Monthly Archives: October 2014

Coding for Everyone!

There is currently a nationwide (if not global) push for improved STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills in our students and our schools.

One piece of this has been a recognition that computer technology is no longer a “niche” subject or an optional part of education and work; computer technology is ubiquitous. As such, computer literacy is essential to thriving and surviving in our modern society. Now, finally, there is a call to go beyond computer usage to computer programming and actual software engineering skills in students.

It can be difficult to know where to start with coding in the classroom — or where to go next — so this presentation is meant to be a resource and a roadmap to get you jumping right in:

Calistoga Paperless featured in TIME Magazine Article

TIME Magazine LogoMichael Scherer, Washington DC Bureau Chief of TIME Magazine, recently paid a visit to our paperless classroom to see it in action and report on some of the concerns and controversy, including concerns raised by parents.  He sat in on our Back to School night, hearing some of the debate, and reported on it in the October 20th piece, “The Paperless Classroom is Coming”

First of all, I want to acknowledge that he is a true professional at what he does, being able to tell a story in a tactful, unbiased way with a great eye for editing; I can see why he has climbed the ranks to bureau chief. I feel very privileged that he gave this topic the time and attention that he did, and for bringing the discussion into a national spotlight. Education is always important, and worth discussion and debate — including the current paradigm shifts involving Common Core, technology tools, project-based learning, and other initiatives.

The article was pretty much spot-on — well, the part where I said “We don’t need handwriting” wasn’t represented quite completely —  I said it sarcastically because we were running out of time and I knew it was an item of importance that people would want to address and discuss (this is why I created a slide for it in the first place — see my previous Back to School Night slides for specific details);  the fact of the matter is that I do see some benefits to handwritten work (not cursive, per se — I will explain more about that later), which is specifically why I chose a device that includes active digitizer pens to enable handwritten work in the computer. [I even included “handwriting and drawing” in my “10 Needs / Considerations for 1:1 Paperless Device” infographic]

Likewise, I’m not sure I actually said that “no college” will accept handwritten manuscripts — I believe it was actually “I don’t know of any college” that accepts handwritten papers (and by this I mean essays/term papers, not all work in general.)  Yes, I’m aware there probably is some sort of very liberal school out there somewhere, maybe the “College of Calligraphy and Other Antiquated Arts” or something, but by and large, the fact is this: you need to type for college/university; cursive is not required (just like it is not required in the workforce; I haven’t used cursive since 1988, when I was forced to do so as part of my 5th grade curriculum.)

Aside from those little subtleties, the article was spot-on. Some parts of Back to School night did feel like an inquisition, but the fact of the matter is: I’m glad parents were asking questions and raising concerns.  We should be asking questions; we should have a critical eye to any decisions we make in education, because education is important. Whenever we choose to do something new, we should be able to answer this big question: WHY?  Doing something new for the sake of novelty or trend is not a valid justification.

On the other hand, those critics and opponents of new tools and techniques should also be able to answer the question: WHY? WHY should we stick with the status quo?  And the arguments “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” aren’t valid justifications, either.

Who needs the Bronze Age? Rocks work just fine…

If that logic were valid, we would still be in the stone age chipping rocks for our tools because those tools worked “just fine” and there wasn’t any room for improvement, right? </sarcasm>

Just because something “works” okay doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

In this blog, I have attempted to show some of the many reasons why paperless is (or can be) a great thing.  I will continue to do so in the near future, including these topics:

  • The Myth of “Too Much Screen Time”
  • Why not just use Paper? The Many Reasons for Paperless
  • The Case Against Cursive
  • Reality > Virtual: You Can’t Use Computers for Everything
  • #FlipTheFlipping: It’s Time to Turn the Flipped Classroom Around