Sunday, May 22, 2016

Who Wants a Job? Co-written with Adam Welcome.

This is a collaborative post written with the awesome Adam Welcome (@awelcome), Principal of Montair Elementary in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, EBCUE Site Leader of the Year and Co-Founder of Kids Deserve It (@KidsDeserveIt)!


We’ve heard of these jobs before, some more than others - but the question is if we are really getting our kids prepared for these careers? Some of these jobs don't require a college degree. They just require exposure and freedom in school to explore, be supported, have adult advisors to help guide them, and to know it's possible for all kids to have those opportunities. 

What are we doing in our schools to help kids grow their Android/IOS development skills? How many schools are helping to support kids with social media strategy? Vlogging is huge, check out YouTube and you can see for yourself. Vlogging is a mix of video creation and storytelling all mixed together, any kid with a camera and some personality can Vlog and make some money!

In some ways we look at a few of these careers as the new 'trades' of our generation. You don't need a college degree to operate a drone, run a social media strategy or even vlog. Our grandparents’ generation went to a trade school to weld, work in a refinery or develop some other skills if college wasn't an option. You could make a great living with those jobs, this is the new generation and we must prepare our kids to enter these markets.

Kids should be developing these skills while they're still in high school, college and heck why not even elementary school!

Amazon is hiring right now for Drone Operators! They have 70+ jobs posted on their website for people to operate and develop their drone delivery program. Who. Wants. A. Job.?


Should we really be preparing kids for jobs we THINK will exist in the future? Think about all that has happened in the last 5 years alone!  It’s impossible to predict what the future will look like but it IS possible to predict what skills our students will need to be prepared for jobs that might exist someday. In his recent blog post “An unknown future? Prepare students with these timeless skills”, Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook, wrote about five things students can do that will make students more “future ready” no matter what the future throws at them! Check it out, it is most DEFINITELY worth the read!

“When will we use this in REAL life?????”

A question we have all heard before and not just by students! How do we keep the skills that students WILL really need at the forefront of our thinking as we ourselves venture into the unknown? It’s not an easy task and it’s NOT about the TOOLS! If we can instill a love of learning and teach our students key SKILLS then we can give them a headstart as they head down the path towards college and or a career that may not even yet exist! What are these key skills? Critical thinking, collaboration, digital communication and citizenship, and creativity are essential skills for students to hone as they progress through school to prepare for a successful career.

What does this look like in the classroom?

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Critical Thinking is defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence” ( Employers value and desire this type of thinking and we want our kids to be doing this! So how do we get our students to develop critical thinking skills in the classroom?

  • Try Project Based Learning, a teaching method where students are presented with a challenge, complex question or problem and are given extended time periods to investigate and respond. The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) has a ton of resources for learning about and getting started with PBL in your classroom.
  • Coding! We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, coding is so much more than just coding. Teaching our students problem solving skills, collaboration, communication and simply how to work together and accomplish something is what coding is all about. If you someday get a job programming or you just use the skills that you’re learning in another field, coding is a great way to get there! You can read our post for last week about Coding With Kids

Check out Jessica Cabeen’s Kindergarten school in Minnesota where she’s Principal and doing some amazing work with her young students! Jessica is a 2016 NAESP/VINCI Digital Leader of Early Learning and an awesome person to connect with. There is no ‘too young’ to start coding, problem solve away!

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The ability to collaborate with many different groups of people on challenging tasks and under pressure would be a huge asset to have in any employee. How do you create that kind of environment with students for them to practice these skills?

  • BreakoutEDU is a kit (costs about $99) that uses a collection of locks to challenges to create super engaging games that require student collaboration in order to Breakout of (or rather into) a wooden box!! Breakout games can be based around ANY topic or content area! What a fun way to give students the ability to learn how to collaborate! Learn more about BreakoutEDU and how to get started here. Justin Birckbichler and Mari Venturino uses the same game principles from the original BreakoutEdu, but there are no actual locks. Students use an Internet connected device (preferably a laptop/Chromebook/desktop computer) to figure out the combinations to a series of locks but they are all online! You can get started making your own Digital BreakoutEdu games with #GAFE tools today! Check out Justin and Mari’s tutorials and links here.
  • Team STEM design challenges are fun for kids AND adults! Have you ever tried the marshmallow challenge? A fun way to get teams collaborating on a task, try it! Dr. Wesley Fryer has a whole page dedicated to Engineering Design Challenges with links to even more resources to get your students collaborating with one another in a variety of ways.

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Social media is not going anywhere and new ways for people to connect online are popping up everyday. Our students need the skills to create a positive digital tattoo and to know how their activity online can impact their ability to get and keep a job. Using Social Media strategically will be a very valuable skill to hone as the world becomes even more digital. So many jobs out there in Social Media, so many!

  • Common Sense Media provides teachers with an entire curriculum to prepare students to be responsible in the digital world. Check out their scope and sequence which allows you to search for lessons by topic, unit and grade level band.
  • Adam has Social Media Interns at his school which is an awesome hands-on way to teach and show kids the correct way to interact online!
  • Blogging/Vlogging  gives students the opportunity to write or speak to an authentic audience. It’s a great way for students to connect with others across the country or even across the world! Get your kids to start a blog ( is a great place to start) and YouTube channel, that’s the digital resume of 2016 and a great way to showcase your skills!
  • Check out Casey Neistat who is an amazing Vlogger!
  • 4th grader Zarif has a great YouTube channel where he does tech reviews and #Minecraft tutorials!

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Technology is advancing at breakneck speed and those who are creative and innovative will be the ones to invent the next big thing and get the jobs that are currently out there, plus those not yet created. Thinking outside the box and applying that creativity to solving real world problems can help to make huge changes and a positive impact on the world.

  • Makerspaces & STEM Labs are popping up everywhere and they SHOULD be! In the STEM Lab/Makerspace at Sun Terrace Elementary students get time to tinker, create, play and explore without the constraints of an objective or directions to follow. However, the STEM Lab does have challenges and a little more structure that offers students the opportunity to meet the NGSS (especially Engineering Design) in an engaging and exciting hands-on learning environment.Check out this padlet FULL of STEM Lab and Makerspace resources to help get your students making!

  • Incorporate Genius Hour into your class and give students the opportunity to explore what interests them. “Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.” Check out the video below to learn more about Genius Hour

A great way to get kids exposure is by having college students and/or local professionasl come and work with kids. Think beyond career day and get local companies to donate their time during the school day. For years we’ve seen before and after school programs - the time is now to integrate the skills that are needed for these careers into the school day! Who knows what careers will look like in the future but with the ability to think critically, collaborate, create, be responsible online, and use social media strategically our students will flourish in whatever career they choose!

The time is now - our kids need skills to stay competitive with our global economy, they deserve it, let’s make it happen!

critical thinking. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved May 22, 2016 from website

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Code With Kids and See What Happens! Collaborative post with Adam Welcome.

This is a collaborative post written with the awesome Adam Welcome (@awelcome), Principal of Montair Elementary in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, EBCUE Site Leader of the Year and Co-Founder of Kids Deserve It (@KidsDeserveIt)!

Just a few weeks ago Adam was talking with some Principals and one commented -

“I’m surprised people are still talking about coding. Do you think it’s here to stay? Most of the kids at my school won’t be programmers or work for a tech company.”

“Gasp!” from  Adam -

Why teach coding with kids?

Image created by Sylvia Duckworth based on the work by Brian Aspinall

It’s really everywhere!

Supermodels - President Obama - Kindergarten students and even NBA stars. Coding has been around for years and within the last few has become much more mainstream with awareness about the possibilities for jobs and creating cool things really at the forefront of the conversation.

We both talk with lots of teachers on a daily basis from all over the country and the amount of coding going on is actually really low. Many teachers participated in #hourofcode or have done some type of ‘extra’ coding lesson and it kind of ends there. We believe coding is the new foreign language and kids need as much exposure as possible.

Kevin Honey (Middle School Principal) has a coding class for all 6th graders at his school, way to go beyond just #hourofcode - how about #yearofcode!

Coding Unwrapped:

  1. Coding is fun, but that doesn’t mean it should be relegated to one hour a year in school.  Fun can be leveraged and channeled.  Fun can often be a signal that something is relevant to students.
  2. Coding taps into a different level of thinking.  This mindset, if properly nurtured, can transcend spelling, math, language arts, and PE.  When kids have real actual practice with algorithms, cause-and-effect, and problem-solving they are more inclined to apply these skills throughout the day.  Coding cultivates this mindset!
  3. Coding is a language of it’s own. "Coding is the new literacy.” Students who learn to read and write code are actually learning a new language. Programming is a universal language and knowing it helps prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet!

Coding Isn’t -

  1. Coding isn’t some amazingly complex program that only a coding expert can understand. The adult that’s facilitating the coding experience for kids at your school doesn’t even need to know how to code! Five years ago coding was a much harder experience to create for kids. With and other resources, block coding is an excellent place to start, especially with Elementary students - check it out!
  2. Coding isn’t some fad that’s here for now and will fade away. Code has been in our lives for years, and thankfully has now been mainstreamed so everyone can have access and learn. From the cars we drive, our mobile phones, refrigerators and even tractors - they all run with code and the number of jobs in our marketplace for people who can write that code is staggering!

Kids Think Kids Should Learn to Code!

If you’re still unsure about the benefits of teaching coding, perhaps the kids themselves can convince you. Students at Karly’s school, Sun Terrace Elementary, program all year long and they know how important it is to learn programming. We asked them to tell us why it’s crucial to know and they gave us terrific reasons why kids think kids should learn to code!

  1. “You will have a lot more options in college and in your career.” Elijah 5th Grader
  2. “It helps you learn step by step and figure stuff out.” Jenna 5th Grader
  3. “It makes your dreams come true! If you dream it, you can make it by coding” Robert 3rd Grader
  4. “Everyone should learn how to code!” Jonathan 3rd Grader
  5. “Because it’s fun!” Alejandra 3rd Grader

Getting Started With Coding in Your Classroom

Most of us are new(er) to coding and most likely have students who are brand new as well. Luckily there are a lot of resources out there to support those of us who are just getting our feet wet in the world of computer science.

Online Resources:

HyperDocs: Coding lessons and activities created by educators. Go to “file” and make a copy to save it to your Google drive to remix or assign as is to your students.

Computer Science Clubs/Programs:
  • Google's CS First (Computer Science First) a FREE program that increases students' access to  computer science.

Going Deeper Than Drag and Drop

Coding is more than just drag and drop. It's important for students to understand that visual programming, like blockly, is the beginning and that text based code like, Javascript, is next step. Check out "Why does use Blockly, a visual programming language, for its intro to Computer Science course?" which gives a MUCH better explanation for why we should begin with blockly coding. If you or your students are ready to take the plunge into text-based languages there are many resources out there for you to get started.

Khan Academy has an Hour of Drawing with Code that teaches drawing using JavaScript and ProcessingJS. Check out the intro video to learn more.

If you're a novice yourself but looking for a resource that will take you and your students farther into the world of computer science check out A curriculum that allows you and your students to learn python at your own pace. It is completely free and you can start setting up your classroom by logging in using your Google account! Check out this article New EdTech Resource. Pythonroom: Help All Students Become Coding Literate to learn more.

Taking Coding Above and Beyond!

Robots are cool. Drones are awesome. What better way to take coding to the next level than to code a robot to drive or roll or to program a drone to fly? These amazing tech tools give kids an incredibly engaging and fun experience as they are learning to code. Watching students draw a track then reason logically through the steps as they write the code to get their robot to drive on it it is one of the coolest things we have seen!

Dash from Wonder Workshop is an adorable little robot that can be programmed using 5 different apps available on IOS and Android! The various apps make it possible for students from pre-k+ to begin programming a robot. Dash starts at $149.99 and will need an app compatible device to be used with it.

Students in the STEM Lab at Karly’s school use programming every day! Combining coding robots with geometry gives students hands-on experience with angles and shapes. Check out this kiddo coding Dash to make a right triangle.

SPHERO makes an app enabled, you guessed it, sphere shaped robots (although Ollie is more cylinder shaped) that work with both IOS and Android. There are a few different kinds to choose from including the new Star Wars robot BB-8! Also check out the SPRK edition made to be used in an education setting to give students a "crash course" in programming with this awesome robot.

The New Yorker magazine even had an article last week about Sphero’s, check it out here!

Parrot Drones come highly recommended from those on Twitter (like Brian Briggs) who have been using them in education. Need ideas for using Drones to teach? Check out 7 Ways to Use Drones in the Classroom by Edutopia and join the Drones for Schools G+ community.

Have more resources? Please share them in the comments below!

Happy coding everyone!