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Hour of Code: Inspirational, Engaging, Authentic

The Middle School continues integrating technology into the curriculum in ingenious new ways, among them taking part in the global “Hour of Code” movement.

In addition to directing academic technology for Kindergarten through Grade 12, Elizabeth (Liz) Harnage has been the Middle School’s Academic Technology Integrator for the past six years.  Liz teaches fifth through eighth grade technology classes with a focus on innovative technologies, introductory computer programming, 3D design and printing, augmented reality, underrepresented groups in technology, computer history, digital citizenship, digital storytelling – and much more.

MS Hand in HandIn fifth grade, each student is issued a Chromebook that must be kept at school, a BFS email account, and they begin using Google Docs to complete homework assignments.  They’re also introduced to the array of other Google Classroom apps such as Google Slides presentation software. For their units on ancient history, teachers Kathleen Clinchy and Michael Roth used Google Maps to create individualized maps of ancient areas that they used to enhance their lecture content. Moreover, the students used “Easy Bib” to generate digital notecards for their studies.

Fifth graders also start using Haiku, a cloud-based learning management system that they’ll continue using through senior year. The web-based learning environment includes a homework board and supplemental course content provided by their teachers such as videos, presentations and web links.

As computer and web use for schoolwork becomes more intensive in sixth grade, Liz kicks off her sixth grade technology classes by talking about the digital footprints that we leave behind online. “We did interactive assignments and learned the ways companies can track us online,” she said. “This led to stimulating discussions about the meaning of privacy and how we can stay as safe as possible.”

Sixth graders also saw a 3-D printer in action and began their own experiments in creating 3-D designs using the Tinker CAD and 3DT in websites. They then used cutting edge Prezi.com’s presentation software to make interactive presentations on what they learned about 3-D printing. As a prelude to seventh grade, they studied computer programming, computational thinking, and set up accounts on Code.org.

Seventh graders explored 3-D design and printing for the first time this year. They created augmented reality scavenger hunts with the iPad app Aurasma. Augmented reality is a live view of the real world that is being simultaneously manipulated in some way onscreen, such as adding an animated character to a video feed that students can interact with in real time

The eighth grade classes learned basic HTML and CSS web design code and have created their own Tumblr blogs using those coding languages. They also used the 3D printers and designed their own figurines using 3DTin.

Throughout the middle school grades and even in the afterschool program, students have been using  LittleBits DIY Electronics kits and Makey Makey kits to connect the physical world to the digital world and solve real-life problems.

With all these programs in place, middle schoolers are more than ready to take flight into our technological world. As Liz put it, “BFS is a school that implores its students to think critically about how they use and consume different technologies. I believe we are building something special as we cultivate an environment where burgeoning computer programmers, 3D designers, and thoughtful digital citizens walk the halls.”