Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fun with the Hour of Code

This week our whole school is participating in the Hour of Code. Yes, all 800 students, through their math classes will be spending one hour learning how to code! As of today over half of our students have participated and it has gone incredibly well. We have students with a huge range of experience, but I've been so pleased to see that no matter what the level of experience, all students have been fully engaged.



I've had students come in who have no idea what code is and students who are capable of programming robots. It's really amazing to see that students with such different experience levels are able to really enjoy such a challenging activity.

The majority of the students are using the Hour of Code created by code.org
However, a number of students were in coding club previously, so they chose to complete the hour of code from the sites Tynker, Codecademy, Khan Academy, CodeHS, or the Frozen version from Code.org.


They were able to work at their own self-guided pace. They were great about asking questions, helping each other, and working through the tough challenges.

I'd definitely recommend that every school find time to participate in the Hour of Code if possible!

Since this was our first year participating, I'm curious what other schools who have participated at least two years in a row do. Do they have students repeat the levels from code.org or suggest that they try new sites? This is something that I'd certainly love to continue yearly.



Happy coding!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Makings of a Middle School Makerspace

Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter, I first really started taking notice of Makerspaces last spring. Intrigued, I spent some time over the summer researching what a Makerspace was, what it would achieve in a middle school setting, and what would be the best, yet most cost effective materials to begin such a space. Lucky for me, I work in a school that supports creativity, instructional technology, and hands-on learning. With the support of my administration and grants from our incredible PTA in place, I began developing the VHMS Media Center Makerspace.

One of the things that I learned in my research is that every makerspace is different and every makerspace is a work in progress. With a budget in place and excellent resources to guide me, like Diana Rendina's amazing website (she was even so kind as to answer some of my questions through email), I was set to develop the beginnings of our very own makerspace.

I opted to start with the following items, with the hope that I could continue to build and grow the space each year:


  • Legos- blocks, people, wheels/car parts, and ten boards
  • K'Nex
  • Makey Makey
  • Little Bits Kit
  • Snap Circuits
  • Oragami
  • Box Rivets and Wheels
  • An iPad with 3-D apps, stop motion animation apps, and a green screen app

For the first couple months that the Makerspace was developed, it was open during the mornings and at lunch. Beginning next week, I will also be running an after school club for all of the Makers out there.

In reflecting on the progress of the Makerspace so far, I've noticed a few things. First, the Makey Makey is a must buy for a middle school Makerspace! I had kids begging to call dibs on it for the next day. I've been asked numerous times if I could buy another one. If you haven't seen what a Makey Makey can do, check out this video:




The Legos and K'nex have been the next most popular items. It has been so much fun to see what the kids have created. I also wound up purchasing this Lego Play book and I've seen it used a number of times for a little inspiration.

My mission with the Makerspace was to give the kids in my school a place where they could have fun, explore, create, express themselves, experiment, question, and have a place where there are no right or wrong answers. This Makerspace has been the perfect place for that. When I look at the kids who are using the Makerspace, they are working together, creating with pride, making mistakes, laughing, sharing, and having a good time. I've never believed that the Media Center should be a silent place. The Makerspace is certainly one of the keys to ensuring that our Media Center is a comfortable, sometimes noisy place, where kids can be themselves and have fun while learning. 

If you are interested in creating a Makerspace in your Media Center, I encourage you to give it a shot. While ours started out small, I've seen huge ideas come from it!

To learn more about each of the specific stations in our school Makerspace, click here.

Update: Adding challenges to our Makerspace Club activities truly transformed our Makerspace and motivated more and more students to get involved. Check out a post on one of our challenges here or check out my Makerspace Challenge cards here. I plan to post more about our challenges soon, so stay tuned!




If you're interested in starting your own Makerspace, check out my Makerspace Kit BundleMakerspace Challenge Cards, or other Makerspace materials to help you get started!