We are excited to introduce our new CUE-NV Blog. We look forward to monthly features from our members.
March 11, 2019
This month's post is brought to you courtesy of CUE-NV member Sara Stewart-Lediard (@EdTechMuse) who is a National Board Certified Teacher librarian and the teacher librarian at Traner Middle School in Reno, NV.
Future Ready Librarians- It’s About Digital Equity!
School libraries have changed. They have evolved. It is time we put the misconception that libraries are quiet and subdued places to rest. The school libraries of the 21st Century are alive, loud, and teaming with learning. Yes, libraries support literacy- always have and always will… but they have evolved to meet the demands of the 21st Century learner. Today’s school libraries are so much more!
School libraries led by certified teacher librarians provide both informal and formal learning opportunities. As Susie Goodin notes in her article, Steps Towards Unifying LIteracy Theory and Librarianship, “The school library provides a wealth of curriculum-based resources as well as opportunities to learn at a personal level of inquiry, outside the assigned curriculum.” There is no other location in a school that supports students who desire to follow personal passions and lines of inquiry. School libraries make this possible because they support equitable access. Students have access to resources that are available to everyone in the school- not reserved for just “certain classes” or “certain groups of kids”. The school library supports all students, all staff, and the community.
At Traner Middle School, students have access to Rasbperry Pi computers, robots, microbits, maker supplies, and more. Having equitable access in the school library is critical. In the past, students wouldn’t have had access to these type of resources unless enrolled in a technology or STEM class- a small percentage of the total school population. Having access in the library opens up availability and allows any student in the school who is interested to tinker and learn through play. The librarian is available to support their learning- not take control over it. The librarian helps students learn how to research and find resources to facilitate their learning journey. Some recent projects Traner students have tackled include creating a giant Makey Makey controller, coding geometric shapes using Python, coding LED lights on the Raspberry Pi, and making messages on Microbits. These projects were chosen by students, researched by students, and created by students. With the support and open learning culture that a school library provides- they became reality.
Unfortunately, budget cuts over the past decade have crippled and devastated many school libraries. This again raises the issue of equity- why do some schools have access, while others have none? If this issue is important to you, reach out to your local school board and state legislators to share your opinions. Nevada legislators have introduced two bills in support of school libraries and they need to hear your voice. It matters and makes a difference.
December 19, 2018
This month's post is brought to you courtesy of CUE-NV member Mark Thomas, coding teacher at Lomie Heard Elementary School in Las Vegas.
Computer Science Education Week was held December 3-7 this year. It was started several years ago as a way to showcase the importance of learning computer science. It is held annually in December in honor of Admiral Grace Hopper, who was born on Dec. 9, 1906. Grace was a fantastic woman who accomplished much in the field of computing during her time with the Navy.
Code.org was asked to help out with CSEdWeek and introduced the concept of Hour of Code, relatively short coding activities anyone can do to learn code, even if they’ve never had any coding experience before.
At Lomie Heard Elementary School, A Marzano Academy, I teach coding to all students in all grade levels from 1st through 5th grade. Our school is a STEAM+Coding magnet school, so we embrace CS Ed Week and Hour of Code in a big way. Which is actually funny, because if I teach coding to all students every week anyway, why would we focus on Hour of Code?
To answer that question I met with @mstechie17 and @carr_8, two very supportive and creative facilitators at my school. We recognized that even at our school not all facilitators are comfortable with or even knowledgeable about coding. Not only that, but since I am the coding facilitator and already do coding with every single class, it’s easy for them to dismiss any coding activities as already covered by my classes. If all facilitators weren’t involved in some way, then coding would become a “side job” that learners continued to do in the silo of my class.
To achieve our first goal of getting everyone involved we decided to model our Hour of Code after a favorite National Reading Week activity called Drop Everything And Read, or DEAR. DEAR involves selecting a specific time each day of the week when everyone in the entire building stops anything they are doing and reads for a designated amount of time. Everyone is involved: administrators, office staff, facilitators, etc. This activity creates a sense of community because everyone knows everyone else is involved in the same activity. It also highlights the importance of reading and the fact that everyone can do it.
The acronym we came up with for our coding version of DEAR is SNAC, which stands for Stop Now And Code (and snacks are kind of like small bites, which is a homonym for byte, which is related to coding - get it?). After selecting the designated times each day we created a list of resources teachers could choose from for their SNAC activity.
Facilitators were provided 3 options: unplugged activities, online options such as those found on the Hour of Code website, or have a guest speaker, which I’ll talk about in the next section. We gave facilitators time to explore the resources and choose what they wanted to do each day. These were recorded in a shared document for accountability reasons and so they could see what other classes were doing.
At the designated time each day an announcement was given over the PA system and then the magic happened! As learners came to me throughout the week for their regular classes, they were eager to share what they did in class.
Our second goal was to inspire our learners and let them see what real jobs in coding look like. To accomplish that we needed programmers and game developers on campus. We reached out to a local developer Meetup group and asked any willing developers to sign up for a time to visit our classes. We provided a link to a Google Form to let us know when they were available, their area of focus, and to make sure we had any equipment ready for them.
As developers signed up we added their available days and times to another shared doc that facilitators used to sign up. In the end we had at least 6 different developers sign up to visit classrooms. Some developers spent several mornings visiting classes, others came only once or twice as their regular jobs allowed, and one even Skyped with a class instead of a physical visit.
All of our visitors were very excited to share their craft with our students and they were certainly received very well by our learners! I don’t know how much time was spent in preparation, but they all did a fabulous job with the classes. All of them have agreed to return again next year.
Family </Coding> Night
Our final goal was to involve our families. One evening during the week we organized a Family </Coding> Night where we invited the families to visit the school and experience the same coding activities their learners experience and try their hand at coding. The idea was to make it as hands on as possible so the families could understand what their learners do each week.
We started the evening hearing from four different developers, who had 5 minutes each to share their story about coding. These developers signed up to present at our Family </Coding> Night by using the same Google Form. Each developer represented a different field and really showed learners and their families how successful developers could be. They excited and inspired the crowd.
Our presenters included Duana Malone, a mobile app developer, Zecharia, a 13-year-old game developer, Damond Pleasant, a web developer for lv.net, and Scott Stevens, an interactive specialist for Victory Hill Expeditions.
Families were then able to visit 6 rooms with different activities. During their weekly rotation to my coding class each grade level experiences a different coding environment from block based coding with Scratch, to text-based coding in HTML, to game development with Unreal Engine. We set up each room with a different coding activity representing each of these coding environments.
A teacher at the high school our school feeds into sent 3 of his students to our school to show how to use Unreal Engine. This is a coding platform our 5th graders are becoming familiar with.
In another room families could try out our Oculus Go headsets. Our 3rd graders are learning how to create VR environments and this was the perfect opportunity for families to see what that was like.
The fourth activity gave families the chance to code using Scratch, a block based coding language our 2nd graders are learning. We had Chromebooks available along with task cards with simple coding activities anybody could follow along and try.
A teacher at another local high school, Equipo Academy, heard about our event through the developer’s Meetup and asked if her high school students could help out. Since they had experience with Code.og we set them up in a computer lab where they ran several activities for families to try out.
In our final room families were able to try their hand at HTML, which our 4th graders are learning. We had a simple web page pulled up on each of the Chromebooks and families could change some of the values to see how that changed the web page.
Each of our CSEdWeek activities brought our focus of coding to the forefront. There was lots of buzz and excitement around the school all week and it helped students experience coding in a variety of ways. The success of the whole week could be summed up by the thoughts of one parent at our Family </Coding> Night.
Towards the end of our Family </Coding> Night our principal was talking to one of the fathers and his learner about the presenters. She pointed out that the learner could one day grow up to be just like those presenters - successfully doing what they love. In reply the father said, “That’s why I drive 2 hours every day to bring my son to your school.”
November 11, 2018
In 2015, I was invited by a colleague to attend an event in Las Vegas called CUERockstar. This colleague was armed with a promo code that not only gave me free admission to the event, but granted me a one-year membership to CUE. Naturally, as an educator, I was excited by my favorite four letter F word: FREE! He had given me a promo code to a Google Summit a few months prior and that event certainly did not disappoint. However, the key difference was I had heard of the Google Summits put on by EdTech Team previously. This CUERockstar and membership to the organization? What was this?
It turns out I was missing something I really needed in my life. I had always been confined to my colleagues at my school when it came to sharing ideas, creating engaging lessons, and geeking out on innovative new tools and strategies. CUE opened up an entire new world of opportunity to learn, to create, and to network with like minded educators from not just Las Vegas, but throughout Nevada, California, and beyond. Because of CUE, I have become a better educator, a more connected educator, and can count on an enormous network of educators that I can interact with remotely via Twitter, video chats, blogs, websites, and many more that have become friends over the years from face to face interactions at a host of CUE sponsored events.
Fast forward to the present, and I have served as vice president of CUE-NV since June 2016. In the two and a half years that I have served as vice president, and the several months prior serving as a board member, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with a team of people that are incredibly passionate about education and are working to improve education. I have seen hundreds of faces as they are experiencing the “mind blown” moment when they discover a new tool or strategy they can take to their classroom. I have seen CUE-NV grow beyond my wildest expectations, expanding our affiliate membership, and the reach of the goal of our organization: empowering teachers to be better together through educational technology.
The greatest reason why CUE and CUE-NV are so amazing? It’s because of you, the members! And that is why we want to feature YOU in the CUE-NV Blog, a new monthly feature of cue-nv.org. We want to hear about how CUE has impacted you as an educator, the great things you are doing in your classroom, school, and district, and how you are sharing your passion and expertise with your colleagues and the world.
Want to be a featured blog author on the CUE-NV website? Complete the blog submission form and you may be selected to share your thoughts and experiences with your fellow CUE-NV members and the rest of the world.
We cannot wait to hear from you! In the meantime, stay in touch with CUE-NV via Twitter (@CUE-NV), Facebook (CUENV), Instagram (CUE-NV), and SnapChat (CUE-NV), and come learn with us at our events, including the Spring CUE Conference in Palm Springs, CA, coming up March 14-16, 2019. If you are not a member, visit CUE to join and be sure to select CUE-NV as your affiliate so you can receive news and updates from us! And while you are joining, consider becoming a Premium Member which grants discounted events, books, and other items, early access to event registration, secret events and sales, and voting privileges for board elections.
Vice President, CUE-NV