The Hour of Code Event at Independence High Scohol

The IHS Coding Club hosted the Hour of Code Event today. We had several elementary school students from the Boys and Girls Club of Kern County. I was so proud of my students who ran the event without much help from me.

I know many people consider teaching high school to be a tough job. Believe me when I tell you it can be!

However, I absolutely love my students for their amazing compassion and willingness to help others. And here are some pictures from that event.

IMG_6735IMG_6729IMG_6723IMG_6719IMG_6717IMG_6711IMG_6709 IMG_6710IMG_6708IMG_6698IMG_6693 IMG_6691IMG_6689IMG_6687IMG_6684


Daily Reflections

One of the benefits of working with high school students is all the laugh I get from them. I absolutely adore my students for making me laugh all the time. I hope you can appreciate what I mean.

I have always believed in having them reflect daily because I feel it’s something that they can really learn to do. Each year I find something interesting when I read their reflections. Surprisingly they are very honest about what I am doing in class, and I learn a lot by reading them.

And they are often hilarious as well. This year, I told one of the students to become engaged in a “dialogue” with himself. So he began writing in his reflection as such. He had the following characters set up.

Student 1 = My normal self
Student 2 = My wise self
Student 3 = My angry self
Student 4 = My critical self

And the following is an example of his reflection.

Student 1 = I told you I would get it under control
Student 4 = What about your “xyz” application?
Student 1 = Uh…darn it.
Student 2 = I’ll be fair. You have finished the rest. That is good.
Student 1 = Of course, I take my responsibilities seriously.
Student 3 = If that’s true, why did you do so poorly last quarter?
Student 1 = I’ll accept my responsibilities there; I just find this “reflection” becoming cumbersome. I understand she wants us to record our thoughts, but honestly, journals are useless to me. What purpose does this serve? I could using this time finishing more important work.
Student 2 = Technically, this is “important” work. It brought down the grade when you didn’t do it.
Student 1 = ….
Student 4 = [Sigh] Imbecile!

Mind you, I never asked him to make his reflections so complicated. I know I am being bad for laughing, but seriously, these students crack me up!!!!! And I love them.

Karel and CodeHS

Now that I am finally finished with my Arduino project, I am supposed to move onto app creation using AppInventor. But before that, I was introduced to a new free online platform known as CodeHS.

It has become one of the most useful tools that I have encountered in terms of teaching students the basics of computer programming.

What makes CodeHS superior to others? In my humble opinion, CodeHS has one of the best pedagogical models I have seen in terms of teaching a defined skill set like computer programming. Its instructions are so clear, its feedback is immediate, and its ability to level up the user is seamless. My students liked Kodu and Codecacademy, but they LOVE CodeHS. Of course, Codecacademy offers more languages, but if you are starting out with teaching your students the very basics of programming, CodeHS with Karel really is the way to go.

The bottom line is that it has simply been the most user-friendly tool that I have ever used with my students. I am seriously considering getting paid subscriptions for my students, which will not be easy considering my budget constraints.

DSC02887 DSC02888 DSC02890 DSC02891 DSC02892 DSC02893

Learning from Others

As usual, when I attend any face-to-face sessions, I am in awe of the talent present in my cadre.

Here are some pictures of the projects my classmates have created. Clearly, I do not possess their level of talent, but seeing them gave me so many ideas. I have never considered myself to be a talented maker or artist. But seeing them enjoy the debugging exercise inspired me to bring the joy to my students. The more I am doing this, the more I am convinced that my place is in the classroom, working and teaching my students. It might sound like I am taking an easy way out, but thinking about bringing this to my students excites me more than making my project work. Now I must look for ways to fund their passion!

Debugging Exercise

Debugging Exercise

Motion Detecting Music Box

Motion Detecting Music Box



Amazing Light-Up Painting

Amazing Light-Up Painting

Finally, success!

After struggling through for many weeks, I finally experienced success today.

First, I realized that the Flora board program was a must because the LilyPad I was going to use didn’t have a slot for the battery. I was scared to death to plug in the Flora board to the Mac, so I started with a PC. However, afer downloading the Flora program on my PC, I realized that whether you were using a PC or a Mac, you needed to have two completely separate Arudino programs to upload the codes.

Since I had to bring a prototype to my class Tuesday, I decided to go for it. Fortunately, when I plugged the Flora board in, the on-board LED began blinking as I wanted it to! Oh, the sweet sight of success!!!

Then off to the programming and wiring the lights onto the board! After several hours of talking to Skylar on Google Hangout, I was able to program the Flora board to light up with the code below. Of course, I am even going to pretend that I knew what I was doing. Skylar had to walk me through each step! Thank you, Skylar!

Then onto wiring and sewing. Since I have never really sewed before, it was a struggle. Trying to keep the conductive thread separate AND attach the board to the shoe was not easy. I had to tape a lot of stuff to make sure I was doing things correctly. And when I stepped, the lights turned on as I wanted them to. Such happiness!

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 10.40.30 PM

2013-09-29 13.20.12

Kodu and Peer-to-Peer Learning

Since I learned about Kodu and Studio K, I thought that Kodu would be a great tool to use with my students. Kodu is a great tool as is. But I consider its biggest potential to be a tool for peer-to-peer learning. I have been fortunate to shave two amazing students who were willing to learn the program ahead of everyone, and demonstrate all the features to the class.

I think that’s where the power of digital tools lies. It’s as though having a digital tool gives them the permission to take charge and be a leader. I have seen it during our coding club meetings. Students become free from rigid expectations of a traditional classroom.


Working with Students

During our second Saturday meeting, I took a different approach. Because I only had a few students, I decided to read the Arduino Projects for Dummies book with them to learn with my students. We decided to work on wiring the LED Pet project in the book. Since I was still shaky with everything, I told them that I was learning with them.

What surprised me was that I was able to answer some of the questions posed by my students. When I didn’t know the answer, we looked in the book to figure it out. That was when I realized the power of this kind of activities.

One of my students who never spoke in my “normal” class was really good at working with his hands. When we were stuck because we didn’t have the wire stripper, he was able to use a pair of scissors to move the project along. He was also able to figure out the diagram faster than any other students who were reading the book with me.

We didn’t get very far with the project because the breadboard we were using was too big, and we didn’t have the right USB. But I now believe in this project stronger than ever before!

2013-09-28 10.47.44

After School Coding Club

Despite all the failures that I was experiencing, I decided to call another meeting to see whether anyone would show up after school. Since my school is located pretty far away from a residential area, many of my students take buses. Therefore, calling an after school meeting can be rather risky. I expected to see maybe 5 kids at the most. To my utter surprise, fifteen kids came!

Of course, since I haven’t figured out how to lead these kids, I put them on Code Academy. What I realized was that how little these students knew about the computers. I had to explain the difference among hard drive, network drive, and cloud computing to more than one students. We still had fun for at least 1 1/2 hours after school. But how can I help them?

2013-09-26 15.28.21


2013-09-26 15.28.05

2013-09-26 15.27.37

2013-09-26 15.27.26


Shock to Learn About Electricity

Since I had no idea what I needed but simply knew that I needed “stuff,” I decided to go visit the “Shack” per my professor’s suggestion.

At Radio Shack, I found three boxes of things that were on sale. They were resistors, LEDs, and switches. I knew that I really didn’t need the switches, but they were on sale for only $5.99 – $7.99 per box. Because I plan to continue with the coding club, I thought it was a good investment. The salesman also suggested that I should get a multimeter that was on sale for $11.99. Since I didn’t know what I could do with it, so I didn’t buy it. Instead, I bought an Arduino Uno for the club.

2013-09-25 19.38.49  2013-09-29 22.05.00

When I got home, I called Skylar to see whether I could simply plug the LED light strip to the Ardunio Uno. But of course, I struggled to find the regular USB cord to connect the Ardunio Uno to my computer. Another failure….

2013-09-25 22.33.24

While struggling through this process, I learned that as complex as the coding might be, controlling the circuit was much more important in becoming successful in many of these projects. I realized this while reading  Arduino Projects for Dummies. So I went back to Radio Shack and purchased the multimeter still on sale.

The sad part about this was that I was no where near completing my project!

arduino for dummies