Computer Science Week

This week we celebrate Computer Science Education Week in recognition of Grace Hopper’s birthday on Dec. 9, 1906. During this week, K-12 students are encouraged to participate in an “hour of code’ as part of the Hour of Code initiative to help students realize that they, too, can learn the basics of coding. If bringing coding into your classroom makes you a little nervous, don’t worry! You do not need any prior experience to have your students participate in an hour of code activity. Code.org, one of the leading resources for coding in schools, believes that “anybody can learn” and wants computer science in every school so that every child has the opportunity to be exposed to it. CS Week and Hour of Code have the goal of exposing students to code with the hope they will want to learn more about computer science going forward. As a former computer science teacher, this was always one of my favorite weeks of the year! 

The History of Computer Science Week

In 2010, Computing in the Core Coalition launched activities and events to support Computer Science Education Week. In 2013, Code.org launched Hour of Code during CSEdWeek which reached over 15 million students across 167 countries. Since then Code.org continues to develop materials and resources for teachers and students to use in the classroom beyond just the hour. 

Why is Computer Science important?

Simply put, technology is everywhere and is not going away. According to Code.org, 67% of new STEM jobs are in computing and the #1 source of new wages comes from computing jobs. As of 2017, there were over 20,000 open computing jobs here in Illinois. 

“The Hour of Code is designed to demystify code and show that computer science is not rocket science—anybody can learn the basics,” said Hadi Partovi, founder, and CEO of Code.org. “Over 100 million students worldwide have tried an Hour of Code. The demand for relevant 21st-century computer science education crosses all borders and knows no boundaries.”

When I was teaching computer science, I was always searching for new and impactful materials to supplement my CS curriculum. In 2013 Code.org jumped in to help support the CS movement, and I was very grateful for more resources to use with my students. The materials available are so much more than just an “hour” worth of material to use to teach computer science. Code.org provides an incredible participation guide that will help you get started today.

They also have developed a free online curriculum and offer free training to educators! The CS Fundamentals are for K-5 students, CS Discoveries are for 6th – 10th-grade students and CS Principles are for 9th – 12th grades.

Beyond the Hour of Code

If you are looking for more free computer science resources to use with students, check out this list below.

AI for Oceans by Code.org. Code.org is featuring a new activity this year to expose students to artificial intelligence. Meet AI, the robot that helps clean up the ocean. Check out this video from Code.org to learn about machine learning.

Scratch by MIT. Students create interactive stories, games, and animations using block-based programming. Scratch statistics since 2008.

CSFirst by Google. Uses Scratch to help students learn about coding. 

Swift Playgrounds by Apple. Learn to code on the iPad.

Microsoft Makecode. Students use a variety of devices to run programs on and receive immediate feedback.

As you venture into the coding world and your students want more challenges take a look at this list of  Computer Science curriculum resources.

Code.org. (2019). What’s wrong with this picture?. [online] Available at: https://code.org/promote [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

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The How and Why of Becoming Google Certified

Do you need to go through the entire fundamental course?

The answer is no. However, I did so in order to learn as much as possible and not miss out on anything. If you feel confident in the content, go to the end of each unit in the training and complete the Unit Review to test yourself on the material. When satisfied with results, proceed to the next unit. If not, it is possible to review that unit again. Eric Curts has provided an outstanding checklists about topics before taking the exam. 

Google Certified Educator Level 1

Google Certified Educator Level 2

Are you ready for Google Level 1 and 2 Certification tests?

Once the content has been reviewed, exams are the next step. It took a while before I was ready to take the exams. I had a hard time finding time to complete the Fundamentals training. When I finished the training, I questioned if I knew the material well enough to take the exam. When I did take the test, I would have benefitted from some of the following facts:

  • You are given 3 hours to complete the exam.
  • The exam consists of multiple-choice questions, drag and drop, and performance-based scenarios.
  • $10 exam fee with up to 7 days to take the exam.
  • On average, 30% of educators are unsuccessful at passing the 1st time.
  • The primary reason people fail is not enough time to complete the exam.  
  • If you fail, you are allowed to take the exam again in 14 days, and a third time in 60 days.
  • Certification is valid for 3 years.

Knowing these facts was reassuring because even in the event of a failure, the exam can be retaken with a much higher likelihood of passing! 

Why did I want to become Google Certified?

Now let’s go to the “Why did I… ” part of the certification. Simply put, I wanted to learn more about effectively using Google Apps with students and educators. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could complete the certification. The good news was I did it! I passed both exams and received a digital badge and certification from Google. The badge can be used in your email signature to promote your ability to implement Google tools in the classroom. In conclusion, this process essentially taught me more about Google Apps and implementing technology skills in the classroom so I could do more with my students and help educators.

What I have learned in this process? 

Reflecting back on the journey, I’ve learned that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we know. I see this with the teachers I work with on a daily basis and I find myself falling into this mindset as well. Through this certification journey, I have learned so much about Google Apps and how to incorporate them into the classroom. I have discovered so many new ideas regarding how I can use these tools with students and my fellow educators. In completing the Google Certifications, I have proved to myself, my students, and fellow educators that I am a continuous learner. It is very exciting to call myself a Google Level 1 and 2 Certified Educator! In fact, I was so motivated after completing these 2 certifications, that I applied for, and was accepted, as a Google Certified Trainer! It has been quite a journey and one that I hope you will consider embarking on as well! 

The LTC can help you!

The Learning Technology Center (LTC) has Google Level 1 and 2 Certification workshops that will help you practice the performance-based scenarios of the certifications and answer any other questions you may have about the process. Check out the LTC website to find a workshop near you. 

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3 Great Resources to Teach Digital Citizenship

Understanding how to interact with the digital world is more important than ever. Being an outstanding digital citizen is vital for our kids today. In this post, I’ve collected my favorite three websites that can help you, as an educator, prepare your students to be good digital citizens! The first website gives you, the teacher, background information and resources for your class. While the following two websites give kids a space to learn at their own pace, digital citizenship information through interactive quests or games. 21 Things 4 Teachers For any teacher who is new to teaching digital citizenship in their classroom, this website provides great resources on the nine themes of digital citizenship. The nine themes of digital citizenship are broken down into three categories, Respect, Educate and Protect.

Respect Yourself/Respect Others

  • Digital Access
  • Digital Etiquette
  • Digital Law

Educate Yourself/Connect with Others

  • Digital Commerce
  • Digital Communication
  • Digital Literacy

Protect Yourself/Protect Others

  • Digital Rights & Responsibilities
  • Digital Health & Wellness
  • Digital Security

This background information leads into the quests the students can do for 21 Things 4 Students. 21 Things 4 Students Students can participate in quests to learn about the digital world through project-based activities. This curriculum is free and allows students to go at their own pace. The students will watch videos, read the material, complete surveys and see the results, and reflect on what they learn through various activities.  Each “thing” is standalone to the other “things”, so you may choose to assign certain topics from the 21 Things 4 Students activity list. Common Sense Digital Passport Common Sense Digital Passport has six interactive games for grades 3 – 5. Each game allows students to learn more about digital citizenship, safety, and etiquette. If you are hesitant about how to incorporate this into your curriculum, Common Sense has an educator guide to help you plan. The topics that are covered in the six interactive games include:

  • Security
  • Multitasking
  • Privacy
  • Upstander
  • Search
  • Creative Credit