TEACHING KIDS COMPUTER SKILLS
Steve Jobs’ Apple memorial archive
I love teaching and being creative in order to teach my students to understand difficult concepts or to help them begin to think about things a bit differently. So, I'd come up with comical ways to remember Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by advising them to think of the needs as “ham sandwich, home or, honey, etc.” and they'd smile, laugh and get it. They got it and I felt like a proud parent every time. When I make presentations, I asked people to, “Please, if you would, wiggle your ears for me right now.” They stare at me in disbelief. I must be kidding, I know they're thinking. They may also be wondering what this has to do with my presentation. Again, it's to make a point.
Teaching should be fun, provocative and engage students in the task without them really being aware they are actually learning. I recently learned that I shared this teaching method with the late Dr. Randy Pausch, so this page is dedicated to him and his team will carry on Dr. Pausch's “ALICE” Project that teaches kids computer programming.
When I begin work on a new project, I may need a boost or some added motivation In other words, something that gets me moving. When I need that motivation, I turned to [Randy Pausch's lecture on motivation] (http://bit.ly/pieTA0). It was one of the last lectures he would deliver before his untimely death in 2008. I've included his address to a Carnegie Mellon University graduating class, the last graduating class he would ever address and I hope his spirit motivates you.
He reminded me, again, about the importance of teaching as he taught me that roadblocks are there for reasons, mentors are there for guidance and support and voices of encouragement are always needed, even by the best of any of us. Be that mentor, and guiding voice, that cheerleader and provide your kids, whether your children or your students, with the chance to succeed. Remind all of them about Dr. Randy Pausch and “may the force be with you” in every way your journey takes you through life.
If you would like to see his complete “Last Lecture,” just follow this link:
I'm including links to all of the ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) Project that I can find in the hope that I can contribute to teaching kids how to program–painlessly. How does the project do it? It's so simple that kids don't even think much about it.
One of Pausch’s students wrote a program where kids just write stories and they're off and running with their programming skills. How easy is that? We can all use the skills, so if your game, which are ego in your pocket, pretend you're a kid again and allow yourself to try, to make mistakes and to learn every step of the way. And, while you're at it, give a quiet thanks to Randy Pausch and get your local schools involved in using this methodology. You'll be doing the kids and the rest of us a great service.
The Alice Project
Schools Using Alice
How to play ALICE worlds in your web browser
Preview of Alice 3.0 (YouTube)
Helping Girls Learn to Program
Make Your Own Movie with the Sims
How about a programming language that is really catching fire and which may just be the language of the future? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a free tutorial book on it? Well, you can. Ruby is the name of the program and Ruby-onRails is the version used to build websites.
New and even more engaging programming software directed toward children has come onto the scene since Alice and Ruby were first written. Among them is Scratch (see more below) from M.I.T. which creates stories, games, music and art. It is intended to help children not only learn to program but to do this in collaboration rather than alone.
Of course, Ruby is still around and now there’s a new website that offers Kids Ruby. There’s even going to be a kid’s computer that will sell for $25 called Raspberry Pi. Read more about it at their website. Spread the word and see how you can help kids whose families can’t afford computers because no kid should be without one. It’s like not giving kids shoes in a world full of broken glass. Want to watch a video on a Ruby presentation? Here it is.
SCRATCH **Another great computer programming software breakthrough is now available FREE to anyone who wants to learn. Yes, it’s primarily aimed at teaching kids, but anyone can benefit from this and the software is available for 3 platforms (Mac, Windows and Ubuntu), there’s a Getting Started Guide and tutorials. Get Scratch and get started learning. It’s from MIT and Google is using it for a new program to help girls learn computer programming.
***A new website has been launched to help teacher become course creators and code for themselves. Take a look at what Codeacademy is offering.
Learning a second language isn't just an exercise without significant benefits for you or for kids. As long as you want to keep your mind sharp, keep learning. We now have powerful tools to make learning more immediate, creative and interesting. How does that happen? Try some of the new language software that's around.
There are a lot of programs out there that are free (take a look at iTunes), so money doesn't have to be an obstacle. Find a neighbor who speaks a foreign language and begin learning a few words you can use when you greet them. The thing to do is to start. Sorry I can't provide a link because of the way iTunes has its software set up but you can download iTunes software free.
Whenever possible, I like to include sites that are of general use for software searches, especially ones that give you lots of choices and includes freeware as well as shareware. We've avoided, wherever possible, programs that are “free to try” or “free downloads” because these are usually programs that have to be bought after you try them. Try going to the Free Software Directory, Lifehacker, Sourceforge, Applian (not free, but very good), Kahn Academy (free math video tutorials).
The name of this type of software may sound a bit intimidating, but, if you begin to use it, you will find that it is both easy and extremely helpful in a whole host of things you need to do. Want to write a book or an article? This is the software for you because it allows you to organize your thoughts in whatever way they come to you. You make small boxes and then arrange them into some logical pattern later on. So, if you are writing an article, the key element is the subject of the article, then you branch out from there into places where you will get your material (library, certain magazines, newspapers, journals), who you should interview or contact, where to send the article, who should you consult on this and anything else that might come to mind regarding writing this article.
Teachers can use the software to organize their classes, give students access to useful links, help the students organize their own work, etc. I don’t think there’s anyone who can’t benefit from this software. For me, it’s perfect because it provides a visual map of what I need to do, where I need to go and what I’ve already done. Visual suits me very well.
Students can use mind mapping software in class to take notes, it can be used for brainstorming, creativity enhancement, to-do-list making, making notes for presentations (such as Powerpoint), collecting materials found online for projects, wedding planning and the list goes on.
No, you don’t have to go out and spend a few hundred dollars for this software because there’s a great free one (FreeMind) and you can download it for any system currently in use on computers (PC, Mac, Linux, etc.) AND there are even free video tutorials to get you started plus free downloadable documentation in a PDF file on their website.
Go ahead; try it. No, don’t let that little voice that saying, “But you aren’t good at computers,” stop you. Resist the urge to not go to the website and you will be rewarded. Prove to yourself that you can do this and you can get more organized. Do it now.