Monday, April 18, 2016

Creating Science Animations With Scratch

Here is my entry for my Final Project in the Creating with Code Course. 

I have made a course for students to take to learn enough code to "show what they know" in science by creating Science Animations.   My challenge was to create materials that would help personalize the experience for my students, and allow me to expose them to a high quality curriculum to get them started with coding.

All of this is contained at a website that I made:

Student Section

There are three parts of the student program:

  • First, I started a CS First Club with a focus on Art that my students will complete.  

  • Second, students investigate an exemplar Scratch animation that I created on Photosynthesis to give them some ideas.  

  • Third, I have created two of my own teaching videos explaining the animation I made, first showing how I made the sprites, and then showing how I made them move and act to demonstrate the concept of photosynthesis.   

Teacher Section

As I was working, Lucie also encouraged me to add in material that would help teachers to also connect with this work.  In response, I have added to my website several pages of resources:

  • There is a Standards Link with a complete explanation of how my students' work will help them meet the Next Generation Science Standards. to two exemplar
  • There is a page with dynamite examples of Science animations that students are making with Scratch 
  • Another page shows some of the greatest examples of what people are doing in the realm of science animation.  
  • Finally, there is a link to a series of Teacher Resources like tutorials, lesson plans, troubleshooting guides and worksheets for students at all levels.
I hope that you will find my course idea as exciting as I do, and that you will incorporate it into your classroom!

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Problem Solving with Code and Arduino

When some teachers asked me if we could build a temperature sensor that didn't require walking up and taking a physical  reading, without hesitation I said yes.  What followed was a deep exploration into the Arudino environment and an introduction to Python coding.

The project has been very rewarding.  While not totally complete, we did answer the question of whether we could build a system that could remotely monitor the temperature and communicate that information in graphic form to another computer.  Now the winter has left us, we'll have some time to move our beta to a real embedded model.

When I initially began the project, I worked independently trying to learn as much as I could about the hardware, what I needed to order and how to set it up.   After some individual learning time, I started working with some students from our Computer Systems Technology class.  They helped with soldering parts and setting up our communication network with our Arduino compatible radios.  We also studied some of the Arduino code libraries, testing a variety of sketches using our new Xbee radios.  Probably the most fun we had was building test models of projects that were not even related to our project.  As long as the students were excited, I didn't mind the need moving slowly on this project.  Learning can be fun, and experimenting is probably the best form of that.

Currently the project is in beta form.  We have to still figure out how to use our digital sensor to pass data.  We had no problem with the analog sensors.  We also have to build a waterproof shell and configure the radios to hibernate so as not to burn out the batteries.  I've spent countless hours working on various configurations, temp sensors and code combinations.  I feel like I am a lot more confident while working with the Arduino IDE and writing basic code.  I really enjoyed learning some Python basics and I only hope I can get a few more students interested in the project and other projects by showcasing this one.  I plan to introduce this beta project with the new CST class next fall.  We'll then form a group that will tackle this project including the design of the housing and computer configuration (remote IP address and website) that will be capturing the data.

I've included this Link to my Google Site - Create with Code.  There you may explore the entire project, review the code and set up.  Share any materials as you see fit.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Procedural Coding in the 5th and 6th grade ELA Classroom

Project Description

FES Procedural Writing

This spring, fifth and sixth graders in FES English Language Arts classes had the unique opportunity to complete their Procedural Writing pieces by coding in Scratch.

The fifth and sixth grade is comprised of 30 students total; twelve 5th graders and eighteen 6th graders. The classrooms are usually blended, but students split by grade level for Math and ELA classes. As such, we will meet with 5th graders each Monday from 10:30 to 11:25 and will meet with 6th graders each Thursday from 10:45-11:25. The project will begin Thursday March 10th and guided instruction will conclude Thursday April 14th. Each class will have five guided work sessions. These guided sessions should not be the limit of their work time; rather, just the beginning.

Cross-Curricular Connections:
This project supports CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2, Vermont Transferrable Skills, as well as components of the new ISTE Standards. Additionally... (read more here)

Building Problem-Solving Endurance:
Many of the students who are in this class have been together since Kindergarten. They are the quintessential learning community. As each student works through their individual Procedural Writing piece, we will encourage collaborative problem solving. We will encourage students to look at problems as puzzles; with wonder and... (read more here)

Balance- Yearners and Schoolers:
Our approach is to balance curriculum with enrichment. We aim to find middle ground between content and play. Burke & Kafai describe a balance between the yearners and the schoolers. This integrated ELA experience strives to do just that by... (read more here)

Expanding Opportunities:
Also taking place this spring is our school’s first ever Coding Club. The Coding Club will be an expansion of our Advanced Lego Robotics program. Three of the students in the ELA class are also enrolled in the Coding Club. These overlaps are mutually beneficial (and totally coincidental)... (read more here)

The entire project is mapped out on the FES Procedural Writing site including:
  • Introduction
  • CCSS, VT Transferable Skills, ISTE alignment
  • Plan and Timeline
  • Storyboard (along with completed SB for exemplar)
  • Login Cards and information about project management
  • Resources to support independent learning
  • Gallery: includes exemplar and student works in progress
  • Teaching tools supporting:
    • stage development
    • sprite development
    • script development

Creative Commons License

Getting Connected to Coding with Dash & Dot

This project has been such a positive and emboldening experience for me.  I feel more enthusaistic about and way more prepared to introduce coding in our school. Familiarizing myself with online Coding courses by participating in two myself definitely boosted my confidence to coach and manage a CS First Club of 9 middle school students.  This club will continue through the end of the school year and I will introduce a challenge opportunity for students to control their story through an object using the Makey Makey .  What I've noticed during this club is students who are actively engaged, working together, excited to share their projects with classmates and on the Scratch site, and willing to identify frustrations with encountering something that doesn't come easy and requires perseverance.

In addition to starting a CS First Club this course was the impetus for me to work to introduce programmable robots using coding apps.  This is the main focus of my project site. I collaborated with the second grade teacher to integrate Dash and Dot into several math lessons about estimation and measuring with the ultimate goal of having the students create a math lesson using Dash & Dot that they can share online via Wonder (the company that created Dash & Dot).

My site includes sample lesson plans to introduce Blockly and coding, the first lesson in the Estimation and Measuring unit, resources I consulted, and an implementation timeline.  I'll be adding more to it today on our last day, but this is a work in progress and I am continuing to develop the math lessons together with the second grade teacher.

My video includes the overarching theme of my project which was to understand and experience coding to see if and how it connects and engages learners, encourages computational thinking, promotes problem solving and perseverance and can be embedded in content areas. I basically tested out much of what Papert, Kafai and Burke discussed in our text this semester.  I am pleased to report that I observed and experienced first hand how teaching and connecting kids with code does truly connect and engage learners in more concrete, personally meaningful and hands on ways .

Here is the link to my project Connecting with Code

Onenote Guide for using Scratch & CS-First in the classroom

I created a resource for using Scratch and the CS-First site using the tools that we use in my district. Onenote is a great and potentially very powerful tool. 

Here is the link to my Onenote

I have made a view-able only copy for you. Using the site, I could publish this so it can be downloaded by teachers and then customized. 

Here is the link to my Scratch Story that I had a lot of fun making.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Onenote or CS-First. Still working on my Scratch skills.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Raspberry Pi Project - Building a People/Animal Counter or a Node-Red Flow

I've decided to divide this project's material into a few separate blog posts. I wanted to create standalone blogs for my step-by-step tutorials: Procedure for Starting a Node-Red Server and Procedure for RPi Connecting to Ubidots since each post contains detailed screen-captures and instructions. One long post would have created a horribly long scrolling experience. I've also included a link to the Google Drive project folder which contains other components of this project such as resource links and the assessment rubric.

Intro Video for Project

Building a People/Animal Counter or a Node-Red Flow

Project Info:

Tools and Product

Node-Red is is an open-source, block-based or (aka “drag-and-drop”) programming tool developed by the IBM Emerging Technology Team for “wiring” devices and software to communicate with one another within the Internet of Things. Another open source tool introduced in this project is Ubidots, an web based API (Application Programming Interface) that specifies structure of data that will be exchanged between devices connected to the Cloud.

This all might sound a bit complex, but Node-Red doesn’t require the user to do any text-based coding, so it is a great tool for people to get started with learning about the IoT. Node-Red currently comes bundled with the most recent version of the Raspbian operating system, Jessie, for Raspberry Pi. Node-Red allows users to build "flows" which are graphical representations of devices communicating via the Cloud, collecting, transferring, analyzing, and sharing data.

For this project, students will be borrowing portions of code and concepts from a variety of provided online resources which are included in the Links for Online Resources doc. This unit of study will take approximately three weeks to complete and will culminate with students presenting their final projects to their classmates, teachers, parents, and possibly computer science mentors from the local community.

Goals and Purpose

This high school level project is designed as an intermediate to advanced unit that would be assigned to students who have already spent several weeks getting familiar with circuit building, sensors, and Raspberry Pi programming software used in conjunction the the Raspberry Pi GPIO (General Purpose Input Output). Students will be encouraged to have their final project focus on a real-life situation that relates to environmental science and/or the collection of data relating to human activity and the effects of that activity on the environment.


My primary goal for this project is to create an open-ended, flexible project that can be applied to many high school fields of study and hopefully inspire teachers to begin integrating computer science projects into their curriculum. With a few small adjustments, this project could be redesigned to align with math, art, or social studies state and tech standards. Raspberry Pi, Node-Red, and the Internet of Things all provide a massive menagerie of tools that can inspire creative thinking and exploration of new technologies which offer new learning opportunities to all genres of students.

Project Guidelines

Google Drive Project Folder - all docs

URL for this project on my account

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Enticing Students to Tinker with Arduino Coding and the Wink Robot

Wink was born on Kickstarter in November of 2015 by the folks at Plum Geek Robotics. The Wink Robot is unique in that it bridges the gap between coding robots using block coding platforms such as Scratch and coding more sophisticated robots which might use Python or C/C++. Wink is programmed using the Arduino platform which is a fairly simple programming language and great for entry-level coding. Plum Geek has done a great job of packaging some lesson plans with companion code which are well worth using with students.
The premise of my project was to introduce Wink into our high school Makerspace as a way for students to learn to code using the Arduino programing environment (rather than using the breadboard which is already available in the Makerspace). However, students enter the Makerspace at will and often without a whole lot of time or willingness to devote a great deal of time to learning something that might feel like work. So I decided to use a few of the lessons provided by Plum Geek Robotics and offer an abbreviated version of those codes to students as a starting point for remixing, in the hopes that they would quickly become engaged enough to spend more time coding. I’ve created one page (2 sided) sheets which will be laminated and in the Makerspace for students to pick up with instructions on how to remix the code and with more information and/or a challenge on the back. Here are examples of the first two:

Lesson Card #1 Back
Lesson Card #1 Front

Lesson Card #2 Front
Lesson Card #2 Back

I created the following intro video in an effort to entice students to try coding Wink. We will see how that works!

The standards I believe are addressed with this project are the following:

Computer Science:
  • CPP.L2-08 Demonstrate dispositions amenable to open-ended problem solving and programming

  • 1.b Creativity and Innovation - create original works as a means of personal or group expression

  • 4.a Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making -  identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation


Creative Commons License

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Arduino Breadboard & Autodesk 123 Circuit

Before I begin I'd just like to say that I learned so much in this course that I could have done my final project in 2 or 3 other subjects and would have been as content. I chose this topic because it would push me further along than some of the other things that I was considering. I think it's also important to admit that I scaled back the last section of my project as the extra time and energy involved became limited in the past few days.

My final project allowed me to create a basic foundation in the use of the Arduino IDE, create simple(ish) circuits, learn 123D Circuit, identify more electronic components, integrate screenshot into video, extend my learning of iMovie, and to organize my thoughts, materials, and community sharing.

Perhaps the best way to become familiar with the project is to watch the introductory video and see the progression of blog posts placed in chronological order.

Common Core and State Standards relevancies are here.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me and I'd be glad to help.

Thanks to all of the people who commented and gave advice along the way.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Arduino MP3 Player in Social Studies

Patricia Aigner’s Social Studies e-Textile Project.


The LilyPad MP3 Player is an interesting tool for embedding audio and music into an e-textile.  It has an Arduino compatible microcontroller, MP3, micro-SD card socket and also the ability to use different triggers for sound, lights and more.  It can be combined with some speakers or earbuds for sound output. The board works nicely with sketches writer for the MP3 Player shield. I used the sample code from Bill Porter’s MP3 Player Arduino library which was easily editable. 


In my project, I combined the LilyPad Mp3 Player with a local history object, the Rutland High School Banner.  I added sound files and also an LED light behind the torch in the HS Seal which dates from the 1800s.  You can hear history stories and music from the school by activating the banner.  Pretty cool.

To watch an introductory video visit here…it was done like a movie or book trailer to build interest in the project (without giving too much away).

Here is the actual lesson and resources.  It is not creative commons licensed since I have not determined how I want to use this project in the future.  For now, it is copy written.


I really enjoyed working on this project and plan to share it with the HS as an installation. Through the process of creating and programming, I have come to the conclusion that it is far better to be a creator than a mere consumer of technology.  Combining programming with e-textiles or other actionable objects allows end users to participate in a more tangible experience.  I want our students to have choices like this as part of their learning.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Create with Code Winter 2016

EDU621D.W16  Create With Code


Marlboro College ~ Graduate and Professional Studies

Course Description

The course is for elementary to high school educators with little to no experience programming, who want to learn enough about code to use it in their teaching. The information age, and activities such as Hour of Code, have revealed the importance of understanding basic programming in today's world. Students and educators are excited about learning to code and coding is finding its way into students' Personal Learning Plans. This course will give you the confidence to understand student's personal learning projects that may involve creating with code. It will also provide you with ideas for integrating basic coding into a variety of curriculum areas. Whether you decide to build a separate coding class, or integrate coding into your content area, this course will get you started using both graphical and text based coding platforms. We will combine graphical coding platforms (like Scratch/Blockly/SNAP) and Arduino's text based environment to

1: Create digital stories and games with code
2: Control physical objects with code. and
3: Examine ways to integrate coding and computational thinking into your learning environment.

For more information contact