LEGOs go from toy to technology

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In Santa Clara this weekend, nearly 5,000 people attended something called

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Why (Not How) We Should Use iPads In Education – Edudemic

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It’s time to start asking the tough question about iPads in education. Why are we using it, not just how should we use it?

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Independent Project – SiMPLE

Well as I mentioned in my last post I was planning to interact with the SiMPLE program and complete a independant project and I have got to say I think I did reasonably well for a newbie.  Prior to beginning my design I decided to read all the tutorials associated with the use of the program.  These were very easy to read and I engaged with them quite well.  In order for me to be remotely successful at this task I needed to print out the specific codes which the system uses in order to begin my digital design journey. 

During the reading these tutorials it became very clear to me that the older the child the more complete and engaging the designs could become.  Each tutorial explains the many different aspects until the final one which instructed me on how to make and implement my own codes successfully. 

Once I had finished reading these I then thought about the Australia Curriculum: Technologies and how could these particular program integrate itself successfully into a primary classroom environment.  Within the digitial technologies content structure I feel this program connects with student learning by encouraging the development of knowledge and skills with regard to:

– how data is represented and structured symbolically (Australian Curriculum Assessment & Reporting Authority, 2013);

– collecting, managing and interpreting data when creating information, and the nature and properties of data, how it is collected and interpreted (Australian Curriculum Assessment & Reporting Authority, 2013);

As I continued with the project I realised that I could complete very basic coding, such as placing three helicopters on the screen in different location using different colours, changing the colour of the background and writing words on the screen.  These projects, as basic as they sound, took some time for me to complete as I was unsure of how to write the code and a number of times I needed to address errors which followed.  As my primary interests within the education sector revolve around early childhood, I wanted to make sure that this program was useful to Prep through to Year 3 students so I again consulted the curriculum (Draft Digital Technologies) document – scope and sequence to see if it was at all possible to link it to a lower grade level.  The document clearly indicates that my simple low leveled design cohesively matches “follow describe, represent and play with a sequence of steps and decisions needed to solve a simple problem” (Australian Curriculum Assessment & Reporting Authority, 2013).  This made me realised that I don’t have to be perfect at completing this task as long as I form a deep understanding of what it is I am wanting to complete and learn from the errors that are made. 

I really feel that this program has so much potential for us in a primary school environment I think I am definitely placing this within my teaching tool kit as there may be a day in the not so near future that my students will be creating and designing their own programs.  As teachers it is likely that we will probably the ones who implement our students programs for future generations to learn from.

Please watch this video, it really explains why we as teachers need to implement technologies into our teaching and learning environment.  Ask Bill Gates and Steve Jobs!!!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKIu9yen5nc&feature=player_embedded#!

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What is SiMPLE

After much searching I have come across a computer program suitable for primary school aged children call “SiMPLE” http://www.simplecodeworks.com/website.html.  It is a beginner friendly program which uses basic programming language to ensure all children can and do create interesting new games, screen savers and video interactions to name a few.  The program itself is merely a text file (source listing) containing a set of instructions that tell your computer what to do.    Children simply enter in the words they wish to program and the SiMPLE builds the codes in order for the  program to work.  It is really easy to use, even downloading it to begin my coding was no problem.  I just clicked on the link and followed the prompts.  Once you  have downloaded the free program it provides you with all the guidance you need.  It has built in documentation which shows you how to use the system and provides examples which can help give your students ideas to encourage indepth designs.  This program definitely correlates with the knowledge and understanding as well at the processes and production skills elements of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies.

After perusing the Scope and Sequence documents of the Australian Curriculum I realised this program would be great in almost all year levels, but particularly Years 3 – 6 as this area encourages students to “critique, explore and investigate opportunites for designing and test and evaluate a variety of technologies, materials, systems, tools and techniques to produce designed solutions”.  This program also allows students to change their designs and more importantly gives them the opportunity once they have mastered the easier coding, to complete their own coding on other different projects.   

As the name suggests it is so SiMPLE so as I am somewhat computer illiterate I decided to give this program a test drive.   After downloading it I followed the very specific directions to locate the program on my C:.  Once there I could interact with all the samples and begin my own project.  As yet I have not mastered the personal coding, but I definitely was amazed by what children from the age of 6 had completed.  My thinking is if they can do it then, so can I and I am definitely up for the challenge.  Therefore, for my independent project I was thinking about making my own SiMPLE program.  This will be interesting and the results might surprise me, but I need to give it a go!  If my SiMPLE program does turn out exactly as I plan this will be definitely something which I would consider in a primary school setting.  By all accounts students everywhere seem to love it and with the basic planning ideologies embedded within the programming all students can participate while also engaging with the Australian Curriculum requirements.

So the challenge is ON, let’s see how I go!  I will keep you all posted.

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Scratch Alternatives – Week 5

This week has been very interesting as I felt severely embarrassed over my inability to use Scratch effectively.  I decided to search for an alternative that might be easier to use, connected with my curated collection of resources and integrate seamlessly with the Draft Australian Curriculum – Technologies. 

After much searching and googling I discovered a Scratch Jr Research Project.   The project is being led by Professor Marina Umaschi Bers from Tuts University and Professor Mitch Resnick from the MIT Media Lab.  The project aims to study and integrate the next generation of innovative technologies to support learning in the early childhood sector (Dev Tech Research Group, 2012).  This consists of the development of a new version of scratch combining an appropriate interface, embedded maths and literacy in accordance with ACARA and provding an online resources which is ideal for all in the early childhood community (Dev Tech Research Group, 2012).

The areas which the developers are specifically targeting are discipline-specific knowledge due to its open ended project-based platform, foundational knowledge structures which will encourage children to build cognition in areas such as symbols, patterns, estimation and prediction and complex problem-solving skills through the creation of interactive design projects. 

These specified areas interconnect strongly with the key ideas of the draft curriculum being knowledge and understanding strand and the processes and production skills strand of both the Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies content structure (ACARA, 2013).  Scratch Jr will enable students from Foundation – Year 2  to plan simple step-by-step projects (with teacher support), follow directions and manage their own personal engagement with the program (ACARA, 2013).   These aspects are extremely important within the curriculum and therefore, Scratch Jr once readily available will be perfect for this particular age group.    

Currently, the project is reaching the later stages of development and will be made broadly available during 2013-2014, just in time for our personal teaching careers.  In my opinion this is a great younger alternative for early childhood aged students and will be definitely part of the education arsenal in the future.

Australian Curriculum Assessment Reporting Authority. (2013) Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies.  Retrieved March, 5, 2013 from http://consultation.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Static/docs/Technologies/Draft%20Australian%20Curriculum%20Technologies%20-%20February%202013.pdf

Dev Tech Research Group. (2012).  Scratch Jr – learning in early childhood through programming.  Retrieved April, 2, 2013 from http://ase.tufts.edu/DevTech/ScratchJr/ScratchJrHome.asp

 

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Scratch Jr: Learning in Early Childhood through Programming

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Digital Photography & Early Years Education

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