Saturday, September 27, 2008

Computer Programming K-2

There is a challenge in teaching computing to K-2 students because of attention span, vocabulary and abstraction. Of course Piaget defined stages of development so how to combat these? Activities with lots of noise, primary colors, and a clearly defined character/protagonist help. Also defining a task very specifically: I assigned a set of sites students could go to and rather than explore they looked at each other's screens and asked "Teacher" to find it for them. So my solution is to give them 3-5 activities and allow educational games after completion!

Although I have every confidence that even the youngest students can grasp a more complicated programming language there has to be something for them to learn in the future! So here are some simple programming options to start the youngest set.

Teaching Search with Search Engines

Managing different student levels

We all face this issue in the classroom: students have different interests, different knowledge levels, different intelligences. What I've been facing is students for whom a computer is only a source of entertainment, mainly online games. I've noticed with some of the younger students that there are some physical coordination issues.

Again, it's not uncommon for an instructor to have to carve out one-on-one time to address specific student needs which at the upper grades is not a problem once the majority of the class is engaged in the assignment. Again, with those darned K-1 there's a shorter attention span!

Next Technology: the Internet

We've been working on typing, which needs continual practice, so I think we'll do about 15 minutes of typing as a warm-up then go into internet/world wide web/html/online search over the next month. When I'm able to get the graffiti images to a color printer we'll briefly go back to text manipulation.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Microsoft Word?

The plan to introduce Microsoft Word worked great...until I got the Kindergartners! I wasn't sure if they knew their ABC's and most could not spell their names, so I regrouped and found websites for them to practice their ABC's and beginning reading skills. They're so cute: I asked them to name letters on the whiteboard and they broke out into the alphabet song!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Typing lessons

I personally learned to correctly type because I had too many free periods in high school so I loaded up on as many "flex" classes as they would allow. I was pretty quick on two fingers but hit the stratosphere once I could use all ten fingers! We had a discussion today on preparing technologically-savvy students, and most of our group had learned to type, but with the emphasis on testing and reading/'riting/'rithmetic most vocational courses have been abandoned. If you ever have time with your students or want a light lesson day, consider letting them learn a bit of keyboarding: it will always pay off in their futures. To this end I have compiled a few sites that I consider to be great for K-8:

  1. Dance Mat Typing from the BBC (use Internet Explorer!)
    very easy typing tutorial
    static but detailed tutorial
  2. Typing games to make it more fun to practice keyboarding
    Animated tutorial with short sentences to practice typing
    Bubbles help you find letters on the keyboard
    Tetris-like game - you type the dropping letters to win
  3. Typing Test to find your typing speed (wpm or words per minute) after you know the keyboard with all 10 fingers

There are other resources that get the job done more efficiently for 9-12:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Beginning a computer science curriculum: Microsoft Word

I thought about the most basic software application I would want to introduce students to: Microsoft Word. At the most basic, a K-12 student would at some point need to type a paper. I am infamous for stating that when I can teach a student to use the center align button instead of using spaces to approximate the center point of a title, then I've given them a lifelong tool. So I started off really easy: students typed their name and as we formatted the text students were introduced to different fonts, italic, bold, font size, underlining, other formatting effects, and most importantly, changing colors of text.

Design of this course: web based content

This course will feature mostly web resources to minimize the amount of software needed to be installed. There are so many resources available that the real challenge is choosing the most captivating, efficient and age appropriate options. There are ads to be considered, which necessitated teaching students how to distinguish between the content and ads. Of course we will need to install software to teach programming.

Lesson Plans for Computer Science

I believe that students learn best while having fun and being entertained so in my lessons there's always something fun built in, something more fun promised after more tedious tasks. But I feel that if a student is not having fun then something is really wrong or you need to find a way to tie your lesson in for that student.

More often than not educators will not need to "reinvent the wheel": people have done a lot of work putting together resources to teach computing, so whenever possible use them (giving credit where credit is due, of course!) Generally it's good practice to modify lessons to meet your needs also.

Resource | Grade Levels | Topics Covered | Notes

(apologies: it's easier to maintain a list than a table in Blogger! suggestion for a new feature)

Discovery Education-TechnologyK-12
Computer Science UnpluggedK-12
BBC Schools IT

Research supporting K-12 computer science curricula

I joined the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) because it's nice to have a professional organization for your profession. Subject teachers have meetings and professional development opportunities, but some school districts have not devised such for technology teachers. One of the first documents I found on their website was a document on a model CS curriculum. By the way, CSTA is actively recruiting new members and new chapter: Join Now! It's free!

Here is more research