Coding Club Continues

Even though I experienced no success on Saturday, I still held a club meeting, hoping to inspire kids to come up with a project. During this meeting, I saw more girls, which made me feel excited.

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I show them my Flora board that I fried on Saturday. Although I brought the supplies for them to “play” with, we still didn’t decide on any specific project. They were more interested in deciding the shirt design for the club than learning about the Arduino board. I realized it was because I didn’t have a clear understanding of what I was doing. Even though it is meant to be an after school activity, the students are still looking to me to provide information for them. I came to a conclusion that I needed a different game plan.

But having to complete my own project AND getting this club off the ground has become a personal challenge for me.

Sunday Stalemate

Having achieve no progress on Saturday, I decided to call on my tutor Skylar, who was a student of mine. Now studying computer science at UC Irvine, he volunteered to be my “technical advisor.”

First, we began working on getting the Flora hooked up because I wanted to get to the part of the LED strip that bought lighting up.

1138_LRGhttp://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_page=popup_image&pID=1138 Flora Boardhttp://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_page=popup_image&pID=659

However, I didn’t realize that I needed an extra part. For example, to make the strip work, I needed a resistor and special hook up. Futhermore, the Flora board needed a specific program language environment that I didn’t have.

After spending 2 hours trying to figure out how to download the Flora specific Ardino program, I plugged in one of the Flora boards.  After about 1/2 second, I saw a red light blinking rapidly. Then I smelt something burning. When I touched the board, it was hot! And the program kept sending me error messages.

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So I stopped working on the board. Even my tutor couldn’t help me. This experience made me think about how much tacit knowledge one must possess to be able to take on a project of this kind. I just wanted the LED strip to light up based on Adafruit’s diagram. I had no idea how much I needed to know things about electricity, voltage, and data input and output of data to make this project work.

After that defeat, I decided to switch to a LiliPad to see whether I could at least make the Velostate respond to the input.

This time, I was able to make the serial monitor to respond! I was so EXCITED!!!! However, I was still apprehensive about what I had to do to make this project a success.

First Saturday Meeting

Even though we didn’t get anything “done” per se, I think it was a great meeting. Here are some pictures.

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Trying to put the shoes together.

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Using Kodu to create a game.

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Working on Code Academy and Kodu.

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Students learning how to code using Code Academy.

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Trying to fly the electric airplane.

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All the supplies out.

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What’s inside a computer?

Coding Club Fun

When I brought the supplies to the Monday meeting, the noise level was deafening. They were beyond excited. But with 38 minutes for lunch, we hardly had the time to open the computer to look at the code. That’s when my students asked me whether we could meet on a Saturday or even after school! Now I am committed to meeting them on Saturdays and one day after school during the week. I hope I can find the time to make this happen.

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Working with the Arduno board

Since I need to create a project for my own class, I decided to re-create a pair of Firewalker LED light up shoes.

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Becky Stern with Firewalker Sneakers (http://learn.adafruit.com/assets/10669)

Originally I wanted to create a pair of shoes with a built-in pedometer that kept track of how many steps one took. But working with my coder tutor, I realized that I do not have enough technical abilities to make this possible at this time. Furthermore, I was much more interested in engaging my students in maker activities than making an amazing machine. In the end, I simply ran out of time. With taking three classes and performing additional functions at school, I have limited time to do a complicated project by the due date.

I personally think it’s a great thing that my students want to spend more time working with the materials. The fact that they want to meet twice a week says how interested they are.

I probably won’t meet the deadline set my maker class, but I haven’t given up! I still might be able to make a prototype with usable codes at some point. I am definitely continuing with my students. Wish me luck!

Coding Club Begins

With the bit of seed money, I ordered a few things to share with my students. First, I got the Makey Makey board from Amazon. Image

And on a whim, I also ordered an electric airplane kit.

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I can’t wait to share these things with my students.

Won a thousand dollars to start a coding club.

20130827_104112Today I had a surprise that I didn’t expect. I was visited by Fox 29 news because I won a thousand dollars to start a coding club at Independence High School. Because I wrote that grant so long ago, I forgot that I even wrote the grant. I have never been speechless in my life, but when the news anchor showed up, I was completely speechless. I was still delighted that I won. Now I can’t wait to start a coding club with my students!

Technology in English Classes

A friend of mine told me that a student tour guide at a college he recently visited said, “This is an English Class so it really doesn’t require technology.”

I replied, “#offended. I use more technology than any other teachers on my campus.”

As irritated I was by the tour guide’s statement, however, I think there is some truth to that statement. I feel that many English teachers are either afraid of technology or dismissive of it. I believe this comes from the limited and incorrect view of who we are.

I believe that we – English teachers – shouldn’t teach English. As a matter of fact, I rarely teach “English.” Instead, I construct a learning environment where students can acquire effective communication skills, be it writing, reading or speaking. I have never taught Romeo and Juliet. Rather, I utilize various Shakespearean tragedies to help my students learn the function of literature in the Elizabethan period. I use Lord of the Flies to help my students understand the need for societal structures for humans to maintain humanity.

Just as math teachers teach computational thinking, English teachers teach communication skills.  And since technology is one of the best tools of communication, it should be used in every English class.

RPG and Literature – What is gamification in a high school English classroom?

Since I came back from the GLS 2013 Conference, I have been thinking about ways to incorporate role playing games into my instructional practices. I met Dr. Hergenrader at the conference who did his dissertation on teaching creative writing using RPG creation. His talk sparked an interest and understanding that I didn’t had before.

The conference enlightened me and expanded my horizon as to what gaming in my classroom could be. I used to think that using digital gaming was what I was supposed to do. But I realized that using game mechanics to enhance learning was what effective gaminification was truly about. My students didn’t need to play games for me to gamify my classroom successfully.

Since I already loved the idea of situated learning, I began thinking about using the game creation rather than game playing – although there definitely was a huge benefit to game playing, which I would like to talk about later – to teach the skills as well as the content that my students needed to learn.

A Gaming Convert

Ever since I came back from the GLS conference, I have been thinking a lot about how to incorporate games into my classroom. The more I think about it, the more I am leaning towards analogue games for its low tech requirement, open-ended nature, and a collaborative structure.

So I asked a friend of mine to teach me how to play some. Not only did he offer to help, he created a Facebook group for me to join (https://www.facebook.com/groups/glazersgamroom/).

I was not a big fan of gaming before attending the GLS. Since then, I have been learning more and more about the benefits. Who knows? I might actually write my dissertation on gaming and education.