Sept/Oct Week Recap

Lots going on this past week!

Patterson held our 7th annual Community Fair and Back-To-School-Night last Thursday:

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At the fair, we set up tables for engineering / computer science pathways, and for our STEM clubs (robotics, coding, cyber, engineering). I ran into Rudy Ruiz, formerly Baltimore City Schools’ executive director for college & career readiness and a supporter of our annual EDD Symposium, who is now with the Maryland Business Roundtable!

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Friday was a chaotic day. With computers down all day for reimaging, we did code annotation in AP CSA, binary/octal/hexadecimal in AP CSP, and sketched out arc initials in CIM. We hosted our first monthly Patterson Girls (Who) Code mentoring lunch!

Monday back into the groove of things – my two engineering colleagues were out on a Manufacturing Week field trip to Northrop Grumman, where students assembled 3D-printed components into a “fidget cube”. AP CSP students coded their first apps in MIT App Inventor! (A “magic trick” app where a rabbit pops up out of a hat and a musical “ta-da” sound plays.)

Today was a long day, but a good one. AP CSA students are manipulating strings to use names and input information to create a new alien / science-fiction name for themselves. AP CSP students moving on to their second app. And in CIM we began our skills tracking system, which I will soon write a whole post about this year’s version of standards-based grading. CTE department meeting after school. Coach class and working with a colleague on 3D-modeling with Autodesk Inventor software. Saw a colleague engineering teacher from another Baltimore high school who stopped by. Then, leaving around 7pm, saw this sunset:

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#days18-21 #teach180 #180blog

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Hot Days of September

I know that I am super-lucky to have a classroom with two working air conditioners. But 90%+ of teachers and students in my school are not so lucky, and have to teach and learn in very inhospitable conditions. One teacher at my school recorded a temperature of 114° in her classroom this past Monday, and my school had the honor (or misfortune) of being written up in the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday:

Sun article: “Baltimore classrooms top 100 degrees: ‘It was impossible to learn.'”

114 degrees

Caption from Baltimore Sun: “A thermometer reads 114 degrees in a classroom at Patterson High School on Monday in this photograph posted on Twitter by Patterson English teacher Allison Greco. (Allison Greco)”

Issues of heat and cold and dilapidated building are not new to Baltimore, nor to this blog:

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Number Systems

Binary and hexadecimal today in AP CSP:

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When I was in elementary school, I was fascinated with number systems. I know I read about some different number systems used by different cultures through history in a book of number history my parents had, and was also inspired by some discussion of binary / ternary / base-4 in The Math Curse. I asked my mom to explain them, and she did.

Somehow (I forget the source, if it was a news article or an “interesting fact” in some book), I got really into the Inupiaq number system, both the symbols and the base-20 place value system for writing them. I remember writing the date in the upper right-hand corners of my papers using Inupiaq numerals each day in Mrs. McCarthy’s 4th grade class (or was it 6th grade? — she was my teacher both those years).

Always lots of fun teaching number systems! One of my favorite topics. 🙂

#day16 #apcsp #teach180 #180blog

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Planning In Code

One of the skills I work with students on in many of my classes is how to plan to code, in a helpful and efficient way. This is true certainly in my computer science classes but also in my Principles of Engineering (POE) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) classes as well. Pseudocode, flow charts, process flow diagrams, are all structures and formats I have used before with students, with varying degrees of success.

This year, with Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CSA), I definitely plan to use several of the UML diagram formats with Java coding. Certainly class diagrams (like this one I posted last week) fit very well with an object-oriented language like Java. The course I took this summer on the Software Development Process, and especially our group project there, helped me understand several of the UML formats in a deeper way; I can definitely see myself using the Use Case and perhaps Sequence diagrams as well.

Anyway, today I worked with my AP CSA students to develop a few less-formal diagrams on the board: We did some mind mapping together as we brainstormed attributes or variables with values that would apply to weather (for a weather app):

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And then we did the beginning of a decision tree:

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My engineering students are using a planning table on paper to plan out their G&M-codes they will use to control the CNC milling machine to carve out their initials.

And my AP CS Principles students haven’t gotten deep enough into code yet to use a planning template. We have done some coding using Python as a calculator and to draw pictures (turtle library), and to play interactively against the “intelligent paper”. But most of our time so far has been discussing computing innovations, their impact on society, and working on a research presentation.

After school today, I had students stay for CyberPatriot practice, and it was also the first day of Interactive Mural Lab, led by some folks from MICA, which will help coach some students to creative a computer-programmed, electronics-infused, creative mural on a wall of our school! I’m super-excited to watch their progress over the course of this year, both to see how the mural turns out, and to see what skills and techniques students will learn as a part of this project.

Phew – I’m exhausted just writing about all that! 🙂  Have a good evening.

#day15 #180blog #teach180

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Team meetings

One of the things we’ve tried to do over the years is to meet as an engineering department once a week, every Friday. There are so many things to discuss and work on, from field trips, to after-school clubs, to purchasing equipment & materials, to recruiting students into the pathway. Some years that has not been possible, if we don’t have the same planning period, so we would just grab a few minutes here and there (perhaps after the school day was over). Other years we kept it less formal, since my colleagues and I would constantly be having meetings and working together every day.

This year, we brought back the tradition, stronger than ever:

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Five of us, from engineering, computer science, and entrepreneurship, on the Academy of Engineering and Technology (AOET) team. Go team!

Another thing that has kept us strong over the years is support from teachers at other schools (unlike a math department, nine-strong at a school the size of Patterson, most engineering schools only have 1-2 engineering teachers at each school) and from industry and higher education. We meet once a month with our Program Advisory Committee (PAC), which supports and advises the seven Baltimore City high schools with PLTW Engineering programs. We had our first PAC meeting of the new school year yesterday (Monday) afternoon at OpenWorks. This year, one of our main foci is going to be pipeline development, including strengthening connections with middle schools and with colleges/universities.

Later this week, on Thursday, Code in the Schools will host our first monthly Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting with Baltimore City computer science teachers.

[Days 9-10 #180blog]

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Emotional Day

Lots went on today.

A new-teacher colleague with mixed emotions after finding out a student she called home to report misbehavior was homeless.

Students so excited to research careers related to computer science that I had to drag them on to the next activity.

A fight in the cafeteria during lunch time.

A fire drill after lunch.

Our principal coming on over the public address system to say (as transcribed by another teacher, who posted the below message on facebook):

“I need this message to be translated in every language we have in this building.

We all have to be here, and we have to be here together, so we might as well love each other. There is enough violence in your lives at home, and where you come from. We do NOT need that violence here at school.

We are all here together as one family. Every staff person here, every teacher here, loves you. We all want you to have a chance at life.

With that being said, everybody take a deep breath.” He paused. So he could breathe. So we could all breathe.

“Everybody take a second to think about somebody they love.” Again, he paused.

“Now let’s send that love everywhere, to everyone.”

After school, ten students stayed for coach class / tutoring help, a possible record for me for after school coach class (though not for after school clubs, nor for lunch coach class).

Day 8, over and out.

 

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Calendar Filling Up

[Year 12, Day 7 #180blog post]

I use Google Calendar to track my schedule, including meetings, deadlines, clubs, field trips, trainings, etc.

Most years, I also use a paper copy of a blank calendar, for one of several purposes:

  • Plotting out weeks of lessons and units for each class
  • A visual record of our engineering/CS team’s hard work (how much we do)

Today also I shared a PHS Cyber google calendar with our cybersecurity club (a subset of our coding club).

Here’s a look at my next month:

calendar

Due to factors discussed in my last post, plus thoughts running through my head last night that delayed sleep, I was not early enough to school this morning to prepare an online, nor a typed quiz for my first period class today. So I went old-school on them, and wrote the questions on the chalkboard!

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Performed bad and good pecha kuchas today for my CS Principles class (lesson), then started the students off on research toward making their own!

CIM students worked on writing programs for their CNC initials using G/M codes.

Met with one precalculus student today to review incorrect answers on her diagnostic test, and gave a quiz to my other precalculus student, which she aced!

Had our coding club kickoff meeting today, with pizza, apps, and cybersecurity competition planning.

Then saw these beautiful views of the sunset on my way home:

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