Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
What Is Computer Science?
When computers were just on the horizon, students went to their school's computer lab once a week and played a game or two while the teacher took a little break. Today, technology is ever-present in the world of education, and teachers are an active part of making sure students are fluent users.
When we say computer science in education, we mean teaching children how to use and understand the uses of technology, mainly (though not limited to) computers. And just to be clear, a computer is an electronic device we use to store and process data. Got it? Great! Let's take a look at Kathy, a seasoned computer science teacher, and see what she's up to.
Thanks to advances in technology, there are limitless possibilities as to what Kathy can teach in her classroom. Kathy is lucky enough to have a curriculum her district provides for her, but uses a few ideas of her own as well.
Make Learning Fun & Develop Creativity
Although many students come to school computer literate, they don't always think of taking a technical class as fun. Kathy aims to change that view by integrating games and showing students how they can use their creativity during her class. Students don't just play with computers in Kathy's class, they create or alter technology to make something new, like spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, or programs.
What's more, Kathy makes sure she exposes students to the puzzle side of computer science, posing a problem and guiding students towards a solution. For instance, Kathy teaches important skills like coding and program design, which require students to use high-level thinking skills, like reasoning and problem solving.
Build Collaboration & Prepare Students for Careers
Though many of us think of a lone person hacking away on a keyboard when we think of a technology genius, the reality is most computer science innovation happens between people. Kathy shows her students that they can and should work cooperatively to solve problems and create programs. These collaborative skills can benefit students who aspire to work in the computer science realm, an in-demand field that is predicted to be even more so by the time students enter the workforce, as well as those interested in other careers.
Teach High Risk-Reward
Unlike most classes her students take, computer science has a good amount of built-in cushion for risk. This means that students can try something and if they find it doesn't work, there isn't a failing grade or other educational consequence. Kathy works hard to teach her students to go out on a limb and try something new. And if that doesn't work? Good. Try something else! Students learn to solve problems without fear of failing in the process.
Tips for Teaching CS
Like we said, Kathy knows her stuff. Here are some great ideas she's learned over the years about teaching computer science.
Use computer literate language. Kathy never dumbs down her instruction by making words cute or easy for her students. She explains the words she's using and makes sure everyone understands, but you'll never hear her call a motherboard a mommy house.
Keep the students' hands on the work. Though she is often tempted to take the mouse and click the icon herself, Kathy knows how important it is for students to experience for themselves.
Have students turn off the monitors when instructing. This will mean students are paying attention to important parts of the lesson and not trying it before the teaching is finished.
Before you teach it, try it. Even if it's a lesson you've taught before, make sure it will work today. There's nothing worse than a room full of students and a lesson that doesn't work.
Reach out to other teachers to help bring computer science into their classrooms, making the use of technology cross curricular. Students can use the information they learn in computer science in their math, language arts, or science classrooms.
Teaching computer science may seem like overkill for children who are already tech savvy, but it is a necessary class for all children to take. Computer science instruction prepares students for future work, gives their higher-level thinking skills a work out, and lets them be creative. When teaching computer science, remember to make the lessons fun, teach students to work together, and take risks.
Make sure you use the right language with your lessons. There's no need to use cute words in place of the real thing. Also, let students do the work themselves so they learn important lessons. Finally, walk through the lesson briefly before you teach it to make sure everything is in working order. With these tips and tools in place, who knows? Maybe the next Steve Jobs will be sitting in the front row.
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