What’s in a name … Binarily Speaking

stitchedLast week Hamlin second grade girls began exploring binary numbers.  It was part of a new initiative to teach students computer science … without computers.  Lower School Technology Integrator Caroline Windell recently travelled to New Zealand to learn more about this fascinating curriculum – CS Unplugged.  In fact she received the very first printed copy of their updated book – and even helped them proofread it!

Girls explored simple counting in binary and then translated their names into binary before taking the time to teach the skill to their Grandparents or Special Friends.

Here is a brief summary of the project:

Q: What grade level were you working with?
A: (Caroline Windell) second grade.

Q: What were your goals going into the project?
A: There were two project goals:

  1. Introduce how computers store information in a developmentally appropriate way.
  2. Provide students the definition of binary number.

Q: How did you roll out the project?

  • I brought in a set of five binary cards with dots on one side and nothing on the other.
  • Each card had twice the number of dots as the previous card, for example, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16.
  • Five students were asked to hold the cards in front of the class with the smallest number of dots on the far right.
  • By flipping the cards over, we were able to use the dots on the cards to count from 0-31.
  • Next, we used 0 and 1 to represent whether a card was face up or not ( 0 = no dots, 1= dots). For example, 01001 = 9. That is, the 2nd and 5th cards were showing so we could count 8 + 1 = 9 dots.
  • We then used the numbers to represent the letters of the alphabet with A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. and translated the letters to binary (ex. 00001 = A).
  • Using Book Creator on the iPad, each student translated their name using zeros and ones (see photo).

Q: If you were to do the project again what (if anything) would you change?
A: I didn’t expect the first part of the lesson to go so quickly, so I wasn’t quite ready to move on to transferring the idea of binary numbers to letters. Next time, I will have a key with all of the alphabet letters ready to show the girls.

Video Conferencing – 2nd Grade

Ms. Andrews, Grade 2 teacher, developed an interesting technique for using video conferencing in her classroom. During Reader’s Workshop, where students practice their reading skills, students were given the option to read with with a parent or buddy using Skype or FaceTime.

Ms. Andrews found that parents, friends, and even puppies, jumped at the chance to participate in the classroom from a remote location!


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Some initial planning was involved so both students and adults (or canines) had a copy of a book in their respective locations. Together, they explored the book during the first part of the video conference. Once this was completed, the student selected a book from her book box which she read out loud.


“I loved it!!! She is so cute and was so happy. It’s very cool and could make the parents feel really involved from home! Maybe even some of the dads who don’t have as much time to be on campus/involved etc… It works for us! FaceTime is so easy and is on every iPhone so you can be anywhere!”
– Grade 2 Mom

blog text by: Liz Beck

PD for Teachers …

(reposted from Hamlin School’s EdTech Blog)

You’ve been asked to create a 1.5 hour ed tech training for teachers.

- Great!

That training will take place on a Friday afternoon, the first week back from winter break.

- Great!

Wait. Why so confident? What can you possibly do to keep teachers engaged and excited to learn about educational technology on the Friday afternoon after break?

- MaKey MaKey, of course!


  1. Introduce staff to the new making resources in the library
  2. Have fun!
  3. Encourage teachers to try something new and get out of their comfort zone.
  4. Spark excitement, enthusiasm and creativity

Training Roll Out

      • Mark Picketts, our Director of Technology and Innovation, gave an introduction to MaKey MaKey, including a short video of various MaKey Makey projects:

    • We asked teachers to self select into small groups, and sit together at a table that included:
      • A laptop
      • A MaKey MaKey
      • Various materials, such as play dough, bananas, tin foil, cardboard, markers, etc…
    • Each group was asked to read through the quick start guide, and demo the bongos or piano software (found in the Try Out of Software section of the page.)




Hour of Code Reflection – MS Edition


MS girls coding before school

An interview with Middle School Technology Integration Specialist, Jim Lengel and Rachel Davis, Middle School Science Teacher and Integration Specialist:

Q: What were your goals going into Hour of Code?
A: (Rachel) – I wanted the girls to get more comfortable with coding and feel like it’s something they can tackle or try in the future.
(Jim) – I wanted to show the girls that coding can be fun! Like Rachel, I think if the students have a chance to experience coding they find find out that they love it.

Q: How did you think you were successful in meeting these goals?
A: (Rachel) – I’m so glad that most of the Middle School students attempted coding. Some students even told Jim and I that after their Hour of Code activities at school, they went home and coded that night!

(Jim) – It was amazing to look over and find a sea of girls in 5th and 6th Grades coding. We really had an enormous amount of Hamlin girls coding.


light bot; one of many coding apps used

Q: If you could do it again, how would you change the Hour of Code week at Hamlin?
A: (Rachel) – I think an hour dedicated for each grade to code during the week would be great so that even those who felt like they were not good at coding would at least give it a try.
(Jim) – I’d like to develop an integrated project that would then be taught via scheduled classes during the week.  I’d also like to have more time to teach girls coding in general.


Leah Busque from Task Rabbit encourages the girls to build their dreams

Q:  How did you celebrate the Hour of Code in your life?
A: (Rachel) – I really enjoyed watching the girls code and was impressed with their critical thinking skills.  I Wish I had had the same opportunity when I was in Middle School.  I was really inspired hearing Leah Busque from Task Rabbit speak on Tuesday, I thought she was incredibly inspiring.
(Jim) – I took a coding course “code school“, it will allow the technology team explore any only courses until the spring.  I’m excited to integrate the lessons I am learning into my classes at Hamlin.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 10.27.59 AM

T-shirts to award successful completion of an hour of code!

Q:  Can you share two highlights that particularly stick out in your mind?
A: (Rachel) – Wow, there are so many – picking two is a challenge.  Watching Ms. Helm code with the girls was a real highlight for me.  Seeing the excitement in a student who was able to light up a tree in Alaska, and how proud the 7’s and 8’s were when they received their hour of coding certificates.
(Jim) – One morning I walked around the corner to virtually the entire 6th grade class coding together.  They were excited and really into it – I felt like I had reached the masses!  When we gave the girls their T-shirts as a reward for completing the hour of code it was a fantastic wrap up to the project.

Building our dreams

“If you build it, [they] will come.”
~ the voice in Field of Dreams

Middle school school girls arrived early this morning to hear from coder, Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.14.29 AMentrepreneur, and Task Rabbit CEO Leah Busque.  It was day two of Hour of Code, an international celebration of Computer Science Education Week that is boldly aiming to see 10 million students spend an hour coding.

The room was at capacity as Leah explained how coding has given her the power to bring her thoughts and dreams to life.  “No one understands your ideas better than you” Leah explained as she explored that what has made Task Rabbit so successful has not been an entirely original idea – but instead the skills to realize that idea.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.15.34 AM

Hamlin is leaning in this week, celebrating with speakers, alumnae visits, and the goal of having every Hamlin girl and staff member spend an hour coding (more details).

Leah Busque with Head of School Wanda M. Holland Greene, Director of Technology & Innovation Mark Picketts, and members from the Board's Technology Advisory Group

Leah Busque with Head of School Wanda M. Holland Greene, and members from the Hamlin parent community.

Hour of Code @ Hamlin


The Hour of Code is a nationwide initiative, introducing computer programming to 10 million students and encouraging them to learn how to code. Hamlin is both proud and excited to use this week, once again, to highlight the incredible coding that is already happening on our campus. We believe that coding continues to be essential for our girls to meet the challenges of their times.

Hour of Code Events: Monday, December 8 – Friday, December 12, 2014

In the Lower School, every class has been scheduled for at least an hour worth of coding instruction with Ms. Windell. Girls will use a variety of coding apps that have been selected to be developmentally appropriate for their age/skill level. These apps include Kodable, Scratch Jr., LightBot, HopScotch, Blockly Maze, as well as resources from the Code.org website.

In the Middle School, we are excited to offer the girls the opportunity to come in before school and code together. It is our goal that the girls’ interest in coding will be sparked and they will complete at least an hour of code between home and school during the week. From 7:50-8:25 am, Grades 5 and 6 will code under the guidance of Mr. Lengel on the first floor of Stanwood, while Grades 7 and 8 will code with Ms. Davis in the Great Hall.  Special alumni guests will be popping by during these morning coding sessions and on Thursday, December 11, Middle School parents are encouraged to join the girls to see what they have learned and how exciting coding can be.  The girls will explore a combination of Scratch, Lightbot, RoboLogic, CargoBot, CodeAcademy, and Code.org.

Girls in Grades 4 through 8 are encouraged to join us in the East Dining Room on Tuesday, December 9 at 7:50 am to hear from the founder of Task Rabbit, Leah Busque, an entrepreneur, innovator, and coder. Leah will talk about coding and its effect on her learning, as well as how coding has shaped her career.  

Administrators and all staff members are being encouraged to join in the fun! Join us and make the commitment to try something new – and to learn to code throughout the week! 

Please click through the Scratch created invite (by Ellie in 5th grade) for a calendar of what is happening when:

created by Ellie, 5th Grade.

Socrative gets a facelift

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
  ~  Socrates

I gave a quick workshop on the newly renovated Socrative app to support the staff here at Hamlin.  The feedback was positive and I have already seen it at work in a number of classrooms.  It is a powerful tool for getting (and giving) immediate feedback about the success of lessons.  I love the way it encourages reflection in teachers and learners alike.

What does infinity have to do with the SAMR model? It’s all about mindfulness in the classroom.

When the Tech Team first landed on the SAMR model, it resonated with us. We had already launched 1:1 iPad and laptop initiatives, but searched for common language to discuss our ed tech vision. SAMR seemed like a perfect fit!

Except for one thing. We don’t view the integration and use of technology in the classroom as hierarchical. We view iPads, laptops, apps, 3D printers, etc., as tools. Just as you wouldn’t choose a jigsaw to hang a painting, you wouldn’t choose Microsoft Word as a programming app. There is a time and place for each tool and the key is to know how to choose the best tool and why it’s the best tool for the task at hand.

Since it’s creation by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, the SAMR model has been discussed alongside various images, like flow charts, ladders and scales. Another popular SAMR metaphor is attributed to a 2013 blog post by Tim Holt as well Jonathan Brubaker’s subsequent post, comparing each SAMR category to various types of coffee.

SAMR_InfinityAs you move through our presentation you will notice a new image created by the Hamlin Tech Team, where the infinity symbol is used to describe the flow as teachers mindfully select technology and its uses within the classroom. This is also meant to symbolize our decision not to weigh one SAMR category over another, but rather to raise teacher awareness and the capacity to make informed technological choices in the classroom. For example, Word (substitution phase) can make perfect sense for some projects and be the right tool for the task, whereas a blog (modification or redefinition) may be the right choice for other tasks.

Guiding teachers to discover new technology, be mindful of the pedagogical reasons for selecting one tool over another, as well as creating a safe space for openness, risk taking, and creative thinking, are more important to our team than striving for redefinition above all other categories.

We hope you enjoy our take on the SAMR model, originally presented to Hamlin faculty on May 12, 2014.


GAfE Summit

 I look at Google and think they have a strong academic culture. Elegant solutions to complex problems.
 ~ Mark Zuckerberg


another Northern California town, another set of dedicated and inspired educators*, and more opportunities to learn and to share my learning while expanding my PLN!

The EdTechTeam has a model that is working – they’ve doubled the number of events each of the last three years – and are helping teachers gain the technical skills they need to succeed in our ever-changing profession.  It takes courage to innovate anywhere – but “risking it all” in front of a room of students can be terrifying and meeting people in or around our districts that are doing just that – is nothing short of inspiring.  More importantly, this courageous risk-taking behavior is exactly the traits I want to see from my students, and if it isn’t modeled … they simply are not going to get it.

What the Heck is a Flubaroo – RoseVille:

* this event sold out in something like THREE hours! 

next adventure …

Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change, and all patterns alter.
~ Sharon Salzberg

soundtrack to this post back to my international teaching days

Recently my family decided that it was time for me, mark, dad to try a new challenge.  The challenge came in a job offer in early December to join a dynamic learning community at a school that has been preparing its students to meet the changing challenges of their time for more than a hundred and fifty years.  I am excited for the new sHamlin Lion head only Transet of challenges that await me at the Hamlin School in San Francisco while at the same time thankful for the opportunities, friends, and learning that I continue to enjoy as part of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District.

I  take with me a set of new experiences, dynamic additions to my Personal Learning Network, and the knowledge that we will continue to learn and grow together and learn from each other as we strive to Innovate and redefine education, learning, and literacy today.  I hope that my new position will allow me the opportunity to re-focus on what motivates me – what is my passion:  EducationallTechnology by providing additional support in the realm of Information Technology.  Hamlin is providing me opportunity to learn and to share my learning as a Google Certified Teacher & Trainer, and a candidate for the Buck Institute for Education National Faculty – I am excited for the opportunities that lay ahead.

Hamlin Announcement