Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 1 of #Warriorcode - Lessons Learned

This year, our high school library is celebrating Teen Tech Week. As our premiere event for the week, we wanted to do a hackathon of sorts. And, that's where our journey began.

From the beginning, we decided to have students source the logos, banners, and name. So, we consulted our graphic design classes and tasked them with developing logos, banners, and names. Within two days, we had a name, a logo, and a flyer to begin promoting the event. We created Google Forms for volunteers, student registrations, and teacher-sourced problems.

However, we quickly realized we had an issue - we weren't getting student registrants and the teacher-sourced problems were not problems beginners could solve - the same beginners who still needed to learn the fundamentals of code (HTML, CSS, Java, etc.). And, with two librarians and myself (all who only had a vague familiarity with code), we grew nervous.

So, we began recruiting. We already had four volunteers, but that was moot if we did not have students. We realized that students did not check their school email accounts for a variety of reasons. Therefore, they did not get those notices. And, despite the colorful student posters, students did not pick up on wall-hangings. We took the announcement to our journalism crew and they wrote it up and tweeted about it. Each time, we earned about one more student. However, we only ended up with approximately ten kids in a school of 2600 students. Frustration high, we did not know what to do.

As a co-organizer of EdTech Austin, I decided to send a Facebook post about it to our member base while another organizer sent it out via our Website and listserve. Within the day, we had a bite - a call from Makersquare in Austin, Texas.  Makersquare not only gave us ideas, but agreed to come in and work with our students to teach them code. Though this changed the original idea of having students solve problems, it gave our students the chance to make connections and actually learn code - our main goal.

Questions for the future:
How do we get more kids interested? This seems to be the most important question.

Stay tuned for updates as we continue our #warriorcode event.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What makes you creative?

A friend of mine and super educator, Tracy Clark, recently shared this image with me:

And, I decided to share it with the staff I work with because creativity is the foundation of innovation. Without creativity, we don't have innovation and we don't have change. Our students need to be able to be creative in order to produce those changes we so desperately need. However, we are "educated out of creativity" from an early age. An art teacher friend of mine once told me that every one of us is an artist, but we are educated out of it. We are told our products aren't true art or that they are wrong or not "good." But, what is "good"? Isn't art and creativity a reflection of us and our thoughts? If so, is it wrong?

Interesting enough, when I had the staff pinpoint those creative moments, they were all either:
  • outside
  • being alone
  • in a clean, organized environment
  • at a time when there were not time pressures 
  • exercising
But, I thought about what my old classroom looked like and what the classrooms look like that I enter now - and very few meet all of these needs or, for that matter, any of those needs. Most ask students to think when they are confined and sitting in rows, surrounded by other students, with time pressures. Isn't that the purpose of modern technology - to free students and teachers from the confines of a classroom?

When we search for innovation in our students and in education, we must first foster the environments that produce creativity. What can we do to create these environments so students and teachers not only feel creative, but know their creativity is valued?

Thanks to Tracy Clark for the image and quote to spur this blog post.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's your home phone number is so 20th Century...

Recently, I saw a tweet of Harvard University's Athlete information form. And, though it still asked for a home phone and a cell phone (since living on my own since 2002, I have never had a home phone - only a cell phone), it asked something important to students: what are your social media names for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This is a shift in how we define ourselves and how we communicate.