Tag Archives: coding

Picademy 2018 Reflections

The Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive (about $35) credit-card-sized computer, designed to make access to coding and digital-and-physical making much more accessible.  To support this mission, the Raspberry Pi Foundation conducts two-day “Picademy” workshops, to give educators of various experience levels on board with the power of Pi! I was honored to be selected for one of this year’s workshops, in Jersey City, NJ.

Picademy is not about having the most skill, or aptitude, or experience with programming.  Instead, Picademy is all about being willing to learn something new, and find ways to apply that newfound skill to solve problems.

I made the light turn on!I had a good bit of experience with the Scratch blocks-based programming language going in, and that helped.  I had almost no experience with the Python text-based programming language going in, and that was okay.  I had some experience with other text-based programming languages, and that had its advantages and drawbacks.  Drawbacks: I found myself thinking first of how I would accomplish a task with other programming languages I know, and I felt like I didn’t have enough time to break down and understand some of the sample code snippets I was typing.  Advantages: programming concepts like loops, functions, and variables were familiar to me, and I was prepared for the sometimes-frustrating process of troubleshooting a snippet of code that is not working properly for that one little mistake that is breaking the whole process.

"Two Live Mikes" - Mike Marotta and me.As luck would have it (it was pure luck, unless the application reviewers did a lot of homework on the applicants), I happened to be at the same session as Mike Marotta, someone I have followed on Twitter for a long time, and learned many things from over the years.  Mike is an Assistive Technology expert, the 2017 ISTE Inclusive Learning Network Outstanding Educator award recipient, and he serves schools in the state of New Jersey as an Assistive Technology resource. We had never met face-to-face that either of us can remember, despite so many common interests, so this was a treat on multiple levels.  We got to work together, and get a chance to get to know each other face-to-face.

You might think that an event like Picademy would be filled with people who have largely the same background, interests, and ideas for using the Raspberry Pi.  But the group was exceptionally diverse. I met STEM teachers, university educators, media specialists, classroom teachers, published authors, tech directors, and professional development coordinators, and having a chance to hear some of their stories was a great benefit of the time spent there.  I met some wonderful people, and my Twitter family has grown!

Building the book-holder-page-turner.The group work time made this even more powerful.  Day Two of Picademy was focused on groups developing their own project ideas.  One workshop participant (a classroom educator from Detroit, MI) had an idea for a device that would help turn the pages of a book for someone who was unable to do this on their own.  Mike Marotta and I thought that sounded like a great idea for a project, with lots of opportunity to put our newfound knowledge to work on a problem we were both very familiar with. So, we joined that team and began working with the physical materials we had available.

My Picademy project group, with our book-holder-page-turner!

If you are looking for a fast-moving workshop experience to challenge you, I certainly recommend applying for a 2019 Picademy.  And, if you don’t want to wait that long, there are lots of free online tutorials available right now!

I am not sure where all this road will lead me next.  I want to infuse some of this into the Coding Across the Curriculum workshop I have developed.  I want to make much of what I learned an integral part of the makerspace I will be helping to implement at Felicity-Franklin Local Schools starting in the 2018-2019 school year.  I’ve already been asked to develop a presentation on more possible uses for the Raspberry Pi as Assistive Technology.  And that’s a large part of what the Raspberry Pi is about… plenty of valuable options.

Everyone can learn to code – not just the kids!

 

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#ISTE17 in San Antonio

IMG_0104The 2017 International Society for Technology in Education conference was held June 25-28 in San Antonio, Texas.  The event brought together over 20,000 people from around the globe to advance the cause of technology’s role in education.

I was privileged to be part of the team from my employer, Forward Edge, to attend ISTE.  Here is my “Mount Rushmore” of takeaways from the event.

  1. Listen to Stories – From the keynotes by Jad Abumrad, Jenny Magiera, and Reshma Saujani, to the hundreds of presentations, playgrounds, and poster sessions, one message kept coming back – Tell Your Story.  Human interaction as a learning experience in itself, and not just a vehicle for conveying information, is a foundational ideal in the world ISTE is pointing toward.  Technology makes it easier than ever to tell our stories.  While encouraging others (and ourselves) to tell our stories is important, a corollary to this postulate is needed to make it work – we must be willing to listen.  Many of the Ed Tech Coaching sessions I attended gave attention to this detail – we must be willing to listen more than we speak.  If everyone is constantly telling their story, nobody is listening. [More about the importance of telling one’s story at StoryCorps“New Yorkers Share Their Story for $1”, and the ISTE-featured table session “Humans of Education”]
  2. Include Everyone – One lingering question I had from my experience at ISTE 2016 Me, with student presenters Iker and Sebastian.was “All this stuff is great, but how in the world can you do some of these things in something other than large, suburban districts with multi-million dollar budgets?”  #ISTE17 fostered more of a global perspective, featuring far more approaches, mindsets, and even technologies that not only permit, but encourage, the “non-typical” participant.  The newly redesigned ISTE Standards for Educators do not just include “accessibility” as a standard.  Access for all, regardless of socio-economic status, disability, gender, race, or any other personally-identifying factor, is a sine qua non of the new standards, and of any equitable educational effort.
  3. Leverage Passions – “We want to learn. Make it fun!” was a pervasive theme of the student presentations at ISTE17.  In the midst of mounting frustration over a culture of hypertesting, educators are finding the resolve to flip the script.  Rather than starting with standards and herding students toward them (compliance-based), educators are finding joy and effectiveness in starting with student passions IMG_0140and exploring ways to make progress on standards within those passions.  There is zero evidence that standardized, boring instruction improves scores on standardized, boring tests.  So, whether it’s implementing coding, “making”, virtual reality, augmented reality, project-based learning, flipped classrooms, or any of a number of technological supports and instructional frameworks, it all feeds off the premise of connecting with what already resonates with our students.  And that requires taking the time to learn about them before asking them to learn anything from us.
  4. Build Efficacy – Expertise is a wonderful thing.  I know people who can do things better than I can.  As a matter of fact, there is absolutely nothing I can do that I am the best at.  The wrong thing to do with that realization is to stop doing them.  A much better response would be for me to learn from them in order to get better.  I will never be as good as they are, but I can be better than I am now.  And then, if I see my role as a Technology Integration Specialist in that same light, I can be a much more effective support for the teachers I have the privilege of working with.  I will learn from them.  And, with practice, they will learn from me.