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Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

Archive for July, 2009

Scratch resources in English

Posted by forumjoe on July 23, 2009

Annoyed at the lack of usable scratch resources I could find, I’ve made my own.  I’m uploading them here in the hope they’ll be useful to someone else.  You should be able to print these out and use in any classroom with scratch, I’ve tried to make them very non specific.

First is general worksheet that uses Pen commands to draw pictures.  This is very similar to LOGO style programming, but more versatile.  It also introduces variables, and draws some pictures that the kids quite get into.

Drawing Shapes with Scratch.pdf

Second is the challenge I referred to in the past about the Football scoreboard.  I’ve turned it into a worksheet challenge that the kids quite enjoyed.
Creating a Footy Scoreboard in scratch.pdf

Finally, the english translation of the best of the three Spanish pages previously uploaded.  This page is really for advanced students interested in “real” programming with scratch, and really gets them thinking computationally.  It’s pretty tricky, but if you explain it right, the kids really enjoy it.

Challenges involving variables.pdf

If you read this and want any of these documents in a different format, I’ll be happy to oblige.


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Tassie Mixed-nats teams selected

Posted by forumjoe on July 22, 2009

My first post on this blog about Ultimate, just passing on an email that I got relating to the teams selected for mixed nats.  Congratulations to all who got selected.

Announcement – Tasmanian Teams Selected for AMUC09

The two Tasmanian teams for AMUC2009 have now been selected. The selectors have been extremely pleased with the level of interest and commitment demonstrated by everyone trying out for both teams. It has been extremely difficult to make final decisions due to there being so many well-qualified players vying for only a few spots.

The teams are as follows:

A Team

Ash Martens
Basil Van Riet
Eliza Burke-Purdon
Emily Johnson
Felix Kennedy
Huddy Fuller
Kate Godber
Kieren Blake
Michael Dunne
Mike Baker
Pat Dunne
Sarah Robinson
Shannon Trentwith
Shelly Slater
Stan Robert
Steve Wright

B Team

Alysia Cullen
Chris Mrzyk
Dave Wilson
David Cooke
Grady Cowley
Heidi Pass
Jemery Day
Jenn Lavers
John Kristensen
Masni Bennett
Matt Petrie
Naomi Petrie
Reed Burgette
Sarah Carson
Shavawn Donoghue
Tim Stoneman

Thanks to everyone who tried out for either team. Congratulations to those of you who have been selected, and commiserations to everyone who missed out. We hope to still see you at training in the build-up to AMUC 09.

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Awesome Scratch resources (But they're in spanish)

Posted by forumjoe on July 17, 2009

So I emailed Inés Friss de Kereki, author of the paper I talked about previously, and I asked for a copy of his resources. He was very obliging, and from what I can work out these are great resources. The problem is, they’re in spanish.

I’ll put these up here, because they’re hopefully useful to someone in this format.  I’m hoping to get them translated soon.




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Follow-up to Scratch Applications

Posted by forumjoe on July 10, 2009

In an earlier post I refer to a study about using Scratch in a university course. Here’s the link

It’s quite an interesting read, but I’d love to get a hold of the exact exercises that were used in the course. I’m sure it’s exactly the sort of thing I’m after.

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Football Scoreboard in Scratch

Posted by forumjoe on July 10, 2009

Thinking more about simple exercises for students to ‘think outside the box’ with Scratch, I came up with the idea of making a simple application that keeps track of scores in a footy game (AFL footy, but could be easily adapted to any other sport).   They needed to script actions for different buttons, such that when the home team scored a goal, their “goals” tally had +1, and their “total” tally had +6.   This really got the girls thinking about controlling variables with scripts, triggered from buttons.  Obviously something like this isn’t what Scratch is designed for, and VB or Java would be able to do it much better, but it worked in the end, in an environment that they were familiar with.

I intend to document this properly sometime, write out a complete lesson plan that can be sharable.  Must get into the habit of writing lesson plans BEFORE I teach them. 😉

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Teaching ICT? Or Teaching -WITH- ICT?

Posted by forumjoe on July 10, 2009

I guess this early point is the best time to clarify the distinction between Teaching ICT skills and teaching WITH ICT.

ICT Integration
ICT Integration into the regular classroom is something that every teacher should strive for. Teaching critical computer literacies like how to save documents, how to open files, how to browse the web, etc shouldn’t be restricted to the ICT classroom. They should be taught in English, SOSE, Maths, etc. IMHO students are much better off learning graphing and spreadsheets in their Maths and Science subjects than they are in a specific Computing subject. I’ll elaborate on this later.

Skills everyone needs to survive the modern world
So when looking at ICT Skills, I try to distinguish between the things that everyone needs in the modern world, and things that those people working in “computing” need. The former are things like wordprocessing, information parsing, how to run a spellchecker, how to backup documents. The latter are things like Programming, Photoshop, Databases, etc. I’m lucky in my current position as ICT Coordinator and the teacher of the Computing elective that I have some control over both these aspects, and can determine what goes where. It’s nice in theory.

The Dilemma
But then I get into my Computing elective class, and I find students who don’t have the basic computer literacies required to backup, to open a file, etc. Obviously, I’m responsible for teaching those skills too. So this becomes a dilemma.

Now what?
The point of this prose is just to clarify what I’m talking about in future posts on this blog. As an ICT Coordinator, I’m responsible for integrating ICT into the every day curriculum, to ensure that all our students leave the school with the basic computing skills they need to survive this world. And as an ICT Teacher, I’m directly responsible for teaching those more advanced students about the possibilities that extra computing skills will open up. So I will talk about both in this blog, because both are relevent to my current position.
However, teaching the Computing elective is what I struggle with more frequently, day-to-day. What do I teach? How do I teach it? What resources are available to help me? Those are the main questions that I created this blog to help answer. Anything else is bonus.

When I talk about “Teaching ICT” I’ll be referring to where the content is actually ICT related. When I talk about “Integrating ICT” I’m talking about teaching basic ICT Skills in other subjects. The blog will probably be much more about Teaching ICT, but I’m sure topics related to Integrating ICT will get touched as well.


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ICT Teaching Blog

Posted by forumjoe on July 9, 2009

Found an ICT Teaching blog right here on WordPress, which has lots of useful links and discussion. As I read back through the posts, I find lots of links that sound interesting. Must read when things settle down at work. Maybe I don’t need a blog anymore, I’ll just read that one. 😉

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Scratch (programming language), call for activities

Posted by forumjoe on July 8, 2009

Not a review, I’ll do that after I’ve finished teaching the unit.


Scratch is great for a lot of reasons, it really lets kids get some of the concepts of loops, variables and general programming techniques, without needing to get caught up in syntax and compilation errors.

Today I created an exercise that used Scratch to do some basic Logo stuff. It worked really well. The class essentially created a script that involved a loop that took one variable (n) and drew an n sided shape. With a little bit of prompting and assistance, most students were able to use variables effectively. End goal is a script that looks like:

Pen Down
Repeat n times
Take 20 steps
Rotate (360/n)
End loop.

Extension activity: use a second variable to define the size of the shape

Second extension: What happens if you change any of the variables INSIDE the loop?  Can you create anything cool with it?

When posed as a problem that the needed to solve, it got most of them interested. What are some other similar ‘tasks’?

There are lots of teaching resources about Scratch around, and I found a really good study which referred to how good Scratch can be in a university environment (can’t find link atm, will update when I do). But that only referred to the specific exercises they tried, and didn’t include said exercises.

Most of the Scratch support materials seemed based around the “Just play around and see what you can do” theory, which is fine for some people, but my students just seem to get bored, and don’t like to play around with new things they don’t understand; well and truly like to stay within their comfort zone. What I find works best is to give them a challenge, and let them work out how to do it with the tools available. It’s a fairly well explored teaching theory, but yet there aren’t very many challenges out there for Scratch. I’d really like to get the exercises the guys in the article used (will have to email them) but there’s not much else out there, so this is a call for help. From either a programming background or a Flash/Animation background, what are some challenges I can get the students to solve that involve really basic control-loops and variables?

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CS Unplugged

Posted by forumjoe on July 8, 2009

So I was sort of planning my first post to be a big collection of all the online resources I’ve gathered so far, but it was daunting and would take me forever to compile. I’d never get around to it, and the whole blog thing wouldn’t actually be used as such. So I created the Teaching page to act as a compilation of resources, and I’ll blog about them as I want/need/discover.

First one I’ll discuss is

CS Unplugged

thanks Jonno for the ref.

This website contains a collection of pre-made resources that you can walk into a classroom and teach, and doesn’t require computers. I used the first few of these the other day (specifically, teaching Binary and also the Image Compression one) and found the resources pretty good.

Good Bits

  • Well documented lesson plans, tells the teacher just what they need.
  • Enough freedom to expand on the lesson plans on topics as required.
  • Gets the students away from a computer, which is surprisingly refreshing in a computing class

Bad Bits

  • Aimed at younger students than I teach. 😦
  • Links to real-world situations are tentative.  For example, the image compression activity only really describes 2-bit BMP files.  Expanding the ‘theory’ out from 2-bit to 24-bit (which the girls already understand) is pretty much impossible.
  • It’s probably just my classes of 14-15 year-olds, but they found the activities to be kinda boring.  Then again, they find everything boring. 😦

Nevertheless, I intend to use these resources a lot in future.  I’ll tell you how the activities go with my Year 5s, they might get into it better.

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Posted by forumjoe on July 7, 2009

I’m Joe. This is my blog. I created primarily as a way to keep my teaching resources in one spot, as well as let other teachers see what I do, how I do it, and gather a collection of resources that I can use in the classroom.

Primarily, I’m an ICT Teacher, and that subject is also one that I’ve had to hit the ground running. I’m the only ICT teacher in my school, which makes the sharing of resources and ideas particularly difficult. I also teach Science and Maths, but as part of a larger, better resourced team, so I’m not so concerned about gathering resources for that.

So this blog has been created with that purpose in mind… a gathering of ideas and resources about teaching ICT in a classroom. However, since it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want with it, I’m also going to use it to post about a whole bunch of non-teaching things. Like Ultimate. Mostly from a coaching perspective, but covering all bases. As well as other nerdy/social/gaming things. Who knows what I post about? I sure don’t.

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