g1rls_c0de @ ASMSA – October 17th

ASMSA invites young women in grades 8-9 to attend g1rls_c0de October 17th, 2015

This hands-on session introduces MIT App Inventor and shows you how to create mobile applications for Android phones and tablets. App Inventor’s designer lets you add buttons, text boxes, images, sounds, and other elements to your app and organize them into an attractive user interface. The blocks editor gives you full control over the phone’s inner workings including Bluetooth communication, sending and receiving messages, measuring movement and location with the accelerator, orientation, and location sensors, interacting with web databases, and even controlling Lego robots.

Participants are welcome to bring their own Androids!

Where: The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, 200 Whittington Ave., Hot Springs, AR, 71901
When: Saturday, October 17th 2015, from 9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.
Cost: FREE! Lunch will be provided
Who: All young women currently enrolled in 8th – 9th grade in Arkansas
How:  Register here.  Space is limited.

Computer Science Leadership Summit October 8

The second annual Arkansas Computer Science Leadership Summit will take place on Thursday, October 8, 2015 from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA),

The theme is “Building and Sustaining Computer Science — Powering Minds, Businesses, and Communities.” If you are interested in finding engaging ways to improve computer science and information technology education in Arkansas, please plan to attend. Governor Asa Hutchinson promotes improving computer science education as one of the cornerstones of STEM education which will foster learning and will be a catalyst for Arkansas economy.  It is imperative that we join together to form business-education partnerships that will stimulate computer science learning and economic development.

The registration cost to attend is $50 which includes lunch and conference material, but will be waived for presenters.  Register now using the link below.


This meeting is sponsored and organized by the Arkansas STEM Coalition, Computer Science Teachers Association Arkansas, the Arkansas Academy of Computing, and several businesses and other Computer Science supporters.

The agenda includes sessions on what and how to offer computer science courses in your school district, the role business partnerships play in the computer science initiative, cyber-security, developing the computer science pipeline through higher education, and a report from the Computer Science Task Force.

Parking is free.  Contact Dr. Suzanne Mitchell at 501-690-1518 or via email director@arkansasstemcoalition.com if you have any questions about the Computer Science Leadership Summit at ASMSA in Hot Springs on October 8th.  In addition, feel free to email Mr. Carl Frank, President of the Arkansas Computer Science Teachers Association, at frankc@asmsa.org  or call 501-860-0141.

Free K-5 Coding Workshop for Arkansas Teachers

Registration is now open for a free code.org training to Central Arkansas! These workshops are fun, hands on and fantastic! Not only will you receive a FREE curriculum guide, but you will also be getting a FREE swag bag full of code.org goodies!  Little Rock School Districts teachers will receive 5 hours of technology professional development.


code.org training

This workshop will be presented by Joel Spencer.  Joel is a science specialist with the Little Rock School District in Little Rock, Arkansas. His responsibilities include running an elementary science lab for 535 students and facilitating district wide professional development in the areas of elementary science and instructional technology. He has been a teacher for 11 years, 6 of those were in the area of elementary science. He has also served as a literacy coach and classroom teacher.

Computer science is Joel’s passion which is why he is a firm believer that teaching computer science needs to start at the elementary level. His students have been coding for three years and watching them do it is the highlight of his day.

Remember: BRING YOUR OWN TECHNOLOGY (laptops, chromebooks, tablets, iPad) and make sure your devices are charged!

New Self-Paced Computational Thinking Course for Educators from Google

Google has just released a course for educators introducing them to Computational Thinking.  No programming experience or other special skills are required — just your Google Account.

The course begins on July 15th and runs through September.  It should take you 15-30 hours to complete, and you will receive a certificate if you finish by October 1.

Get started at http://g.co/computationalthinking


Arkansas CS Update at HSTI

Anthony Owen, Arkansas’s new Computer Science Coordinator at the Arkansas Department of Education presented a very informative session at the Hot Springs Technology Institute this week.

If you haven’t seen it, check out the Arkansas K-12 Computer Science information site.


Anthony’s slides from the presentation are available on that site, and you should bookmark the Frequently Asked Questions document.

PD: Make Apps For That! @ HSTI

Today I’m in Hot Springs, Arkansas presenting a full day hands-on session at the Hot Springs Technology Institute pre-conference.  Participants will become familiar with the new Essentials of Computer Programming frameworks, get some exposure to MIT App Inventor, and take home a set of Android tablets to use in their classrooms.  The full conference begins tomorrow, and I cannot wait!


Full details will come later, but for now you can view the participant agenda.

BYOD Upgrade Cards

I recently posted about my Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom policy, which uses four color-coded levels to communicate to students appropriate and inappropriate uses of their personal mobile devices within the context of they day’s learning activities.  After successfully implementing the BYOD level policy, I figured out I could leverage it as a reward for good behavior.

BYOD Upgrade CardsIn coming up with this, I pondered long and hard the question, “What can I give students that costs me nothing, that they will actually want, and that isn’t a violation of law or school policy?”

With a little colored card stock and a special hole punch from the craft store, I started awarding students punches for positive reinforcement of good behavior.   As long as you adhere to your BYOD level regularly, students will welcome a little flexibility in how they use their devices when they earn an upgrade.

My BYOD Classroom Policy

When I started teaching Mobile Application Development a couple of years ago I knew I would only be successful if students got to install and test apps using their own phones.  Fortunately, my school’s policy allowed for use of mobile devices at the discretion of the teacher.  I put considerable thought into my Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, and here’s what I came up with.

BYOD SignI devised a color-coded scheme to communicate to students at a glance how freely they should use their devices at any given time.  Green, which is never used, allows students free reign over devices — games, texting, social media, anything goes.  Yellow expects students to frequently interact with devices for learning.  Periodic use of a device in Yellow mode for personal reasons is acceptable, but only briefly.  Red expects students to keep their devices put away.  This would be an appropriate context for in-class presentations.  White requires phones not be present at all, for situations like high-stakes testing.

At the beginning of the year I clearly establish what types of behaviors are and are not appropriate at each BYOD level, and I frequently refer to the level when correcting phone-related student behavior.  Consequences are clearly laid out in the policy, which is among the papers I give students to take home at the beginning of the year.

Check back soon for a post about how I integrated the BYOD level into a classroom management reward system.

Maslow’s for Mobile

I shared this on my Facebook page a few days ago, and laughed.  Then, I began to think about how desperate and anxious my afternoon students are when their phone batteries are low.

Battery emojiHave you ever walked out the door without your cell phone?  If you’re like me, you’ll turn around and go get it if it won’t make you late.  And when I am without it, I often feel a little out of sorts.  Magnify those feelings to hormonal teenage proportions, and you see why I think a charged phone is somewhere in the lower two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for the modern student.

In traditional classrooms, it’s simple to say, “No phones allowed,” and consider the problem solved.  Even when it’s in a purse or a pocket, 6% battery still nags at kids.  In a connected classroom like mine, I acknowledge their situation and do what I can to resolve it.

Charging spotI got a great deal on a 24 port powered USB hub last year.  [Note:  This hub only charges iPhones if the hub is connected to a computer]  After putting it in my classroom I noticed a lot of battery anxiety disappear, and students were better able to focus on their work.

I’ve seen some teachers who require their students to turn in their phones at the beginning of class, either on a desk or in wall-mounted shoe holders.  I found that the charging spot worked as a voluntary phone collection spot that the students were happy to use.

Cables on magnets

If you want to go a step further, you can provide USB cables, too.  We use these in my Mobile Application Development class when we create Android apps.  You can get 50 of these round magnets at Wal-Mart for less than $5.00.  They work great for tangle-free cable storage using the side of a filing cabinet or other metal surface.

Each educator will develop his own ways of managing student technology, and I’d love to hear how you do it in the comments section below.  I’ll be sharing my “Bring Your Own Device” classroom policies in a more detailed post next week.



One Mobile Application Development Project

Students in my Introduction to Mobile Application Development class at Bryant High School learn to create apps in a variety of tools — GameSalad, App Inventor, Xcode, and Eclipse.  More than just programming, their assignments also reinforce teamwork, communication skills, project management, and literacy.

Recently, a pair of ninth grade students were featured on a local television news broadcast for making a mobile application to help a new student to our district who speaks only Korean learn the basic words and phrases he needs to communicate within the context of the American school system.

Click to Play

Click to Play

The assignment first asks students to identify a client — someone with a problem that could be solved through the creation of a mobile application.  Next, they must interview the client and draft a problem statement in their own words detailing specifically what the problem is, to be reviewed by the client.

From a pedagogical perspective, engaging students in writing — any writing — builds their literacy skills.  Having them write a document that will be read by a real-life external client about an authentic problem often yields more and better writing than something only to be read by the students and the teacher.

Read on to find out how I make the most of this assignment. Continue reading