RVS Learning Specialist – Every year during Computer Science Week millions of students participate in an Hour of Code in their schools. Join Rocky View Schools and other schools around the world in the Hour of Code December 5 – 11th, 2016. This event is free and is suitable for K-12. Register your class or your whole school at https://hourofcode.com/ca Use #rvsedcodes to tweet!
Coding, or computer programming, is what makes it possible for us to tell a computer what to do. Any application or function on your computer or your phone or tablet is a code someone created especially to run on your device. A calendar appointment pops up on your phone? Someone coded that. Your computer launches a program for you to watch a video? That was coded too. Learning to code is a little like learning a new language – in fact, it is considered a literacy. We know now that everyone can code. #EveryoneCanCode
Many begin with visual coding (using graphical images) for younger children and move into block coding (a form of visual coding) and then into textual coding languages such as Scratch, Swift and Java. Don’t be hesitant to try the visual coding – it helps builds the foundation for the others and it’s fun too!
Even our kindergarten and early elementary students can learn to code with the many websites and apps available and you do not need a robot or other device to learn. Lightbotis great for students just beginning to code while older students can use the code.org website with coding games such as Minecraft, Star Warsand Frozen. Scratch is another website designed to help students learn to code (requires sign-in but teachers can create a class account or students can go directly to Create). Apple developed Swift Playgroundso if you have a newer iPad you can download this free app and the accompanying Anyone Can Code and Swift Playground guides from iBooks. They also just released a new Hour of Code Challenge in the App store and this Facilitator Guide.
There are many more free resources available to support teachers and students, whether they have years of experience or none at all. Contact your RVS Learning Specialists – Technology for more information.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week I attended the Alberta School Boards Association Fall General Meeting. I am not a trustee so my role at these types of events is to support our trustees with information, try and answer questions they might have about how the issue under consideration might impact our schools, and provide chocolate during the long day of discussion and debate.
The event was broken into one day where trustees from across the province discuss policy matters and the second day was more focused on professional learning for trustees and senior staff. Additionally, the event included opportunities to hear from our Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister of Education. There also was an opportunity for trustees to chat and advocate with MLAs at a social event.
Boards put forth motions that they believe should be the official policy of the Alberta School Boards Association. Often motions direct the ASBA to urge/demand/request government to do this or that, or a motion could direct the ASBA to focus their advocacy efforts to try and address an issue. Most of the motions are provided to Boards to consider prior to the event, but emergent items can be considered at the event. Someone from the moving Board speaks to the proposed motion, then the debate and/or questions for clarifications occur. This is a room full of trustees who are quite savvy and know many procedural maneuvers provided under their bylaws and Robert’s Rules. Amendments come from the floor followed by amendments to the amendments. When things get sticky the parliamentarian is asked questions to ensure procedural fairness. Sometimes the debate is heated and often there is strong consensus around the floor. After the debate is completed then one person from each Board has the responsibility to vote (using electronic feedback gathering devices) on behalf of the entire Board. Within a few minutes the assembly sees the results of the vote.
So, what type of things do trustees from diverse areas across the province talk about? At this meeting motions included topics such as: supports to implement recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action; desire for adequate funding to support Arts programming in schools; that Boards do not have to belong to ASBA for continued participation in group benefits through ASEBP; that computer coding be integrated into the curriculum; that all Alberta students be provided access to an environmental education; increased bandwidth for schools; introduce a curriculum on Mental Health and Emotional Well-being for all students; design and implement a Pre-K to Grade 12 age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention curriculum; implementation of the recommendations in the “Report of the Alberta Mental Health Committee 2015.”; and kindergarten hours of delivery match kindergarten funding allocations.
What I witnessed at the event were passionate trustees trying to make our education system better for the kids in our communities.
RVS Learning Specialist – For many years, municipal, provincial, and federal governments collected, generated and then published data back to their citizens. In the past few years, the availability of free data has increased and a variety of websites share data. Data can often be downloaded and re-used easily for visualization purposes. With a few clicks, entire data sets can be placed on maps to generate powerful visuals. Learning about and visualizing the numbers of the world we live in has become more accessible.
According to Wikipedia, “Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control”. This represents fantastic learning opportunities for everyone and I am going to share an example below.
First though, let’s look at some open data sites:
Open data from the Government of Canada: Slogan: “Search open data that is relevant to Canadians, learn how to work with datasets, and see what people have done with open data across the country.” http://open.canada.ca/en/open-data
Calgary Region Open Data : Slogan: “The Calgary Region Open Data catalogue provides free and open access to over 100 datasets from all over the Calgary Region and new datasets are being added on a continual basis. Open data is freely available to everyone in one or more open and accessible formats.
Let’s take a look at how we can play with this and have some fun. In the Calgary Region Open Data site, I found a number of interesting data sets about Airdrie on this website: http://www.calgaryregionopendata.ca/browse/2939 Using Google Earth, I wanted to find out where the green spaces are in Airdrie. I then wanted to know where benches and garbage cans are. Below you can see my results.
Analyzing the data before me, I can now ask informed questions, gain insights and possibly decide on further investigations that may have sparked my interest. A neat tool for the classroom. Check it out.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week the Board hosted their fall joint meeting with trustees and school councils. In addition to trustees, about 70 people were in attendance with a combination of division administrators, school administrators and school council representatives. The two-hour event included a casual pizza supper and information about resources for school council leaders and information about the ward boundary review, but the main focus was about the Alberta curriculum development currently underway.
Two Directors from Alberta Learning walked the group through a 75-minute presentation mostly focused on the “why” and the “how” of the curriculum development project. Looking around the room the group was nodding appropriately and when we had table talk opportunities there was plenty of discussion. We had bursts of questions/comments at certain points. When talking about the development process a couple key question were asked – “How are students being involved in this process that will impact them?” and “Have you talked to recent graduates about their thoughts about what they needed to learn?” These questions resonated with people and a conversation spun-off about when and how that could occur.
About 60 minutes through the presentation a parent made a comment that really hit home with me. The parent stated (very politely) that most of what had be presented did not really make any sense to her. Some other parents quickly vocalized similar sentiments. My mind raced through the previous 60 minutes as I tried to process her comment. I came to the realization that the talk was too much about the “why” and the “how” whereas parents in this room were more concerned about the “what” this means for their children. The talk had acronyms that parents did not know; it talked a lot about the technical components of the development process, which potentially really did not matter to parents; and a six-year timeline to build curriculum just does not make sense to many people. There was a hunger to talk about how and when the eventual curriculum would be implemented.
I walked away from the event with a reminder that we need to make sure that when talking to parents we avoid the edu-jargon that dominates our language. We consistently make assumptions about terminology that we use in our business is known to everyone. We need to focus on how whatever we are talking about impacts their children. Like everyone, we all want our kids to be successful, get what they need and have every opportunity available to them when they finished our system. We need to listen to what parents want for their children. People generally trust public education, but need to know that their kids will get what they need in the end. Maybe, for parents, curriculum development is like making sausages – we don’t need to know about how it is made, but just that it is good.
It has been such an adventure to send you out into the world this August. You started out with the wind at your back, a document with a reputation for gathering valuable data about student reading comprehension.
With time, some teachers began to grow familiar with you, and made great efforts to incorporate you in their classroom practice as a tool that helped to guide the next steps in their literacy instruction.
It wasn’t always easy, Independent Reading Level Comprehension Benchmark Assessment, it wasn’t always easy. Teachers tried different strategies, and attended meetings to provide valuable feedback about how the relationship could improve. With growth and time, and the support of the RVS literacy team, a special bond has started to blossom between you and the teachers in grade 3 and 4 classrooms across Rocky View Schools.
As in all relationships, it is important to be honest and true to what the relationship is built upon, and teachers continue to do their part in providing feedback, and giving you a chance… a chance to be something great.