Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Time Blues

Hey folks, the summer is half over and it feels like I still have a lot to do before I go back to school. This summer has been filled with good times with family and friends, travelling and watching way too many shows on Netflix. And there's still another month or so before I have to report back to work.

Unlike previous years, this year is the first year that I have not taught summer school, which has it's ups and downs. Missing that extra income has been one of the larger "downs." And the "ups" are fairly obvious: I've been able to catch up on some housework, get some yard-work projects done and work in my garden (which is currently overgrown with weeds, the weekend's not too far off and then I'll remedy that.)

I find that I miss my classroom and my students, but hopefully with my professional development and planning plans, I'll keep busy and the new year will be here sooner than I thought.

This summer I only attended one in person conference: i-STEM which is offered at universities around Idaho and focuses on, you guessed it: STEM!

Here's some of the resources, tips and tricks that I picked up at this conference.
I got to hear Kenneth Wesson speak on how the brain works and how that effects STEM education. His site Science Master, is filled with tons of research and resources. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, I highly recommend that you do. If you want to see the slides/read through the information that he presented it can be found here.

The strand that I took for the week was called Computational Thinking and it was taught by Alark Joshi (@Alark). We spent the 4 strand days being introduced to 2 different programming languages (Processing and Python - both of which are FREE!) as well as interactive resources and other block type programming. That's all well and good but how am I actually going to use these things in my classroom? Some background. I will be teaching Robotics (as an engineering elective) and Tech I and Tech II for grades 6-8.
  • Alice - is a graphical based block programming that students can use to create videos to demonstrate their knowledge (think machinima).
  • Python and Processing can be used as stepping stools/alongside students who are learning to program their robots with ROBOTC
  • Data visualization, this is more than just a Wordle or a Tagxedo, using ManyEyes, you can collect data in your classroom and view it in a variety of formats that allow students to draw correlations and make inferences. If you are a teacher who teaches classic literature, you'll be able to find entire copies of it available on the public domain, and when you visualize it, you're able to make other connections with the text. 
  • Blockly Maze - this fun and surprisingly addictive game lets your or your students build a foundation of block based programming.
  • Want to build your own games, videos, or interactives like the Blockly Maze? Check out Scratch

It seems like there was SO much more and like I am forgetting everything, but this is a start. While this is the only in-person professional development that I will be taking this summer, I have been working on 3DGameLab and quest based learning for most of the summer. I'm sure I'll have a post about that up later this week, it is super exciting stuff!

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