Big Ideas for this Year

These past few weeks I’ve been getting ready to start the school year at a new school teaching new courses. This semester I will be teaching Grade 9 business technology (BTT1O), Grade 10 computer science (ICS2O), and Grade 11 computer science (ICS3U/3C). I have a lot of ideas for things I want to try and I’m hoping to get to as many of them as possible. For anyone else looking for some new ideas for the new school year, here are some of the things I want to try:

  • Processing: I’m planning to use Processing as the programming language/environment for both of my computer science courses (Grade 10 open and Grade 11 college/university). Processing combines programming with animation. I decided to use it because it makes programming much more exciting and applicable because you can see the results of your code right on the screen! Here is an example of a simple image I put together using a few lines of code. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with Processing the past few days, and I’m very excited to introduce it to my students.
  • Assessment through conferencing: earlier in the summer I attended a conference on inquiry-based learning in intermediate math. One of the teachers who I met gave me some great ideas for teaching computer science, including assessment through conferencing. Instead of having a test at the end of each unit, the teacher meets with each student for 5-10 minutes and ask them questions about what they learned. The students have the option of preparing a product, such as a Powtoon or presentation, to show what they know. All assessment is done on the spot and the students receive instant feedback (plus, less piles of marking to take home!). Conferencing can be done in combination with a summative project or as an assessment on its own. In project-based courses like the ones I’m teaching, I feel like it makes more sense to have a conversation about what students know rather than a pen-on-paper test. Conferencing also helps eliminate common problems in these courses like plagiarism.
  • #OntarioClassMatch: today I had the pleasure of chatting with an awesome colleague about collaborating with other classes in Ontario! Class collaborations can be anything from working together on a project, students writing blogs about something and responding to each other, or sending each other problems to solve. I have no idea what this is going to look like for my classes yet, but I’m super excited! If anyone reading this is teaching BTT1O or any computer science class and would like to collaborate, feel free to reach out to me! I’m also happy to collaborate with anyone who is doing surveys at any point in the year (I’m also on Twitter!)
  • High School Genius Hour: another great idea from a colleague that I am hoping to try with my business tech class. I am envisioning something like the show Shark Tank, where the students have to come up with an idea that somehow solves a problem or improves a product. The problem they solve can be big or small – anything from improving the environment to making something more convenient within their own class or home. Students will be given time throughout the semester to work on their projects, and it will tie in with some of the units – for example, I will have them write out their pitch formally in MS Word during the unit on Word Processing, I may have the students model their survey around their invention when I teach Excel, and their electronic presentations at the end of the year will be the finalized descriptions of their product or invention.
  • Collaborating with primary students: this is something I’ve been interested in for a while. I also attended a conference workshop about collaborating with elementary school students. I am hoping for my computer science classes to do a field trip in early December to one of their feeder schools to do the Hour of Code with an elementary class. Very fun, and very cool for my students to help the younger students. At the conference workshop, the speaker spoke about having the elementary students come up with ideas for games for my students to implement, and for my students to write programs to model one of the strategies that Grade 3 students use to add two-digit numbers. I have a colleague who is teaching a Grade 1 class at a school nearby, and I’m hoping we can coordinate to do something together at some point in the year. If any other elementary teachers are interested in collaborating, feel free to contact me!

That’s all for now. I hope to post an update later on in the year with the results. If you have any feedback or ideas, or you are a teacher looking to collaborate, please let me know! It’s going to be a great year!