Category Archives: Uncategorized

Robot Week

So apparently it is Robot Week. I read it somewhere and have no actual confirmation that it is official. I figure if we can have a shark week Robot Week seems feasible. Even if it is a hoax here are a few robot themed news items:

UPDATE: According to this website Robot week is sometime in April. Plan ahead!

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Best Diet Ever- Teaching my Butt Off

Seriously – crazy year, but good crazy. Great classes, great kids.

 But the reality of teaching Computer Science in high school is a lot to expect. I teach 5 different subjects in a total of 7 sections. I have students assigned to me during my planning and lunch. I run a club, I tutor, I nag I cajole. I work evenings, and weekends, and for the record I have never taken a summer off.
And some days I look down and realize I am dressed like Ms. Frizzle from Magic Schoolbus.
If you find me wearing this please call someone.
There are very few materials genuinely good materials out there for HS kids. Yes, Exploring CS and Codeacademy are changing that landscape, but compare these to what the average Spanish teacher or Algebra teacher has and it is pretty thin.
On the upside all this skipping lunch and running around means I have lost weight, which is great going into the holiday season.
So as I wind down 2012 I am super thankful for the opportunity to teach computer science. Happy to be out there trying to make it easier for the next group of CS teachers. Happy to have met so many great people along the way.
Have a Super New Year folks!
Created by Rebecca Dovi
I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

AP Computer Science Teacher Training

There are some major changes happening to the AP Computer Science A course in 2015 (new course description here). First and foremost the GridWorld case study is no more. Replacing it are the new AP Computer Science Labs (more on those here).

One of the best ways to keep up to date with changes are the AP Summer PD’s.

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

A tool for terrible typists

A tools for terrible typists- computer science at its best

This is great…I am an awful speller, and even worst typist. In fact my spelling is what brought me to CS in the first place, but that’s different story. This app automatically corrects spelling, OR you can use it to automatically insert certain phrases after a given keystroke. So my teh becomes the. Or I can auto-insert the HTML tags I am forever typing into Blackboard.
Lifehaker Texter app
Created by Rebecca Dovi
I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Data Visualization Videos

Funny how sometimes you come across several unrelated sources and find a theme. Today it is data visualizations.

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Underwater Spaghetti – Internet Cables

So sometimes in teaching you add a little fun fact into a lesson and that one little grain of sand takes over.

Underwater Internet Cables

I know, it seems totally random. But for two years in the APCS Principles pilot the students have been totally transfixed by this. It was a tiny picture off to the side of the notes and their questions. It led to a great conversation about the physical structure of the Internet and equity of access.

So look at this map:

I asked the kids what they notice first – many of them talked about how many parts of the world have very limited connections. This makes for a great writing prompt for their journals.

Just found these interactive maps – they let you explore these cables ad see where the connections are.

As an interesting comparison, here is a map of the first underwater cables laid int he mid 1800’a that made up the telegraph system:

Created by Rebecca Dovi
I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

How to Teach the Internet – Don’t

Today my Computer Science Principles classes are starting Unit 2: The Internet Unplugged.

So rather than a terrible exciting lecture on the structure of the Internet – translation “Here’s what I think you should care about” – we started with questions.

Telegraph Lines

They were asked to write their own definition of the Internet, and share at least three questions they have about it.

Really, we all use it daily, so we should all have our own working understanding of what it is. By starting with their understanding I can see where we need to add information and what the emphasis should be.

The questions help me plan our activities. By the end of the chapter I want them to understand that the Internet is a physical thing, and be able to describe how it works. I want them understanding how content is posted and to discuss the implications ethically of its content. I want them to know a little HTML and CSS and have the confidence to look up what they need.

But first, I want them thinking.

Questions they asked:

  • How is it possible that the internet can be censored in some countries?
  • Who owns the internet?
  • Who made the internet?
  • How does it actually work?
  • Why was it originally created?
  • When did personal computers have access to it?
  • Who owns data on the internet?
  • Why is internet copyright so important?
  • How hard is it to break the internet?

Right now some of my favorites are Who owns the internet? and  How is it possible that the internet can be censored in some countries? 

Frankly we could start by investigating those two things and cover everything we need to know.

Bookshelf:

Some Lessons We’ll do:
I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Mapping the Internet

Whenever we start a new topic I love having an activity to set the tone. I came across the Mapping the Internet a few weeks back.

The projects asks people to “Please draw a map of the Internet, as you see it. Indicate your “home”.

Yesterday I wrote about HTML in my Internet Unplugged unit. I think this would be a fun way to start off that unit.

My Daughter’s Maps

They have a taxonomy of these maps. Which of course is data – another big idea from CS Principles. From here it would be interesting to collect the student’s drawings and do some discussion board topics about what they drew. Were there common themes? How did your map change after learning about the physical parts of the Internet? Did it change after learning HTML and CSS?

Another thing I try to do is set a presence for computer science in my school. Wherever we can I do art projects and hang them in the halls around the building. This would be another great way to get computer science out of the lab.

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Action Plans

Stop Painful Parent Conferences – You need an Action Plan

It is that time of year…pool, fireflies, and skipping seniors.

Inevitably I end up with a small group of students in danger of failing computer science because of a ridiculous backlog of missing work. Especially if the student needs the class to graduate there can be a lot of pressure and friction in this situation.

A few years back, after a particularly ugly round I had a brilliant idea – the action plan. I use this strategy to inject sanity into these stressful parent interactions.

It is a two step process.

  1. I have the students sign a plan that lists all the work they need to turn in.The key to this is use specific due dates. Don’t do the work on time? You don’t pass.
  2. I get them to sign it and mail a copy home, then call to let the parents know it is coming. Every time they miss an appointment to do the work, I call home.

I cannot begin to tell you how many headaches this avoids. Parents know exactly what is coming, and the student has an exact plan for how to improve the grade. Most of my students now successfully finish their step-by-step plan and end up passing.
For a kid that has fallen behind seeing a list of items listed by date takes an overwhelming problem and makes it doable.

And for the kids that don’t do it? It creates perfect documentation of how I tried to help them pass. It has removed almost all of  the tension form those end of the year parent conferences.

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

APCS MOOC: edhesive

If you haven’t checked out this free MOOC yet, it is definitely worth your time. With the free student account, students have access to video tutorials, multiple-choice practice problems, quizzes and programming activities (with a built-in coderunner) ; students can also track their progress through the course.   The videos are a great resource for the beginner student. The multiple choice questions give students the correct answers providing them with immediate feedback. With the built-in coderunner students can check their programs to see if they met the expected results of the programming description.

I am using this MOOC to help reach the needs of all of my students. The advanced students can work ahead of the class, and I can prescribe specific lessons/activities to help remediate my struggling students.

It is nice to see another APCS teacher’s approach to the curriculum. This is an incredible resource. Visit edhesive.com to create your own student account and gain access to all of these resources.

edhesive curriculum description

If you need more support, edhesive offers Coach Support for a fee.

coach support

edhesive also provides free courses for AP Computer Science Principles and Introduction to Computer Science.

edhesive logo

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.