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How Do I Talk To 4th Graders About IT?

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the just-promise-you-won't-introduce-them-to-basic dept.

Education 531

Tsunayoshi writes "My son volunteered me to give a presentation on what I do for a living for career day at his elementary school. I need to come up with a roughly 20-minute presentation to be given to 4-5 different classrooms. I am a systems administrator, primarily Unix/Linux and enterprise NAS/SAN storage, working for an aerospace company. I was thinking something along the lines of explaining how some everyday things they experience (websites, telephone systems, etc.) all depend on servers, and those servers are maintained by systems administrators. I was also going to talk about what I do specifically, which is maintain the computer systems that allow the really smart rocket scientists to get things into space. Am I on the right track? Can anyone suggest some good (and cheap/easy to make) visual aids?"

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Keep It Fun & Exciting (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#25245209)

I am code monkey so I have no right to make fun of your job but let's look at it from the eyes of your audience:

I am a systems administrator,

tedius

primarily Unix/Linux

boring

and enterprise NAS/SAN storage,

snore

working for an aerospace company.

BINGO!

There's a lot of angles you could approach your job from but if I can give you any advice, keep it entertaining. I volunteer to teach grade school kids occasionally and what we do is an engineering challenge for each class. We do many different challenges but an example is handing out limited supplies to each team and having them build paper planes. Sometimes we throw in random stuff like paper clips or rubber bands to see what the kids try to do with them. While they work, we talk about engineering in general. At the beginning we'll give them specific requirements in a childish Statement of Work style which lay out how we are selecting the best airplane or bridge or tower or whatever.

At the end of the session we start to ramp up the specifics as we do the final tests on the stuff they made and hand out candy. I'll start to talk about structural integrity, how we use math to make things better, etc. As I get more technical, I'll start to lose kids but there are usually a few that get excited and that's why I'm there.

If you go there set on talking about just IT, you're going to lose them and--worse--possibly turn them off to technical jobs like that. Stick to the end product of what you actually provide. Try to think of fun facts to keep them entertained--don't say petabyte, figure out how many times around the world one string of text will go that a petabyte can store. Then tell them how many of those you are in charge of. I also suggest you start out generic--ask the kids what an engineer does and then get more specific with your job and place.

Also, my company always has junk left over from bring your child to work day, hand that stuff out like prizes or give one to each student if you have enough.

Re:Keep It Fun & Exciting (5, Interesting)

_hAZE_ (20054) | about 6 years ago | (#25245451)

You could very easily combine IT and aerospace.. bring in a laptop with a paper-airplane making program. Help the kids design and fold some paper airplanes.

You could also focus on the IT side; take a computer apart ahead of time, bring it in in pieces, and put it together and make it work. Nothing too complex, just need to put in a stick of memory, hard drive, video card, perhaps a wireless if it's available at the school.

Re:Keep It Fun & Exciting (5, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | about 6 years ago | (#25245459)

See if you can blow something up.
Kids love that stuff.

Re:Keep It Fun & Exciting (3, Informative)

Xiroth (917768) | about 6 years ago | (#25245663)

Try to think of fun facts to keep them entertained--don't say petabyte, figure out how many times around the world one string of text will go that a petabyte can store.

About 55,000, with a size ~8 font size (depending on font).

(Bastard, you knew that half the people here wouldn't be able to help themselves.)

Re:Keep It Fun & Exciting (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245761)

Step one is get a couple of those anatomically correct dolls. Step two cover the whole good touch/bad touch subject. Then jam your fist up the backside of one of the dolls.

Keep IT Real (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245767)

Explain to them how Teh Lunis is a living god, how open source is the only thing saving the world from the destruction of the evil closed source overlords, and how Bill Gates is the antichrist.

You know, keep it real. Just say everything Slashdot would say.

And don't forget to spew some anti-Vista FUD while you are there! Remember, the goal is long enough and loud enough- then they will believe.

Flowcharts (4, Funny)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about 6 years ago | (#25245219)

Flowcharts, and keep it simple. Visual aids really help.

Re:Flowcharts (4, Funny)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | about 6 years ago | (#25245513)

Flowcharts, and keep it simple. Visual aids really help.

If you're looking for visual aids a series of tubes might help.

Re:Flowcharts (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | about 6 years ago | (#25245581)

better to just use a really descriptive, structured language to express your ideas, like COBOL

Re:Flowcharts (1)

wudukes (1350923) | about 6 years ago | (#25245731)

Your gonna present flowcharts to a fourth grader?

Re:Flowcharts (2, Insightful)

Foofoobar (318279) | about 6 years ago | (#25245809)

Give it like the elevator speech. Pretend you are pitching a movie idea to a film exec or talking to a CEO. Both have the IQ's of fourth graders.

This sounds like one of those anti-drug ads... (5, Funny)

Lendrick (314723) | about 6 years ago | (#25245221)

"Talk to your kids about IT ... before someone else does."

Re:This sounds like one of those anti-drug ads... (3, Insightful)

Cragen (697038) | about 6 years ago | (#25245299)

Yep. Better get permission slips from the parents, first. Turning their kids into geekss without their permission might not make them happy in the least. (My teen-age son was simply stunned the first time he heard me refer to myself as a geek.)

Have fun. Really. If you are having fun, they probably are, too.

Re:This sounds like one of those anti-drug ads... (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 6 years ago | (#25245483)

Too late to talk about "IT".
By second grade, she had said "Put YouTube in MySpace".
Sex is just another video game, alas(ka).

Re:This sounds like one of those anti-drug ads... (1)

rodney dill (631059) | about 6 years ago | (#25245649)

You need to stop them from doing C++rack

Use simple metaphors (5, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | about 6 years ago | (#25245239)

Explain that software is like a city... pipes, houses, roads, bridges. Explain that there are people who design the stuff, make it, repair it, and use it. Explain that this is the world they will live in, and give examples they can relate to: the phone network, the Internet.

Give them the understanding that IT is about stacks, layers, stuff that is old and deep, stuff that is fresh and useless...

Don't use technical words, don't try to teach anything specific at all, and don't try to sell Linux or open source (kids tend to respond to sales pitches cynically and negatively).

My advice above all is to explain how it's about people, doing things, making things, working together.

Re:Use simple metaphors (5, Funny)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | about 6 years ago | (#25245527)

Don't forget to explain the difference between tubes and dump trucks

Re:Use simple metaphors (1)

ryanleary (805532) | about 6 years ago | (#25245553)

I think you meant software is like a city... houses, roads, bridges... and tubes.

simple (3, Funny)

Errtu76 (776778) | about 6 years ago | (#25245241)

"It's all about cookies. Who wants a cookie??"

Re:simple (4, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | about 6 years ago | (#25245689)

Who wants a cookie?

Oh, me! Me! Me!

Heeeey, you tricked me. The old IT/cookie switch-a-roo.

Start with the basics (5, Funny)

A beautiful mind (821714) | about 6 years ago | (#25245253)

Start with the basics and work your way up from there.

I'd suggest axiomatic set theory first coupled with computing history, linear algebra and analysis. Throw in some logic into the mix for good measure. Once they got the basics point them towards the linux kernel and start discussing the more interesting issues of SMP, scheduling, latency and memory management.

Re:Start with the basics (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | about 6 years ago | (#25245727)

I agree: and by lunch they should be up to warp theory and Heisenburg uncertainty couplers...

=Smidge=

Old gear? (5, Informative)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | about 6 years ago | (#25245275)

One cheap visual aid would be an old computer and or server, so you can show them what it looks like inside a computer. My kids tend to like watching me swapping components, at least.

Re:Old gear? (1)

Caudizle (1372669) | about 6 years ago | (#25245413)

I agree with Max. Bring in an old machine and pop it open. Let them come up and look inside. Turn it on and let them see the fans spin and such. Let them ask questions... My best advice is not to even try to explain what you do, their attention span is like 30 seconds. It's all about the look, sound and feel to keep them interested..

Re:Old gear? (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | about 6 years ago | (#25245495)

their attention span is like 30 seconds.

      A video or two from RedTube should fix THAT. Then, once you have their UNDIVIDED attention, point out that what you do makes it possible to see this kind of stuff from any internet capable machine on the planet.

Re:Old gear? (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 6 years ago | (#25245609)

Wow, sounds like my boss!

Re:Old gear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245551)

Yes! As a kid I loved playing around with old motherboards. I felt guilt free leaving fingerprints all over the cpu.

Easy... (4, Funny)

jav1231 (539129) | about 6 years ago | (#25245285)

"See the Internet is a series of tubes! And you have to understand that those tubes can get clogged up!"

Show your scars? (3, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | about 6 years ago | (#25245289)

System administrator, eh? You can start by showing your scars.

Series of tubes (4, Funny)

Manip (656104) | about 6 years ago | (#25245291)

As one of the 21st centuries greatest thinkers said:
"And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material" - Ted Stevens

Re:Series of tubes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245681)

What's really funny, is that it's an adequate explanation for those who don't know and don't care about acronyms.

Re:Series of tubes (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 6 years ago | (#25245817)

Seems a pretty reasonable analogy to me. Internet bandwidth is limited. If someone sends 10Mb/s down a network then the bandwidth available to everyone else drops by 10Mb/s.

Ted Stevens approach (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 6 years ago | (#25245297)

You see, kids... the internet is like a series of pipes, and I, as a system administrator, am the plumber of the digital age, making sure all the crap flows freely in and out of your homes and offices.

Re:Ted Stevens approach (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | about 6 years ago | (#25245337)

Dont forget to stress how its not a truck you can just dump something on.

But, on a more serious note, just explain to the kids how you run the computers that make things like the internet work. Use car analogies and you should be fine.

No problem (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245307)

How Do I Talk To 4th Graders About IT?

      Apparently most of them worked for Microsoft to design and code Vista and Office 2007, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Based upon current attention limitations... (3, Funny)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | about 6 years ago | (#25245311)

Put it in nonsensical pop music format. And keep it shorter then 3 minutes.

Re:Based upon current attention limitations... (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | about 6 years ago | (#25245791)

"the system...is down
the system... is down
down down down down doww
dodo dododoo dodo dododoo"

a sample [homestarrunner.com] (flash required)

offtopic, but important (1, Informative)

Espectr0 (577637) | about 6 years ago | (#25245315)

anyone has problems since yesterday with the layout? the tagging words appear too close to the read more links on firefox 3.
on IE the spacing is better but the css and/or javscript has issues and doesn't look right.

Re:offtopic, but important (2, Informative)

LibertineR (591918) | about 6 years ago | (#25245837)

Yep, I have the same problem. Just since yesterday. Somebody fucked with the CSS, it appears.

Go Hands-on (5, Interesting)

prgrmr (568806) | about 6 years ago | (#25245339)

Get a dead hard disk drive, take the cover off so the platters and read/write head are visible. Pass it around the class while you talk. Computers and IT will become immediately more real to them once they can touch it and see that a computer isn't just a fancy TV with keyboard and mouse.

If you want to add an analogy they can relate to, also bring a long a stack of encylopedias or an OED and do the "the words in X many of these books will fit on that disk" comparison.

bad moderators- bad, bad ,bad Re:Go Hands-on (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 6 years ago | (#25245643)

How on earth is a dead hard drive offtopic when the topic is IT? Unless this administrator in question runs his entire operation with SSD's, he likely has some dead hard drives sitting around somewhere.

And going hands-on is exactly the right way to make your work relevant to children. No kid wants to sit through a power point talk.

Pictures of your data center (3, Interesting)

DeadSea (69598) | about 6 years ago | (#25245341)

I always get jealous of IT folks when I see that they get to work with racks of equipment. It seems to me like it is building with Lego blocks for a living.

In addition to software installation and security, our IT folks plan out the hardware with the power and cooling requirements. I would have been fascinated by this stuff as a kid (and I still am).

Re:Pictures of your data center (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245769)

There you go: The information on the SAN is like Lego blocks, the bucket they're in is the server.

You work on the servers/SAN (hold the bucket), and walk around (network).

Tell then not to do it! (2, Funny)

orsty3001 (1377575) | about 6 years ago | (#25245343)

You've got a chance to save lives here!!!!

Be honest. (0)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | about 6 years ago | (#25245351)

Tell them that unless you get lucky and find a job at a company that respects its employees instead of treating them as indentured servants, IT is a thankless job that is best left to suckers in India.

Do A Powerpoint Presentation (4, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | about 6 years ago | (#25245355)

If your manager can understand it, a 4th grader should have no problem understanding what you do!

Re:Do A Powerpoint Presentation (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245521)

If your manager can understand it, a 4th grader should have no problem understanding what you do!

That's a pretty big assumption (the part about management understanding it...)

Sysadmin = roadie (4, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | about 6 years ago | (#25245365)

You're an aerospace sysadmin. So you're a roadie for rocket scientists.

Rocket Science = EXCITING!

So talk about how what you do holds up the exciting stuff.

Re:Sysadmin = roadie (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 6 years ago | (#25245665)

I agree with parent. Completely. IT == boring. Aerospace == really neat. Stress the fact that you support the aerospace, not the nitty-gritty details of a server farm.

Alternatively, you can talk about how, as sysadmin, you get to read everyone's private email when you get bored. That might play well.

Re:Sysadmin = roadie (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 years ago | (#25245801)

"So you're a roadie for rocket scientists."

Consider that phrase stolen ^H^H^H^H^H^H pirated ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H infringed.

Interactive (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245367)

Make it interactive. IT isn't all about obscure software and commands.

Bring some cables, tagle them up, see who can untangle the mess fastest. [These go great with pictures of a 'messy' server room installation]

Bring some old media, hard drives, etc, show them how they work.

Take along some cable testers, etc, show them how they work, maybe bring a crimper and have them give it a shot.

Show some pretty graphs, show them what happens when the 'slashdot effect' happens to a server.

Its the grittier side of IT, but if they are interested in it, it's what they will be doing, [Cable pulling, router rebooting, windows reinstalling, etc].

Re:Interactive (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | about 6 years ago | (#25245683)

It was many moons ago, 1st grade, the teacher's boyfriend was a telecom tech. He brought about 6ft of 100 pair cable, chopped up to the right size for all the kids in class to make bendy wire things out of (rings, soldiers etc.) Not long after that I was introduced to a volt meter. By 9 I was 'fixing' (destroying) televisions. Visual aid material is important.

SysAdmins make it possible for people to share ideas and information as well as use computer based tools. When you think of it like that, you should be able to find a way to get the kids to share etc. and compare this to what you do. Two kids drawing rocket parts, putting drawing in an envelope (packetize it) and pass it along the 8 kids acting like a network to another 'engineer' who is designing a different part of the rocket. An estes model rocket (in pieces) for them to use as a guide to draw from would be good. Make the network kids on the ends hold a nic card in their hand. cat 5 cables between the other network kids etc. Make the kids 'part' of the networked system. Just a few thoughts.

you have the right idea (1)

ramul (1103299) | about 6 years ago | (#25245395)

start it with something they can relate to and understand. then you can explain how servers relate to that. then you can explain how servers work and what you need to do to servers to keep em chugging along!

explain what could happen when things go wrong, and how this would effect them. keep it simple and fun, say stupid things that will make them laugh. have fun with it yourself

Two words: Video games (3, Interesting)

Kludge (13653) | about 6 years ago | (#25245401)

Explain how online video games work from a networking and storage point of view.
You don't do video games? Doesn't matter.

Microsoft actually got this one right... (4, Funny)

Yogger (24866) | about 6 years ago | (#25245407)

As much as I hate to say it, MS actually got one right. They ran a webcomic (Heroes Happen Here) for a while, most of it wasn't too great. The 1st page is a kid asking his dad what he does for a living so he can give a school presentation about it. The dad goes on about what he does as a developer and it goes way over the kids head. So the kid tells everyone his dad drives an ice cream truck.

http://blogs.technet.com/hhh_comic/archive/2008/01/29/hhh-comic-releases-day-1-comic.aspx [technet.com]

Tell the truth! (1)

CaptScarlet22 (585291) | about 6 years ago | (#25245409)

Tell them to stay the fuck away from the IT sector!

Instead, tell them to be doctors or garbage men...

Talk about rockets. (1)

Greymoon (834879) | about 6 years ago | (#25245411)

You're in Aerospace and you're going to talk to 9 year olds about telephone systems, websites, servers and server administrators? Good luck with that. Talk about science, talk about space, talk about rockets. Bring in pictures of the above, make copies on a printer, pass them out for the children to keep. Pass out decals with your company's logo. Talk of your companies achievements. Inspire them with the results of your company not server maintenance.

The same way you talk to your users (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 6 years ago | (#25245445)

The same way you talk to your users but you can assume they are intelligent and want to learn about computers and such. You can probably even hit them with a few advanced concepts that you normally have to "dummy down" when talking to management. :D

Cheers,
Dave

Easy (1)

no-body (127863) | about 6 years ago | (#25245455)

To talk about "IT", do it the old way: start with bees and flowers and once that concept is understood, move on from there.

Re:Easy (1)

GiovanniZero (1006365) | about 6 years ago | (#25245537)

when I was a kid we they didn't teach 4th graders about "it". 4th graders taught themselves about "it" and thats really the best way to learn about "it".

Re:Easy (2, Funny)

Onaga (1369777) | about 6 years ago | (#25245543)

Not far off. Here is a script you can use:

You: Do you kids know how Mommy and Daddy put Elmo on YouTube when it's time to "clean the master bedroom?"

Them: Yes.

You: I make sure Elmo keeps playing until the room is clean.

Obligatory (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245481)

My job involves explaining things to idiots. Then the idiots make decisions based on misinterpreting what I said. Then it is my job to try to fix the massive problems caused by the bad decisions. Eventually, rumors overwhelm facts, and I give up. In the final phase, I assign blame to an unpopular coworker. So whatever you do if life, don't be unpopular.

Warn them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245485)

This is a perfect opportunity to warn these kids! If you can't be a good example, be a warning.

Here's how it goes:

Look kids, I didn't work very hard at school. Yeah, I was smart, but I really didn't apply myself. The other smarts kids who applied themselves and went to college are now Doctors, Lawyers, Management, Accountants, and other professionals. They really don't have to worry about their jobs being outsourced or off-shored. They make great livings. And they're respected.

Us in IT, on the other hand, are sweating that our jobs will be sent over seas. We work more hours than the above professions and we get no respect! We are really blue collar workers.

So study hard, go to college and choose a career other than IT.

Now, for you kids who are thinking about being an electrician or a plumber, great idea! They won't be outsourced and they will always be needed! And they make more than us in IT!

So say after me kids - "IT is not a good career choice. I will study hard and go to college and make something of myself.!

For you kids who are artsy or whatever...good luck! Walmart and McDonlad's are expected to grow in the future.

That's the perfect age for such an audience... (2, Funny)

Norwell Bob (982405) | about 6 years ago | (#25245529)

Since all the 4th grade boys think girls are icky, it should be an easy sell.

When you find out how to explain it to your kids.. (5, Funny)

rodney dill (631059) | about 6 years ago | (#25245533)

... let me know how, so I can explain it to my parents.

Dunno who tagged "You don't" (3, Interesting)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about 6 years ago | (#25245541)

Don't underestimate kids. They may be immature and annoying but they aren't stupid (naive and ignorant maybe but not stupid). Give them the tools and they will learn. I had my first computers (commodore 64 and a vic 20) at around 6 years old. I learned dos by 10 and had fixed dozens of electronic, computer, and mechanical devices around the house with no help from anyone (not even books). I'd be willing to bet that this anecdotal evidence is a mere drop in the pond compared to others on slashdot. I consider myself intelligent but I've seen tons of kids that blow me out of the water. The trick is just to find the right spark to get their curiosity going. (and each kid differs a lot in that realm)

Forget the kids... (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | about 6 years ago | (#25245545)

how about explaining to us what the fuck you guys do. Seriously. Other than, X broke because we didn't set it up to handle infinitely predictable situation Y (harddrive filled up, fuck eh? heard of log rolling?) and completely failing to have a backup solution that can actually result in being able to restore someone's files from a backup, what exactly is it? I know you guys make firewall rules.. and you change them now and then.. completely fucking up everything that was working just fine thank you every now and then, but surely that's just one sysadmin making work for another sysadmin isn't it? I can see why so many companies are greeting outsourcing of basic shit like email and revision control and backup with open arms. With that out of the way all you guys have to do is make sure the desktops are working........ which currently you never have time to do.

on the right track (1)

fragbait (209346) | about 6 years ago | (#25245571)

I think you are on the right track, i.e. explaining things from the point of view of the things they use (phone, internet, etc). From there, I would compare your job to something similar that isn't so abstract, e.g. car mechainic, plumber, etc. This isn't to confuse them, but to tell them your role. Lastly, talk about what your company does and how you fit into it.

As for visual aids, a picture of a command prompt won't do. Perhaps a single presentation slide that shows people working on the things they understand (phone, computer, spaceship) all connected to computer you are working on/operating. Put a wrench in your hand or floating around you somewhere. Point out that this is you. After all, they are only 8.

-fragbait

You know the internet? (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#25245573)

I do that.

end of presentation.

tin cans and string, seriously (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245577)

Tin cans and string for props .. explain that you fix the string if it falls apart or gets cut.

A good start (5, Funny)

Todd Fisher (680265) | about 6 years ago | (#25245583)

First step is to let your child know, in no uncertain terms, that volunteering you for anything in the future will result in two months grounding.

No way this story is genuine (4, Funny)

jeremyp (130771) | about 6 years ago | (#25245585)

You're a Unix sysadmin who reads Slashdot.

You don't expect us to believe that you have enough social skills to get to the point of having had children do you?

make up something instead (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 6 years ago | (#25245593)

Tell them you're a lion tamer.

show them 15 minutes of "apollo 13" (5, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 6 years ago | (#25245635)

the tom hanks/ bill paxton/ kevin bacon movie with the famous "houston, we have a problem" line

freeze frame when they cut back to ed harris and ground crew strategizing, point to some guy in the background fiddling with some equipment, and say "that's me"

Use the class itself as an example of a network (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245637)

Use the class itself as an example of a network:
(this is something they can relate to):

Say... the kids in the class are similar to individual computers. The communication medium is within the class which are channels between each student. The teacher is the SA, who maintains the class(the network - LAN)

Use recess time and class time for different topologies(so to say)

relate things to there level (1)

NoName6272 (1376401) | about 6 years ago | (#25245657)

Since there is likely a few kids in there that either use online forums or play online games try and use examples that relate to that. My 9 year old nephew has been playing rune scape for a year now and I have just started explaining to him how a computer actually works.

Also, never make another job sound cooler or smarter then yours;
" I was also going to talk about what I do specifically, which is maintain the computer systems that allow the really smart rocket scientists to get things into space"
this makes your job sound sub par.

Give them a reason to learn what they are learning, I'm not sure what 4th graders are learning any more I remember I was learning mostly the basics of algebra, how to type, basics in english, history, science. Give them directions on if they are interested in computers and possibly software or hardware / IT, where they could go to learn more, maybe an easy programing langue or how to take apart an old computer (every one has one sometime in there life) give them websites, books their local library holds, ect.

Good luck with the presentation and tell us how it went.

~~NoName

Resistance Education (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | about 6 years ago | (#25245667)

Hey kids, I'm sure you've heard of "weed" and perhaps even "cheese."

Well, there is something worse. Something that will keep you awake for weeks at a time, keep you from bathing or even eating. Even after all of that you will have no money.

That horrible, horrible scourge is "I.T."

Well shoots; You have to be able to say it first (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#25245669)

SEX. Do not use IT as a means of referring to SEX. Now the question is, why are you starting these conversation so early?

Concise way to reach them (3, Insightful)

edremy (36408) | about 6 years ago | (#25245675)

I am a systems administrator, primarily Unix/Linux and enterprise NAS/SAN storage, working for an aerospace company

Translation: "I am a garbageman. I spend most of my time with a lot of expensive and neat looking hardware cleaning up the messes of people who think they are better than me. You know the neighbor across the street who tosses a bunch of leaky, smelly trash bags on the ground every week and doesn't bother using a can? That's Bob, the engineer over in building 4 who manages to run processes that ABEND every single time because he's an idiot, but he blames the network anyway. The guy down the street who always piles up dead branches and lawn clippings until it stops anyone from walking on the sidewalk? Meet Sue in building 3, who seems to find a way to generate 900GB of crap data that then crashes the network file share. Or perhaps the family down the street with the can so smelly nobody will get near it? That's Ralph, who corrupts his files on the network store at least once a month and needs a total restore from tape.

The only really big difference is that a garbageman has more job security and is probably paid better. Stick with that or plumbing- you'll go far since people will pay anything not to have to deal with it."

Candy (1)

mobilefiend (1377585) | about 6 years ago | (#25245695)

Give out candy, talk about extreme cases of what could happen within your profession and end by giving out more candy.

Piece of cake... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245703)

You should not worry. After all you may only have the chance to scare those kids away from IT... such a huge resposibility I would not accept. ;-)

Talk To 4th Graders About IT... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245713)

.. the same way you would talk to the executives.

Re:Talk To 4th Graders About IT... (1)

alexj33 (968322) | about 6 years ago | (#25245843)

Mod parent up!!!

I did this once (1)

kj37075 (731751) | about 6 years ago | (#25245723)

I relayed to the kids the concept of writing a book. One of you writes a story on his computer. Who's good at drawing, OK - you have pictures to add so you send them to his computer and he adds them. Then send it to the teacher to read or review. Next you want to print it... They really got it and the teacher seemed very happy with it. Of course you can use the idea of engines, wings, etc.

Leave out all the technical mumbo jumbo, they won't remember those terms by recess. Just give them the concepts of using computers collaboratively and their imagination will bridge the gaps.

analogy (1)

rpillala (583965) | about 6 years ago | (#25245733)

I think you need an analogy, and to make it work for elementary school children, they need to be the ones extending your analogy beyond the basic description. A good visual aid could be cans and string. If everyone in the room has a can (which you don't need to happen for your purposes, esp in 20 minutes) then it's easy to see how:

  • The strings between cans can get physically tangled.
  • If the strings are in contact, people's conversations get messed up.
  • How do you plan a surprise party if everyone can hear everything?
  • What if you forget something someone told you and want to hear it again?

The more of these complications they come up with (as opposed to you listing them) the better for their understanding. Obviously this has limitations, or may not be sophisticated enough for the students. I don't really know. They may be pretty familiar with computers depending on their age and home life, but really people don't understand the network as an abstraction. But personally if I were teaching this (I teach high school) I would try to find some analogy and get them to extend it beyond the basics.

Also, there's a very wide range of cognitive development in the early grades. One presentation probably won't work for all grade levels. I couldn't tell what grade level you were addressing.

Re:analogy (1)

rpillala (583965) | about 6 years ago | (#25245815)

In fact, if you did decide to use cans and string, you could give them a task to complete that would reveal the problems with that system. Then you talk about what you do to fix it.

Bring Candy (1)

SolarStorm (991940) | about 6 years ago | (#25245735)

Bring a couple of laptops. Connect them through a router. If child A can connect to Child B, give them a candy. Dont talk. Set up the two laptops with messaging client. No connection. try sending a message. Then get two volunteers, have them plug them in through a switch. And send a message. Reward the class with some halloween candy. Then explain you do this kind of stuff on a much bigger level. (At the very least, they will remember you as the guy that brought candy)

Presenting an idea is not simple task (1)

nikolag (467418) | about 6 years ago | (#25245743)

Holding an interesting presentationis not an easy task.

For start observe how Steve Jobs does it. Try reading some articles about how powerpoint can be stupid and boring. There are even videos on that topic on YouTube that are nice and funny.

Then, remember that you can only resort to very limited number of letters (not words) at each slide. As computers do all that You mentioned, but also cartoons and some other things kids digg, start with snippet of some cartoon, and then use black screen for bringing Your punchline.

IT guys made it possible.

Remember, images, images, images. Flickr and toher image repositories will help You.

Keep it simple, it is much more easy to bring the message across if You reduce clutter in your presentation. Think Zen, avoid using "wizards", graphs, titles, and so on.

And remember... practice makes it perfect.

Treat them with respect (1)

eagee (1308589) | about 6 years ago | (#25245745)

Just remember, treat the kids with the respect you'd give anyone else and they'll generally return it. Focus on the aspects of your work that *you* find interesting. Don't sugarcoat what you do. Kids are usually interested in what adults do - even accountants. They can also figure out if you're being disingenuous in a heartbeat - so keep it real.

They're remarkably smart, kids are. So for gods sake don't dumb it down. They should and probably do want to know what it's like in the working world. Best of luck!

Above all, your number 1 goal (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 years ago | (#25245747)

is to make your kids friends think your son has a cool dad.

System admin work is BOOooring to 4th graders.
Keep it a little more general, keep 'data' reasonably abstract.

Talking about computers to 4th graders is now like talking to 4th graders about the phone system. We all have phones, we all know how to use them, we all have the nifty features. It just works. Hard to make the interesting.

Give some examples of things going wrong and how you saved the day. Explain how rockets wouldn't be able to go without you. Kids love rockets.

Explain how rockets would explode without you. Make yourself a hero and make is sound like you are 'da man'.

I have a 3rd and a 5th grader, and I expect my time to give a presentation to the class is coming. As a programmer I am going to need to keep it lively. I will probably do some quick Lego robotic programming so they can see the reward for my work immediatly. I'll give the class a couple of decisions on what I will do.

Good luck.

One thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245749)

There's only one thing you need to explain to the kids: Goatse!

What you do, is set up a projector and a CD player, but leave it off for the first five minutes of the presentation. Then start the presentation; warble on about SANs, LDAP/Kerberos or some other boring shit. When all the kids are looking like they're about to fall asleep:

WHAMMMOOO! You switch on the projector with the goatse images on it, start the CD player (which will have been loaded with Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up'), run for your life and never look back.

You'll probably need to change your name and never see your family again, but face facts: it'll be worth it. Plus you can take away the warm, fuzzy feeling that you've taught those children everything they need to know about the Internet.

What you really help with (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245753)

is designing weapon systems. To allow for corporate welfare for university graduates.

Fourth graders (3, Informative)

gryf (121168) | about 6 years ago | (#25245763)

Presenting to fourth graders is like presenting to upper mgt, except they have less authority.
Use lots of flashy colors, slides with sounds and visual effects, and you can make anything look important if you have spongebob squarepants say it in your slide.

Explain car repair to them, it will hurt less. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245765)

You could go for where do babies come from but they have an internet so they already know.

But please don't try to explain IT. It will just end with the kid calling you "n00b" and explaining that if you really knew what you were doing you would write your own compilers rather than just download them like a "tard".

Then they will explain which action figures and games they will buy once they take your job from you.

Been there, done that.... (4, Insightful)

LibertineR (591918) | about 6 years ago | (#25245771)

Here is what you need: 2 networked laptops, one acting as a web server, the other as a photoshopping client.

1 digital camera, and connecting USB cables.

What you want to do, is involve the kids in the building of a quick web site, while talking about the technologies that make it all work. The network connectivity, the HTML that places THEIR pictures on the page, even talk about the various cables necessary to connect the computers, the camera to the computer, and explain what happens when they press ENTER. Literally trace the content down the wire.

Prepare a template ahead of time, take pictures of the kids, use some cool filters in Photoshop, and then add them to the web page. In the end, the kids get jazzed over seeing their picture on a web page, and will enjoy your explaining how it worked, from the camera to the page.

Dont be a dufus and go on about the wonders of DHCP, and all that. Its got to be applicable to what they care about.

Anyway, that worked for me, and I got a dozen calls from parents asking me for follow-on advice, as their kids demanded tools to build their own sites.

If you remember the principle of demonstrating how IT effects their lives, you will have a captive audience. I guarantee that if you get into IT from a nuts and bolts perspective, rather than applying IT to what kids care about, you will get snores.

from their eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245773)

You understand cool stuff, just explain it to 4th & 5th graders:
Why is what you do relevant to Nintendo, Gamebox, Facebook & text messaging? Tell them.

String and Fruit Loops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245789)

The strings are the network connections, the Fruit Loops are the packets.

Cut the string = network outage, downtime, whatever.

You, the network admin, tie the string back together.

Fishing line might be best.

When teaching things to kids, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25245839)

Use Candy it always works.

humblly, some may know more than you (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 6 years ago | (#25245841)

Each generation is more integrated with computing than the previous.
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