End of Year Review

I have a few more days left, filled with mostly grading and cleaning, but before I put everything away and dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, I wan’t to get some thoughts down about how this year has gone down.

First, it was a busy, busy year for me.  I took on a lot.  I was teaching 3 middle school classes, 3 Upper School classes, teaching 4 students in Independent study classes, running a Middle School club, running the Robotics Club, chairing 2 committees, and supporting various technology in the school.  It was overwhelming at times, and I don’t recommend it, but I managed.  I like to do more than just manage, though, so I’m going to start planning for next year, so that I can do better.

On the positive front, all but one of my middle school classes will be taken on by a new person I hired this year, who is going to expand them into more full-blown maker classes with CS as the connective tissue as it were.  I’ll be helping with that development, but it will mostly be in his hands, freeing me up to focus primarily on Upper School and on developing CS more fully as a core part of the school’s curriculum.  And that is exciting!

So here’s the breakdown and the color commentary.

Computer Science I: This went fairly well, though I want to make some tweaks.  I want to spend a little more time at the beginning of the year on connecting Computer Science to the outside world.  To that end, I’m planning to add in an online discussion where students will post commentary about articles related to CS.  I’m thinking that will be once a week up through the end of first semester.  I also want to do some more formative assessments and checking for understanding, so I’m going to add in some more quizzes, some quick exit polls, and at least one more substantial test.  I’m a project-based kind of teacher, but I’ve found that my students have forgotten some basics along the way that they’ve needed.

Computer Science II:  This is permanently becoming a semester course.  This year, it was small, and it will be small again, though slightly bigger this time.  We basically did two big projects.  I think that works, but I would like to add in a few more quizzes.  I’m not as concerned about tests.

Physical Computing: I won’t be teaching this next year and when I teach it again the following year, I will keep it mostly the same.  The only thing I want to add is a little more scaffolding at the beginning.

Mobile Computing: This will be a new course.  I have to spend the summer figuring it out.  I have picked a book and a framework.  Now I just have to develop the course.

8th Grade Computing: This is also a new course, which is mostly going to be maker oriented.  I have thought through the first few weeks, but beyond that I haven’t a clue.  That, too, will be worked out this summer.

Robotics Club: I struggle with this club.  I’ve been open with my students about my struggle and they get it.  We participate in a competition, but we don’t put the time in to really do super well in the competition.  I want to focus on learning, not competition, and there’s some agreement about that among the members, though they also like to win.  We had a bit of an existential crisis this year, thinking we might pull back from competition or choose a different, less pressure-cooker competition to participate in.  We’ve decided to stick with the competition for this year, but we’ve designated a single “competition team,” who will focus on getting competition ready asap.  They’ll start earlier than everyone else, get first dibs on parts, and have set deadlines for building.  The other students will be put on training teams, focusing on learning the ropes of building and programming a robot.  The club leaders will be working with them to teach them what they need to know.  I’m hoping that my new partner in crime will take on Middle School Robotics, or will just incorporate it into the class.  Because having the MS merged with US did not work so well.  I tried, but it failed.

In general, it was a good year.  I was probably too busy for my own good.  But the fruits of my labor over the last 4 years are paying off, which is nice to see.  I’m going to work kind of frantically to finish out the year, which doesn’t completely end until June 11, then I’m going to rest for a bit.  That probably just means I’ll work 4 hours a day instead of 10.  And I’ll work on things that interest me, rather than grading or emailing random people.  And I will goof off a little more than normal.  At least I hope so.

11 Replies to “End of Year Review”

  1. I’m going to go with Stencyl, a scratch-like environment that’s cross-platform. When I do this again, I might use something else, but I have a lot of kids who haven’t had Intro taking the class and I wanted something that was relatively intuitive and that had a book for support. Stencyl met that criteria. I polled the CSTA and/or SIGSCE list for suggestions, and of all the options, I thought this one was the best.

  2. That does look good. I have to play with it tonight. I have used App Inventor but the tutorial is rather limited. If you end up with kids that have had at least a semester of programming throw Corona at them. There are good books available and the tutorials are not bad either. The free version of Corona will publish directly to an android device which is cool. The kids can play what they build right on their own phone. Corona is not a quick learn though.

  3. Have fun working less and playing more this summer. In regards to physical computing, where did you find the need for the most scaffolding? I hope you’ll do a post later this summer detailing how you decided to flesh out some of the courses you’re developing.

  4. Hi Melanie,

    I think I should have done a few more smaller projects, working on both input and output (reading analog data and outputting light or to the window) and on coding. So next time I teach it, hopefully 2015-16, I’ll do maybe 3 small projects in the first 3-4 weeks before launching into a big one designed by the students. And yes, more posts are coming as I tweak and plan!

  5. Garth,

    I looked at Corona and in part based on your frustrations with it, decided against it. It seem like a cool system and maybe next time, that’s what I’ll use once I have more experience myself and more experienced students. I figure XCode and Java can wait until college.

  6. I have been messing with Stencyl this morning. I cannot even get the Crash Course tutorial to happen. It looks like they did not update the tutorial to match the latest IDE. The IDE does not come with the Crash Course Kit installed as the tutorial claims and downloading the Kit folder does not install the tools needed. Have you managed to figure out the setup? I always figure if the beginning tutorial is bad then the whole product is going to have issues. I will keep fiddling with it hoping to find the magic button. Have you looked at the book?

    I looked at Xcode a couple of years ago. I simply do not have the time to dedicate to learning that language. Worse than C#.

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