A busy year ahead

As far as I’m concerned it’s not really the start of the year yet. I’m still on holidays. However with each new day l’m starting to feel the relaxing summer days slip away, and the busy days are coming at me like a steam train. I’m already past the point where I am relaxed enough to sleep in.

This year is going to be a busy one! I have some great plans for the year…plans for study, work and travel. Since they are all things that I am actually pretty excited about, I’m going to tell you all about it.

Study Plans

Perhaps I’m a little crazy but I have enrolled in uni…again…because it would seem 5.5 years wasn’t enough!!
I have enrolled in a Graduate Certificate of Education, which is essentially the first half of a masters. (A masters is 8 units of study, but if you were to do 4 units and bail, you get nothing. So you can do a Grad Cert which is 4 units, you graduate and then whenever you choose to go onto a masters, you have already completed half of it)
Over my two years of part-time study, I intend to complete a specialisation in online/ICT pedagogies. So I’m really looking forward to learning more about how to use ICT more effectively in my classroom, and hopefully a whole lot more!!!

I have also enrolled in a 7 week course through Udacity in how to build/program a search engine. Its only 7 weeks and has been designed for people with no programming knowledge, so hopefully it won’t be too full on. Udacity is a new educational site designed to offer a variety of courses online, for free. As they are new they only seem to have 2 courses available so far, but I expect that to grow pretty quickly. This is an interesting read on Udacity and how it came to be: Udacity and the future of online universities

Work Plans

Having attended a few Professional Learning sessions last year, as well as messing around with each new technology I come across (usually introduced to me by other nerd friends), I have decided I want to change the way I teach my Computer Science class.
I say that I want to change my Computer Science class – the reason I am being so specific, is not to say my other classes don’t matter, but when you have great ideas that involve radical changes, then you have to start somewhere.
So by now you may be wondering what these changes are.. In essence, the idea is to get the students to be a bit more proactive and take responsibility for their learning through an increase in availability of teacher feedback and learning resources. (I think that kind of summaries every teachers goal).
I might break down the “new” Computer Science into the technologies that will be used:

Lesson Blogging I will blog every lesson, prior to the lesson. This means that students will be aware of what will be happening in the lesson and can bring appropriate resources. I will also upload any required notes or task sheet and embed any relevant YouTube clips. In addition to it being useful in the lesson itself, it’s also great for the student who can’t find his copy of that assignment sheet, or also for those who miss a lesson due to illness. I trialled lesson blogs for a portion of last year and the students, as well as their parents, thought it was fantastic
Student Blogging This is one I am unsure about at this stage. I would like to see the students blogging their experiences and reflecting on their learning. It would also be great to see them getting into the blogging interface and learning a little more about web programming from a different angle – especially since a huge number of software engineers develop applications using web interfaces.
However, when I trialled this last year, the kids didn’t respond brilliantly to it, so I may leave it for a year before attempting it again (especially since I am already introducing many other things)
Microsoft OneNote  Using Microsoft OneNote I have created a student notebook with all the worksheets that are expected to complete throughout the year. Each topic has a main tab with a summary of the topic and a checklist of all the activities for that topics (students can tick the boxes as they complete the tasks to keep track of their own work). Then within each tab there is a page per worksheet for that topic. Also at the front of the notebook there is general course info, and a table where student can record the activities they’ve complete and the grades they got – so if they keep it up to date, they will always have a good idea of their level achievement, and if they’re aiming for a specific result, then knowing their grades will indicate where they can do better or slack off (hopefully no one will slack off though!)Thats not the greatest part about OneNote…the greatest part is that they can set notebook to synchronise with a Windows SkyDrive (online storage) and then ‘share’ it with me. So anytime a student does work, I get the update immediately. It also means that if I am looking at their work, and they are struggling with a concept, I can provide assistance by adding in text, audio, video, links – whatever the student needs in order to grasp the concept. This can happen in real-time!! (ok maybe a minute or two delay..but almost instant feedback if we are looking at the document at the same time). This has amazing potential to personalise the level of assistance I can provide students!!
YouTube Tutorials To assist the students in being able to do things for themselves, thus freeing up my time to help others, I will also be making a series of video tutorials and uploading them to my YouTube channel. In programming there are a number of key concepts/structures that can combined in many different ways to produce weird and wonderful programs. I plan on making on video per concept. Each video will have an explanation, complete with one of my amazing drawings outlining the concept. I will then demonstrate how it would be coded in Eclipse (the software we use to write programs in). To finish each clip I will provide a coded example of where and how that concept might be used in an actual program. (I say “will” because I haven’t made these tutorials yet. I have a grand plan in my head and have already made a start on recording and uploading these tutorials, so they are ready to go at the start of the school year)
Laptops For OneNote to really work, I need the students to have a laptop that they can take home with them, that has OneNote on it. Slowly but surely we are working towards a one-to-one environment where every student has access to a computer, and ideally they all have a laptop to use for the year. Before something like this can happen in a big school, it’s a good idea to trial it first. So this year I am really lucky to getting the opportunity to trial it with my Computer Science class. As mentioned, this means that I can be sure OneNote will work properly, it also means I can be confident every student has the required software for programming installed (it astounds me how many students attempt to go a whole school year without installing the free software on their home computer, and then complain to me about not having access to the software from home). I also plan on getting all students set up with a set of Internet browser bookmarks, so I never have to hear “I didn’t know where to find it” (usually in reference to an assignment sheet or my blog). I admit I pushed a bit to get laptops in my classroom, but I also I admit I’m quite stressed about it. There is so much potential for it to have huge benefits to the students, I just really hope that the students do the right thing!!

(If you want to check out my blog and YouTube channel, feel free to have a sticky-beak: http://catscompsci.wordpress.com/. Obviously there are no current lesson plans up, as the school year has not yet begun)

Travel Plans
In true form, I am also trying to squish an awesome holiday into this busy year. June 8th I will be attending my cousins wedding in The Netherlands..which is really exciting!!
I am not going to fly over just for the wedding though, I’m going to take time out and hang out with the family as well as do some sight-seeing.

So I will take four weeks off (mid-May to mid-June … really I am taking 2 weeks off and also making the most of a 2 week term break), I will fly to The Netherlands together with my mum. There we will meet up with my brother and sister-in-law, who will be nearing the end of their 6 month round-the-world trip, and we will hang out with the Dutch rellies.

Because four weeks is way too long to be in one place, Mum is going to England for a few days and Pat, Anna and I will hopefully go to Barcelona for a week to soak up some spanish culture.

I’m really looking forward to showing Pat and Anna around Holland a little bit, so they can see where I used to live and work, and also show them around some of my favourite places. I’m looking forward to a holiday away with the Boertjes (family). I’m really hoping the Barcelona plans go ahead, as I am really keen to check out the Gaudi architecture, try some spanish food, maybe take a cooking class, check out some dancing and basically enjoy the city. Then to finish the holiday I am really excited about seeing ‘little’ cousin marry the man of her dreams!!!


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