Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hour of Code op-ed piece - December 25, 2013

This was published in today's Star-Advertiser.  I wanted to share the importance of coding, and the success of  'The Hour of Code" event at our school.  I want to thank Dara Young from the Department of Education's Communication Office for reviewing and adding to the op-ed piece before sending it in.  I am grateful to +Michelle Carlson Colte for her enthusiasm in sharing coding with our students.  Some of these students have really taken off and are creating games and greeting cards.  Basically, they're teaching themselves to code, and my hope is that next year, every student in Hawaii will be participating in "The Hour of Code!"

'Hour of Code' a timely wake-up call for schools
By Jan Iwase

Educating a new generation of our workforce means providing the tools and skills necessary for students to succeed globally in the future. No one can deny the impact technology has had on our lives in recent years, but one of the most overlooked topics in education today is computer programming, or "coding." In fact, recent statistics show that computing jobs will make up 50 percent of all math and science jobs, but fewer than 3 percent of all college students major in computer science.

By 2020, it is estimated there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs and only 400,000 qualified college graduates to fill those positions, according to Most U.S. students do not take a computer course prior to graduation from high school, while schools in China, Australia and other countries are beginning to introduce coding as part of the curriculum in their schools.

More needs to be done to introduce computer programming to American students at the elementary level. That is the premise behind an oath of commitment by Hale Kula's teachers to integrate coding into our curriculum. It is a pledge that earned the school a $10,000 grant from to increase its technology resources and introduce students to coding while they're still in their formative years.

It behooves us as educators to provide our students with this knowledge and know-how wherever their paths may take them. The dearth of a population skilled in coding even caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who recently told schoolchildren, "Don't just buy a new video game. Make one."
Earlier this month, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and 20 other lawmakers, education leaders and military partners joined our students in celebrating "The Hour of Code," a global event that introduced coding in schools to more than 15.6 million students around the world.

Observing our students code was eye-opening. Coding challenges students to problem-solve and think critically as they complete activities that gradually become more complex. Students communicated and collaborated with their peers, accessed tutorials when they needed more information, started over when they hit a roadblock, demonstrated perseverance and celebrated when they earned a trophy. Many parents shared that their child got home and immediately went on the website to continue their coding activities. One student completed all the levels in one day and went on to other coding sites to build on his newfound skills and knowledge.

Those who are in a position to influence education policy often visit schools and observe students as they share what they are learning in class. This time, however, rather than have our students demonstrate coding for our guests, we had students teach our leaders so they could experience the process of coding. Our students were great mentors, encouraging and guiding adults to learn by doing, making mistakes, asking questions and trying again. In fact, when one of our guests was frustrated, she asked her mentor to "just tell me what to do next." The student replied, "No, try again. Failure is part of learning." She got it and celebrated her success.

And that was just at our school. Imagine how many people were introduced to coding during "The Hour of Code" during Computer Science Education Week in early December. A recent article quoted this: "In a single week, students at schools across the U.S. wrote 500,000,000 lines of code as part of Computer Science Education Week, organizers said. By contrast, it took Google almost seven years to recruit student developers to write just 50 million lines for its Summer of Code program. Microsoft Windows runs on an estimated 50 million lines of code."

Technology is integrated into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a new set of clear learning expectations aligned to college and careers. Coding allows students to learn key CCSS skills, such as to think critically, problem-solve, collaborate, communicate and create; these are essential 21st century attributes our students need as they move forward to write — or code — their own future.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On this rainy, dreary day . . .

Well, maybe winter is finally descending on us here in Hawaii.  It's December 1, and it's been raining steadily since early this morning with occasional claps of thunder and bolts of lightning.  Not a good day for our normal Sunday golf.  I guess that means there's no excuse for not updating my blog :-)

It's hard to believe, but the first semester for SY 2013-2014 is almost over.  Three more weeks, and it will be winter break.  This is the time of the year when we complete our Financial Plan for salaried employees for the following school year.  This coming year, due to a decline in our enrollment and the elimination of Junior Kindergarten by the State, we are losing a substantial amount of funding.  This means that we need to decrease the number of teaching positions for next school year, a very difficult task which will mean breaking up grade level teams that may be working well together.

Throughout this first semester, much of my time during the school day (and during non-school hours) has been spent on completing the required tasks for the Educator Effectiveness System, the new evaluation system for teachers.  We also have a new Principal Evaluation System, a new template for our Academic Plan, and a new Strive-HI system for evaluating schools.  Additionally, we are preparing teachers and students for a new assessment tool based on the Common Core State Standards.  So many new initiatives at once!

The other week, one of my principal mentees through #SAVMP shared that when the new principal evaluation tool was shared with them, he was initially anxious and had feelings of inadequacy.  After that first reaction, and after pondering the new system, however, he realized that this was a new beginning, an opportunity to grow as a leader.  I admire his positive attitude!

As for me, I must say that I have been pleased with the attitude of our teachers throughout the EES process.  The conversations about the lesson and teacher reflections about the observation have been positive and collaborative with teachers pointing out areas of strength and areas for growth.  Teachers are working together to develop their Student Learning Objectives and to discuss progress during their respective Data Team meetings.  Non-classroom teachers are focusing on a Working Portfolio which shares what they are focusing on to support teachers as they work with their students.  All of these collectively will improve teaching and learning, although I still question whether everything needed to be rolled out at once.  (FYI, this is a "practice" year as we learn the processes.)

As I reflect on all we've accomplished in these past few months, I am amazed.  The teachers have risen to the challenge and are invested in the EES process to improve teaching to positively impact their students' learning. Additionally, we have committed to implementing the use of technology and Web 2.0 tools so teachers and students can collaborate, communicate, think critically, and create.  We started a Google+ private community where teachers share, ask questions, and discuss education or teaching issues, and students in all grade levels are researching and using Web 2.0 tools to share their learning.

Moving forward, we need to keep our focus on what is important for our students. Teaching and learning must be relevant and challenging so that students have the tools and the desire to create their own future.  I believe that despite the sometimes-rough start, we are on-track to make a difference for our students and their teachers.