Investigating Alice 3

I have to admit I’m a little bit sceptical about the benefits of using Alice in the classroom compared with other applications. However I do have to teach it this year, so today I have tasked myself with investigating how it works and what resources I can find. My biggest question is what can I do with it?

First step installation:

Now to try out the various instruction manuals:

Carnegie Mellon first

Ugh the format is powerpoint, will have to convert first! Thankyou google slides.

The first slides tell me I will be learning “how to program in the context of animation, simulation, storytelling, and building short games”. Sounds promising so far.
I am liking their slides so far, nice descriptions and explanations. Although they are perhaps pitched at my level rather than the students I will be teaching. They are explaining objects, instances and inheritance really well.

I’ve done the first set, but I just want to make something … not just have concepts explained. Think I will move onto another tutorial. If I’m bored I imagine my students would be too. The first few tutorials are well worth using the concepts for, but then I think it goes into too much depth and not enough doing.

Collin College

This tells you how to do it in Alice and then how to do the same thing in Java. Definitely not what I am looking for at the moment.

How to Guide

A useful reference

Oracle Academy

This one is a good step by step progression and very easy to follow. A good resource for students to work through as well if they need to know how to do something specific.

There are also these which could be used in the classroom:

So in conclusion the Carnegie Mellon is good for explaining Object Oriented concepts and the Oracle one is good for a quick run through that I would base a demonstration for students on.

I can see that this will take a bit more time for me to get my head around the full extent of what can be done, rather than just simple animations. And I think that unless you get the students to fully understand the concepts and in addition write their own procedures the benefit of using this in the classroom is lost. It would merely become a cool 3D animator.

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Learning Python – Part 2

The second night was full on with us creating a text based game using multiple classes and inheritance. It was a great learning experience and a good refresher on classes, objects and instances. Something it always takes me time to get my head around.

What I couldn’t stop thinking about was how to implement at Level 3. Is the step up so big that it is just not worth contemplating using Python? The standard requires the use of a GUI and that is not easy. We didn’t even get that far in our course and it requires further investigation.

So is Python really the best choice for a language to be used at school or are there better alternatives?

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Learning Python – Part 1

Tonight I went to the first evening of two, on how to program in Python, specifically aimed at teachers. The workshop was being run by Tanya Gray from Gather Workshops. They run economical, fantastic PD for Digital Technologies and I encourage you to check them out.

I’ve been a programmer for a long time, but I’ve never used Python, and I thought it was about time I took a look at it. And yes I could have taught myself, but as always it is finding the time, and this gave me the opportunity to block out some time and get to grips with it.

But the best part, was meeting a group of dedicated teachers giving up 2 evenings because they think that this is an important skill to learn so they can pass on the knowledge to their students.

However, of concern was hearing some of the messages that are being disseminated about what is required for some of the NCEA standards. We had quite a discussion about whether global variables are required to achieve at excellence  in level 2. It is such a shame that the standards are not being interpreted in their true essence and perhaps bad programming practice is being taught in order to “meet the standard”. I really hope that the CS4HS conference in Christchurch will clarify this and clear the misconceptions.

Anyway, it was a great night and I’m looking forward to making a game tomorrow night.

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Year 10 – Mixing it up

After the Ulearn session on “Creativity is not just for the arts” run by Steve Mouldey, it got me thinking about how I could apply his MacGyver activity to my Year 10s as a great discussion about prototyping and knowing your stakeholder. Actually creating something for the client. This is a hard concept to get Technology students to focus on and really understand.


It also got me thinking about really letting go and letting them choose their own projects in an area of interest.

So how did it go?

We started with the activity.

  1. The students were told to go and find someone in the class they didn’t know and go and find things out about them.
  2. Then they were told they were going to make an accessory for that person.
  3. They were then allowed to select materials from the room. I gave them a little more time than Steve had given us, as 30 students in a computer lab had the potential for injuries.
  4. A short amount of time to make the accessory for the person. Thinking about what they liked.
  5. Presentation to the other person and feedback.
  6. A bit more time to refine and the final presentation.


Great learning out of this, especially when for example the bracelet didn’t fit the person. And then we could discuss how we need to actually think about the client and what they want, not what we think we would like to make.

Then this led into the next part of the lesson. They were already away from their comfort zone seats and ready to think a bit more laterally about what they could be doing next.

I asked them to think about something they would like to do for the rest of the term. I gave them some suggestions, as I was aware that they didn’t know what was out there. I think this needs work in the future, as I perhaps needed to show them some ideas of what other people have created, but would that have stilted their ideas. Love to hear your comments on that.

So then I asked for ideas and I wrote them on the board. I checked that everyone was interested in at least one idea on the board. I then asked them to stand in groups with the idea they wanted to do and appointed a “leader” of each group.

Their task was then to discuss what they wanted to do in the group and also come up with a way of proving to me that they had achieved something at the end, a way of measuring their success. This will be the hardest part for them I think. I will be checking in with the groups to see how they are going this afternoon.

We have groups doing Photoshop, Illustrator, Websites, Gamemaking and Robotics – I hope I can keep up!

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Girl Geek Dinner – Auckland

Last night I attended my first ever “Girl Geek Dinner“. I took my daughter who is a first year engineering student in the hope that it would help her start to make some contacts in the world that she will be entering.

First of all I would like to say it was extremely good value, thanks to all the sponsors. There was ample food, a complimentary drink and excellent speakers. The only thing that could possibly be improved would be a slightly less noisy environment (music was a bit loud) with better lighting. People tended to cluster in groups of people they knew, rather than talking to others. Personally we met two other interesting women and it was great to talk to them.

Victoria Crone – Xero

“You can have everything, but it is really hard work”. Don’t think that you can’t do things. You can be happy and have what you want, but you do have to work at it.

“Perceptions around women in industry and raising families is changing – albiet slowly”. This brought up some interesting comments about how the pressure is actually turning and women are expected to go back to work sooner and the impact that has.

Kelly Ann McKercher – OptimalExperience

I really enjoyed her approach here. She reminded us that we are all designers, whether it is our job or not. That there are important guidelines when we are designing things. That we should be making things to solve issues, not just because we think it is a good idea.

She would be a fantastic speaker to have along to speak to our students.

Katrina Clokie – Assurity NZ

An interesting talk about what can go wrong when you don’t test for everything that people might do on a system. About how that had led her into testing and the enjoyment she got out of it. The human characteristics and psychology of what people will try to do, to try and get around all the checks you have put in place.

She even made testing sound interesting!

Jodi Mitchell – Simpl

The takeaways from this talk for me, were about goal setting, getting out of your comfort zone and just going for it.

Overall it affirmed for me that I need to think about what I really want. Set goals and go for it. Be confident in my skills. This was a great evening to go to and fitted in with my current purposeful direction.

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It has been a while since I have blogged, and I put that down to the fact that I’ve been building my resilience.

I was in hospital with my son the other night and it was this tweet from AnneMarie that got me thinking about resilience:


She was so right, all the things that had been happening lately were definitely teaching me and my family resilience.

Resilience started popping out at me everywhere. It was in the newspaper with an article about John Kirwan wanting it to be taught in schools and it was dropping into my twitter feed.

And it started me thinking. For the last few months I had started to feel like everything was going wrong. Why was I feeling that way and what had really changed? I am no stranger to adversity and change, but something was different and I wasn’t coping.

I then remembered a friend of mine telling me (many years ago) that I always got what I wanted in the end, that something always came along. She couldn’t understand why I was so lucky. And I thought to myself it isn’t luck, it’s goal setting and planning, and learning from mistakes.

So to get back to here and now. That was what was wrong. I’d lost my mojo, my way forward. I’d forgotten that I need to get back up and plan for the future and set those goals. I’ve reassessed, planned and worked out a way forward and of course everything looks a lot better.

But the real question is, how do we teach our students this. My own children, bless them, have resilience in spades. We don’t hide things from them or try and protect them from the truth. We go through our roller coaster life together.

I think we need to talk to students about the good and the bad. Help them plan for things and have contingency plans. Teach them how to get through adversity and look forward. How to set goals and how to measure how they are doing. Be good role models and be there for them.

I certainly don’t have all the answers of how you implement this in a classroom, but I think the biggest thing is to be there and available and actually know your students. In the past I’ve not really thought about the importance of goal setting for students, but my own experience now tells me it’s something I shouldn’t just be paying lip service to.

Thank goodness for the holidays, giving me the time to stop, think and evaluate.

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No Regrets

Every so often I, like so many others, lapse into that “what if” state of mind. For me its the what if I hadn’t had this crazy idea to move to Auckland?  And yes it hasn’t been easy, but look at all the opportunities.

So I choose to turn it around and say what if I hadn’t?

I wouldn’t have the amazing PLN that I have today. Thanks to Raewyn at my new school this year I rediscovered Twitter. And in the process reconnected with some amazing teachers that I had had the privilege to be colleagues of before like Philippa and Danielle. I still remember my very first #edchatnz (not that long ago) when I got that tweet from @AKeenReader “pssst it’s Philippa from Marsden”. That was so special, reconnecting with a dear friend and being inducted into what I can only describe as an awesome group of people, who are so willing to share.

I would still be in my safe niche of a job. Challenging the norm in my little pond. Instead I’m in a much bigger pond, with bigger opportunities to influence. I have met so many more passionate educators in the past year than in all the years I’ve been teaching.

I wouldn’t have taken a year out to go back to industry and discover I like teaching better. I’d still be bemoaning how much more money I could earn. Instead I now know that I am a teacher through and through and I love to help students. I love discovery and learning new skills. Every day is different and it is (usually) good.

I wouldn’t have looked at my own children’s education and thought about what is good for them. I wouldn’t have rocked the boat and supported them to be the best that they can be. I would have just kept them in their little ponds too.

And lastly and my most challenging. I wouldn’t be looking at next year and wondering what it will bring. Yes it is uncertain,however I believe that what will be, will be – and it will be awesome and challenging. After all what if I hadn’t?


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Year10 – Part 3

I’ve been meaning to write up the results of my collaborative project with Year 10 for a while now.

It was definitely a success, the work they produced was fantastic. I’ve never had so much fun marking assessments before. Of course I had to play their games and try and win. I must confess that for some of them I had to get my children to play because I sucked at getting to the next levels.

I know it was a success because I got better work than I expected. My more challenged students succeeded. They were engaged the whole time. They had fun.

Interestingly as I was marking them I kept thinking I was giving out a lot of Excellences, was this right? Then I remembered that that should be the whole point – I should get better work when the students are engaged and having fun.

Looking forward to their next collaborative project. I’m letting @tanya experiment on them and it’s going to be great.

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The #edchatnz Blogging Meme

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn’t)
For me, it had to be face to face! I live less than 10 minutes down the road from HPSS. In fact I registered and then asked school if I could go. Luckily they said yes.

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
There were 10 of us from Westlake Girls High School. But I spent most of my time avoiding them (only because I wanted to meet other new people).

3. How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
Ummm, maybe one. I was too busy revelling in the goodness. But I spent a lot of time checking my back for post it notes.

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
@mattynicholl – to be careful what you say when posing for grelphies
@mindkits – that perseverance does pay off. Finally got that robot to work.
@GeoMouldey – Well actually I learnt a lot from his students and what they are capable of expressing and explaining when given the chance.

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
Face to face #edchatnz. But I really wanted to go and play with the robots. It was a tough choice.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned?
Actually everyone I wanted to go, went. I think we had a great group from our school attend and I’m sure it will continue to grow.

6. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?
Yes – I missed meeting @rosmaceachern. She has been a real encourager for me and we’ve never met.

7. What is the next book you are going to read and why?
3D Game programming for kids because I’m a geek and I’ve got to find some more stuff for Code Club for Teachers.

8. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #EdchatNZ?
I’m going to investigate SOLO again.

9. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
I’m trying to do that now, within the constraints of the school. As @mrsmeganpete said – don’t always tell them what you are doing.

Who do I tag with this meme:

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Let’s start a code club for teachers

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of talk lately about how coding is important, how it should be taught in schools and how important it is for everyone to at least understand the basics. This got me to thinking about the barriers facing our teachers in school. And I think it is mostly lack of support.

So I decided that what we needed was a coding club for teachers. To give them skills and confidence to give it a go.

So on twitter the other night I put the idea out there about floating it at educampAKL. I actually can’t believe I did that – so not me. But thanks to some great encouragement I added my slide. Luckily I convinced a like mind @tanya to come along too.

So the day arrived and Smackdown happened – I said my piece (uggh so embarrassing) and Tanya said hers and the vision was born. Was anyone interested?

Well I’m still buzzing about our session. The room was crowded, the people keen and so Code Club for Teachers was born. Check it out here.

Thanks everyone who was there. It was awesome. Onto to my next idea – watch this space!  

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