the library seeking the title we just found in a wooden draw only to realize said book is already checked out, and won’t be back in circulation for the next 2 weeks. Our students will employ Google Docs and use the explore feature to find their resources while staying on the very page they are using to type their paper. With a click of a button the source will be cited on their doc for them! How many tear-filled hours did I waste in my youth formatting and scrounging for the correct data to cite my sources. Kids will never get how easy life has become for them, but we do, and we love it!

Some day soon a generation of students may never know what it’s like to pass out papers, check books out of a library, or utilize a home phone. This isn’t sketchy sci-fi theater at its finest, it’s our close reality. What are we, as educators who grew up far removed from this instantaneous, on-demand learning environment, doing to prepare ourselves for success teaching this new generation? Are we taking classes? Developing a forward-thinking PLN? Are we exploring new tools? Or are we lamenting what used to be and dragging our feet as our learners pass us by?

Change is never easy.  However change has already come and it’s time to learn a few new tricks, because even old dogs can learn new tricks. As an older dog myself, I can attest that there will be some bumps in the road to innovative practices.  There will be full blown failures that will make you want to throw devices out windows.

However, I will also affirm that these moments of sheer frustration will lead to breakthroughs and learning opportunities that will make you and your students more resilient problem solvers. So I challenge you to try one new thing this week. Try a new tool, begin using a new LMS (learning management system), explore collaborative features of G Suite for Education, and share! Don’t forget to share your experiences with another colleague. Share the good, the bad, the horrifying. You may find a colleague who’s been there,done that, and can help you find a solution. Or you may just find you’ve ignited a spark for someone else to try something new.

Looking for ideas? Check out our list of middle school tweeters.  Better yet, why not add yourself to the list and share a picture or two of what’s happening inside your classroom walls. We may just learn a thing or two from you. Join us November 14, 2017 at 7pm for #wyasdpride chat. All you need to do it log onto your twitter account, search for the hashtag, and answer the questions that are posed.  Hope you will join us in exploring the possibilities of developing a PLN (professional learning netword) via social media.

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Accountability for Reflective Teaching

As educators we work hand-in-hand with our co-workers to hold students accountable for their best work efforts. Being united in our efforts, holding common expectations and classroom norms, and consistent instructional models are all exercised to help hold students accountable and guide students in reaching their goals while maintaining academic growth.

The most effective educators are reflective. They don’t recycle the same lessons plans year in and year out without adjusting, extending, or refining them. In fact most teachers take the time to reflect immediately after a lesson, writing notes in margins or posting sticky notes all over their work area or plans to help them note areas in need of tweaking. This year, while implementing a new instructional model, I continuously hear about how a lesson didn’t fit the model, or how the collaborative group struggled with this task, or how a tool didn’t do quite what the teacher wanted it to do. This is demonstrative of good teachers reflecting on their practices. I love these shared comments.

As a coach, I use these shared comments to reflect on what our future professional development needs are, or share a resource that can do what the teacher envisioned, or I offer a different perspective or project for collaborative learning. Shared reflection forces me to reflect. I am happy to have this opportunity to reflect on what is happening within classrooms. However, sometimes I fail to reflect on my own growth as a coach. This is where blogging comes in for me. I write my reflections with the hopes that someone else might grow or share an idea to help me grow. Blogs are about reflecting, responding, and re-evaluating your actions, ideas, or decisions.

The battle of blogging comes in the time to do. Allotting yourself time for reflection is paramount. Even if you are just reflecting mentally or debriefing with a colleague/coach you need to give yourself the time to do so.  To help hold myself accountable for reflection I have joined a Blogging Buddies cohort. This group of educators also blogs and will give me gentle reminders that I am not meeting my goal to blog monthly, or will comment on my blogs to give me their perspectives as educators and help me reframe my ideas or actions. This is a game changer for me. I can’t wait to get more involved with this small, but impactful PLN. I look forward to working with Eric, Alli, Deirdre,and Debra as we share our reflections with one another and offer our commentary to help one another on this journey of reflection.

Who do you share with? How do you reflect? Are you a writer, a thinker, or a sticky note poster? Are you an anticipatory reflector, or a reactive reflector? What makes you pause and ponder the events of your day? Is is a well-developed habit or is it often overlooked as taking time that isn’t readily available? If reflection makes us stronger educators, shouldn’t we purposefully devote time to the act of reflecting?

If you are looking for some new blogs to check out for ideas, please consider following and learning along with the members of my Blogging Buddies cohort.


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Shared Experiences Create Connections

Being a middle school child isn’t easy. We all know this. They are trying to figure out who they are, what they want to be, all while sliding into a mountainous mass of hormones, peer pressure, and attempting to assert their independence. Now, more than ever before, connections are vital. Students need to find connections to their peers, educators, and the learning environment they are in 5 days a week.

It takes hard work to facilitate a culture that allows students to make these vital connections. It won’t happen over night, and they can’t be forced. So how do we begin? How to we maintain these connections?

One way I have found to spark these connections is through shared experiences. When students are on athletic teams together, they forge bonds that are unbreakable. They unite for a common goal, victory, and share moments that leave impressions on them. They bond, quite simply b/c they shared something.

This is the charm of the Global Read Aloud. It fosters a shared experience. A single book read by millions across the globe. Through this shared reading experience, students connect not only to the text being read, but also to their peers as they share a common story and realize that their connections to the text mean they are more alike than they are different.  Even more powerful still is getting those connections made with students in classrooms far away, with cultures that are diverse.

As a member of a PLN that has done shared readings, I can honestly say how powerful literature can be when rich discussions and reflections are shared with others. Books innately offer insights to their audience of readers, however the ability to share those insights, connections, concerns, ideas, and aha moments with a group is priceless.

I am super excited to participate in #wyamsmonster this year and support our ELA teachers who are sharing a reading experience, #gra17, with their students. Thus far the book has been challenging. The connections are not rosy ones. They are tough, brutal even, but so cathartic. Connecting with Connor, a character ripe with the anger and fear of the uncertainty that comes along with the illness of a loved one, is not hard. We’ve all been here. We’ve all watched loved ones struggle and felt the impact on ourselves. Connor’s struggles are vividly portrayed by an author who crafts a story ripe with imagery and figurative language which pulls the reader into the story and along his journey.

I am anxious to share this voyage with the students of WYAMS. I am excited to share my connections. I am ready for a shared experience. I look forward to growing my connections to the text, to the students hearing it, to the teachers reading it, to the millions committing to this shared reading around the globe.  To all of you who are reading #GRAmonster this year, what are your week 1 takeaways? How have you related to Connor?

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Goal Smashing

As educators, we constantly talk about and teach our students how to set and smash their goals. We have learned about SMART goals and tracking data to help us track our progress towards smashing goals.

I have decided to do some goal smashing myself. Every year when I begin my instruction for Wilson EDU I share my kryptonite with the attendees in my courses. Every year that kryptonite remains the same. I love to blog, but I NEVER maintain my own. I get caught up in all the latest tools, trends, and the classrooms I service. I fail to take the time to reflect and share that reflection with others.

This year I have committed to smashing this goal. I have committed to blogging AT LEAST once a month. I have made this goal attainable by adding some accountability for myself. I have committed to becoming a Blogging Buddy and joined an Ed Tech Blogging Community via ISTE. Hopefully being assigned buddies who have the same goals as myself will not only help me maintain my blog, but help me to become a better blog reader. It will challenge me to read my blog partners’ blogs routinely and comment on them as well.

Writing a blog is great, but having an authentic audience that engages in your blog is so much better. I love getting comments and answering them. A lot of my followers are more reluctant to comment on my blog itself and instead choose to email me directly. This is a good start, however if we are good consumers of blogs we need to add to them as well by sharing our thoughts, concerns, or ideas in the blog comments as well. This allows all blog readers to grow and comment on one another’s posts.

I hope the people in my PLNs #wyasdpride, #ktifamily, #ETCoaches will help me to grow as a blogger and help me hold myself accountable to my commitment to blog at least once a month. I am looking forward to come encouraging, thought provoking, and challenging comments along the way. Thanks for everyone’s support! blogging buddies

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