If you participated in December’s Hour of Code, you may have come to realize the importance of Computer Science to students. Greg Beutler is the Director of Techscool.org, a school devoted to teaching kids this fundamental skill through the lens of robotics, coding, competitions, and more. The school’s tagline is Learn to code; Code to learn. Pretty pithy.
Here’s Greg’s informed perspective on this question:
Beyond job opportunities, why should all K-12 students learn about computer science?
Computer Science is an important subject for all students because it teaches you how to think. The act of writing a computer program requires you to think about how to create sequences which are step by step procedures on how to solve a given problem. CS also teaches the student, what sequences are run, what sequences should run if that sequence fails. CS teaches the student how to present that failure or success of that operation to the user via a GUI, and how the GUI should look and what the next outcome should be of the interactions between the user, the software and the computing device. Computer Science is an integrative subject, not siloed like other subjects taught at school.
Starting children early is best. To illustrate this I’ll use my favorite analogy, which is the baseball analogy. Both the little leaguer and a major leaguer perform the same operations, they catch a ball, throw a ball and hit a ball. But the major leaguer is much more talented and skilled. They have done all of those actions thousands of times in practice and games. They have honed their skill to a very great extent with competition and practice. They have a keen understanding of the game, the rules, and the winning strategies. They know where to hit the ball against a particular team in a particular situation. They know where to throw the ball in a particular situation. They can anticipate the actions of their teammates and opponents and react accordingly. Starting children early
gives them a wide arena of problems and problem-solving skills. The same applies to computer science. At a young age we can solve simple problems such as sorting different colored beads into different cups, then when we are older we can solve more complex problems such as writing a program using sorting algorithms for all sorts of items; including colored beads., which is called abstraction.
Here are the top five skills that most successful computer science students possess.
This December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:
- abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
- creativity – think outside the box
- if-then thinking – actions have consequences
- debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Fix it.
- logic – go through a problem from A to Z
- sequencing – know what happens when
If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are activities by grade that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.
We’re hard at work on a high school technology curriculum. We’ve had a lot of requests for this and hope to have it available before the holidays.
If you’d like to be notified when the High School Technology Curriculum is available, click the image below and sign up:
Sara Stringer, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, has a list of great websites for high school students. I don’t post enough about high school so I’m thrilled with her article:
Some students study more productively in groups, working with their peers. Online groups and forums allow them to ask questions and learn from each other outside the traditional classroom in a space where they typically turn to for studying anyway. Some of these tools give them the chance to share their own knowledge, while others let them search through published questions and answers to help them find the information they’re looking for.
Because there are so many study guides and websites available to students, we’ve asked the teachers and staff at CalPac to share their favorite online collaborative resources for high schoolers. Here are 10 of the most helpful forums and study group websites that encourage students to work and learn together.
Physics Forum began as a high school extra credit assignment in 2001, and since then, it’s developed into one of the most popular and helpful science forums on the web. The site provides a community for students and professionals to discuss all areas of science, although it does primarily focus on physics, as the name suggests.
World Literature Forum is an online discussion board that examines all forms of literature and literary news. It’s a place to discuss specific books (fiction and non-fiction) and discover new authors. Categories include general discussions, literature by continent, literary translation, and literary prizes.
Check out my article over at Western Governor’s University on how to update the classic bridge building lesson plan:
Over the past decade, a mainstay for middle school science programs has been building toothpick bridges. This type of school project—somewhat of a rite of passage in Project Based Learning—is intended to help teach students through hands-on experience. Similar projects include baking soda volcanoes, the infamous egg drop, and growing plants as a class. I remember assigning the bridge project to my students, as well as helping my own children with it, but I have since learned that the typical way of tackling this school project can leave students feeling dissatisfied.
I have written in the past about mysimpleshow, an easy and clever way educators can create explainer videos. Mysimpleshow is aligned with simpleshow foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the world. This summer, in cooperation with the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC), they are participating in a summer volunteer program to encourage everyone to promote the United Nations 17 Global Goals in support of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development:
In collaboration with the United Nations System Staff College, the simpleshow foundation has set up a volunteering program that aims to educate the world about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Using [the online tool] mysimpleshow, volunteers are encouraged to explain details and background of these 17 Global Goals of the Agenda 2030 in short and entertaining explainer videos. The program allows volunteers of all ages to gain a better grasp of the Agenda’s topics and help create a public understanding of the importance of these goals.
Volunteers can sign up at simpleshow-foundation.org.
When you sign up, you choose a topic, access mysimpleshow, and create your explainer video.
When I first visited UWorld’s College prep site, I expected what usually is included on free SAT/ACT prep sites–questions, answers, and a lot of cheerleading.
I should have known better. UWorld is a leading provider of question bank materials for professional licensing exams like USMLE, ABIM, and ABFM, considered by many to be the gold standard in test preparation. Now, UWorld has expanded into SAT prep (as well as ACT and AP prep). The site includes over 1200 questions written by experienced educators and designed to be similar to what students will find on the real SAT. With each question is a rigorous explanation, step-by-step instructions, and helpful images about the logic behind answers.
- Choose your difficulty level–low, medium, hard.
- Get hints to help you find a starting point for the answer.
- Customize practice tests to focus on mastering specific concepts within subjects.
- Create your own flashcards for quick review.
- Track your time and performance to improve your pace.
- Monitor progress with reports and graphs.
- Compare your results to peers as a gauge of performance. This includes questions they got correct, how much time they took answering individual questions, and the types of questions they are struggling with.
- Identify weaknesses and improve strengths.
- Flag questions that you’d like to review later.
- Define difficult words from within the app (for reading prep).
Registered students can access questions at the pace they’d like, take full timed tests to build test-taking stamina, pause during testing, flag questions they want more work on, save generated tests to finish or retake later, and more.
The end of the school year means graduation for seniors. If they aren’t going to college, they’re job hunting. Sara Stringer, Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, has several ideas on how to make that more efficient:
As a teacher, you’re fully aware of how much the world is advancing through technology. Undoubtedly, innovation has touched many aspects of how you teach. The Internet has made it easier to gather, evaluate, summarize and disseminate information. If for example, you’re a math teacher, you may refer students struggling to grasp the Pythagorean Theorem to view Khan Academy videos so that they can catch up with the rest of the class.
Since you have probably used the Internet to post your own resume, you know how powerful it can be and how important it is to make your online presence as professional as possible. You can also use your knowledge and experience in job hunting to guide those students who don’t plan on going on to college on how to get internships and entry-level jobs after graduation. Job searching has changed remarkably over the past few years, and if your students are to succeed in the real world, they will have to take a very different approach than your previous graduating classes.
Here are 3 tech tips you can use to point your graduating class in the right direction:
Seven million students took the SAT test last year. While it traditionally is an assessment tool for college-bound seniors, more and more high schools are choosing it as an exit exam for graduating seniors (such as these changes in Ohio and the State of Washington). Driven in part by the educational imperative to minimize student testing, what better solution than a test already heavily vetted as being inclusive and cross-cultural that many students are familiar with.
In this article, I’ll focus on preparation for the SAT essay portion. General preparation hints include:
- practice good writing with every school essay students write
- use academic-specific vocabulary whenever possible
- take practice tests
- read a lot — and let that inform your writing
Here are three different approaches to preparing for the essay portion:
- Khan Academy — work on the students’ unique writing problems experienced in their PSAT or earlier SATs
- Revision Assistant — practice writing over a long term and receive targeted feedback to improve skill
- Mindsnacks SAT vocabulary — develop depth in academic vocabulary that improves not only student writing but their understanding of what they’re reading
It’s not enough to share information with students. Unless they have an eidetic memory, much of what they see/hear/taste/smell never reaches long term memory. For that, students require study. That includes note-taking and review in a variety of formats to touch the varied approaches to learning.
Here are three apps I find helpful with students. They are flexible, scalable, and as a group, address a variety of learning approaches students use. This includes traditional handwritten notes, collecting multimedia resources, and the ever-popular drill. Which is best for you?
This is as close as you’ll get to pen-and-paper and be digital. No registration required and no ads. The start page is clear, uncluttered, with notes clearly listed. The menu bar is narrow and unobtrusive. Notes are taken on an infinite canvas as though it was a tablet of lined paper. You can add images, text, and audio files. Notes are saved in collections or singly which can then be exported as a PDF or an image.
Take notes with a finger, a stylus, or typed, even annotate PDFs (currently for an additional fee).