Digital Breakouts, Digital Escape Rooms, Digital Literacy

Happy New Year – Digital Breakouts

Happy New Year!

I am excited to begin this new year. Out with the old, in with the new! Do you ever do the one-word challenge? The one-word challenge is where you choose one word to focus on in the new year. It provides clarity and creates a vision for the future.

My one word is action! I plan to take action this year. Planning is all good until you get swamped down with the details. I want to take more risk this year; throw myself out there and see what might happen. 

What’s your one word? How can you tie it into your resolutions for the new year, if you make them? 

One action I plan to take is to share my love of digital breakouts! If you have not heard of digital breakouts or digital escape rooms, check out a previous post that I wrote. If you are familiar with them, you know that digital breakouts provide students the opportunity to work in a group setting to hone those collaboration and communication skills. Digital breakouts also provide students authentic tasks that require problem-solving and critical thinking. Digital breakouts are such an engaging way to build those career-ready skills. And the best part, all K-5 students can participate in digital breakouts.

For the New Year, I created two Happy New Year Digital Breakouts, one for K-2 and one for 3-5. Each breakout provides students clues to solve to “breakout!”

Check them out here!

Again Happy New Year and Happy Teaching!


“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream.” Anatole France ~ Writer

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Computer Science

Careers in Computer Science

Careers in Computer Science – In a previous post, I tried to make sense of computer science and why it’s now being integrated at the elementary and many more secondary schools. I understand that computer science is so much more than coding. It’s a way of solving problems and developing solutions to those problems using computers. Who wouldn’t want those skills and knowledge?

But what troubled me was now that we are providing students the opportunity to acquire computer science skills, what do they do with them? For the most part, classroom teachers are not computer scientists, and I am fairly certain they do not have a degree in computer science (except for maybe teachers that teach CS).

This is where a conversation with a third teacher led me to research “what’s next?” For those students that are truly inspired by computer science and want to move in that direction what’s next?

Answering that question led me to research all the different careers for someone interested in computer science. The results were fairly extensive. I decided to begin this journey with two careers, computer programmers and software developers. Many articles, books, and blogs laters, I have a much better understand of the “what’s next?” in computer science education.

Careers in Computer Science

Having the opportunity to dig even deeper into computer science better prepares me to guide teachers and students to the understanding of “why” computer science is important. These jobs matter in a world dominated by technology and innovation. Our future workforce will not necessarily need to know how to code, but they will need to be good problem-solvers, team players, detailed oriented, risk-takers, and have lots of grit!

I would love to hear your thoughts! Shoot me an email or leave a comment!

Happy Teaching,


Want to explore additional computer science resources for the classroom, check out my tpt store; Shen Valley Vegan Teacher.

Be sure to follow my tpt store to get the latest and greatest computer science and coding resources for your classroom! The first 24 hours of posting a new resource, the resource will be 50% off.

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Professional Development, Tech in the Classroom

12 Days of Google-ly-Mas

I must admit something. Since the last week in October, Christmas music is my go to playlist on my phone. I know, I know, I know. Listening to music has the effect on me. It puts me in a state of mind. A Christmas State of Mind. Not the buying, shopping, and deals, more like, spending time with my family, treasuring those moments, creating memories that will last a lifetime, and truly appreciating the reason for the season.

With the mindset of giving, I wanted to give teachers at my school’s a FUN way to celebrate the days before Christmas with some Google-ly activities for them and their students. And so, the 12 Days of Googly-ly-Mas was born.

For the month of December, I challenged the teachers at my school to complete as many of the activities that they want and submit a Google Form letting me know their thoughts. As long as they complete one activity, they will have a chance to win a Google-ly prize.

A few Googley-ly activities…

12-Days-of-Christmas, Tech-Mas
  • Create an event in Google Calendar and invite someone to that event.
  • Send me a Google Meet request.
  • Choose one of Eric Curts Winter Activities to share with students.
  • Spend some time cleaning your Google Drive.
  • Create a Dream Board in Google Slides

If you are interested in downloading this resource, click HERE. Have a wonderful holiday season and take time to enjoy with families and friends! If you like this resource, be sure to click FOLLOW, as you will be notified of future post.

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Computer Science, Professional Development

Computer Science Education Week #CSEdWeek

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) – is an annual event to promote computer science especially at the K-12 level. CS Education Week is so much more than learning to code and getting students to participate in the “hour of code.” Although the “hour of code” is a great intro to CS, there is just so much more to CS than coding. If you have a moment, check out my blog on Computer Science.

We EAT, LIVE, and BREATHE computer science each day. CS is embedded into every fiber of our existence.

  • Did you use your phone to wake you up this morning?
  • Did you use an app to pre order your coffee?
  • How about checking the map apps to see if there is any traffic?
  • Did you order your groceries online?
  • Did you create a flyer to promote an event at your work, school, church, etc…?

In a world where technology is now ubiquitous our students need to be equip to be producer of information rather than consumers.

Today, all 50 states have adopted computer science standards in K-12. All are at different levels of implementation. This past fall, VDOE provided Virginia school districts a computer science curriculum framework to assist and support teachers with the integration of CS into the curriculum.

Baby steps! And it’s not about buy-in! It’s changing the mindset of how we perceive the words computer and science. Understanding and realizing that for the most part we are already integrating many computer science concepts into our instructions (e.g. sequencing, events, algorithm, loops, etc…). It’s more about being intentional and purposeful with integrating those concepts into our daily instruction.

But how do we go about teaching our students? We begin with our teachers. I am by no means a computer science expert, but I have taken an interest. As opportunities are made available, I try to learn more about CS and how to integrate it into curriculum and share that knowledge with others.

This year, I created two CSEdWeek resources for teachers.


CSEdWeek Resource for teachers, click HERE to download a copy.

Here’s a resource you can share with your teachers to provide them some teachable CS resources!

Computer Science Education Week – BINGO

Share this resource with teachers, and have them take some time this month as we celebrate Computer Science Education Week (December 9-13) to see why learning and teaching computer science has become part of the K-12 curriculum. 

Kudos to you for taking the next step in providing teachers and students the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and developers of solutions. Happy CSEdWeek!

Interested in learning about the different careers in computer science, click Careers in Computer Science.

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BEE BOTS, Coding, Computer Science, Tech in the Classroom

Bee Bot (Plugged and Unplugged) – Place Value

I LOVE Bee Bots! Such as simple tool to teach and reinforce coding skills (plugged or unplugged). After completing the sorting network (unplugged) with several third grade classrooms, I wanted to return, but this time I wanted to share a plugged activity.

As with any tool or resource that I share with my teachers, I always begin with the learning objective. Why do you want your students to use this tool? How will the tool enhance the lesson?

For this lesson, it was to practice rounding numbers, then integrate CS by coding the Bee Bot to each digit of the rounded number. Sounds fun? It sure was!

There are several ways students can complete this acitivty.

They can answer each of the 12 questions, then check their answers with the provided QR code, then code the Bee Bot.

Or answer one question at a time, check, then code. This lesson takes about 90 minutes to complete. Obviously it will depend on your class and their needs.

Once students completed the task cards and were ready to go, I had them come sit with me on the rug and I provided them a plastic sleeve with a “My Program” page and a white board marker. I place the Bee Bot mat in front of me and brought out a Bee Bot.


I talked about what a programmer is and what is an algorithm. We then looked at our answer for the first question (7,540). I modeled how we were going to write an algorithm for each problem, then program the Bee Bot with our algorithm.

Once our “My Program” page was complete, I place the Bee Bot on the “Start Here” square. I then programmed the algorithm that we just wrote. I typically move the Bee Bot as I input the program.

After I model the first question, students were placed in five groups to complete the rest of their paper.

Grade 3 Place Value and Rounding

It was a FUN activity, but most importantly they had the opportunity to practice place value in an authentic manner, further cementing this knowledge into their brains!

Interested in trying this lesson out in your classroom, Let’s Round Avocado!

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BEE BOTS, Coding, Computer Science

Sorting Networks (Unplugged) – Place Value & Rounding

Sorting Networks (Unplugged) – You ever wonder how computers work together to solve problems. Working with a 3rd grade teacher, we decided to integrate CS into her math unit on place value. I was invited in to review place value with her students, then demonstrate how a network of computers work together to solve a problem. Using a lesson I found on, students practiced putting numbers in order from least to greatest.

Sorting Networks

For this lesson, I purchased a painter’s tarp from Harbor Freight ($16.99) and an oil based sharpie ($7.99) from Michael’s. I then created a sorting network mat that I can use over and over again. I’m also created a 5×4 grid on the back to use for additional unplugged activities.

Word of caution! Make sure that students are careful walking on the mat so that they will not slip.

Here is the lesson plan. In all, it took about 45 minutes.

3rd grade students using the sorting network mat

For this activity, six students were chosen and were placed on the right side of the mat and given a number. The other students in the class were at their seats and had to write the six numbers from least to greatest on their desks.

Following the arrows, each student then move to the next correct rectangle.

This is where the students practice collaboration, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking. Once a pair of students were on each of the next three rectangles they had to compare numbers, the lowest number went left, the higher number went right. This continued until they were on the left side of the mat.

This was a challenging activity. It required students to go back and debug their program multiple times before getting it correct.

Plans for future use of the sorting mat:

  • Timeline
  • Telling Time
  • Birthdays
  • Map skills
  • ABC order

Can you think of any other?

Click HERE, to check out the Bee Bot (Plugged) Place Value activity for these 3rd and 4th grade students.

Students checking their answer w/ a QR code before coding the BEE BOT!

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Coding, Computer Science, Professional Development

Coding – Unplugged and Plugged

This past summer, I had the opportunity to dive a little deeper into computer science (CS). I tried to wrap my head around how it should look at the elementary school level. What I decided after reading, watching, listening, and discussing with others is that it should be hands-on, interactive, and developmentally appropriate.

Hands-on – This does not mean that you need coding tools to teach computer science. Just that the activity and/or lesson is student-centered.

Interactive – Student should have the opportunity to experience computer science at the concrete, representation, and then onto the abstract stage.

Developmentally Appropriate – That’s right! You do not want to “put the horse before the buggy.” Students should have ample opportunities to learn and experience computer science through unplugged activities (see image below) before plugged activities (see image below) are introduced.

Unplugged – An activity that can be conducted without the use of computers or electronic equipment.

Sorting Network – Unplugged
Student used the Sorting Mat to sort their numbers from least to greatest.

Want to read more about this unplugged activity click HERE?

Plugged – An activity that involves a coding tool (Scratch, Bee Bots, Spheros,, Dash, etc…)

Student created a city, then coded their Sphero to visit several places throughout the city.

Want to read more about this plugged activity click HERE.

As you begin your journey into computer science or you may have already jumped right in, just a reminder that CS is not necessary adding one more thing to teach, but allows you to teach in way that seamlessly integrates probleming solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration into your instruction.

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