Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Watching Children Think

I was amazed at our students last week as I facilitated the Hour of Code in lower elementary classrooms with the help of classroom teachers.  Even the youngest students showed the ability to think through sequential steps and then test their hypotheses.  Watching them work through the problems and solve them was thrilling to my teacher heart. The kind of thinking needed for computer programming is also useful in so many other areas, and these children showed me that all of them could do it! Looking at their faces and seeing their minds work was so exciting!

If you are a parent of a child in grades K-3 and you would like to continue having your child use "Kodable," the iPad app we used during the Hour of Code, you can download the free app onto your iPad.  Once the app is opened, you should be able to find a place where you can enter a class code. No iPad, no problem, you can also play online on a computer and can enter a class code there as well! Go to and click on "Play Now".  Any child can play online, even if they are not in one of these classes, but if your child is in grades K-3, choose "Play with class or student code" and then "Enter class code."

The class codes that I created for our lower elementary students are:
ccskindfirst - for kindergarten and first grades
ccssecond - for second grade
ccsthird - for third grade
Once you enter the code, your child can find his or her name in the list and get started!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hour of Code

Every day this week, elementary students and some middle school students will be participating in this year's "Hour of Code" and will be exposed to fundamentals of computer coding. This is the second year that CCS has participated in the "Hour of Code," and this year grades K-3 will be using the elementary iPads to learn some of the logic and sequencing necessary for computer coding by creating commands for fuzzy creatures to follow in an app called "Kodable." Grades 4, 5, and 7 will incorporate the "Hour of Code" into their regular computer classes.

As CCS is ever moving forward in technology (we now have a computer programming class for high school and are introducing more programming at the lower levels) being one of 76,877 Hour of Code events around the world is just one part of our technology growth.  We hope that our students will become excited about the possibilities and will improve their logic and thinking in the process!

Check out the Hour of Code website at and try some of the activities for yourself! Check back for an update after the week is over.

Last year's coders had a great time! >>>>

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Importance of a Power Supply

Last week one of the computers in the middle school computer lab stopped working. It would not even turn on. Push the button... nothing. Push it again, harder... nothing. There were a couple of small lights on inside, so I knew that somehow electricity was getting to the computer, but nothing was running, no hard drive spinning merrily, no fans whirring, nothing on the screen, no output.  I lugged it back to my office and, just yesterday, opened it up to see what the problem was. Troubleshooting is always interesting.  A colleague and I began taking things out, unplugging components, and checking to see if there was a short somewhere. Bottom line? A bad power supply, in fact, a dead power supply. We did not have on hand the exact power supply it needed, so we improvised, jerry rigged, "MacGyvered" a solution. A smaller power supply with the right wattage got that computer up and running again. It may not look particularly elegant, but it works.  A computer is only as good as its power supply.

And that got me thinking about my power supply. As a believer in Jesus, I need power to get up and running each day, to live my life for the Lord. That power only comes from God, as a gift. He is the one who needs to troubleshoot my life and point out the connections that are not working. He has given me prayer as a way to connect to Him, as my power supply. Even if my prayers are small and may not be elegant, the power He gives through prayer is much bigger than I can imagine, and it is all that I need.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Learning to be "Interactive" in a New Way

Our teachers have always been interactive. Students at CCS experience a multitude of hands-on activities, and our faculty members excel at interacting personally with students to make sure that they are receiving the education that fits them best. This year, however, brings a new kind of interactivity.

Let me back up to last spring. The Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit offers instructional and collaborative meetings for technology directors in public and private schools in those counties. Last spring I attended one of those meetings and met a technology director from a public district in the area. As we spoke together, he mentioned that his district was going to be making a change in the classrooms, and he had quite a few interactive white boards that he would have to discard. Opportunity was knocking loudly at the door!  I asked if his district would consider donating those perfectly good interactive white boards to our school. He followed up with his administration, and they agreed to make the donation!

By this past summer, we had received the hardware, and the boards were being installed in our classrooms. Teachers have already started using the technology and are learning more each day.  An interactive board allows teachers and students to work on the board using touch or special pens in the same way as you could work on a computer with a touch screen, only Bigger!  Teachers say that students are more engaged and excited about learning when they are using this technology. The boards make learning new ideas and reviewing past material more interesting and stimulating.

Because the boards were just installed this summer, it is a challenge for teachers, who are busy with the day-to-day of teaching, to learn all of the ways to integrate this new tool, but they are going for it! It's not the tool but the teachers who use it that make the difference. We are blessed with dedicated, creative teachers who now have a new way to be interactive!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Google Classroom - Learning in the Cloud

For quite a few years now, CCS has been using Google Apps for Education. This suite of applications allows students in grades 6 through 12 to work on documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more online and then to access their work from anywhere that an internet connection is available. It also allows students to collaborate in real time on projects even if the students live miles apart.  This summer Google introduced Google Classroom, and many of our teachers have jumped right in and are already using it quite a bit.  Google Classroom allows teachers to post assignments to their classes online and allows students to turn those assignments in online. This can cut down on wasted paper and printing, help students and teachers stay organized, as well as (hopefully) eliminate the frustration of lost assignments.  If you have  students in grades 6 through 12, ask them if they have had a chance to use Google Classroom yet this year.  These days, it's all about the cloud!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Reading a Real Book? Made of Paper?

I well remember the deep satisfaction of curling up on a comfortable chair with a book I could not put down.  I have been a reader since I could first decode those letters on a page. Just this week I sat in on the end of an honors English class. Students were reading, reading real books, and looked engaged and thoughtful and completely absorbed. I loved it.

Miss Whisler recently shared an article with me that resonated deep in my reader's heart. The article, published in the Wall Street Journal, was entitled, "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress." The article noted the difference between skimming through the words on a website and slowly reading a novel. Those who tout the benefits of slow reading say, "it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize."  I believe it!

When I listen in occasionally to Mrs. Horning as she walks her students through the thinking and discerning process of evaluating the literature they have been reading, I am delighted that our students are learning in this environment. When I stop in to work on computers in the third grade and hear students reading to each other, I am thrilled to be a part of all of this.

Yes, my job is working with the school's computers and technology, and I love that, but I will gladly put that aside for a while to just read. Time to head for the library!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Passwords, they keep you safe, and can drive you crazy!

One of the things that we teach students here at school is how to create strong passwords.  You probably know that one of the most common passwords used is "password." Not a good choice! A strong password uses both lower and uppercase letters as well as numbers.  It does not use recognizable words. Let the internet help you find a strong password. Just google "password generator" and you will have many to choose from. Of course, the "driving crazy" part is when you forget your password.  The line of students at my office door last week needing to reset their forgotten passwords testifies to that issue. So have a place (not beside your computer!) where you write down your passwords.

As for your iOS device (iphone, ipad, etc.), how secure is that?  If someone found it, could they figure out your passcode?  I recently read an article that listed the top ten iOS passcodes to avoid. They are the most common ones.  The top five are 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111 and 5555.  The article stated, "Also frequently used were patterns. Anything that makes a shape on the keypad, or a common word, should be avoided (5683, the 6th most commonly used passcode, spells LOVE)."

Is it time to reset those old passwords?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What do you think?

I like that question, "What do you think?",  much better than, "This is the answer."  I want my students to learn how to THINK!  My own children will tell you that when they were young, and asked me a question, I would often say, "What do you think is the answer?"  (This did not always go over well!)  This trimester I am teaching Web Design, and we start with learning XHTML code.  Experimentation is key.  Try putting something into the editing page: a hexadecimal color code, a new tag, an attribute for an image, guess what might happen, then save it and refresh the web page to see what actually did happen.  We learn a lot more from experimentation than from just copying and memorizing. Thinking for yourself and experimenting will often lead to mistakes. Mistakes are an important part of learning, and actually develop neurological connections which lead to more learning!  (See this article from the Khan Academy for more.)  So, the next time your child asks you how to spell something, or what the answer is to a math problem, try answering, "What do you think?"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Digital Citizenship

Here at CCS all students in grades 4 through 8 receive computer instruction on a variety of relevant topics such as: using different types of software, learning and improving typing skills, creating content, and participating in interactive online activities.  One important area of our curriculum is Digital Citizenship, teaching students how to be good digital citizens in today's connected world.  This includes lessons on privacy & security, digital footprint, cyber-bullying, information literacy, internet safety, and copyright. We use materials from Common Sense Media which are timely and appropriate for each grade level.  A new addition to our faculty, Mrs. Melissa Beagle, is teaching those computer classes this year. However, digital citizenship is not just for school.  It is important, also, for parents at all levels to keep the dialogue open at home about the many decisions we all have to make when we use our connected devices and interact with the media all around us.  You might enjoy the Back-to-School page at the Common Sense Media site!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

God is Present even in Computer Code!

"God is master over all things, even stubborn Linux issues."  This is what I would remind myself of as we worked to customize the operating system and make it just right for the CCS student computers. We started with an educational version of the Linux Ubuntu operating system called "Ubermix" and then tweaked and modified and adapted until it was just right. This week the students started using it and, so far, it seems to be working great!  Why switch?  Our computers were running Windows XP, which came to the end of its life (and was no longer supported by Microsoft) last spring.  As both a financial savings, and a deliberate decision to use open source software to expand students' chances to learn more, we chose to make the switch.

And how does God work in something as "unholy" as computers? He shows Himself in all things: finding the answer to a tenacious programming problem on page two of an Ubuntu forum comment, providing two amazing 8th grade boys to help set up computers in the summer, seating one of those boys at the exact computer that needed to be fixed when he came into his computer class (and he knew just how to fix it!).  Yes, God is master over all things.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

P2P Student Tech Support

Michael Myers and Scott Kimball have already started helping out as the P2P Student Tech Support team. They are helping to set up and configure new teacher laptops and desktops.

P2P Tech Support

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pulling Wires

A big thank you to Steve Hutchinson, Pat Grab, Aaron Grab, and Dave Myers for working on the upgraded network wiring.  New fiber is being added to our buildings to improve the school network. A faster internet connection should be up and running soon as well.  Pulling wires through old buildings is hot and dirty work and it is much appreciated. God is faithful to provide just the right people at the right times!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Computer work is never done

Summer is the time for upgrading systems, improving the network, installing new stuff, and starting up a P2P Student Tech Support Team.  Stay tuned for more information!