Quick Rundown of what is Happening Right Now in my Classrooms

Just wanted to let you know what is happening in my classroom right now:

Computer Fundamentals – 9th grade

Back in Microsoft Word (sort of) however, although we use a book, we only use it for the projects. I don't like “point and click” teaching and rather use my intuitive learning model to teach the students how to learn new software. I have a book coming out on this in the next month, so look for it.

At the end of each section, we do activities to extend the learning to new software programs that I DON'T TEACH!

You can see their assignments on the wiki. My favorite assignment is always the last (I call it the extension.)

Here is that assignment:

  • computerguy-red.jpg Word Processor Team Project (Due Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008) Work with the same partner you had for the wiki project. One of you will use AjaxWrite and the other will use ThinkFree. Do the Real Life Independent Challenge a-d on page 75 and design a Personal Letterhead in the program of your choice (using the company of your choice.
  • computerguy-red.jpg Blog Post – (Due Thursday, January 31, 2008) After doing this, give your partner a brief tour of the program you used and let them do the same for you. After completing this, compare and contrast AjaxWrite and ThinkFree with GoogleDocs and ZohoWriter. Write the similarities and differences. You may use a table if you choose. This will be posted on Youth Voices.”
  • In Computer Fundamentals, we blog heavily — the students actually have three locations to blog: a private class ning (which they share with all of my classes), a Youth Voices blog, and most of them have a public blog on the topic of their choice under a pseudonym. (Those whose parents didn't allow them to blog publicly, post these posts on youth voices, with several thousand other teenagers. This gives an option for everyone at the safety level that is comfortable for parents.)

    What's next for Computer Fundamentals?
    A digital citizenship component with Julie Lindsay (Qatar) and Barbara Stefanics (Austria.) More info on this later.

    Computer Science (10th)
    Hot off of SAT prep (we do 2 weeks of a program I designed with our curriculum director that leans heavily on TCA TEst prep and “Mrs. Vicki's tips and tricks for Beating the SAT” full of my tricks from reading everything I can. (Not to mention the fact I had to take it 7 times.)

    We had a “bring food” day on Monday to debrief. I recorded the conversations to share with the curriculum director and principal. It is SO important to debrief and REFLECT. I modified a few things in the plan for next year and each year, my students make me better.

    I have to wonder. What are we missing not asking students? It is amazing what an ipod w/a mike in the middle of the table and teenagers with their mouths full of brownies will tell you when you ask. They will make you a better teacher and your school a better school!

    So, now, we're back in Computer Science. A brief module on binary numbers.

    It was so great though, because as I was reviewing this with one class (which was struggling a bit) and my seniors (who had this 2 years a go) were sitting in the back. THEY STARTED TEACHING THE TENTH GRADERS! I'm not kidding. They could add, convert binary to decimal and back. It made me feel very good because they remembered.

    Of course, again, I DON'T teach it the way the book does. I have a quick system and have condensed all of this into one day of class (50 minutes). I'll follow up with adding in binary tomorrow and another quick quiz and we'll play an online binary number game or two. (It is really nice to have something like this to “clear the palate” after the tough SAT prep! ;-))

    What's next?
    We'll be moving on into storage and hardware and will take apart computers soon. This is really a fun class and although we use a very tough curriculum ( a Thompson book used at the college level.) We make a lot of side conversations and it is taught Socratically, so they talk a lot. I LOVE TEACHING THIS CLASS! It is really my dream topic. I just wish I taught it all day sometimes!

    Keyboarding
    We've started timed writings with this class and the average is already over 30 gross words per minute. I expect this class to definitely break 60 gwam as an average. It is stunning to me what a benefit it is to students to be able to type so quickly and so well.

    I grade heavily on technique and once I drill that in, their typing grades are really unusually high. It is rare that I have a B in this class and the kids love it.

    It is funny, though, how we have a routine to make sure they get 50 minutes of typing in. (I doubt it would work in many schools.) We: Warm up – 5 minutes; Learn new keys – 10 minutes; type the lesson – 5 minutes ** I give them candy as I check their technique.** After another 5-10 minutes (when the candy is gone) we pull out the music and listen to music.

    It was funny today, the “music team” (every group has a job) forgot their ipod so we had to use mine! I told them I had mostly 80's and they said

    “That's great, we love oldies!”

    Oh my goodness!

    What's next?
    We're almost to the “magic lesson” #18 where they have learned all the alphabetic keys. We will then have the famous “steak out” where several parents come in and grill steaks and I give them the “lesson of the steak out.”

    I always tell the students that when we eat, there is always a reason.

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