Three in One Office and Classroom Space

When I started working at ISP in August 2013, my office was in a small room in the elementary school, between the PK3 classroom and the elementary staff room. I shared the room with a library assistant/teacher assistant and a lot of books as it was the elementary school book room. It felt like we were in the basement because we had one tiny window that reminded me of a basement window. Our door led into the hallway, right opposite a door to the inner courtyard, which helped us remember that we were not in a basement, even though it felt that way.

As part of a school and department wide reorganization, I was moved to a different space. All three of the IT coaches now work in the same space. Our office is part classroom/part office, and called the Idea Lab.

My desk is the one with all the water bottles/travel mugs. The table behind it is part of the classroom furniture. I usually keep my water bottle a bit farther away from my computer, on the side cabinet.

As the elementary coach most responsible for elementary school, I generally attend meetings and support classrooms throughout the elementary school. I am usually welcomed into other people’s spaces. When I’m in my office, I’m usually doing desk work, which includes e-mail, blogging, working on presentations, preparing resources for teachers and classrooms, testing resources, conducting research, etc.

The desks for the IT Coaches are all in a line at the back of the room. It is a bit like we’re three judges, but it’s the most efficient use of the space.

My desk is at the back of the Idea Lab. The other two coaches and I have our desks all lined up to optimize our limited space. Most of the room contains moveable desks and chairs. The tables flip up, and the chairs stack, for added flexibility. A green screen is mounted at the front of the room. Along the sides, we’ve set up a laser printer, a laser cutter, and other maker space resources. The room is scheduled for classes taught by my colleagues, and available to be booked by other teaches. Sometimes, elementary classes come to the Idea Lab to work on creative projects, or middle and high school students come to work in a quiet space, or to use the resources available.

The worst part of my office is that it’s far from elmentary school. Since I moved, I have fewer spontaneous visits by teachers, and more email requests for help. I am often stopped when I walk around the elementary school, even if I have not received an email request for help.

The best part of my office is the proximity to my colleagues. This new office arrangement with all three coaches in the same place makes it easier to collaborate. We can help each other, share ideas, and plan events more easily than before. Often one of us is here to help colleagues even if the IT coach for that section is busy elsewhere. One of our collaborations is in designing the space. We identified the need for personal storage space, storage for consumables and tools, and storage for work in progress. We also determined the importance of flexibility in the space so that it could be use in many different ways. This room is still taking shape. One of our challenges is organizing all our resources, especially the robotics kits. We’re going to continue organizing the place over time to meet our needs, and the needs of each of the three sections of the school.

ES Robotics Kits: Dash, Wedo, and Lego Mindstorms NXT


Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post that discusses your classroom or place of work”.

How to Implement Hour of Code in your Classroom

General Information

Hour of Code happens each year during Computer Science Education Week, and is a global phenomenon. The goal of the project is that every child should spend at least 1 hour coding each year. The Hour of Code website is well organized with resources for teachers and students who are new to programming, or already comfortable with programming. Some activities are self-guided, while others are teacher guided. Some require computers, while others are unplugged can be done with low tech resources.

The website started to support Hour of Code, but has grown to include resources beyond Hour of Code. Use it next week during Hour of Code, but also continue to use it for integration into your classroom with Math, Language Arts, Modern Languages, Unit of Inquiry, Arts, Science, etc. Interested in programming robots? There are resources for that too, even if you or your students are beginners. Resources cover Dash and Dot, Sphero, Ozobot, Lego Wedo, Hummingbird, Arduino, Finch.

Prepare for Hour of Code:

  1. Go to the Hour of Code website and sign up to participate in the Hour of Code (optional).
  2. Look through the activities shared, or on the website, and decide which option you’d like to use with your students.
  3. Make sure that any necessary software is installed, and go through the lesson or try some of the steps yourself.

During Hour of Code

If a student is stuck, here are some suggestions to help him/her with problem solving:

  • Work with a partner where the partner says the steps and the stuck student does the coding.
  • Ask questions to help the student get past the point where he/she is stuck. Try to resist the temptation to solve the problem or show a completed solution.
  • Have the student trace the code by showing/testing what each step does, or even acting out steps. (I’ve noticed some of the kindergartens naturally doing this when working in Lightbot.)

Not sure what activity to select, these tables may help you:

K-5 Hour of Code Selections

Grade Option 1 (First time programmers) Option 2 (Some programming experience)
Kindergarten Codespark Academy: The Foos or Kibo Robots Daisy
Grade 1 Codespark Academy: The Foos Lightbot
Grade 2 Lightbot Tynker
Grade 3 ScratchJr Kodable
Grade 4 All Can Code Run Marco Tickle
Grade 5 Scratch Hour of Code RoboMind Academy or Roboblockly

Sample School Sequence for Hour of Code

Kindergarten Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 +
Beginner Tynker: Peep Nature Walk Tynker: Puppy Adventure Tynker: Tell a Joke Tynker: Scavenger Hunt Roboblockly One Hour Coding Tynker: Peep Dance with Friends Tynker: Hot Wheels Obstacle Course
Lightbot: Hour of Code The Foos: 1 hour play Moana Wayfinding with Code Minecraft Designer Tickle Swimming Orca Infinity Playlab Angry Birds
Kodable: fuzzFamily Frenzy Beginner Kodable: fuzzFamily Frenzy Beginner Box Island Hour of Code ScratchJr: Make the Characters Greet each other ScratchJr: Spooky Forest Robomind Academy Program a Virtual Robot Makeschool Build an iPhone Game in your Browser
Intermediate Tynker: Platform Starter Kit Tynker: Platform Starter Kit Tynker: Brick Breaker Tynker: Code Monsters Tynker: Brick Breaker Tynker: Debugger Create a Pong version
Advanced Kodable: fuzzFamily Frenzy Advanced Tynker: Brick Breaker Kodable: fuzzFamily Fitness Kodable: Violet’s Variables Kodable: Similar but Different Kodable:


Five Tips for Technology Coaches

Makey Makey funIn my career in education, I’ve held many titles. I’ve been a computer teacher, technology coordinator, digital learning facilitator, technology integrationist, and a technology coach. In all of these jobs, I’ve been called upon to assist teachers with integrating technology for teaching and learning of the curriculum. Over the past two years, I’ve been engaged in professional inquiry as part of my appraisal process. My inquiry was into the different ways of engaging with teams and individual teachers that lead to changes in technology integration. From this inquiry, I noticed that I needed to change some behaviors that were impeding my success in supporting teachers.

I read Cognitive Coaching by Jim Knight, as well as a number of articles and blog posts which indicated the importance of modeling in the coaching process. I started off with a very narrow vision of modeling. I thought it had to be formal, planned in consultation with the teacher, and evaluated by the teacher so that she could pull out the learning points. However, I found out that there is another way. In Grade 1, three classes share a full class set of iPads. The students have a scheduled period called digital time roughly every week, where they use the iPads. I checked in with the teacher about the lesson, but I planned the lesson, and led it. I was worried that this model was simply a throwback to the computer lab days, although the classroom teacher was present, and often participated in the lesson with suggestions, and context. Digital time lessons often introduced an app on the iPad, or provided an opportunity for students to explore and use an app. We generally explored the capabilities of the app, and I tried to have students use the app in a way that was connected to their current unit of inquiry. While students were exploring the app, one teacher started brainstorming uses for the app with me. While I was leading the class, she was thinking about the affordances of the app, and how it would be useful in her classroom. Inspired by her initiative, I started to have similar conversations with the other two teachers during digital time. As we would look at the children’s use of the app, we would discuss where the app would be useful as part of the student’s learning, or for documenting learning. As time went on, the teachers started checking out the iPad cart on their own. Sometimes, they would ask for support, but mostly they were comfortable using the iPads with students without my presence. This showed me that it’s important to take advantage of every available opportunity with a teacher to model the use of technology in their classroom, and to discuss the teacher’s ideas sparked by the modelling. I shared this observation with the team, and got feedback from them at the end of the school year.

I’ve used Grade 1 in my anecdote, but I got feedback from all the teams about our work together during the school year, and the state of technology integration at their grade level. I check in with teams every month to discuss technology integration, but I hadn’t presented an agenda item explicitly called Feedback. I got some great ideas from teachers about ways to improve our work together, that I wish they had mentioned during our check-ins. This experience reminded me of the importance of protocols, and of the value of intentionally requesting specific feedback regularly throughout the school year. This is important for working with teams, as well as with individual teachers.

I walk through the school hallways and drop by individual teacher’s classroom daily. I often start by engaging in benign conversation about the evening, the weekend, children. I would also ask how the day is going. Occasionally, a teacher would ask me a technology question, or indicate that they needed to meet with me, but most of the time, the answer could be summarized with fine. I started to notice that when people asked for help, they were often already extremely frustrated. I wondered why they weren’t asking for help before the situation escalated to that level of frustration. I started asking “Are you doing anything interesting with technology in your classroom this week?”, “Can I support you with technology use?” and “Do you need my help today?”. I still got a lot of answers that amounted to fine, but people also shared more about what they’re doing in their classroom, questions they had, and observations that they were making about students’ use of technology. As a tech coach, it’s important to invite people to work with us. This can happen in well defined coaching relationships, but it can also happen in small moves. If you want to be a better technology coach, come right out and ask your colleagues if they need help, or what they need help with. Don’t wait for them to ask for help.

We can learn a lot from our colleagues through informal conversations. People stop me all the time in the staff room and in the hallway to ask me questions. I’ve noticed that I can also use these informal conversations to share a resource that I think would be useful, or to find out more about what’s going on in the classroom. I think that having more information about individual classrooms puts me in a better position to be able to support the individual teacher. However, these quick conversations are just initial sparks. The technology coach can leverage those informal conversations to follow up with the teacher or grade level team. For example, if a teacher asks me if I know why Application A isn’t working, I learn that the teacher uses the application with her students, and I have to remember to find out more about what she’s doing, and to follow up with her to solve the problem. This may be obvious, but when many of these conversations happen in the hallway as I’m on my way to classes and meetings, I need a way to keep track of these conversations. I always walk with my smart phone, and I put items in Notes, in a to do list, or schedule them right into my calendar, depending on how much time I have. During my next unscheduled block, I can look through Notes and my to do list to put tasks into my calendar. As a technology coach, informal conversations are important because sometimes those are what are most accessible. Remember to follow up on informal conversations, with a blog post, meeting, e-mail, and use your digital tools such a calendar and to-do list to help you manage teacher needs.

The technology coach is in a privileged position, as someone who works with multiple grade levels. What I learn in one grade level informs my work at another grade level. I consider if one of my duties to help teachers at various grade levels learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. When a Grade 4 teacher wonders how difficult green screening will be for his students, I can pull out some examples from Grade 2 and explain the workflow used there, as well as make suggestions on how the process could be altered in Grade 4. I also learn about the strengths and abilities of individual teachers, and have a unique appreciation for the diversity within our school. Technology coaches can leverage the fact that they have a vertical position to build the organizational knowledge of the school.

In summary, here are the five tips for being a better technology coach:

  1. Model the use of technology for teachers as much as possible, taking the opportunity to talk to teachers during their observation to find out what they could take away from the observation into their own teaching. – engage the teacher’s cognition
  2. Intentionally request feedback from individuals and teams regularly throughout the school year.
  3. Ask colleagues regularly if they need help and what they need help with.
  4. Follow up on informal conversations to support teachers’ needs and to build coaching relationships.
  5. Leverage your vertical position to build the organizational knowledge of the school.
  6. Bonus: Use a calendar and to do list to manage your schedule, including tasks that come up through informal conversations.

Doodling Learning

I’ve never been much of a doodler, at least not that I can remember. I’ve also never taken a formal art or drawing class. We did occasionally draw while I was at school in St. Lucia. I remember drawing a girl with ribbons when I was in grade 1. My grandmother had the drawing. It was better than a stick figure, right down to ribbons in her hair. But it’s been a lot of time between Grade 1 and now. I’ve played around with Sketchnoting, but I’m not very good at it (yet). I do believe, however, that it is worth working on and developing.

Last week, the other tech coaches and I presented our weekly tech tastes on data visualizations and graphical presentation. We shared some online data visualizations, many of which let users access the data sets for further analysis. We also looked at tools for making a timeline, infographic, drawing or Sketchnote. The tools used were a computer, iPad or paper, depending on the participants and their interests. We chose this topic because we think that visual literacy is important, and the use of tools for visual representation honors the capacities and strengths of ourselves and our students.

Here are some links to explore and use.

Data Visualization

These links display big data sets. Some of them also allow you to download the data sets.

Tool Description
Gapminder Income per year graphed versus life expectancy in years for all countries.
Google Ngram Viewer Search to find out how a word or phrase has occurred in a corpus of books over several years. You can download the data set of the n-grams.
OneZoom Explore the tree of life to see how all life on earth is related. All of the information is on a single page and you zoom in to see details.
Visualizing Season 1 of Buffy For fun, you could visualize how long each character of Buffy spent on screen.
World Mapper A collection of world maps on various subjects, including over 200 countries.
Google Trends Explore what people are searching for at different times. You can download the data.
Google Correlate “Google Correlate uses web search activity data to find queries with a similar pattern to a target data series. The results can be viewed on the Google Correlate website or downloaded as a CSV file for further analysis.” Here’s a comic to explain it.

Tools for presenting data

Tool Description
Wordle Visualize meaning with a word cloud. Try this sample text (Arnie Bieber’s article, “Nature of Nurture”).
Timeline JS Easily create interactive timelines (including video) beginning with a Google spreadsheet template.
Hstry Another option for creating timelines. Friendly to elementary use. See some examples from the website or a grade 4 test.
Canva Tool for creating infographics (and other graphics) on the web or iPad. Click “create a design” and scroll down for infographic layouts.
Pic Collage for Kids (iPad only) The easiest introduction to visual presentations. Use a combination of text, images and stickers to create a presentation. Work with a grid or freestyle. Another great graphics creation tool – uses a groups feature, which is useful especially for elementary. Some examples of use.
Adobe Illustrator Draw iPad app for drawing – you can import images and use layers.
Sketchnoting (on paper!) The link is to a slideshow about sketchnoting with many links, by Sylvia Duckworth

Reference Books

Cross posted at