Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coding Opportunities-the Sky is the Limit!

      This is the second in a series of entries about the Emints conference I recently returned from and the possibilities the conference presented.

     Overall, the Emints conference was great, but there was no topic I was more interested in learning about than coding.  At the conference, I attended 2 session on this topic.  In the past, I have held a Student Digital Diner using the Hour of Code, and am currently working on designing a session for Digital Learning Day (March 13) as a follow up to the first session on coding.  The two sessions I attended at this conference were perfect stepping stones for building a coding program at Lakeside.

     The first presentation was a 2 hour session which incorporated Agent Sheets to teach more advanced coding techniques compared to Scratch and the Hour of Code.  During the session, we were given instruction to actually create a working version of the 80's classic video game Frogger.  We also reviewed the computation thinking patterns which are reinforced through game design. The session had computers around the room with Agent Sheets downloaded on to them for use to use to create our games.

     After some initial instruction on the terminology of Agent Sheets and the basics, participants were split up into small groups to craft our own version of Frogger.  This setup was ideal, and allowing us to learn from each other, and get further support from several of the presenters as needed.  Over the course of the next hour, I worked with 2 colleagues from Missouri to create a working replica of Frogger complete with moving trucks, logs and tunnels!  Besides being fun, Agent Sheets was fairly easy to learn and appears to be something that my 21st century learners at Lakeside could easily take to for the purpose of creating working games!  I left this session inspired with a "can do" approach to coding and creating games that I look forward to sharing with my students!

     The second session I attended on coding focused more on the curricular applications and theory of game design.  It was a perfect compliment to the "nuts and bolts" approach of the first coding session I attended. We delved more deeply into crafting the story of the game by writing out the agents or characters and actions of the game.  This was done by identifying the nouns (agents) and verbs (actions) of the characters.  We also got to brainstorm and gallery walk to room to add post it notes of our best ideas for the applications of game design to the  various curricular areas represented by the teachers in the room.  The presenters also gave us a chance to vote on which ideas were the best, and gave prizes to the ideas that garnered the most votes.

     I also signed up to have my students at Lakeside participate in the Scalable Game Design program through the University of Colorado. ( Through the program, my students will have access to Agent Sheets for free which will allow them to build their own games and share their handiwork through the program's arcade section.  I cannot wait to work with my students and teachers to employ the easy to use and powerful gaming design platform. Truly the sky is the limit for what students can create with Agent Sheets!

Follow Brian Johnson on Twitter @GoldenEagleLMC and @brian_librarian

Monday, March 2, 2015

Emints Presentation Opportunity

    I just returned from the Emints National Conference over the weekend in Columbia, Missouri.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to post about the many wonderful learning opportunties the conference presented and the possibilities they opened up for the future of Lakeside Junior High and the LJHS Library.

    The conference was one of firsts.  It was the first time I had been to the Emints National Conference, and also the first time I had the chance to copresent with my colleagues at such an event.  I collaborated with Chrystal Lieutard, one of our ESOL teachers, and Evelyn Villarreal, one of our math teachers on the topic of Using Graphics to Tell a Story: Visual Literacy Techniques for the presentation.  This was also my first experience with using a back channel for participants to communicate with us.  I used Today's Meet and checked it on my Ipad throughout the session. It provided us with some good feedback about the session in the early part of the presentation, although it was not used as frequently as the session went along.  I would like to use it with greater effect in future presentations.

    One of our goals of the session was to give the participants lots of opportunities to see and experience technologies and strategies which support the goal of improved visual literacy instruction. We opened the session with a Padlet asking teachers to post the first thing that came to mind when they thought of visual literacy.  The session also included a review of current research on visual literacy including the differences in decoding and encoding skills among elementary and secondary learners-younger students tend to look at a visual section by section while older learners tend to interpret images as a whole.  My colleagues and I shared a variety of strategies and apps to support visual literacy including Piclits, Szoter, and

    One of the best parts of the presentation was the work samples my colleagues brought with them which were on display on tables and around the room.  Ms. Lieutard brought along some of her visuals she uses to build vocabulary with ELLs. For the activity, students add "the first word that comes to mind" to each image as a means to develop context for their comprehension of terms such as the Great Depression.   Mrs. Villarreal brought along several anchor charts and shared a great activity related to piecing togeher the Pythagorean Theorem. (To view these and other visual literacy activies and apps, visit the website I constructed for the session:

    We also had a number of truly amazing visual literacy ideas shared with us from other teachers in our building.   Among them were Justin Hart's amazing diction chart which was constructed out of paint chips. For this activity, more bland vocabulary words such as nice, good, happy and sad were featured on lighter colors.  As students improved their diction, darker paint chips were added with more descriptive vocabulary. For example, underneath sad, you would find paint chips labeled with terms such as forlorn and distraught.
    Another tremendous example of encoding was a slide show Shane Carey sent along that his ninth graders had created showing examples of how atomic theory has changed over the centuries constructed out of M & M candies.  For the assignment, students had to learn about the different ideas about what an atom looked like, construct a model of it using M&Ms, take pictures using their Chromebook cameras, construct a Google Slide presentation and share them with their classmates.

   Overall, my first experience presenting at a national conference was a great one.  It would be great to be back at the Emints National Conference next year. I look forward to the next time I get the privilege to attend and present at a conference again soon!

Follow me on Twitter: @brian_librarian      @GoldenEagleLMC