Hour of Code Calls to BHS

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Mrs. Chang’s Web Design class participating in the Hour of Code at BHS

Hour of Code, a global movement reaching tens of millions of students, has arrived at Burlington Public Schools. Students of all ages, elementary to high school, have been exposed to the art of coding through a variety of coding tutorials distributed by BHS Help Desk. Several teacher at BHS have brought their classes down to Help Desk throughout the week in attempt to introduce their students to a field that they feel is worth exploring. And rightly so!

Having introduced the worldwide coding initiative to only two classes, I have already come across several students who have had a change of heart with regards to coding after this experience. Many are surprised to find that a great deal of the programs and games that they are familiar with are founded upon such intricate coding. Others have realized their passion for the field after zooming through one tutorial after another and finding that coding is something that they find enjoyable!

One of two classes that came down during the week was Mrs. Chang’s Web Design class, which wasn’t too shocked to find that a large majority of their class work was code based. Naturally, they seemed to enjoy the Hour of Code experience and several students were adamant about the idea that this might be a viable career choice for themselves further down the road. I myself was able to try my hand at a couple of tutorials such as LightBot and Bitsbox. Personally speaking, I felt that these tutorials were appropriately interactive and portrayed coding in a positive light. That said, it’s seems accurate to say that the Hour Code at BHS and all of Burlington Public Schools in general was a tremendous success!

 

1.1 Visit @ BHS

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Sharing one’s own experiences with others is always a rewarding experience. As Help Desk students, last Thursday’s 1.1 Visit at BHS was just another opportunity to draw on our experiences to showcase the school’s technologically advanced environment. My classmates and I acted as mediators, providing insight on the school’s 1.1 environment and citing first/second hand experience to do. I’m glad to say that my partner (Jhymon)  and I worked together rather effectively, exchanging points and calling upon one another’s unique experience to answer our visitors’ questions.

The visitors in our group were curious as to holarkinw the iPad was used in various subjects, namely mathematics and English. Of course, both Jhymon and I gave our two cents regarding how we utilized the iPad in these subjects. Yet, we felt that the best way display the use of the iPad was to show the visitors, first hand, how the iPad was used in select few classes. Math teachers, including Mr. McNeill and Mr. Blanchette, explained how not only the iPads, but the SmartBoards, were very helpful in the classroom. Notability was also highlighted as one of the most effective applications in the mathematics hall. As for English, many of our visitors were surprised to find that students could use their iPads to not only read the novels assigned to them, but to annotate them in a very organized manner as well. We were also able to catch students using their iPads to access primary/secondary sources amid a research project. In Mrs. Mckee’s classroom, our visitors saw students engaged in a class discussion, during which students used iPads to organize their notes.

The opportunity to address the entire audience of visitors is one that I hold very highly. It’s not every day that one gets put “in the spotlight”. So given this opportunity, I opted to share a bit about a couple of the technology conferences at which I’ve presented with Mrs. Scheffer and a few classmates. I also got to share a bit about my ILE, developing a Help Desk IOS app. Overall, I felt as though I was able to articulate myself effectively. But, given more time, I’m there would have been plenty more for me to share with our guests. Once again, it’s not everyday that we, as students, get the opportunity to help others by sharing our own insight and expertise. That being said, I’m thrilled to say that BHS’s 1.1 Visit was, without question, a great success!

Multimedia at MassCUE

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If I was told at the beginning of this week that I’d be attending two state/region wide technology conferences on behalf of BHS in a matter of 6 days, I wouldn’t have believed it. Still recovering from an amazing experience at Edscape, I was blown away by all of the technology showcased at MassCUE. Here at Burlington, we feel that we are in the know on all of the educational technology out there. But as a matter of fact, there is a whole world of educational technology that BHS is yet to be exposed to. At MassCUE, I learned about several innovative technologies tailored to education, some of which were in use at BHS and some of which were still foreign to our 1.1 environment. Companies such as Canvas, IDEO, and ThinkGate have significant technologies to offer to every advanced educational environment out there, and it’s only a matter of time until BHS expands even further into the realm of the educational technology. But in the meantime, I think it’s safe to say that we have enough technology at BHS to maintain a more than efficient learning environment for the student body.

Escape to Edscape: Student Reflection

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As a student in a building crowded with technology specialists and educational instructors, you could definitely say that I was taken right out of my comfort zone by the Edscape Conference 2014. Never before had I seen such an assembly of experts from all over the country, each spreading their own message and collaborating simultaneously. And so what I had originally thought to be just another technology seminar, ended up being an eye-opening experience to say the least.

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Manas Purohit (left) and Michael Seleman (right) interviewing Josh Stumpenhorst (far right) during Edscape 2014.

The conference kicked off with a presentation from keynote speaker, Josh Stumpenhorst, renowned educational instructor and IL Educator of the Year in 2012. During his presentation, he mentioned a couple of key points regarding the role of educators in student growth. According to Stumpenhorst, “If you’re teaching now the same way you were teaching 10 years ago, you’re probably doing something wrong”. There’s no question that the world is constantly changing; whether for better or for worse is debatable. But what’s not debatable is that the learning methods of this generation should not be limited to those of the previous generation. But what is the role of the educator in this ever-evolving system? The answer is simple, but it’s easier said than done. Stumpenhorst, for one, feels “It’s our responsibility as educators to tap into student passion and allow them to be innovative within and without the classroom”. As children, we were insatiably curious, eager to learn about anything and everything that crossed our path. But as we developed within classroom, that curiosity was suppressed, and took a back seat to mastering the curriculum presented to us. So what we need now is to rekindle this curiosity in students in any way possible. In Lincoln Junior High (Naperville, IL), Stumpenhorst has implemented “innovation days”, during which students are given an entire school day to work on a project in their field of choice. What better way to give students the opportunity to explore passions outside of the established curriculum. That being said, we at BHS are not lacking in outlets for student innovation either. Our branch of TED Ed, for example, encourages students to pursue innovative ideas and share them with the world.

But If I’m being honest, the highlight of the conference was meeting, Sandra Paul, Director of Technology at Sayreville Public Schools. As soon as we were introduced, I could tell that Ms. Paul was genuinely interested in what my classmates and I were doing at BHS Help Desk. Talking to her, I realized that what we do as Help Desk students is bigger than the Burlington community. Since Help Desk has taken off at BHS, word has spread about the benefits of a student-run help desk within any technologically advanced school. But that aside, I think it’s safe to say that Mrs. Paul encouraged me to pursue my passions outside of the classroom. Her appreciation for what my classmate, Manas Purohit, and I hope to accomplish in the realm of technology is truly inspiring. I’m not going to lie; heading into Edscape, “networking” wasn’t exactly something that appealed to me. But now I see the value of being connected to others of the same interest in a world where opportunity is almost omnipresent. And to think, that’s just one of many key take-aways from today’s experience.

All in all, attending the Edscape Conference was an experience to remember. What my classmates and I have learned here simply can’t be taught inside the classroom, but is undoubtedly just as important. So thanks to Mrs Scheffer and BHS as a whole for giving me the opportunity to grow and explore beyond the confines of my comfort zone here at Edscape.

P.S. I was one of three BHS students presenting at the conference! If you missed our session, take a look at the presentation linked here.

Template Troubles (Week #4 Reflection)

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Things are up and running with Xcode here at BHS, where the software has been approved for download on select Help Desk iMacs. So far this week, we have been able to familiarize ourselves with Apple’s comprehensive app-builidng software, and to our delight, have found that Xcode makes app-building significantly more manageable that it first appeared to be. The software allows us a choice of several pre-made templates that features key elements of any given application genre. After confuting a series of mini test-projects, we have narrowed down our choice of templates to TabbedApp and Master-Detail, both of which offer certain features essential to our project. The TabbedApp template allows us to install several tabs on the storyboard of an application that permits users to move easily from one feature of the app to the next. The Master-Detail, on the other hand, provides a drop down menu on the side of the storyboard, that allows the user to sort through a decent amount of content relatively easily. The question is: Do we want our application to be small and simple, or comprehensive and multifaceted? Stay tuned for next week’s update to see our progress!

-Michael Seleman

Learning Fast With Screencasts

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Screencasts are an essential tool for a 1.1 school like BHS, where students and staff alike are expected to keep up with the constant updates of an ever-changing technological environment. But what is a “screencast”? Why, I’m glad you asked. A “screencast” is a digital recording of a computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration. Screencasts are often used to give online tutorials showing viewers their way around the newest programs and softwares.

Though they seem fairly complex, screencasts are relatively easy to make, provided a person has access to the pQuicktime2roper tools. Screencast-O-Matic, for example, is a free online screen recorder for PC that allows instant screen capture video sharing. The Mac equivalent of this program, QuickTime, similarly allows users to create screencasts with just the push of a button. In addition tools such as SmartClose can be used to kill all the software programs running on your desktop, in order to prevent any pop-ups/messages from interrupting the screencast. If you are recording with just one window, the Sizer utility can be used to ensure that the window fills the entire recorded space.

But that’s not all it takes to make a high quality screencast. Good screencasters make it seem like they just press record and start talking.  But that’s usually not the case.  It just looks and sounds that way. When you write a script, write concisely, but try to keep it sounding like it isn’t scripted. It may seem like it takes longer to script a screencast in advance, but the more prep work you do, the faster the actual production. And remember: practice makes perfect. To ensure that my own screencast will be of high quality, I plan on writing a script, reciting my lines aloud in the process in order to make sure that my language flows and does not sound too formal. I also plan to do several practice runs of my screencast to make sure that I am comfortable with the process. After that, with any luck, I should be ready to record.

Embedded above, you’ll find a screencast that I felt did an outstanding job of demonstrating the use of Revision History on Google Drive (Chris McQueen). Even without voiced narration, I felt that was a high quality screencast because the feature in question was explained properly, and in a very short span of time. Faint music and editing made the screencast fun and easy to follow. Stay tuned for my own screencast on the IOS 8’s new Safari upgrade.

 

-Michael Seleman