Thursday, November 13, 2014

Join the Hour of Code

On December 8-14, 2014, millions of students will participate in a global learning event called the Hour of Code. This growing movement celebrates, encourages, and supports people of every age and ability to learn programming and other parts of computer science. 

We are living in a time that requires us to speak the language of technology, and yet only ten percent of schools in the United States offer computer science classes, there are fewer computer science graduates today than a decade ago, and women and minorities make up a very small fraction of technology professionals. Yet, the career opportunities in coding professions are vast. The Hour of Code was started as a way to reach more people and start them down a path to becoming technology creators. All it takes is an hour!

What does it look like to participate in the Hour of Code?
There are many ways to participate in the Hour of Code, from self-directed learning to structured events and classroom lessons., the organization behind Hour of Code, provides many online tutorials and resources that anyone can use. 

Teachers, librarians, and parents can organize Hour of Code events using the materials on the event website, or they can develop their own materials. There is even a how-to guide to starting an event from scratch. The important thing is to participate!

If you are planning an Hour of Code event, consider registering it on the website—you will be counted among the many worldwide participants, and you will be entered to win some amazing prizes, including $10,000 in technology for your school.

I’m not a technology teacher. Does this apply to me?
Absolutely! Technology is a language that everyone needs to speak. Even if you have no background in computer science, technology, or programming, you can (and should) participate in the Hour of Code. You are modeling an important behavior for your students by showing them that programming is accessible to everyone. has tutorials for all age levels and abilities, and some require only paper and pencil. 

How can my school participate?
There are a number of events planned at several of our schools. Check out the Hour of Code 2014 BVSD Events document to see what’s happening around the district. (We’ll update this list as we hear from schools.)

To expand the participation we encourage every school to plan Hour of Code events and to promote those events to parents and community members. has free marketing materials, everything from printable posters to images and videos to share on social media. By promoting your events you are starting a conversation in your community about the importance of computer science education.

One more thing...
Let us know what you are planning and what support you need by by filling out this linked form. We are excited to see this movement grow in BVSD.

And please chime in with your thoughts below.  

Jackie Weber (Director of Mathematics and Computer Science)
Joan Bludorn (Principal & BVSD Director of Career and Technical Education)
Andrew Moore (CIO)

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Shift to Android Tablets

Google has recently released a suite of products that make managing your classroom easier. It includes:

  • Google Play for Education (GP4E), a subset of the Google Play Store interface designed specifically for the K-12 environment. It contains thousands of Chrome and Android apps vetted by CUE educators.
  • Google Classroom, a management interface that helps teachers organize assignments within their students' Google Drive.
  • Chromebooks, the laptop-style device that we have already started deploying in our schools. Chromebooks are integrated with GP4E for easy teacher management.
  • Android Tablets—in our case, the Nexus 7 tablet, a device designed to work seamlessly with GP4E. Nexus7image.png
Those of you who attended the recent Google Apps for Education Summit saw a preview of what this integrated suite of products can do to make the learning environment more productive. While there are many layers of functionality and features that you will hear more about in the upcoming weeks and months, today I will focus on the shift to Android tablets.

You might be wondering why we decided to offer the Nexus 7 as an option since we already have iPads in our district. One factor is the cost: a Nexus 7 purchased through TPP is $282, while an iPad Mini is $335. But more than just cost is the simplicity and customized user interface that these devices offer. Google designed the experience between GP4E and the Nexus 7 specifically with the education market in mind. Please note that some applications may not yet be available through Google Play for Education store, but the repertoire is growing daily.

As wonderful as iPads are, they are, first and foremost, a single-user consumer device, which means that managing them is complicated and time consuming in a school environment. 

Those of you who have a classroom set of iPads know what I mean. It takes a lot of time to set up the devices, purchase apps, and push them using a separate Mac laptop. That's a lot of work to make a consumer device work in a shared education environment. 

The Google Play for Education management console, on the other hand, makes it easier for teachers to purchase content with POs and push apps, books, and videos directly to the Nexus 7 tablets or Chromebooks—it's similar to sharing a Google Doc. 

Plus, each Nexus 7 can be shared with up to five students, who get a unique, personalized experience.

The Nexus 7 is available today through the BVSD Technology Purchase Program (TPP) and will be the preferred classroom tablet in the upcoming Tech Refresh catalog, which means that it will start being deployed en masse within 6 months. 

What does this mean for the iPads currently in our district? We will continue supporting them, just as we currently do. We recognize that schools have invested a lot of time and training in these devices. 

Stay tuned for more information about GP4E and Nexus 7 as spring approaches. Please chime in with your thoughts below about the Nexus 7 tablet and Google Play for Education.