Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coding - Part 2

This past Thursday, students submitted their work from Khanacademy's Hour of Code. Below captures both their accomplishments and my reflection on the process:

Hello my ASCII 8th graders (ASCII is type of coding, FYI),

         Congrats! You guys were offered a taste of coding and many of you took to its liking! Below you'll see several of your classmates' works (if you didn't share it with me, yet, please do so ASAP and I will send out a 2nd email with yours!) and you can see how each one represents a unique individual. Here is a link to a couple of pics of you coding!

          Now, let's reflect for a bit. You were told that we would be exploring the world of coding. So, for 2 class periods (and some work at home), you learned a new concept (the language of coding to produce images) and a skill (how to code). And you created a digital card!

Now, it will take a wee bit more training in coding to create something more complex, like a video game or a website, but all the cool apps, games, sites... anything that is composed of digital media requires coding... and the coders all started where you did. 

And, you did it ON YOUR OWN!!!! 

Do you understand what that means? Do you get the power that you have? You were able to learn a totally new concept and skill without a teacher or expert telling you what to do and how to do it! That's right! I, know very little about coding. I took some classes in coding, but it never really stuck for me. Yet, I do know a little bit about learning - and as I told you in the beginning of the year, you are able to learn anything you put your mind to.

 The work we have been doing in class - not so much the topics on chemistry - rather, the skills you have been learning: (1) understanding how you learn (2) designing a path to accomplish your academic goals (3) reflecting on the process (4) being persistent in your pursuit (5) experimenting with new methods and technologies (6) working interdependently (7) searching for answers that make sense to YOU - all these skills allowed you to learn how to code ON YOUR OWN!

 I promised you by the end of the year, you would be masters of your own learning and this small project on coding demonstrates how each of you is on that path to becoming that master learner. And that, my students, is the most awesome power for it means no matter what class you take, what teacher you have, what subject you study - you will have the power to learn and be successful. Seeing that come true in each of you (as I am seeing it develop in each of you now) is what fuels me and is why I don't tell people that my job is teaching - I tell them I am following my passion and dreams because I do God's holy work in guiding students (i.e., you all)  how to learn and become contributors to our society.

Well done, my students! I am very proud of you!

- Mr. M.

David's -

Leora's -

For me, the biggest take away was that I was "teaching content" I knew ONLY a little about but because I gave my students the SKILLS they needed to learn, I did not have to be "the sage on stage," but rather the guide on the side. I was on the same learning journey as my students. And guess what? They didn't question or say, "Hey! How could he possibly teach us this stuff?" Instead, we learned together. It was an awesome experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Thanks Khanacademy for the opportunity!

How to Flip a Classroom - Inside and Out

I had the pleasure of working with this very talented Physics teacher, Jon Thomas Palmer, who has an amazing personality and is both passionate and creative about teaching physics and the flipped classroom model. Below is the video that he created for teachers interested in flipping. Unlike most videos on flipping, which discuss how to make a video, the uniqueness of this video is that Jon talks about how to (a) use what is out there already (I plan to use his physics videos for my physics units!) and (b) what can teachers do in the class (which is the biggest question teachers are left with when they first flip).

Take a bit of time to check it out! (You might also recognize someone when you get to 15:00min!).

Thanks Jon for putting this video together!

This video

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Coding - part 1 of 2

   This week is Computer Science Education Week. Over 5 million students worldwide are participating in a type of coding class. Now, my 23 8th graders are part of that 5 million!

        Thanks to Rachel Dayanim (a parent in the class) who gave me the head's up about this wonderful opportunity provided by Khanacademy, my students are trying out coding for an hour. The Khanacademy learning module "Hour of Code" gives a taste to anyone who is interested in coding.

       As I told the 8th graders on Monday, coding is now part of many school's regular academic components (along with the "three Rs"). Given how technologically connected and dependent we are, and that many "inventions" today are designed by or involve coding, it is clear why learning how to code is an essential skill (even if it is not one's interests, understanding and playing with it will give much insight into the world of technology).  The truth is that many students have already experienced coding with games such as Minecraft, Scratch, and Tynker. This mini coding course will expose my students to the language of coding. For those who become hooked, I will be giving them additional opportunities to explore and learn the world of coding. 
      Students started their journeys yesterday, during our Monday PrimeTime class. They will finish up their projects the following Mondays.

     Stay tuned for next week - I can't wait to see what my students create! I am also gaining insight into how they have developed the skills of student-driven learning - a goal of mine since September!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Thanksgiving & Hanukkah message

This is a letter I shared with my 8th graders and their families the week of Thanksgiving.
Hello my "fowl"-loving 8th Graders,

Today, we all learned from Professor Randy Pausch (z"l) on what we should try to achieve and what life really means. While watching the truncated lecture he gave on the Oprah show with you all and then discussing it with you, I started to remember my last week before my Bar-Mitvzah. It was Thanksgiving Weekend. Needless to say my family and I were running around like turkeys with our heads cut off. Yet, I was unbelieavbly stressed; I was the first grandchild of my family to be reading the entire Torah portion (all 148 lines), the entire Haftorah, and to be giving 2 Divrei Torah. And as I grew up learning not to disappoint, I worked darn hard to make sure everything was perfect. I remember stressing so much that I barely slept let alone ate much. And, when Thanksgiving arrived, I joined the family for only a little bit as I felt I had to prepare. Instead of being with my parents, grandparents, uncle and aunt, I chose to focus on making sure everything was perfect.  I took that philosophy of rigor with me to high-school and college - every free moment in school, I spent studying or doing homework. I skipped out on playing with my friends. I missed many fun events and parties. I missed out on visiting my grandparents during vacations. 

And in the end, what did it get me? 

The same result as Professor Pausch - 16 letters of rejection from Medical School. And a feeling of tremendous loss that I did not spend as much time with my grandparents when I was older than I could have. Yet, what kept me going after the rejection letters and losing my grandparents was my faith - that if it wasn't meant to be and wasn't in God's plans for me to become a doctor then I had another purpose on this Earth, and I just had to find it. And eventually I did... serving those who will serve... that is, teaching. Teaching has been at the very core and soul of my life (both my parents were teachers so it is in my blood) because you - my students - fuel me. And it is through my teaching and in you, my students, that my grandparents live for I relay the lessons they taught me (including to laugh a lot - now you know why I laugh so much!). 

Reflecting on that stressful Thanksgiving week of my Bar-Mitzvah, I wished I had watched Professor Pausch's lecture to realize that in the end, while the Bar-Mitzvah prep was important, they were not the be all and end all. Life has so much more to offer. Live each day; rejections and failures are experiences from which to learn; treasure people not objects; apologize and mean it; treat others as you would want to be treated. These lessons Dr. Pausch taught and left humanity are good ones. As you sit around your Thanksgiving and Hanukkah table, share what you learned with your loved ones and friends. Life is not all about assignments, tests, work, and preparation; they are an important part of your lives right now and in the near future, but they are not THE ONLY aspect of your lives. Try to remember that. 

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!


Mr. M.