Hour of Code Wrap-up

It’s the last day of school before we head off for the holidays. This past week was a busy one celebrating International Culture Week as well as Computer Science Week. It was wonderful sharing coding with children in all of the elementary grades this week. I loved using the Hour of Code this week because the courses are really accessible with lots of scaffolding. Succeeding in the Hour of Code activities is about observing, reading, trying/testing, problem solving, analyzing, redoing, and paying attention instead of the syntax of programming because you use blocks, not text to code. I did the Angry Birds course during Hour of Code last year and did the Frozen one this year. I felt that the Frozen Tutorial provided much of the code, letting the user add in only one or two lines of code at each stage, in addition to selecting angles and distance.

The most difficult part of the Hour of Code for my elementary students was the abstraction required to work with conditional statements within a loop. Again and again, I spoke with children trying to explain that they could consider the program as a whole (with a choice made at every step) rather than just thinking sequentially about what to do. It’s a difficult concept, and developmentally, most of the children that I work with aren’t at that stage yet.


My favorite thing about Hour of Code is watching the quiet and/or jubilant victory dances that students do as they emerge victories at the end of a puzzle. My second favorite thing about Hour of Code is watching different children take the lead in demonstrating how the code works with other children. I look forward to continuing to explore Scratch beyond Hour of Code with Grade 4 students when we return from holidays.

Get Coding

I’ve been talking about Hour of Code with elementary teachers at my school for the past few weeks. Hour of Code is part of Computer Science Education Week from December 8 – 14, 2044. We had a little preview in a Grade 2 class last week where students used Tynker as an introduction to Hour of Code. We tried to do something similar in Grade 1 yesterday but unfortunately, the app crashed every time the character got to the jelly bean.

Participate in Hour of Code whether you’re an adult or a child. Today (Friday, December 5) is the last day to sign up to win prizes for yourself, classroom or school. Don’t be intimidated even if you’ve never done any programming before. There are a number of resources that you can use. The platforms mentioned are available all year round but many of them have put on special activities for hour of code. For example, Code Studio has recently added in an actiivity where you can code with Elsa from Frozen.

For all ages

Lower Elementary

Upper elementary (Grades 3+)

Interested in learning more about Hour of Code from a teacher’s perspective? Check out this webinar from Brainpop. Their computer science resources are free this week.


Google Docs Adds Suggestions

As I was using a document in GoogleDocs the other day, I noticed a new button which said Editing. Curious what is was, I clicked on it to find out what it was:

If you’re a Google Apps user, you’re probably used to Viewing and Editing documents in Google Drive. A recent addition to GoogleDocs adds the functionality to see your own documents as those with view only access would see it. Suggestions adds the ability to color code edits in a shared document.


This lets the collaborators on a document accept or reject changes made to the document. This can be very handy for collaborations where individuals may review a shared document. The collaborators may go through the document together, deciding to accept or reject each addition as they work towards a final version.

It seems that this update to GDocs was actually done in June (while I was away from civilization with no Internet). The official Google Blog explains that suggestions will be able to be made by anyone with Editing or Commenting privileges, and can be accepted or deleted by any editor. Suggestions can be seen by everyone except those with View Only Access. Viewers also won’t be able to seen comments made in the document.

I think that these changes can support collaboration. It’s important to help students create agreements around edits, additions and deletions whenever they are collaborating on a project. Agreements are an important facet of collaboration in GoogleDocs where it is not immediately obvious what changes have been added/deleted to a document.


Cross-posted at http://blogs.isp.cz/esit/2014/08/27/google-docs-adds-suggestions/.

10 Reasons for Parental Guidance in the Use of Handhelds

Cris Rowan has recently written a Huffington Post article that outlines 10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12. I acknowledge that she makes some important points but I do not agree with her conclusion:

Point 1: Children under two are experiencing rapid brain growth which could be impeded by use of technology devices

I take no issue with this idea.

Point 2: Technology use can delay a child’s development and learning

The research referenced in Ms. Rowan’s 2010 paper show a lack of parental guidance in technology use and overuse of technology in non-educational ways. The research also showed the importance of touch, connection and movement in development. The conclusion presented by Ms. Rowan is a ban of handheld technology, but an approach of meaningful technology within a balanced family and education environment (outdoor recess, storytelling, playing sports, etc.) is not addressed.

Point 3: Epidemic Obesity

I think that it’s important for schools and parents to provide children with engaging environments and adequate guidance so that they are not spending all their time online. Certainly, technology provides an alternative to engaging in physical activity. As a child, reading books was a challenge to my physical activity and I can remember my grandmother telling me that I had to put the book down and go outside to play. My point is that it’s the job of parents and other caring adults to model engagement in physical activity, and to provide frameworks for children so that they are physically active. One family rule may be that children are not allowed to use digital devices during an afternoon play date; a school rule could be that children cannot use digital devices for entertainment during recess.

Point 5: Sleep Deprivation

The issues raised in the article are that of inadequate parental supervision of children’s technology use and children having technology access in their bedrooms. Using an approach of finding a best fit of solution to problem, parents could create technology use contacts with children and have children turn in/turn off technology at a certain time each evening. This approach is more difficult than prohibiting access to technology.

Point 6: Aggression

This point raises the question, for me, of how we can protect children (under 12) from violent media content. In an elementary school setting, we wouldn’t select violent media content for use in class. Technology contracts with children should include details about quantities and types of media consumption/creation.

Point 7: Digital dementia

Have a balanced approach to life. Alzheimers.net list five things that people can do to fight digital dementia. We do all of them within our elementary program. There are many good reasons besides digital dementia for parents and children to do them also.

Point 8: Addictions to technology

Given that the problem here is that parents are addicted to technology and consequently detach from their children, it seems the solution should be to ban technology use for adults. If parents aren’t building strong attachments with their children, how do we fill that void? We need to address the problem (children need attachments with their parents) not the solution that children are finding for consolation.

Point 9: Exposure to radiation

Much of the research is on cell phone use. What do we know about radiation when using handheld devices? We don’t typically hold our handheld devices in close proximity to our heads like we do our cellphones.

Point 10: Unsustainability of our current approaches

I agree with the point but not the solution. The solution is to build a stronger culture of citizenship, not to simply disallow handheld use.


Finally, none of the 10 problems are confined to handhelds. This leaves me feeling that handhelds have become the scapegoat technology. It may be more difficult for parents to regulate and supervise handheld technology, but I’m a strong proponent of modeling citizenship to children and involving children in experiences where they get to make good citizenship decision with adult guidance. I think that it is more important to grapple with the difficult issues of allowing children under 12 to use handhelds within a framework where they are guided and supported than to ban all use of handhelds by them. This may mean having very strict guidelines about when a child can use a handheld device (e.g. during a long trip in the car but not at a family picnic; at home during set times but not during dinner). Parents also need to decide when they need to turn off WIFI on handheld devices, and whether or not it is a good idea for a child under 13 to have constant internet access provided by 3G.

Much of the research is on recreational technology use. Where does education fit into this discussion. Studies have shown that not all media consumption is equal (e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-dobrow/screen-time-for-preschoolers_b_4184335.html). It seems a reasonable extension that different uses of technology affect children differently. This is an area requiring further research.


Link for Parents

Managing Media: We Need a Plan – http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/managing-media-we-need-a-plan.aspx

TED Ed Clubs

TED has recently introduced TED Ed clubs. It requires that interested facilitators submit an application. If you’re interested in implementing TED like presentations in your classroom, you can sign up to receive access to the facilitator resources, even if you just want to use it in your classroom.


  • applicant must be over 13 years old
  • clubs must have an adult facilitator
  • 5-50 students per club

I have applied and will take a look at the 13 lessons. I wonder how the elements of TED presentations in the lessons compare with the elements that my Grade 9 students in previous years came up with for their TED inspired talks.

Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom


Collaborative Digital Storytelling by Langwitches, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Collaborative Digital Storytelling by Langwitches, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling is the creation of stories using electronic devices. These stories generally include multimedia such as narration, sound, video and images. Please respect copyright and fair use rules when selecting multimedia to incorporate into digital stories. Use Google custom search or sites like http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/, creative commons, and free sound to find multimedia that you are permitted to use, and remember to give credit to the creators of the content that you use.

Why digital storytelling

Digital storytelling provides students with opportunities to create understanding by analyzing and synthesizing content for use in the creation of a story with a particular perspective. These stories can be shared broadly and can be used to contribute to our communities.

Elements of Digital Storytelling

Traditionally, digital stories have 7 elements. These elements have been reframed for the educational context to create 10 elements.

  1. The Overall Purpose of the Story
  2. The Narrator’s Point of View
  3. A Dramatic Question or Questions
  4. The Choice of Content
  5. Clarity of Voice
  6. Pacing of the Narrative
  7. Use of a Meaningful Audio Soundtrack
  8. Quality of the Images, Video & other Multimedia Elements
  9. Economy of the Story Detail
  10. Good Grammar and Language Usage


Uses of Digital Storytelling

  • Biographical narrative from a first person or third person perspective
  • Present a historical event
  • Create a book review
  • Create a documentary
  • Construct a story around an image or set of images (e.g. creative writing)
  • Explore vocabulary using images and context
  • Explain a concept using images and sound

Activity 1: Create a Video

  1. Use a movie making app such as iMovie to create a video. Interview colleagues at your table about how they might use an iPad as an educator. Then edit your video. Finally, upload it to YouTube.
  2. At your table, discuss what content and pedagogical approaches would lend themselves to using video in your classroom.

Possible apps: iMovie, Puppetpals, Sonicpics, Sock Puppets, Splice, Animoto, SloPro, Vimeo, Toontastic, Fotobabble

Activity 2: Create an eBook

  1. Using the content that you gathered from your interviews in Activity 1, as well as your own reflection, create an eBook that highlights ways that the iPad can be used at your grade level. Include some multimedia content, e.g. for demonstration.
  2. Publish your book and be ready to share with others in the session.
  3. Reflect on how you can use eBooks for teaching or how you can facilitate student use of it. Does it fit with your content and pedagogical approach?

Possible apps: I Tell a Story, Kid in Story Book Creator, Zooburst, Book Creator, Storykit, Scribble My Story, Comic Life, StoryRobe, Little Bird Tales, Strip Designer

Digital Storytelling in the Curriculum

Digital storytelling can take the format of video, ebook, podcast, etc. Think about the unit that you most recently taught or was teaching. How could you have used digital storytelling as part of your learning engagements or your assessments? Please share your ideas on our padlet.

Bonus 1: Find a podcast of interest to you in the Podcast app, subscribe to it and customize the settings to fit your needs.

Bonus 2: Visit Apptivities.org and browse for something relevant to you or your students.


Links to explore

Multimedia Resources


Acts of Kindness and Caring

Helping Hands by Calotype46

Helping Hands by Calotype46

We have anti-bullying policies in schools and we remind students not to bully. It’s important that we also fight against meanness and cruelty. I think that it’s worthwhile to be kind, and encourage children to demonstrate kindness whenever they have the opportunity to do so.

5 Ways to Show Kindness in Schools

  • share a snack with a peer, without her even asking
  • speak to the new child in the class, showing interest in where he is from and helping him become acquainted with the school
  • defend the child in class who is a little different when others are poking fun at her
  • say something nice or give a compliment to a person who seems sad or hurt
  • delete hurtful messages instead of forwarding them
  • delete hurtful messages that you see online if you can

My grade 5 and grade 6 students came up with many more suggestions of acts of kindness and caring, some of which are listed below:

  • If someone is feeling left out play with them or ask if they would like to just have a conversation.
  • If someone is sad talk to them so they will be happy.
  • If someone is alone go to him and talk to him or be sociable.
  • If someone is hurt take her to the nurse.
  • If somebody dropped their belonging(s), pick it up for him.
  • In class if someone does not have partner or group invite her in your group.
  •  If someone is on their own at lunch invite him to eat with you.
  • If someone forgot something pick it up and give it to him.
  • Say hello to people and give them a bright smile in the morning.
  • Compliment people.
  • Stand up for your friends when someone is being cruel.
  • Stop people from doing something mean.
  • If you walk by someone, you can say things like “hi!”, or “how are you doing?”.

Actions that Fight Bullying

Cyber Bullying: Hand Reach by iriskh

Cyber Bullying: Hand Reach by iriskh

The term bullying gets thrown around a lot by children and youth. If a peer doesn’t play with you on the playground, that’s not necessarily bullying. If that person is the most popular one in the class and threatens everyone else with isolation from the group if they playing with you, that is bullying. Many activities that involve cruelty and meanness may not be bullying, although they still need to be addressed (see next week’s post). Bullying must involve an abuse of power in order to intentionally make someone feel bad (threatened, intimidated, embarrassed), and must occur repeatedly. Bullying that happens using technology is called cyberbullying.

It is important to note that children and youth may not label an incident as bullying, even if an adult would. They may use terms such as pranking, drama, joking around, etc. Educating children and youth about bullying involves identifying behaviors that constitute bullying, and helping them recognize approaches for dealing with that behavior using terms that are familiar to them.

 What we Know about Bullies?

They often have

  • high self esteem
  • cachet within a peer group whereby their actions are not challenged
  • exposure to aggression e.g. from parents

Child/Peer Responses that Help

  • stand up to bullies
  • refuse to participate in acts of bullying
  • dissociate from bullies
  • delete hurtful messages and content
  • block the sender in cyberbullying incidents

 Child/Peer Responses that Hurt

  • get upset with the victim for getting the bully in trouble
  • blame the person who is hurt for the actions of the bully

Adult Responses that Help

  • challenge bullying behavior
  • encourage children to resolve the issue themselves (if it is safe for them to do so)
  • take situations where children feel unsafe seriously, and take steps to help them feel safe (restorative justice, education, advice, support, etc.)
  • encourage children to have good friends that they can talk to
  • know your children’s friends (for parents)
  • get help from school, church, experts if you are overwhelmed by the situation
  • Model and encourage acceptance, tolerance and respect

Adult Responses that Hurt

  • blame the victim for the actions of the bully
  • ignore the situation or simply treat the child’s hurt as overreaction
  • fear tactics and threatening children with the dire effects of their choices so that they don’t get help when they get in trouble
  • focus on bullying leading to suicide (rates are quite low but each individual case is high profile)



“Another Teen Suicide after Alleged Sex Assault Troubles California Town.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 25 May 2013. Web. 30 May 2013.

Borba, Michele. “11 Possible Signs of Cyber Bullying at Dr. Michele Borba’s Reality Check.” Dr Michele Borbas Reality Check. N.p., 5 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 May 2013.

Finkelhor, David, Heather A. Turner, and Sherry Hamby. “Let’s prevent peer victimization, not just bullying.” Child Abuse and Neglect-the International Journal 36.4 (2012): 271.

Marshall, Jessica. “Discovery News.” DNews. Discovery.com, 1 Apr. 2010. Web. 30 May 2013.

Marwick, Alice E., and Danah Boyd. “The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics.” A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, September 2011. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.

“National Suicide Statistics at a Glance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 May 2013.

“Study on Long-neglected Factor in Net Safety: Resilience.” Tech Intelligence for Parents. Netfamilynews.org, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 30 May 2013.


Learn more about the issue and how to get help

Threes Tuesday

1.     http://storybird.com

What is it? Collaborative story-telling website

Use it:

  • create a story

Integration: Any subject but especially language arts

Purpose: Students can work with each other to create a story. If the focus is on storytelling and not drawing/artistry, this tool is useful in that it provides students with images to use.

2.     http://www.bibme.org/

What is it? A bibliography creator 

Use it:

  • easily create a bibliography using MLA, APA, Chicago or Turbian using online databases
  • view citation guides

Integration: All subjects

Purpose: This tool accesses online databases to automatically complete some of the required information for your bibliography. The citation guides also teach students about methods of attribution.

3.     http://www.wordle.net

What is it? World cloud creator

 Use it:

  • artwork
  • spelling/vocabulary
  • data/literature analysis
  • poetry

Integration: Any subject

Purpose: Create a graphical representation of the relative frequency of each word in a list/paragraph. This may be useful for analyzing texts, or for emphasizing meaning.

Tip: Try double clicking, right clicking on a word, and advanced options