lim joe→∞

Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

Posts Tagged ‘ICT’

Teaching Around the World survey, now released

Posted by forumjoe on June 10, 2010

I’ve finally finished planning my survey, so it’s time to release it on the world.

If you’re a fulltime teacher, it would be great if you could fill out my survey here:

It should only take 5-10 minutes of your time.

It would be even better if you could tell other teachers you know to fill it in too.  If they’re from another country, awesome, but even if they aren’t then hopefully it will help the word to spread.  My goal is to get at least one response from each continent.

I should point out that this research isn’t for any greater purpose.  I will not be writing a paper on it, or using the results for my own nefarious needs.  This is something I’m interested in after discussing the issue with a few international teachers over the last few months.  I do promise to make all the results public, and to discuss any observations on the results.


Remember, pass the link on to as many colleagues as possible!


Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Minority Report interface

Posted by forumjoe on August 29, 2009

I don’t often post random links that I find elsewhere, but this one really tickles my fancy.
One film that consistently resonates with me years after viewing is Minority Report, for two reasons. The story was kind of ho-hum, but every time I’m stuck in traffic, I think of the traffic system from the film.

You can’t help but realise the system is so much more efficient (resource-wise and time-wise) than our current system, but there’s no doubt it would require a lot of infrastructure change. The biggest problem with this transport method is that there’s no middle-path between the current cars-and-busses situation to this future situation. The infrastructure would need to be built from scratch, and the costs would just be too much. Maybe I should be a transport engineer.

But anyway, this rambling post is actually about the OTHER thing from Minority Report that I constantly think about. Whenever I have to deal with a windows button-on-toolbar interface (which is every day, really) I wonder if Tom Cruise was onto a good thing.

It looks cool, it looks slick, it looks EASY and he manages to bring up and compare a lot of information in a short period of time. In short, it’s impressive. Especially to someone who once dabbled in interface design. But really, is it better?
This question could best be asked as “Wouldn’t the character be better served by a keyboard and mouse interface?”. You can probably tell from the way I phrased that question that I think the interface is a bit silly. And yet, unlike the transport problem posed earlier, this one actually has an obvious path from current-tech to future-tech. Already, Apple and Mozilla (and probably countless others) are introducing the idea of “Gestures” to control Browsers and other applications. It’s not new technology, but it hasn’t really taken off for a myriad of reasons. But if the beginning steps aren’t taking off, what makes anyone think that the final destination (if the Minority Report can be considered the ‘final destination’ in the continual evolution of cutting edge Interface Design) will be more efficient (resource-wise and time-wise) than a modern WIMP GUI?

Don’t let that stop anyone from trying though. Some guy has taken the next step towards a true gesture-based interface using Flash and FLARToolkit. Looks impressive, sure. Looks innovative, yes. But do we really want the way we interact with computers to be this muscularly intensive in the future? Maybe I should be an interface engineer, I’d quite like that.

PS. Maybe I’ll just pose this question to my ICT Class and see what interface-prototypes they can come up with.

PPS. Yes, this long and rambling post is just a glorified way to post a cool link I found, which I try not to do.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

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.

Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

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.




Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

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. 😉

Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.


Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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. 😉

Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Teaching | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »