My #CTMindset Journey into coding – Part I

Computational Thinking – such a daunting term for many people in education these days, including myself.

What is Computational Thinking?

Here’s a great blog post by Brian Aspinall on his view of what Computational Thinking is. And if there was anyone that we can trust about the meaning of computational thinking, he’d be one person to trust for sure.

I’ve been known by friends and colleagues as the Google Guru and the website guy, among other things related to my role at TELT Contact, making it seem like computer science would be in my arsenal of skills. I can do some basic HTML, but when it comes to actually coding, and what I’ve learned it to be, I’m nowhere close to being the coding guy for people to reach out to for help.

Last winter, I decided that I needed to learn more, as I was seeing to be something that I would want to support this year. So, I turned to the Codeacademy and started with their JavaScript course. I’m not sure that’s where I should have started, but nonetheless, it’s been great learning.

But what I’m learning about computational thinking and how it plays such an important role in education is much more than just coding. And reading what Brian and many others are sharing have pushed me to learn more about it this year. As I started this September, I chose this to be my main focus, and to share with our staff and students.

Recently, I blogged about our second annual Google Student Summit, where we focus to bring awareness and training to students about the marvels that G Suite for Education brings to them.

This year, I also brought in Lisa Floyd to add awareness and to share the importance of coding in education. If you’re looking to do anything related to computational thinking, coding and/or robotics, I highly recommend her – she was amazing!

Our student summit was – in my opinion (biased of course) – a huge success. Staff and students left excited with what they had learned, and were looking forward to sharing with their peers.


Coding Clubs

To follow up the excitement, I am starting up Coding Clubs at our schools starting this week, using the Google CS First program (which is super awesome by the way). Initially I was thinking I’ll offer 20 spots, ‘not that we’ll get that many students’ I said to myself.

Well, I was I wrong.

It appears that there will be 30 or more students! This doesn’t include the awesomeness that two teachers are in ‘wanting to learn more about coding’ as well.

Connecting with Others

I’ve known Stacey Wallwin for a few years now, as we share the same role in our respective boards. We’ve collaborated many times with other TELT Contacts both face-to-face and from a distance on various initiatives. Recently, we have found ourselves in a very, very similar position: we both want to investigate computational thinking and how coding can be embedded into the classroom in a meaningful way. Even though we’re about 1000 kms away, we’re going to try and take our group of teachers and make connections from a distance as we explore this year!



Reflecting through blogging

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

I haven’t blogged very much at all over the past few years, always putting it off and never coming back to it. Recently, George Couros reiterated that blogging is your job. This is such an important way to look at blogging and I hope to reflect as much as I can this year.

If you see reflection as crucial to what you do, don’t find time; schedule time. – George Couros

As if learning more about coding and computational thinking wasn’t enough – here I am taking on challenging myself to blog, but I honestly think it will be the piece that will help me the most – putting my reflections into words at least for myself, and if others want to read – then bonus!

What’s a challenge if you’re doing it alone? So, I also challenged Stacey to blog with me this year; I think we’ll have amazing stories to tell. I think this will help push each other to share our thoughts in words with each other, and with a greater audience!

What’s next

As a focus for this year’s CODE-TLF 21st Century Learning at Nipissing-Parry Sound CDSB, our theme is Coding to Learn (yes, I borrowed this from Mitch Resnick’s Ted Talk Let’s teach kids to code). We are going to explore as a group of 8-10 teachers if student engagement and achievement can increase by incorporating coding into their lessons using Scratch and robots such as Spheros and Dash & Dots across all divisions.

After reading that last sentence, I’m actually quite nervous, seeing as I’m not really a coding expert, a computational thinking expert, nor a collaborative inquiry expert – let alone leading one!

What keeps me positive with this is that I keep thinking back to the many images that have come through my Twitter feed about getting comfortable being uncomfortable (or along those lines anyways).

I’m ok with this, and everyone else should be to, to some extent. Otherwise, in my opinion, you are just coasting along and not making the most of whatever profession you may be in.

I have many questions about how coding can improve student achievement, and I think I’m in a position to be able to answer those questions this year. I can probably assume that student engagement will a no brainer, but we’ll soon find out.

This is going to be a fun, exciting and challenging learning experience for me this year, and I look forward to sharing what comes of it with you.

I also challenge you to leave your comfort zone not only for your sake, but (if you’re in education) for the sake of the students.

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