Thursday, January 18, 2018

Time for Tech Leadership

In reading on Twitter and in the ACSE email discussion group, I am starting to see a pattern. Over the past five years I have seen this several times, a round of observations and comments on:
·      Not enough young women in technology,
·      Not enough computer science teachers in Ontario,
·      Most teachers’ colleges are no longer training CS teachers,
·      Teacher candidates are not choosing CS as a teachable.
Meanwhile (dates and numbers on employee shortages seem to vary a bit), by 2019 or 2020, there will be 180,000 or 200,000 technology jobs going unfilled in Canada due to a lack of qualified workers. Not to mention many times that south of the border.
In my job, I am in many different schools. So, my comments are really just based on our board. But I imagine they apply to other locations in Ontario.
·      In perhaps half of our schools, classes will participate in Hour of Code as a one-time event.
·      A handful of teachers are integrating coding by participating in The Learning Partnership’s Coding Trek and Coding Quest.
·      A number of schools and local community groups are involved with First Lego League, but fewer than half.
·      Most teachers are not confident in bringing coding into their programs.
·      In terms of pedagogical discussion, most teachers have not had any training in coding and/or computational thinking and/or curriculum integration.
·      Most would not be aware of existing Ministry or third-party resources.
I believe our small educational technology team (TELTs and DeLC) have been very pro-active, responding to requests and enthusiastically promoting opportunities as they arise.
However, it troubles me that in Ontario in 2018:
·      A student’s access to this learning is unstructured and completely related to the private/personal initiative of specific teachers (or schools or boards).
·      There is no continuum of study for students who wish to grow over the course of 12 years in our schools.
·      Third party providers are doing the vast majority of training, at the request or initiative of specific teachers, schools or boards (eg. Fair Choice, The Learning Partnership, First Lego, Logics Academy).
·      The ministry of education has some resources but they are not widely known.

Personally, I think it is time to see these skills embedded in a systemic way in our provincial education world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Assessing Coding in the Classroom

Probably the number one two question I get! “But how do I assess this?”
Right after: “This is fun, but I have a curriculum to teach…”
Here are some thoughts that I hope will help educators gain the confidence to integrate coding throughout the curriculum.

Mathematical processes
So… my first question is, are you assessing these at the present time? Would you like to? In the front matter of the Ontario math curriculum document we find a set of seven mathematical processes students need to learn and apply as they work to achieve the expectations outlined within the five strands. The need to highlight these process expectations arose from the recognition that students should be actively engaged in applying these processes throughout the math program, rather than in connection with particular strands.
The mathematical processes that support effective learning in mathematics are as follows:
• problem solving
• reasoning and proving
• reflecting
• selecting tools and computational strategies
• connecting
• representing
• communicating
It is a simple but creative process to develop a rubric for observing these processes in a class of students working on coding projects.

Curriculum expectations
Given the range of coding activities now available - Hour of Code, Scratch, robotics devices, Swift Playgrounds – it is very easy to pick any subject and see how a wide range of expectations can be met, from Art to Math to Language and more.
Looking at the primary math curriculum for example, in Math alone, we see expectations for estimation, positional language, addition and subtraction, drawing simple maps, and using a grid to show movement. Once you have taught your students how to use the menus in Scratch or Scratch Jr, you will see how effective a game can be as a learning activity or as consolidation in any subject.

Global Competencies, or Deeper Learning
Recently Steven Floyd posed the following suggestion on Twitter:


Here is a link to the provincial discussion document: 21st Century Competencies.

Board Improvement Plan
If you are with the Near North District School Board, our Multi-Year Plan highlights the value in linking to deeper learning and global competencies in the following two sections:
Achieving Excellence
“Develop and promote deeper learning competencies”
Excellence in Teaching and in the Learning Environment
“The Near North District School Board is committed to creating opportunities for students to develop the skill and knowledge to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly global and digital world.”

Cathy Montreuil
Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Student Achievement Officer Ontario Ministry of Education
Cathy has addressed the TELT Contacts on more than one occasion, and each time she has a powerful message. In one, she summed it up as “Don’t wait for us!” Our curriculum is a large and complex series of documents that takes years to update. Teachers can feel comfortable in integrating coding as a valuable teaching tool, without this being spelled out in the documents.

2016 Ministry Statement on Coding

Ministry Resource for integrating coding