A little disconcerting

I just completed running a Level 1 programming course for teachers. It was sponsored by Datacom and was designed to be the most effective professional development (PD) possible. Not only do participants receive training and resources they also have access to technical, pedagogical and moderation support over the following year. Datacom also kindly pay $250 towards travel and accommodation costs.

The course is restricted to 16 participants and was fully subscribed. I was somewhat surprised when one participant did a “no show”. I followed up with this person a and was advised that their school “did not support them”, this means the school would not, or could not pay the balance over $250 to attend. If true, that’s a bit sad and a bit of an indictment on the system! We need these teachers trained and frankly if the teacher is willing to give up their holidays then a few hundred dollars should not be a problem. Of course the teacher concerned may have just changed their mind and is covering their tracks. Regardless, pretty unprofessional for not letting me know in advance.

Footnote: Some of the teachers participating did so at their own cost – some schools cannot afford PD even when it represents huge value for money. System sounds pretty screwed to me. I hope we do a lot better with PD when Primary Schools start introducing computer science in Years 1-8.

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Another 10 minutes wasted on password changes

Recently a group of hackers released the email addresses and passwords of over 160 million LinkedIn accounts, and as the email address associated with your WordPress.com account was on this list, we have reset your password as a precaution to protect your identity and keep your site(s) safe.

I suppose Word Press had no choice but yet another damn password change.

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IT Excellence in Education – Code Club Aotearoa

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Raybon Kan

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Hon Amy Adams

I attended the NZ Excellence in IT Awards last night. I was one of three judges in the Education category. The winner was Michael Trengrove for his work in establishing and now managing Code Club Aotearoa. This initiative involves coordinating a “nationwide network of volunteer led after school coding clubs for kiwi kids”. The timing for this could not have been better with the Minister of Education announcement that Digital Technologies is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum in Years 1-10.

Raybon Kan performed the MC role – robots, driverless cars, old TV shows and Pokemon providing a rich source of material. Hon Amy Adams also presented, making the point that she would like to see more women in the IT Industry – up from the current 20%. All in all a pretty good evening.

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Typical education news…

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Must be slow news week. Two stories in the last two days. The first blames teacher bias (albeit unconscious) for Maori student failure. I think this unconscious bias may happen, but even so, the teacher is only part of the learning equation. The student(regardless of culture) has to be at school, engaged with adequate sleep and food, and be supported at home. Then maybe the teacher can do their job.

The second article asserts low decile school students are two years behind their peers in higher decile schools. This is not a surprise to any teacher.  Regardless of decile, students not exposed to reading and conversation at home (along with adequate food, sleep and support) will be behind when they start school. No easy solution to this “fact” either, other than to say that teachers will need to be able to manage a highly diverse range of students in each cohort (differentiated learning is the technical term)… and the problem is only exacerbated as they hit secondary schools where the gap persists.

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Students….Don’t overestimate the user

New user calls support staff early one morning, complaining that his computer won’t power up even though everything is plugged in just as it was the night before. Tech walks down to check it out, finds the user pressing the power button on his empty laptop docking station. Tech asks: “Where’s the laptop?” User: “I left that at home. Do I need that to get on my computer here?” Source http://www.funny2.com/computer.htm

When teaching user interface design and testing we advise students not to assume too much about the capability of the user… and then send them to http://www.funny2.com/computer.htm  for examples of assumptions that you cannot make…

On a more serious note we do teach them to be cognoscente of people that are just learning English and an instruction “Enter age” may yield “a non numeric answer of “ten”… good validation and/or selection menus are required…

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Warning – dangerous kettle!

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So, in order to comply with new Health and Safety regulations we have been instructed to remove the jug from our office. Fair enough, this represents a huge risk, it could fall by some act of God and burn one of the two people in the office.  I am surprised I am not paid danger money.

And it is great to hear that schools are paying thousands of dollars each year to have plugs and wall sockets checked – as part of managing electrical safety risks, I have not heard of a problem in the five years that I have been teaching, but you cannot be too careful! You never know some poor student could get electrocuted somehow by turning on a computer screen.

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Lamenting poor Maths skills at all Year levels

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I asked Year 10 students to complete a simple introductory exercise in Scratch requiring them to draw their initials on a standard (x,y) grid (simple coordinate geometry). Quite a few struggled with this exercise – even when I provided them a planning sheet to work out the coordinates on paper. We encounter this issue at all levels, to such an extent that we need to avoid programming problems that require anything other than rudimentary knowledge of mathematics. Shame really as this constrains their ability to understand screen design (pixel counting, absolute and relative placement of elements), SQL selections (relations set theory), Boolean algebra and calculating efficiency of algorithms at more senior levels. Even simple problems such as double a number between 10 and 30 then subtract 7 require Year 10 and 11 students to pull out their phones/calculators…

 

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