Coding for a beginner….

Hello all!

So, I have been searching, and looking and diving into various coding platforms and whatnot to find something that is more tangible for my current situation; FDELK.

You seen from my E.C.E. background I know that the ‘abstract’ is unavailable for my students currently, that being said I have explored and tried various coding programs out. These include Box Island (very cute but comes at a cost), The Foo’s, Kodable, ScratchJr and Scratch Kids Lite. You can see some of my adventures and posts within Twitter at @ArcherJoe with these applications.

All of these mentioned coding programs and applications work within the abstract world that kinders and early primary students do not fully understand. so, again searching for an answer I kept my mind open and continued the watch. This past week I went to Niagara Falls and ventured to Canconnect, where I believe I may have found an answer.

mBot is a fantastic tool for beginners to learning graphical programming (yes that’s right graphical; picture cued programming), electronics and robotics. This is an educational robot kit, where you actually build the mBot that is also compatible with regular lego. So, eventually you can also purchase add-on’s (lego-like) that could go along with the mBot. At its most basic functions it uses Scratch Programming through wireless control means via applications. Once students become more advanced it also uses Arduino programming so it can be used within all grade levels and ability levels; hence ‘the answer / solution’ to my preconceived notion and thoughts regarding coding in the kinder / primary classroom.

Don’t get me wrong; the Sprites in Scratch are very cute, but without one to one correlations, somewhat decent math understanding in adding, subtraction, directionality ‘Sprites’ do not provide a thorough or meaningful means of ‘seeing’ and ‘understanding’ what coding actually is deep down beneath everything.

So, being super intrigued and very excited I will try to ensure I share my experience along the way with MY new toy / experiment; mBot. Tomorrow I will be opening the actual box and giving this ‘tangible means’ of experiencing coding a whirl!

Stay tuned for updates and stories……

If anyone is using something other than mBot that is tangible please let me know!! I love to learn from others….I do know of Lego Storm Troopers, but my wife would probably move me to the couch if I spent over $500 to learn more about coding ‘just for fun’ and I am very partial to the bed!!

A humbling experience with Special Olympians

Last night my wife and I ventured to the Army and Navy in Simcoe for Simcoe Special Olympics Annual Award Banquet. We were guests of our respite client; Ms. Savage whom we have been with since she was 7 years old (She is graduating from Holy Trinity this year too) so she has been in our life for a long time.

Ms. Savage and her family have emerged as part of our extended family over the years, as they come to our kids birthday celebrations and holidays and we to theirs as well. Ms. Savage herself is unable to speak, as she was born with some struggles many of us will never experience. But this does not limit her at all, she has her ‘unique demeanor’ as I call it but she to us is much, much more! She is Auntie Cyp to our kids, she is our constant reminder of people whom struggle with life’s everyday challenges but she is exploring and experiences all aspects of life just as we would everyday, she is a trooper and an inspiration in our family! Cyp was also part of our wedding day as she signed the Lord’s Prayer for everyone, this is how involved and embedded her family is with ours!

A struggle or difference is not something that sets people like Cyp away from us as ‘normal’ people its what makes them that much more extra-ordinary!! Its what sets them apart and way above us!

Last night while enjoying a fabulous dinner that the ladies auxiliary put on for the amazing citizens of Haldimand / Norfolk County I was amazed by the sheer dedication and commitment that these individuals put in their sport(s), in their relationships with each other, their mentors and also their families that came with them too. I was totally humbled to be part of the experience for a fifth consecutive year as a supporter and volunteer within Simcoe Special Olympics.

If you are ever around anyone of these amazing kids (I always say kids despite many being old enough to be my parents) because they all live life similar to kids; laughing, enjoying and experiencing every moment with a ‘glass half full mentality’, you will always feel loved, appreciated and honored. They are always positive, even those Leafs fans within their ranks too (now that’s tough!). They are the people who make our lives seem so insignificant as they face so many challenges within every aspect of daily life we personally take for granted!

Our Auntie Cyp, as our kids call her; cannot talk, but she signs to communicate which is by the way the most amazing language and culture in the world! I took two full credits on Sign as my language potion of my BA, and was lucky enough to meet many deaf individuals and be invited for weekly Tim Horton visits which were mind blowing! Its a truly unique and amazing culture that infuses the ‘language of sign’ into every aspect of their natural life.

My three little monsters; Xander (5 yrs), Callie and Abbie (3 yrs) can sign and understand the signs as well that Auntie Cyp conveys.

The ability for my wife and I to sign has come in handy at the ice rink, pool, park, shopping (ie; No treats today), with our kids. They know what are signing from meters away, talk about amazing behavior management tools eh?!?! I even use sign within the classroom too!

Anyways I was merging into something else, back to my humbling experience. As I sat and watched the awards yesterday I was amazed with the unconscious passion for life these beautiful people had as they high fived, knuckled and cheered each other on when they received awards. Despite their differences, challenges they are people just like us that have a culture within themselves that they rejoice in that they share and enabled us all to appreciate what we are as people too!

I have to do a quick shout out to Mr. Gordy, a Special Olympic athlete that has been in every single sport, events and this year completed the Special Olympic Coaching Course to coach his fellow Special Olympians! Talk about inspiring, this guy was my hero last night because he did not do the coarse for himself, he said he completed the coaching coarse to ensure that his friends would always have a coach if Special Olympics did not have enough volunteers! Can you believe that!?!? Talk about mind blowing, honorable and humbling!

To all the Mr. Gordy’s and Auntie Cyp’s out there – hats off to you! Keep doing what you all are doing, share your special moments with us all! It just proves to everyone out there that no matter what challenges life imposes on us we can and always will overcome them with help from our friends, family, coaches and mentors! It proves that the ‘inner spirit’ is much more powerful then any crime, infraction or catastrophic event the world throws at us!

So, what I want to share with my friends, colleagues and people around the world is find one of these incredible people within your community, and shake their hand go for a coffee and get to know them because you will truly find more out about yourself then you can even imagine!!

In June we will venture to Holy Trinity to celebrate Cyp’s High-School graduation along with her family and once again be flabbergasted in sheer amazement that in the face of so many challenges one can so overcome all odds and succeed with family support and the inner drive and spirit to do so!!

Digital Natives in Our Classrooms….

So, last night I read a great article that was posted within our Digital Lead Learners shared networking account; called ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, which can be seen below.

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

The author, Marc Prensky notion that students of today are drastically different then students of yesterday, and that they are no longer the people are education system was designed to teach. This notion sat and resonated within me for a bit while reading the article and his thoughts and reasoning behind the statement came twofold when discussing the experiences these students have had since birth have all been infused in technology. Therefore, the different experiences created and changed their brain functionality, which is totally and drastically different then the 80’s, 90’s and even early 2000 babies.

I recently celebrated my 36th birthday and never really thought (although occasionally feel old due to my ‘hockey knees’) that I was old until I read this article. I always thought of myself as someone willing to go out and try new things for the students I teach. I never thought of myself as a ‘Immigrant’ as Prensky states ‘those of us not born within the digital age, but are fascinated and adopt many of the aspects of the new technology would be compared to the Digital Natives as Digital Immigrants’.

Not that being a immigrant is bad or anything but I would never have thought of us as different, that is until now. Unfortunately the fact of the matter is that we ARE drastically different in many aspects of life as we are programmed neurologically and environmentally drastically different! Our experiences growing up and the environmental aspects of life are all different! Wow, I honestly use to think my mother in law was so far off the beaten path from us and it drove me totally bonkers, but reflecting on this notion; this is how our students may be thinking as well.

So much for being ‘Cool Mr. Archer’, so this newly coined ‘Digital Immigrant’ will be exploring, diving deep into the new culture of the Digital Natives as this IS the new educational system we need to provide for these ‘Natives’ within our classrooms. Not saying the old ways are not good, however there is a way and means that we need to evolve and provide meaningful inquiry based learning experiences within the digital world for our students.

I loved Prenskys notion that ‘As a digital immigrant we turn to discover understanding from pre-programmed means embedded within our unconsciousness; which is books, however the digital natives unconsciously go to their pre-programmed means of obtaining information on varous subject matter through the net!’. My understanding of this blew me away as I try to always attempt going to the internet, although when someone asks me if I have resources for letter sounds and or phonemic awareness my unconsciousness directly turns to my resource shelves where I have acculumlated many, many great books, lesson plans etc over the past 9 years in education.

Its scary to think of yourself as old, but after reading this article I felt this way and never really understood the implications we are imposing on our students to learn the way we DID. This word ‘DID’ itself is past-tense meaning it was done before now; so why would we or even should we force these notions on todays students?!!? Just because we DID it this way and it WORKED (another past-tense) for us then doesn’t mean its the right and be all end all way to learn it now! Especially if the students we are teaching now are programmed differently, its not fair nor right for them.

Yikes; time to reflect and jump on the boat people, start putting yourselves in your students shoes, maybe that ‘lazy’ or ‘non-compliant’ student really just is not provided with the means to see what you are teaching that is meaningful to them!

What I personally have been going with lately (and this has only been a month or so; since reading George Corous’ book The Innovative Mindset) is what do you think? What do you know about this topic? What do you think you need to know and where / how are you going to find out this information?

I have found by taking a step back and resetting my personal mindset of directing, towards more guiding the individuals learning has been unbelievably amazing to watch as the magic that unwinds is beautiful! This can be applied to students, colleagues, volunteers within the school, teaching students, co-op students and yes even wives guys, hehehe jk!

Give it a shot people, take an extra step back and give everyone the benefit of a doubt and let them go at things by their ‘Native means’, you will be amazed with the results!!

On a last note, I would highly suggest everyone and anyone read Prensky’s 6 page article; Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants!! And just so you know as well, yes there IS ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part II’. Guess what I am doing today?!!?

Have a great self-refection after reading this article friends!!


A new ‘experience’ in Grand Erie…

So with technology flowing and being continuously infused within our buildings; Grand Erie is piloting many Tech Based programs this year.

Being a Digital Lead Learner (DLL) is exciting as we see and hear of various pilot project prior to many being release to the masses within the Board. Currently I am leading a Student Ed Tech Team in Hagersville Elementary @HESGEDSB, along with piloting scholastics Zorbits Math Applications (Which we are still working out minor bugs – almost there though), as well as jumping into something I have recently started playing around with last month in @Wordpress; Blogs.

In Grand Erie the Tech Team composed of some awesome people; Jeff Dumoulin, Norma Bingham and Christopher Bates brought in a new Edublogs innovative for personal and classroom blogs.

Personally I do not have a lot of experience with Blogs, however I have been following a few ‘Whales’ if you will; Brenda Blancher (Our Director) and her ‘Grand Connections’ as well as George Corous and his various postings on multiple subject matter. It was actually George that recommend I explore using WordPress to share thoughts and experiences and collaborate with other, so I gave it a shot and quick enjoy writing on various topics.

When an email came through to pilot a EduBlogs within Grand Erie I was excited to jump on Board and give it a whirl and see how things go.

The EduBlog site itself is infused with lots of options to create a very unique, appealing blog to share with others. With a few minor trouble shooting issues it’s starting to look pretty cool and is beginning to be able to do some of the things I am hoping to do, such as networking with others, sharing classroom experience, moments and learning too. What I really like is how we can insert students into this program similar to a ‘Ning’; which is a great resource, however there is a monthly cost of $25, so I am thinking this will become more and more popular and useful with more usage and more ‘play-time’ within the site itself too.

By allowing the students to become a member and sharing / posting work samples and whatnot we can brainstorm / network and innovate new ‘deeper’ work that encompasses depth and shows thorough understanding of the inquiries and learning occurring within classrooms. Now, being new to this I could be wrong but I am beginning to see a lot of potential embedded within EduBlogs!

Currently being placed in Kindergarten this page would be mostly for my DECE; Krista and I along with Teaching Students to share the learning occurring, but in Late Primary, Junior and for sure Intermediate Classrooms students will become very active members and contributors that will build a innovative culture of collaboration in a digital space to help support each others learning.

I am very excited to see what next years placement holds for me as this would be a fantastic tool to incorporate within a program with students capable of learning the tool and trade of blogging and networking!!

The future look bright people, I cannot wait to see what EduBlogs becomes for students, families and teachers too!

Initial post…

So, for my initial post within this new forum I just want to welcome people to this page and encourage you all to visit often for future postings on various topics from within the school environment.

I will share classroom stories, learning and innovation that occurs.

I will share stories regarding life as a father of three crazy kids (identical twin gals to boot).

I will also post and blog questions out to general public and the educational world too!

Be ready for some laughs, fun and learning because the world is about to experience Mr. Archer’s mindset for all its creativity, non-sense, quotes and learning from a unique perspective!




Hello Blogging-verse

Welcome to my brand new blog!!

This is part of a great pilot program being launched in Grand Erie that I was extremely excited to be part of!!

This is where you will find stimulating thoughts, stories and situations within the school environment that I hope people will use to reflect, collaborate and innovate themselves!

This space will not only be for entirely myself, but also stories from my students, colleagues and friends as well.

Thanks for taking an interest, I hope you come back to visit, share and learn all the while having a few good laughs too!


Mr. J. Archer


Twitter: @ArcherJoe

B.A., Arts, M.ED, E.C.E

Digital Lead Learner in Grand Erie

Remind Connected Educator

Husband, Father of Three Crazy Kids

Norfolk Station #2 Fire Fighter 218