Monday, 14 March 2016

Adventures of GAFE in Grade One

March has been a busy month for trying new things. I love this time of year in Grade One, as they are ready to take on more challenges and we can begin jumping into the unknown together. Coding has been something we started venturing into earlier this month, see my post here for more. Just last week, I took another big leap and jumped into the Google Drive/Google Classroom world with my Grade Ones. Since our school board has accounts for each of our students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, I figured now was the best time to start introducing something they could potentially be using for the next 12 years!

Lucky for us, our classroom was given 4 Chromebooks for temporary use. Before introducing them into the classroom, I sat down and figured out my plan in how we'd use them. I assigned 5 students for each Chromebook and then signed them in using their GAFE (Google Apps for Education) accounts. Thankfully, their profile gets saved on the Chromebook, so it becomes easy to log in and get started, since all they need is their password. I set up a few bookmarks in Chrome so we could easily get to our Class Blog, their individual blogs, Raz-Kids, Dreambox and our School Board's Library Learning Commons (which provides direct links to TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to name a few). Once their accounts were ready, I introduced the Chromebooks to the class and had the students use them during our Reading and Writing workshops.

This wasn't enough for me. Knowing that we had access to GAFE, I wanted more for my students. I wanted them to experience as much as they could handle. Even though they are young, they are capable! At EdcampWR, GAFE had come up multiple times, but all the teachers using it were either junior, intermediate or secondary. I wanted primary to be included. I chatted with Heidi Hobson (our Technology Support Teacher for our school board) and asked her about primary students using GAFE. She offered to help me brainstorm ideas on how to get my class started. After chatting for an hour or so one day, we introduced my students to Google Drive.

We began by explaining what Google Drive is all about, we referred to it as a "Sky Desk". Where all the files you work on get put into your desk that's essentially in the sky, so you can access it from anywhere. The students loved the analogy and quickly wanted to log on and see their very own sky desk. That day we showed them how to sign into Google Classroom and start working on a Google Draw assignment. In order to make this work, I borrowed 6 other Chromebooks, so I had access to 10 in total. I put my students in partners and let one sign in and test it out, while the other helped. When it was time to switch partners, they easily signed into their new account and got started with very little help from the adults in the room. 6 and 7 year olds are very capable. :)

Our goal is to introduce them to Google Slides to create an 'All About Me' slideshow with pictures and words. To get them there, they need to be familiar with the tools that Google offers. With practice and play with Google Draw, they can start creating lines and shapes, begin to fill in colours and just overall work with a Chromebook in a new way. I send home an instruction sheet on how to log onto their "sky desk" at home so some may choose to practice this over the March break.

Currently these are simple ways to introduce GAFE into our classroom. I want to be cautious that I'm not just choosing the tool and then trying to fit it into the lesson or curriculum. I want my students to be able to choose from a variety of tools. In order for them to have a variety of choice and use something appropriately, there needs to be some specific teaching to allow students to gain the knowledge and independence when working with it. Providing these simple activities gives my students just that. Where they go next to showcase their learning will be the real adventure. Please note, that this works in my classroom because I allow students to have choice when creating something. During Reader's and Writer's Workshop or Wonder Wednesday, I provide the students with choice to show us their learning. (This is also a work in progress, but something that lends itself nicely from the FDK model of inquiry and play they have been familiar with for 2 years.) I have some students who will choose to create a booklet or poster than use an iPad or Chromebook. Technology isn't everything in our class, we just try and incorporate it in when it makes sense to the person using it.

I'm excited to see where this journey takes us and see how possible it is to have young students using GAFE in meaningful and purposeful ways. Thanks for joining me in this journey, if you have any suggestions, I'm always willing to listen!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Coding Morning in Grade One


Before last year, all I ever knew was that it was called computer programming and it was only something programmers could do. Thanks to Twitter and my PLN, I've discovered that it's something anyone can do, even my Grade One students!

For the past 2 weeks, we have been busy coding in our classroom. Not everyday, but for a few times a week, we would have a 'Coding Morning' and work in 3 different coding centres. These centres included:
  • Spheros
  • Chromebooks coding with Scratch 
  • iPads coding with Scratch Jr., Kodable and/or Daisy the Dino

We downloaded the app "Tickle" on our classroom iPads to create the codes to have the Sphero move. There is a sphero app, but it only allows students to move it using a joystick, I wanted the students to actually create the code to allow it to move. This was something new for all of us and a great learning experience for us all.

About a month ago we tested out Scratch as a class in the computer lab. Scott McKenzie created some basic step-by-step instructions on YouTube on how to do some basic things with the sprite (we call him, "Scratchy" in our class). With time to play and explore, they discovered how to make him move, make noise and use speech bubbles. With this little bit of background knowledge, I knew they could handle working on it more during these centres. Scratch can be challenging for Grade Ones as there is a lot of text to navigate, but with some purposeful partnership and time to explore, my students didn't seem too bothered by it.

iPad Apps:
At the beginning of the year I had introduced Kodable, a very basic primary version of coding, where students use arrows to direct a fuzzy ball through a maze. Scratch Jr. is a primary version of Scratch, without all the extra words. The codes that students use are pictures and are very self-explanatory.   Daisy the Dino is similar to Scratch Jr. where it contain simple codes to make the dinosaur move. These are great beginning apps to coding that are primary friendly.

We don't always have access to this technology, but when we have it, I am very grateful. For these centres, I used 3 Sphero's (on loan from our school board) paired with 3 iPads we have in our classroom, I signed out an additional 6 iPads from our school collection and currently have 4 Chromebooks in our class. Having a variety of technology in our classroom is an asset to allow students to see how they can use each one and learn the positives (and negatives) about each and what works better for the purpose we need.

Before we started our first Coding Morning, we read the book The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is a book that focuses on growth mindset and failure leads to success. We talked afterwards about how the girl struggled to come up with the most magnificent thing that she had created in her mind, but that she kept with it until she made it. She took a walk when she needed space, but she never gave up and she always kept going. This was going to be our mantra as we worked through the centres. We also created learning goals that helped us focus on what we wanted to do. They focused on working together, problem solving and talking it through (especially when we get frustrated). Learning skills that are essential for everyone, but can be particularly difficult (but necessary) for Grade One students. 

I gave them a coding partner that they would work with for each centre, then gave a few introductions for each group (how to log into scratch, how to find the apps you wanted or how to use Tickle in order to make the Sphero work) then set them off to work with their partner.

My students were so engaged and created some interesting things. No one created a project that was worth sharing to a global audience yet, but each group created something that worth sharing to each other. The sharing time was so important. I found that by the third morning, the students had started creating more elaborate projects because of what the previous group had shared, even though they hadn't been at that centre before.

All in all, it was a great project and opportunity to explore together. I would definitely recommend coding to all primary classes. It certainly seems like the new language of the 21st century and something that engages all learners in my class.

So as life-learner myself, I've already started wondering about what is next and how I get there. How can I go deeper?  How can I link this with some of the Language expectations* for Grade One? How can I use coding in my classroom on a regular basis? 

As a Language teacher, where have you gone next? Would love to hear some of your ideas!

*Although there are other great curriculum connections, I am only teaching Language this year.