Monthly Archives: November 2015

Give the gift of Code

hour-of-code-logo (1) HourOfCode_logo_RGB

Give your child the gift of a second language. No, not an oral language, but a written language: Computer Programming. We know that we live in a world surrounded by technology. And whatever field our children choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works. But only a tiny fraction of us are learning computer science, and less students are studying it than a decade ago.

How can you begin giving this gift to your child? By joining in on Hour of Code. Across the nation, during Computer Science Education week (Dec. 7 – 13), students are learning the beginning of computer programing in a fun and engaging manner. and Khan Academy have provided a wealth of resources for students from age 4 to 104 to learn the basics of programming.

The activities range from games to drawing. For instance, your student can explore Minecraft through code by helping Alex cross a river. Your child can learn to program droids and create a Star Wars game in a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars. If you daughter still sings, “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen, she might enjoy helping Elsa and Anna draw magical snowflakes (my 7 year old loved this). Maybe, you still love Angry Birds, you can learn some of the programming behind this popular game.

To get started go to to sign up. I have provided a set of step by step slides to help guide you. At, they have created levels, such as drag and drop options designed for elementary students and there are Java Script options for older students. Even the older students have the drag and drop feature, they just have the opportunity to add more information.
If your curiosity has been peaked, check out these inspiration videos featuring prominent computer industry leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and Kevin Systrom from Instagram.

What does it look and sound like when friends or siblings try it out? Watch these two videos short videos as kids explore Observe the collaboration, discussion, and celebration as they engage in learning.



Make the experience a memorable one. Grab a laptop, Chromebook, or tablet, sit on the couch or lay on the floor. Sit with your child and participate right along with them. Here are some questions you can ask along the way to help cement the learning.

Q: How did you know to do that?

Q: What made you try using that (block, number, color)?

Q: What would happen if that was repeated?

Q: Computer programming involves language. What is one of the “verbs” (command)?

Just like in language we have grammar, in programming it is called syntax. There is even punctuation. Parameters are like adjectives and adverbs. Commands are verbs. Parenthesis, semicolons, spaces and commas all have an important part. The activities for the younger students do not emphasize this, but if you click the show code button, you can see the language behind the blocks.

Ex Studio.move('block_id_6', 0, 2);

Formative Assessments

Sometimes we learn about a new technology and we get excited only to find out, it doesn’t quite meet our expectation. That was the case for me with Google Forms. At first I thought, “This is great, I can create quizzes that will be automatically graded for me.” Then I learned that to do this I needed to learn how to use some addons, extenstions, spreadsheets and more. Additionally, I realized I can’t just type in a math equation. Well, as in most things, where there is a will there is a way. I presented the following slides at the CMC math convention in Palm Springs, CA. They provide step by step instructions for how to create a formative assessment using image URLs with Snagit and g(math) for equations. The final set of slides show how to use the “flow chart” feature of forms to create multiple pages and insert reteaching into your form.