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Showing posts with label computerscience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computerscience. Show all posts

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Constructing through Deconstructing: Using EMP to Understand the Digital Revolution



The first day of school was today and it was crazy for me -- as a teacher, 5 classes and 1 homeroom - with my IT hat - making sure all 100 computers and 3 servers were running, the new PowerLunch program went well and the upgraded gradebook to PowerTeacher was running smoothly.  Actually, it went very well (considering) today.

But, it was most exciting to me when I hit Computer Science first and second period. The first objective is to understand the digital revolution, and with some summer reading I had done this summer on EMP (electromagnetic pulse weapons and natural phenomenon) we started there.

If a nuclear device goes off in our upper atmosphere, the radiation that falls to earth will not kill us - instead it will knock out anything with a microprocessor.  It is pretty scary to think what could happen - but it hit me -- what better way to understand the impact of the digital revolution than to extricate everything digital from our lives to understand where an EMP would take us!

Now, the purpose here was not to cause fear (as I told my students) but to understand the digital revolution. It is also not to discuss the probability or viability of it even happening (there are many who feel that EMP's are very improbable and that the risks are overstated.) They've turned up all kinds of things affected by the digital revolution and had no idea!  I mean the obvious, cell phones, etc. but just how dependent we are on the microprocessor is blowing their minds!

The interesting thing for me is seeing how something can be taught by asking the OPPOSITE question -- they are agape at the digital revolution this way -- when last year, this topic met with a little bit of a yawn, like the digital revolution is old news for this generation.

Tomorrow, the students will tell their stories of a person and/or statistics about a society that is affected by an EMP.  Then, we will launch into a discussion about the digital revolution.

Also, as much as I love technology, as a farmgirl and practical sort of woman, I feel that it is important for my kids to know how to raise a garden, fish, and yes, hunt (although none of us really care for hunting, we make sure everyone knows how to do it - even my daughter.)  Being in the midst of an agrarian society, I see how much food is exported from this area, if refrigerators around this country went on a permanent hiatus, it would be pretty terrible (this is why my dad and many other farmers always state the importance of having food sources right here at home.)  While technology is great, we must always keep an eye out on the "what if" side of things and realize that it is better to plan ahead than to be sorry later.  Not panic, just plan.

The book, One Second After, tries to paint a picture of a post- EMP world, much like Alas, Babylon for schoolchildren of my generation.  And although most people agree that the picture painted in One Second After is extreme and that not as much failure would happen (not all electronic devices would fail and recent improvements in car shielding may actually mean that many more cars would work than earlier predicted), it is still a picture that I have in my mind of the dependence we have upon technology.

Approaching the digital revolution discussion by basically discussing a digital devolution created sparks and excitement on the first day.  It was also very interesting to see that two of my students used bing instead of Google and told me that they like it better (they saw the commercial.)  I am intrigued by that and will be talking to them more about it - looking into their minds is fascinating.

So, it has begun and the first day is always the toughest. 

On a personal note, I'm on week 4, day 1 of my Couch to 5K app and walked/ ran 3 1/4 miles today!  When I started 4 weeks a go, it was a mile and 1/4th -- what an improvement!  This great app on my itouch lets me be coached and listen to my music - I LOVE IT!  So, I do not wish for all this great technology to go anywhere any time soon - it has improved my life in so many ways, however, things taken for granted have a way of tapping us on the shoulder and taking vacations.

As a parent, I want my children to embrace and be fluent in technology but also, totally fluent on taking care of the basic needs of being human and perhaps this discussion is also causing my students to ponder this duality of ability and draw their own conclusions.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Helping Leigh Ann Make Her Base Case on Computer Science



Why don't you jump on over to In Need of a Base Case blog by Leigh Ann Sudol and answer her question about computer science education (Hat tip to my favorite Microsoft Blogger Alfred Thompson):

"So my question to you, my readers as well as to myself over the next few days is - how can I measure what my students think is important and relevant? I am considering some kind of electronic survey (so I can get a diverse sample) and I am wondering if I can somehow “narrow in” on particular topics (the way your eye doctor asks you lens1 or lens2?). Keeping in mind that I want to highlight particular aspects of computer science (see last post) I need to really think about what kinds of questions I would ask in order to get really interesting results."

Leigh Ann is reflecting on another great article from Joanna Goode from the November 2008 issue of Communications of the ACM:  "Reprogramming College Preparatory Computer Science." 

I just urge her to realize that sometimes students don't know what they don't know. I find that the reflective part AFTER a course is taught where students tell me what was best, most meaningful, both in a survey and open blog reflection often tells me the most!

I also hope that Computer Science teachers, in their quest to teach programming, don't lose sight of the fundamental need for collaborative environments, the ability to write in hypertext, effective online citizenship, and other issues that are also NOT being taught in schools aren't left by the wayside because it is not "programming-y" enough and indeed in the way we've defined Computer Science, that is being done.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

OK, 10th grader, what's your major? and more about this week.



I'm a little nervous, this is my first post on the new blogger. Let me know if there are any glitches!

My tenth graders select a "major"

You may wonder what I'm talking about, but as I planned this 8 weeks with my amazing computer science class, I've been pondering the section of Thomas Friedman's book where he talks about the "strands" at Georgia Tech. This essentially allows students to select a dual area of interest-- computing and aestheics or computing and art. Then, students are qualified to work in a variety of areas and essentially find their passion.

So, I have my projects that I usually conduct in computer science this time of year, only this time we'll take a different angle. I've asked my students to select an area of interest. This is to be an industry that they are already excited about -- hunting, special effects, hospitality -- these are some of the areas that the students have selected as their "majors."

Their first blog post on their major

Now, when I have their weekly blog posts that summarize the week, they discuss this from their major. For example, two weeks a go I asked them to write specifically about the hardware in their major.

Here is an excerpt from a student who is interested in golf course managment:
Golf course management has many different new technologies. One of the technologies is the new GPS systems used on golf courses all over the world. They use GPS systems to see where a golf cart might be on the golf course, the measurements to the green from a certain point on the course. The GPS systems also include integrated dash view or roof view GPS screen, widescreen/flat screen display, Dynamic hole zoom, integrated car control, multiple event advertising, full tournament leader board.

The GPS systems allow golfers to order beverage and food from the cart, which improves pace of play and increases food and beverage sales. Staff can send warning messages to individual or all golfers. Staff responds to emergency requests from golfers and dispatch assistance to their exact location. Golfers send and receive messages using the GPS screen and control panel. Staff send and receive messages - and view exact car locations - from the management computer or from any car on the course.

I didn't know these things! Or how about the student who is interested in optometry:

I have learned through research on optometry that optometrists use many kinds of hardware through the eye examination process. The mostly use computers. Computers are used to store the data. Databases are made to store client information and etc. The computers are used to enter prescription data, payment data, and client data.

Optical hardware is also used. It is used to examine the eyes, take photos of the inside of the eyes, and test the eyes to check to see the prescription number. The examination equipment uses lights and storage devices to look inside and around the eye. A machine is also used to take pictures of the back of the eyeball to check for disease or buckles in the eye. The other machine they use you look into it and look at the Christmas tree in the background and it will measure your eyesight.


Again, she spent time looking into her interests. So, instead of just teaching about hardware, each student is looking at it from the lens of their future interest. I am finding that it makes them more interested and am planning their 8 week assessment as a major project where they will select the hardware and software required for a person to start up in that business (or if it is a large corporation, perhaps just to outfit the office.)

Storage Device Wikis

This week we learned about storage devices and my students have produced some very informative wikis about the types of storage devices:


If you don't know about solid state storage, it is really a MUST READ! They also recorded podcasts to release on the class blog about their topic and are in the process of embedding these in the wiki as well. (You can listen to the one on optical storage.)

How I taught storage devices:
Interestingly, the podcast portion has added an interesting element to teamwork. Here is how I did this week's work on solid state storage:

This is a jigsaw that also uses a reading strategy grid that I created. (For those of you who've had training in cooperative learning and in reading across the content areas.)

1) Students came in and had an outline of the lesson (I always hand out lesson plans so they can follow me.)

2) Each student had an assigned subject (one of the three) and was told to move into that team.

3) Reading Strategy and Planning - Day 1

There was a reading strategy sheet that the students used to read the section of the book. They were to read about their assigned type of storage and glean information about how it works and also its versatility, durability, and several other aspects used to analyze storage devices. This was done as a team.

4) Day 2 - Wiki and Podcast -

Each team was to make a wiki and to record a podcast. They had one day. This forced everyone to divide up tasks and get busy. The best group finished it in one day. The groups where one person wanted to do it all had a harder time. I require each person to post to the wiki. If they record the podcast, they must post it to the wiki after I upload it to the stream. I want to teach them that teamwork is essential. I had one group in particular that has now "gotten it" and produced their work efficiently and effectively.

5) Day 3 - The jigsaw -

The third day, the students were to get with their team number. (I also assigned these on the first day.) There were four teams. Each person was responsible to teach their type of storage to the others and help them complete their information. If they finished early, they were to get back into their teams and could work on the wiki some more. (I've created a group of wiki-perfectionists!)

6) Day 4 - The blog posting and labs

Their blog posts for this week were to discuss the types of storage devices used in their major. Additionally, our book has interactive labs and online quizzes that they take and submit. We spent Friday completing these. It really was a breeze considering how well they understood storage.

7) Monday

I will review this with the students by asking questions and we will move on to peripheral devices on Monday. Could I have talked about these three types of storage in a one day lecture? Perhaps. Would they truly have learned it. Not necessarily!

The Results

One of my students has a parent who works at an elite research center with the most amazing computing systems in this area. He can discuss computing with the experts and understand what they are talking about. He is in tenth grade and he understands the "lingo" of computing and even better, he is unafraid to find out when he doesn't know something!

Time Management
We have been discussing time management/ planning with the 9th graders. This is a very rewarding discussion. I love to pull in movie clips to make the point. Friday I pulled in a clip from one of my favorite miniseries. Band of Brothers based upon the book by Stephen Ambrose.

The D that makes all the difference - Story from Band of Brothers

In this particular scene there is a Lieutenant Dykes who has an ivy league pedigree, aced officer training, and has all of the right connections. He is in charge of EZ company and they are to take over a small village in nazi germany. However, as they have held the woods outside the town, Lieutenant Dykes always dissappears when the bombing gets tough. He's never there mentally.

When they invade, disaster strikes. Dykes cannot make a decision. He is afraid and keeps telling the men to retreat. He stops right in the middle of an open field. People around him are dying. He cannot decide. He mentally cannot do it.

Then, Winters, the battalion commander makes a bold move. Watching from the woods, he pulls in Lieutenant Spears from another company and sends him in to relieve Dykes. He is another great officer. Physically fit, battle hardened, and considered by some as half crazy. Spears goes in, relieves Dykes and immediately takes charge of the situation.

Dykes has spread the company out too far and half is on one side of the city with the other half on the other. They must connect or they will all die. Spears takes off running through the middle of the city, connects with the other half and then, he runs back. No one can believe it! At first the Nazi's don't even fire at him!

EZ company goes on to take the city.

How we discussed it

We then compared and contrasted Dykes and Spears. They were exactly the same except for the decisions that they made. I call it "the Big D that makes all the difference."

I was looking for a way to pull the guys into what they consider boring "planner" girly stuff. My own father is a very successful award winning farmer and he always carried a small book in his pocket -- his list. He worked it and used it.

The discussion was amazing. They got it. And it took a movie.

iTunes and Podcasting
I also taught my classes the basics of itunes and particularly the podcasting area. Interestingly NONE of my students understood how to subscribe to a podcast in ITunes. Don't assume that because they have an iPod that they understand how to subscribe to a podcast or even know what it is.

Coming up

Fifth keyboarding - I'm starting with our fifth graders this week and will be teaching them how to keyboard. I'm excited. This year I've planned to start them blogging with blogs that they can take with them into middle school. We've also planned some work with another class that we'll pick up in early March. I'm going to work with the teacher to pull it into her creative writing activities.

Computer Science
More wikis. More blogs. A test is coming up and we will move into software, then, we'll have a big project that I'll make sure to share with you!

Computer Fundamentals
Monday, after I give them time to write down their own values, we are going to learn airset and explore some other online ways to automate their planning. When we finish, each person is going to create a movie about how they will keep a list, a calendar, and their important addresses. I find that each person needs a system that works for them, but it is must be a system. We have seen a consistent increase in grades after teaching the students this. Then, I will be teaching the amazing Cornell notetaking system that literally is one of the main reasons that I was first in my class at Georgia Tech.

Computer Graphic Design
I'm going to have to share another post about the amazing things going on here. Many of my non-academic types excel in this class where they immerse themselves in effective graphic design and non-verbal communication skills.

I love teaching! It is my life. I love my students! When they learn and get excited, it is a greater adrenaline rush than skydiving (I think), but I can feel it over and over again as I reflect on the light bulb experiences.

Now is the time of year when last year's seniors and their parents call and thank me. My students often take a computer science course their first semester to help their GPA because they are confident. That is the best endorsement I can get!


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