High School IT
In high school computer science class I attempt to build the capacity of our students for deeper learning of the right skills — so they could experience success, which would inspire them to continue studying Computer Science after leaving my class. I started the year by articulating why Computer Science is a necessary and integral part of our students’ education, and how it will become useful to them regardless of the career path that they choose. Throughout the year, we will build students computational thinking competency by developing their versatility for recognizing and applying the four elements of computational thinking to familiar problems/situations.
This year we have 15 students from grade 11 and 12 taking the AP Computer Science Principles class. Computer Science Principles (CS Principles) is a full-year, rigorous, entry-level course that introduces high school students to the foundations of modern computing. The course covers a broad range of foundational topics such as programming, algorithms, the internet, big data, digital privacy and security, and the societal impacts of computing. We started the year with the unit on the Internet where students learned how computers represent all kinds of information and how the Internet allows that information to be shared with millions of people. Over the next few weeks, CS Principles students will be introduced to foundational concepts of computer programming, which unlocks the ability to make rich, interactive apps. Concurrently, we will also explore the way large and complex pieces of digital information are stored in computers and the associated challenges. Through a mix of online research and interactive widgets, students will learn about foundational topics like compression, image representation, and the advantages and disadvantages of different file formats.
In grade 9, students in computer game design class are learning the guiding principles of game design and systems thinking in highly engaging and creative online environments. We are using two different game-based digital learning platforms – Code Combat and Gamestar Mechanic. Knowing how to put together a successful game involves system-based thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, art, storytelling, and digital media literacy. This class allows learners to build technical, technological, artistic, cognitive, social, and linguistic skills suitable for our current and future world. By using project-based learning, students exercise these skills by creating games. Last week, students developed and playtested their very first game for this class. It was fantastic to see a high level of engagement during class presentations.
In grade 10 introduction to coding class, students are learning the fundamental concepts of programming – concepts that can be applied in the study of any programming language. Students will also dive into specific features of the Python programming language. This class utilizes a blended classroom approach. The content is fully web-based, with students writing and running code in the browser. I will utilize tools and resources available online to leverage time in the classroom and give focused 1-on-1 attention to students. Each unit of the course is broken down into lessons. Lessons consist of video tutorials, short quizzes, example programs to explore, and written programming exercises. Last week, we completed the first unit–Basic Python and Console Interaction where students learned the basics of python programming by writing programs that users can interact using the keyboard input. Next, we will start the unit on conditionals.
MS Social Studies
The 8th graders in Ancient World History have been investigating the past. They were asking themselves, ‘How to social scientists interpret the past?’ and more recently ‘What capabilities helped hominids survive?’
After doing some investigation into early hominids, the students were put into groups to create a poster celebrating their favorite hominid and its capabilities. Some groups were fascinated with ourselves, Homo Sapiens Sapiens: the Doubly Wise Man while others looked into Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis: Neanderthal Man or Homo Erectus: Upright Man or Homo Habilis: Handy Man or Australopithecus Afarensis.
Each hominid had its own unique capabilities. The students were then asked to take their poster and turn it into an individual essay explaining the capabilities of their hominid. This was their first essay of the year in Ancient History. They will be writing many more throughout the year.
Middle School Social Studies the 6th and 7th Grade students have participated in an engaging learning strategy called Numbered Heads Together. This learning strategy is a Kagan cooperative exercise which emphasizes critical thinking, analysis, coherent writing, the synthesizing of ideas, and oral proficiency.
At the outset of this educational game the students are given a higher order thinking question projected on the board at the front of the class. The questions for both classes were based on the 5 themes of geography which is an essential standard in both courses. After the question is given the students have approximately 30 second to wait and think about the answer to the question. Waiting and thinking helps the student activate prior knowledge and make connections prior to writing their response. This intellectual endeavor is research based. However, it is amusing how often I have to remind students to trust their thought process as they are tempted to pick up their marker and write!
The next phase of the activity is where students write their responses on a white board that is distributed prior to the game. The students can access their resources as they compose their responses. After the writing portion the students then stand up and in the strategies namesake put their heads together and synthesize the best possible response. Upon completing this task the students who are numbered off listen for their number to be called. If their number is chosen they remain standing and share their team’s response in front of the class. I usually award a point to the team who’s response is not only articulate but evidence based.
I really appreciate Numbered Heads Together because it places the students in a variety of learning formats. The students are kept on their toes in part because of the variance and additionally because there is a competitive component to the game that stresses working together and collaborating but also being an independent thinker. I look forward to incorporating this assessment into the middle school social studies curriculum throughout the school year!