Cultural Coding Challenge

Computer science is a growing field. The more technology advances, the more jobs and opportunities will become available in the computer science industry. However, there is a wide gender gap in the number of people filling those computer science positions. According to The National Center for Women and Information Technology, girls comprise only 19% of all computer science AP test-takers, and only 18% of all undergraduate computer and information science degrees are earned by women. Technology is used by the vast majority of society, yet if much of half of our population aren’t engaged in the creation process, then we are missing out on many potential innovations.

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In a recent global collaboration project that my 4th grade class participated in, we explored this issue while learning more about computer science and coding. We partnered with an all-girls coding college in Mexico City called Laboratoria. Our classes connected initially by doing a Mystery Skype with one another. Once we figured out the location of each class, then each class issued the other a coding challenge. The challenge was straightforward and simple enough: create something using a coding or computer science program that would tell about your state or country’s heritage and culture.

In small groups of three or four, my students created presentations using the coding program Scratch. Most of my students hadn’t had much experience using Scratch, but it was intuitive enough that they were able to figure it out as they went. The few students in my class with experience using Scratch were also great resources for the other students. They created their programs on Kansas symbols and important landmarks and history of the United States. We were able to take content that we had previously learned and apply it in a new way while exploring more about coding.

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When each class was done creating their coding projects, we connected via Skype again and each small group presented their projects to the other class through the screen-sharing feature on Skype. The students in both classes loved seeing the creations that the partner class had made. The experience was also a great way for my students to learn about issues such as gender equality and global educational access, as well as have discussions about why it is important for more girls to go into computer science-related fields. Below I have linked my class’ Scratch coding projects and the websites that the Laboratoria students created. We look forward to doing this project again in the future!

Here is link to my class’ Scratch coding projects. Mr. Flory’s class’ coding projects

Here are the links to the websites created by the Laboratoria students.

Group 1Group 2Group 3Group 4Group 5Group 6Group 7

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Digital storytelling

Whenever you read a good book, you often feel the urge to talk about it or retell your favorite parts. In education, teachers do a fine job of having students retell what they have read. Students get in pairs or small groups and talk about various aspects of the book, make connections, inferences, etc. For teachers looking to add more technology into their students’ retelling, there are a number of ways they can accomplish this.

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This past year, my class did a read aloud of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We partnered with another 4th grade class who was also reading this book at the same time. After every handful of chapters, our classes would retell a scene from the chapters that we had just read and then share them with the other class via Skype. For the first quarter of the book, we used Legos to build scenes from that section. In small groups, students decided on a scene from a specific set of chapters that we had read and then visually depicted the scene with Legos. We then Skyped with our partner class and each small group took turns holding their Lego scene up to the camera, while the other class tried to guess what scene or part of the book they were representing. After each successful guess, the group that created the scene would explain in more detail what the scene was about and why they choose to portray that part of the book.

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For the next section of the book, my students created human comics to retell a specific part of the book. In small groups, students reenacted a scene from specific chapters by positioning their bodies as characters and/or props while another classmate took their photo. The students then saved the photo to their student Google Drive and uploaded the picture to a class Slideshow that I had created and shared with the class. Once they had their picture uploaded, students then added text in speech and thought bubbles, as well as another other picture props they needed for the scene. When we connected with the other class, I shared my computer screen through Skype so that the other class could see our Slideshow. Each group would come up to the camera in turn and explain about their scene to the other class. Here is a link to view our Human Comic Slideshow.

Our last digital storytelling activity we did with the Harry Potter book was with green screen. Small groups of students chose a scene from our next few chapters of the book. Using a green screen and the DoInk app on the Ipad, students posed in front of the green screen as the characters would act during that part of the book. Next, they searched for a background picture that would work in that scene, before uploading it and adding the layer of their green screen photo. Once they saved that layer picture, students uploaded it in a Google Slideshow I created and shared with the class. Once again, students could then add text and picture props to add more to their scenes. When we Skyped with our partner class, I shared my screen and students explained more about their scene. Here is a link to view our Harry Potter green screen scenes.

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Adding technology to our story retelling and giving students a choice in what scene and how they would retell it was liberating for them. They were so excited to recreate parts of the book and to be able to share it with an authentic audience. I look forward to doing this activity again with another book and partner class in the future!