Category: Course 3

Facilitating collaboration as we graph

Years past when teaching the basics of graphing I used to collect data with dice rolls. Things have changed and with the introduction of Sphero robots, Flynn and I developed a lesson that linked to ISTE Standard 5b “Students collect data or identify relevant data sets…”. 

Last week we co-taught the lesson that connected computation thinking and graphing while collaborating in teacher-assigned groupings (mixed ability). The task was split into 3  primary investigations:

  1. Inquire into how to make the Sphero change color randomly
  2. Collect data on random color changes and record it
  3. Presented your recorded data in a graph

Developing a plan for collaboration

Flynn introduced the activity by developing ground rules for collaboration and relating them to classroom essential agreements. He separated the discussion into two parts: how can we collaborate and what skills do we need to be successful? It was a rich discussion where students had to investigate how to actually collaborate before investigating into the task. 

Developing a plan for inquiry

Students were placed in groups and developed a plan. They documented ideas of how they might program the Sphero and made tally charts for how they could record their data. 

Don’t steal the inquiry

As a technology learning coach, I’m often asked to help ‘teach’ a new app or tech skill to students. Years back my method would have been to share my screen to the projector and walk through the necessary steps one-by-one. It was painful for me, for the students, for everyone involved. 

For this inquiry, Flynn and I didn’t want to do a guided lesson on how to program the Sphero. Many of our students had previous experience with block-based programming, so they had the foundations in place, they then just needed to draw connections between that prior knowledge and the Sphero programming. 

Watching the students collaborate and work through the challenge was inspiring. Most quickly found the tools they needed and then found a variety of methods to move from one color to the next. 

How students collaborated (or didn’t)

An app that I’ve become fond of recently is Equity Maps. Equity Maps allows you to chart & record the interaction of students to graphically illustrate levels of participation and types of contributions made by each student. I’ve found it incredibly valuable for all kinds of collaborations happening across the school, from elementary to high school. 

During this lesson I sat near one group and I documented their collaboration via Equity Maps. As a non-participating observer, I only needed to click the name of the student who was talking. This information then helped produce some analytics of the conversation. A made a few observations about the analytics it shared:

  • J struggled to join in the conversation, speaking only 2 times
  • The conversation went back and forth between M and N multiple times
  • There wasn’t much silence
  • J was more likely to communicate with N than M (though with only two times speaking it might not be a fair assumption)

J needed more structure to contribute effectively to the conversation. He struggled and needed more opportunities to develop as a communicator. In the future, I think he’d benefit from having a role in the collaboration. 

What did the students come up with?

The inquires resulted in some very awesome color changes:

Recording the data would need to wait for our next lesson as we ran out of time, but I’m predicting  few challenges with deciphering what color the Sphero is displaying. With 16,777,216 different possible colors, if might be hard to create a tally chart to record what colors they see. 

I look forward to seeing how they overcome that challenge and what graphs they produce.

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Enhancing my blog’s ‘curb appeal’

After reviewing this week’s reading I was very keen to make a few changes to my blog to increase the readability and to encourage visitors to view more content and stay on my site longer.

I’ve narrowed my thinking down to 3 small things I can do that will hopefully make a big impact.

Better use of graphics and GIFs

A look at some of my older posts will present you with walls of text and little supporting graphics or GIFs.

Graphics

I’ve just started creating some very simple graphics with my iPad, Apple Pencil and Notability. Check out the introductory image for a rough example of what can be done in just a few minutes. I’m keen to learn more and hope to spend some time during this course thing about how I can use these tools to improve the visual appeal of my blog with user-created graphics. If you have a favorite resources, please share them in the comments!

GIFs

I’m still not sold on reaction GIFs, but I’m starting to use GIF Brewery 3 along with Gifycat to create and share my own GIFs. Check out a few below when I talk about my new logo.

A new logo

My old logo, seen below, was a direct copy of my diving logo (see Matt Broughton Diving). I was a bit lazy and just changed DIVING to COETAIL.

While I’m still like the overall design, I’ve decided to make a few changes:

  • Remove the diver silhouette
  • Add a educational-themed image on the right
  • Make changes to the colors (white on transparent background)

Remove the diver silhouette

This one was easy. Thankfully I kept the Illustrator file so it was only a quick delete from the last revision.

Add a educational-themed image on the right

My first stop when I’m after an icon is The Noun Project. I’m so foud of it that I’ve signed up for the NounPro, which gives me a royalty–free license for any icon I need. It also offers some simple built-in editing features which means I don’t need to open Illustrator to just change a few colors. Educators can sign up for NounPro for half-off the yearly subscription.

I really value the connections that COETAIL offers, so I’ve decided to start off with a connections-inspired icon.

Make changes to the colors

Currently my logo is white on a transparent background. I like using a transparent background as I can just make changes to the header using CSS, however this causes a few issues when COETAIL links to my blog on Facebook.

Facebook automatically pulls the first image on the page for the post preview image. A white logo with a transparent background makes it very hard to see. To fix this I’m going abandon the transparency and just use the background blue on the image.

I wonder if I set a ‘feature image’ if Facebook would pull that image instead of my logo? I’ll try it on this post as a test…

Connections to social media

Flynn and I spoke this week about how to add more dynamic content on our blogs. One idea we came up with was to insert a Twitter widget in the sidebar to allow readers to see a bit more of the day-to-day.

I thought embedding a Twitter widget was going to be easy, but I was very wrong.

Twitter’s Publish tool

I first attempted to use Twitter’s Publish tool that allows you to easily create a script that can be embedded into most websites. This was easy and offered a bit of customization, but unfortunately I can’t embed a script in a ‘Custom HTML’ widget on the WordPress network we are using (which is a bit understandable when try to prevent malicious code off COETAIL sites).

The next idea was to dig into the available plugins on our WordPress install. The Twitter Widget Pro WordPress plugin is available, so I enabled it, found the widget and moved it to my sidebar.

Again, no luck. I headed over to the setting page to add my account when I hit a roadblock – I need access to the Twitter APIs to add my account. To access the APIs, you need a Twitter developer account. So, I’ve signed up (with some interesting answers to some of the questions) and am now waiting for my application to be reviewed and approved.

I need your help

As a reader of my site, I’d be very keen to hear from you about ways I could improve the design of my site. Leave me a comment on what you think would make my site shine!

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