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Computer Curriculum for Inner City Kids?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the just-as-important-as-the-3-R's dept.

Education 267

manicmailman asks: "I have recently (and probably somewhat rashly) volunteered to help teach computers at a local inner city school's summer camp program. I am really excited about this endeavor, but I have absolutely no experience. I was wondering if anyone else had experience teaching computers to elementary school students, particularly inner city ones. I'll probably only be there for 4 to 6 hours a week for about 8 weeks. The principal has given me almost total freedom with the computer class, so I am looking for suggestions about where to start and what to cover." Children from all walks of life deserve an education, and like it or not, computers are becomming as much a part of our lives as reading, writing and math. What lessons are kids ready to accept about computers at this stage, and how does one keep them interested?

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Re:Ask Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#165368)

I don't see why asking a legitimate question about experience in elementary computer education is a sign of laziness or stupidity. When it comes to grade schoolers, one can't just RTFM. Experience is valuable too.

Some of the Ask Slashdot questions are dodgy, but this one isn't one of them.

What not to do (from my own experience) (1)

dbarron (286) | more than 13 years ago | (#165373)

1) Don't bore them
2) Don't let them play games all the time
3) Find something fun as an incentive for attendance/paying attention. I've seen professors that threw candy (or money even) at intervals. Seriously, it'll help :)
4) Try to make them learn at least one thing every session

These are distilled from my experiences teaching high school juniors and seniors as a mentor in the Boy Scout Explorers program. My topic was computers in the workplace.
I did a horrible job, I'm afraid most techies just aren't cut out for this kind of work (least I'm not).
Good luck!

Emphasizing "inner city" == racist (1)

alewando (854) | more than 13 years ago | (#165374)

I'm reading your article, and it sounds like an interesting topic for discussion, but any productive conversation we could have can't happen now, because of your racism in noting the "inner city" status of the students.

Why emphasize that fact? How is it possibly relevant? Whether you realize it or not, you're just playing on society's deeply rooted prejudices about how inner-city students just can't learn because they're too stupid or too black. It's a disgrace.

And which "inner city" are we talking about here? You're again playing on society's prejudices when you lump all urban environments together as somehow producing inferior students or inferior learning environments. The racial and economic composition of inner-city LA is nothing like that of Chicago or New York. The only thing such urban environments have in common is a high concentration of residents (hence, "city"). To say otherwise is to be blind to racism and classism.

If you're going to be an effective teacher for these students, then you first must overcome the prejudices and patronizing tone you've apparently adopted. No one wants to be talked down to, and if you show up for the students with an attitude that they are "different" from and "inferior" to you, then they will be only further discouraged and offended. Remember, these communities have enough problems without having to deal with your white guilt or misplaced social intentions.


NewWazoo (2508) | more than 13 years ago | (#165377)

What's better than the turtle? It runs on super-old, virtually free hardware (can you say Apple II/E? I knew you could). It teaches the fundamentals of programming (arguments, control loops, etc). Logowriter provides instant feedback, which is a plus to new programmers -- type FD 50, and *watch* the turtle move! It's COOL.

Logo was the first language I ever learned, and without a doubt, it was what got me started in programming. By the end of my third year I was making movies complete with animations and music. It's the ultimate sandbox, it's cheap (if not free), and kids don't even know they're "programming".

My $0.04

Games ZZT and MegaZeux (1)

richieb (3277) | more than 13 years ago | (#165378)

These are two game systems that run on DOS. They are pretty low-tech (ASCII character graphics etc), but both include a game editor that allows you to build your own games - including programing the elements of the game.

Any game you download includes the source so they can learn that way. My son learned to code using these systems when he was 9 years old.


P.S. Another idea is to set up Linux machine and let them build a website (using Netscape Composer etc).

PPS. Look up ZZT and MegaZeux in Google to find the programs.

Re:I prefer to KISS (1)

Quinn (4474) | more than 13 years ago | (#165379)

I don't think it's right to teach kids to rock and roll all night and party every day.


Computers != Programming (1)

Quinthar (8712) | more than 13 years ago | (#165382)

I taught graphics and programming classes to middle- and high-school students for a couple summers, and that was a lot of fun.

One question: what in particular do you want to teach? You mention that you're supposed to teach "computers", but "computers != programming". Indeed, I wouldn't endeavor to teach programming to anyone that didn't explicitly say they wanted to learn it. If you're going to be dealing with a random sample of students from an average classroom, I'm guessing most couldn't care less about programming.

Were I in your position, I'd play around with Photoshop (or perhaps even something simpler), publish a simple webpage, browse through the web, etc. Also, I'd pull out Quake or some other FPS -- seriously. I'd probably get some tame Mod so there isn't blood flying all over the place, but I think it makes perfect sense to introduce them to gaming (if they aren't already L337).

When I was teaching graphics, I pulled out the Duke Nukem' level editor -- it worked fantastically. It was easy to use, and extremely rewarding with plenty of instant gratification. At the end we had competitions in each others levels -- it was a ton of fun.

However, I wouldn't in any way assume that kids want to learn programming. That is a nightmarish situation to force-feed.

Teach something they can apply in real life (1)

Ex Machina (10710) | more than 13 years ago | (#165383)

Have them play dopewars! they can learn about economics, their own culture and computers all at once. Seriously though, this seems to follow the sam philosophy as those reader rabbit type games.

Grade school computer teaching (1)

Mendenhall (32321) | more than 13 years ago | (#165393)

I have done this before (a long time ago, when I was teaching summer grade school kids on an Apple II, when they were new).

I would certainly make a point of having some fun computer games and other types of play for them (to keep them interested), but I also think there is a very serious matter they should spend some time (maybe an hour a day) on: problem solving.

There are some 'classic' problems, which are kind of fun to work with students on, but which require absolutely no use of a computer. The first is the problem of having students, working in small groups, prepare a step-by-step set of instructions for a few simple, everyday tasks (tying shoes is an obvious one). Then, you take each set of instructions and follow them absolutely literally. The results are usually hilarious, and give the kids an idea how 'dumb' (i.e. literal) computers are. Of course, you should give them a few tries, and they will quickly converge on a real set of instructions.

Then, work with them on some more normal algorithmic tasks, again by hand. have them plan how to sort a deck of cards, or how to count to ten (and stop when they get there). It is important to stress that you don't spend all the time doing this stuff, or the kids will be bored to tears, but if you do some of it, and do it in a fun way, you will get them started thinking about how computers really work.

PowerPoint (1)

Shook (75517) | more than 13 years ago | (#165404)

PowerPoint! (I feel my karma dropping). It has pictures, animations, sounds, and lets the kids express themselves creatively. It will also get them used to the Windows/Icons/Menus/Pointer things. Maybe you could burn some CD's full of good clipart and sound effects. You can give assignments for presentations on certain subjects, and then they can all present to the class If you can afford more recent versions, PowerPoint has good HTML conversion, and can allow your kids to post their creations to the web. I have always thought PP was the most fun thing for time killing when I'm at the office, and I have heard that kids love it too.

A Definite Hit W/Kids = Oregon Trail! (1)

Trinity-Infinity (91335) | more than 13 years ago | (#165407)

Long ago, when I was a young one in my middle class elementary school in suburban DC, we were lucky enough to go to the computer lab once a week or so, twice if we were in the G/T program.

They would try to work with us by letting us play school standards like "math blaster" or word games, but our favorites by far, which not only got us comfortable with the computer itself, but interacting with it, was Oregon Trail. While this is no substitute for a solid course of study for your summer camp program - treating the kids to something enjoyable, a computer recess if you will, is vital to keeping them interested and engaged in what they're doing.

Hope this helps some/any!

Re:keeping them interested... (1)

rapett0 (92674) | more than 13 years ago | (#165408)

I second this. I remember Oregon Trail like it was yesterday. Interfaces haven't radically changed in years, maybe throwing them on Trash 80's and C64's will teach them how to be operators in larger computer rooms where they have large arachic equipment and textual interfaces :)

The GIMP (1)

sirhan (105815) | more than 13 years ago | (#165410)

Let them on some machines that with the GIMP. It would teach them a little bit about keyboard bindings, and let them do some drawing at the same time. Only problem here is that you need alot of computers with decent power (or a few with decent power), and I don't know how you're going to get those.
Anyway, the GIMP runs on so many platforms, you could run Windows or OSwhatever machines and still use it!

Re:More Realistic Goals (1)

phossie (118421) | more than 13 years ago | (#165415)

1. Ask what the kids want to learn about.
2. Dynamically reallocate your curriculum to meet their interests.
2a. If they want to learn about music, then get into how the music they like is made. Get into what makes a drum machine work in the first place. Get into the fact that a drum machine is a little, limited-function computer.
2b. RoboRally - it's a board game. It's awesome for procedures.
2c. That robot wars show on comedy central, whatever it's called - get them into it. Then explain that you can build "logical" robots to control those, and get rid of the humans with the remote controls.
2d. Make sure they understand that people put all this stuff together, at least initially, and that it's not perfect... but that if they (the kids) have a problem with it, they can learn to do something else, and do it better. That they could get the 31337 5kl11z for themselves, that within the bounds of a computer, you're not as limited (in some ways, obviously) as you are in meatspace. Explain that it's possible to be a badass with a computer. Check out what Dr. Dre might have to say about digital information - if that's a relevent message.

Hope this isn't completely useless to you...

Why don't you ask them? (1)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 13 years ago | (#165416)

Use the Socratic Method; ask leading questions...

Ask them to list things you can do with a computer (or what they think you can do with one). Throw in a few examples of cool stuff like animation and games if they seem to be having trouble.

From there you can pick something to teach them, or even have them pick something they want to learn more about.

Participation is really the key. The more you can get them to participate, the more they will enjoy it and the more they will learn.

Keep them doing stuff. The busier they are the better. Lecture is what will kill the enthusiasm.

I was a math tutor for almost 3 years (mostly college level, some high school and younger kids) and believe me, if these tricks can for math, they can certainly work for something interesting, like computers.

ethics! (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#165419)

Or if not ethics, teach them, "if you do this, you will go to jail faster than you can say 'all minorities are criminals'"! Because if even one of them misbehaves, you can kiss your job and that poor kid's future goodbye. If you don't believe me, just search through slashdot articles about how little kids get beat up over computer misbehavior, then think about what they would do to an inner city kid as opposed to a suburban kid.

Make sure it comes right after teaching them basic typing, basic Windows, history of the web, how to surf the web, how to set up and use email, netiquette, how to use a chat client (aim/jabber/trillian), and right before teaching them basic DOS commands, basic unix shell commands, html->lisp->scheme->python.

ICQ 77863057

Re:Emphasizing "inner city" == racist (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 13 years ago | (#165422)

There was a valid reason for emphasizing "inner city"; to indicate that there is a good chance that these students have had little or no access to computers; much less high end computers that your "average American kid" will have had.

Just because its not 'politically correct' doesn't mean it can't be used properly and constructively.

FP! (1)

digitalmuse (147154) | more than 13 years ago | (#165431)

just kidding... I'd suggest doing some hunting online and see what you can dig up with a little work on Google. While I'm sure that those of us here on /. have our technical chops, you really should be looking for a solid educational structure for your course. Good luck, let us know how it turns out

Re:Ask Slashdot (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 13 years ago | (#165437)

Making fun of an Ask Slashdot by suggesting the poster is too lazy to find the answers for himself: How Original.

Re:what kind of racist shit is this? (1)

pmbuko (162438) | more than 13 years ago | (#165438)

Didn't you see "Finding Forrester"? :)

Game programming (1)

cr@ckwhore (165454) | more than 13 years ago | (#165440)

Teach them to design and write a basic 3d shooter style game... that way, they'll keep interest in the project and have something they are proud of at the end of the course. You may want lay out guidelines about the guns (force them to use imaginative ray guns for example) so that the inner city liberal whinos don't get upset.

Constructing a game of this style will excercise different areas of computing... graphic design, 3d spatial relationships, math (trig), logic flow, and of course programming.

Re:Emphasizing "inner city" == racist (1)

tshak (173364) | more than 13 years ago | (#165441)

I don't think he's prejudice, rather, I think he's honestly aknowledging a socialogical problem and doing good by attempting to help it. The unfortunate reality is, there are "ghetto's" (regardless of race), and they do have statistically lower standards of education. I think you are being more "racist" by bringing "race" into the discussion in the first place. And please do not argue facts with Politcally Correct propaganda - it's intellectually dishonest.

Scratch an itch (1)

tester13 (186772) | more than 13 years ago | (#165444)

I think the best idea is to find out what the kids you are helping are into and help them advance in that. I remember being sent to a computer school in the summer when I was about nine years old. We spent weeks trying to learn LOGO. I can honestly say that it was one of the most boring experiences in my entire life.

The same method is also bad for newer technologies. IMO it would be a bad idea to push HTML on kids. They want to make web pages! As their skills improve they will start to learn these things without your help. You should be getting them to love technology (even if it's just playing games all summer). Not making anyone sit in the heat trying to make a stupid turtle go around a screen!

Re:keeping them interested... (1)

Chundra (189402) | more than 13 years ago | (#165445)

These moderators are smoking crack. That's the funniest thing I've seen all day.

More Realistic Goals (1)

theRhinoceros (201323) | more than 13 years ago | (#165448)

I think a lot of posters are expecting you to teach some sort of programming course; I would think that assumes quite a bit of the students prior to meeting them.

I would suggest as a baseline goal to foster familiarity with the computer first (how GUIs work, basic internet skills, general operability knowledge) and then go from there. Programming would be pretty difficult if they didn't have this.

Most importantly of all, I would strive to teach them enough about computers to learn more about them on their own after the class has ended. The course needn't be intensive or comprehensive; all you need to really do is to teach them enough such that they could decide if this kind of thing is "for them" or not.

Re:When I was a young'un (1)

Starbreeze (209787) | more than 13 years ago | (#165452)

Dammit, you beat me to the "when i was a young'un..." post.

When I was in elementary school, we had Apple IIes, you booted off that 5 1/2" floppy and we had to learn how to type, and we got to play shit like Oregon Trail and Number Munchers. I remember manipulating that little turtle thingy too.

Wow... seriously old-school hehe.

How to make it stick (1)

dfinney (210092) | more than 13 years ago | (#165453)

The key to education is ensuring sufficient repetition to make concepts stick. Techniques range from drill, which makes kids unhappy, to games which are supposed to keep the kids coming back. In reality, kids seem to understand games pretty quickly, with boredom following soon after. I'd recommend teaching them to make animations, say with a GIF tool, and teach them to email them to each other. For an advanced topic, show them how to embed them in a web page. While this seems simple, never underestimate the amount of basic skills that a beginner lacks. This exercise puts people with little or no contact with computers through most of the activities they are likely to face with any software, plus it is open-ended. With these basic skills, kids can expand their expertise either in class or with software that they are likely to find on any computer that they find themselves using.

Re:stupid comments == racist (1)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 13 years ago | (#165458)

Mod this one up!

Games... (1)

Sterling Anderson (235186) | more than 13 years ago | (#165463)

I would bet that most of the people reading /. learned about computers because they wanted to play games.
At least that's how I got started. Dad brought home the the blazing fat PC with 640K of memory and said "If you want to play games you figure it out yourself." I grabbed the DOS manual and started skimming.
Show them a few simple games and throw in the web and you have their interest. From there they will learn the basics. If they want to get more out of it they will have that basic knowledge to figure most things out for themselves. Of course having a resource (you) on hand to answer questions would certainly help things.

Re:tip (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#165465)

Yeah, why bother with silly things like relevant job skills? So what should they learn? How to code device drivers?

Hmmm.. (1)

joshyboy (237516) | more than 13 years ago | (#165467)

You should probably start with the basics of computing such as what the tv screen is called, what's inside and what it does (not pixie dust :)) After you've covered how it works, move on to the good stuff like OS's, software, and touch on how that works.

Be sure to explain the whole story behind Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the Woz (include some of his pranks to keep them interested). After you've told them about WHAT can be done with computers, show them how to do it in whatever way possible. As users above me have mentioned, LOGO would be a good start, but it really depends on what aspect of computers you are focusing on, be it the internet, text processing, whatever. :)

constructive curriculum suggestions: (1)

emes (240193) | more than 13 years ago | (#165469)

You have a golden opportunity to address many important needs. I would like to suggest some curriculum areas for you: 1. Teach about entrepreneurship, as in how business works, how you start a business, as well as the important operational aspects. If you can, try to do this for both for-profit and non-profit examples. Kids need to get some idea of how to create their own opportunities. 2. In computing,regardless of some of the biases of the typical slashdot reader, it is important that these kids have a grasp of written communication as facilitated by word processing, financial dynamics of business organizations as facilitated by spreadsheet use, and information management and analysis as facilitated by RDBMS. 3. Be sure you teach them about how to install, configure, and use open source operating systems, and explain why this is a more effective solution in their community. Show them how both new and old machines can be effectively used. 4. Teach them about programming in at least C and 2-3 other languages. Not all will be willing to do this, but it is important to make this a priority so it is at least an option. Too many community technology programs offer nothing like this, and thus prevent impoverished youth and adults from entering the computer field. 5. It is very important that they have a chance to learn about computer networking, to the point where they can install and configure a basic network of machines connected to a DSL or cable connection. Modems count here too. I would also want to help them appreciate security issues and how to deal with them. 6. Be sure to do something which addresses the artistic talents which many of your students may have. In the music arena in particular, you should make it possible for students to record their own music, and put out their own CDs for sale in their community. I hope you find these suggestions helpful.

When I was a young'un (1)

MxTxL (307166) | more than 13 years ago | (#165484)

When i was about in second grade some of the funnest things i remember doing were on their old Apple IIg (or IIgs or something like that). They actually had us, second grade students, doing programming. We used BASIC. Not to be confused with Visual Basic nor MS Qbasic, but the original BASIC... using line numbers and goto statements and all. I still remember that the acronym means 'Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code'. I also remember doing something that would have this little arrowhead thing... called a turtle... run around the screen and draw lines and figures. Our code would tell it to rotate a certain amount walk an amount, drop the pen (whereby it would start to draw a line) then move some (drawing the line) then lift pen. We would have to make little figures... like boxes and stars.

Now, i'm not suggesting that you make these kids do exclusively programming, but i trace my current interest in computers as a 22 year old college graduate back to when i was a second grader and had a chance to be a coder. Have them do at least something cool like that and maybe they'll be hooked for life.

Open Curriculum ;) (1)

teambpsi (307527) | more than 13 years ago | (#165485)

I'd check in your local community catalogs and especially your local science museums

Find the programs they did, call them up!

Most would be willing to share ideas and materials

Definitely arrange a weekly field trip to local University computing centers and local businesses.

:D (1)

BIGJIMSLATE (314762) | more than 13 years ago | (#165490)

Tell them that computers are a means of violent destruction and death. Tell them that computers can help them keep track of where their stash of black tar heroin is going each week. Tell them that they can Klan's page with a Spike Lee one with only a little bit of time and effort. (Ok, ok, enough about the inner-city kid stereotype). :p

Seriously though, it depends on how much prior knowledge these kids have. And assuming they all have little or none, you'll have to start with the basics.

You: This is a mouse...
Class: Ah....

BUT, since people seem to stick with what they learned first, if you're anti MS or something, start them on another OS. You can literally mold how these people think about computers for the rest of their lives, in that short amount of time.

Anyways, good luck, since teaching computer-related stuff to ANYONE is tough enough. :)

teaching kids (1)

bark76 (410275) | more than 13 years ago | (#165496)

here's an old chinese proverb that someone told me once (and A&E likes to remind me of it on TV):

Tell me, and I may forget
Show me, and I may remember
Involve me, and I will understand

That's something I've always tried to keep in mind when teaching, no matter what age group I'm dealing with.

Remember, kids are going to want to do stuff that looks cool. Looking through the other posts so far things like writing web pages (with Netscape Composer or something similiar), drawing pictures and creating animation scenes would be the kind of stuff they'd enjoy. LOGO was cool when I was young, but it wears thin fast (and computer graphics are much better now, so LOGO will seem lame to most kids).

Last but not least, be creative and it will pay off. Online treasure hunts (get them to find the websites about their favourite TV shows/movies, find wrestling fan sites, etc) are always fun too.

Get 'em hooked (1)

Spacecomber (411093) | more than 13 years ago | (#165502)

Don't mess with Word, Excell, etc. Kids don't have any real use for them (with the possible exception of making signs and posters) and it will convince them that computers are boring. Instead, teach them a little programming and turn them loose writing simple graphics programs or text-based games. Something as simple as writing a loop that prints your name on the screen 100 times in five different colors is a lot of fun for a kid. Trust me.

When I was 10, my mom bought a Commodore 64 for my sister and me but she didn't give us any software. She (rightly) figured we'd learn a lot more about computers if we had to write everything ourselves. We quickly figured out how to program in BASIC from the user's manual and had lots of fun writing sprite animations and Mad Libs games. By the time we were old enough to need word processors or spreadsheets, we were comfortable enough with computers to figure out how to use those programs on our own.

already have for kids (1)

gupta (413494) | more than 13 years ago | (#165505)

video arcade, Nintendo/Saga/Sony, Game boy... are they not computer classes for kids ?

Depends... (1)

Snootch (453246) | more than 13 years ago | (#165517)

...realistically, you won't want to teach them the kind of stuff that /. readers are really interested in, especially not with inner-city kids. Sure, you'll get the odd guru who will lap up whatever programming languages you can throw at him/heer, but for the most part you'll want to teach wordprocessing, spreadsheets, and databases.
That said, try to offer something for the more geeky among them - I've been bored rigid through so many such classes...

43rd Law of Computing:

Re:2 suggestions (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 13 years ago | (#165519)

surplu sex change?

Re:what kind of racist shit is this? (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 13 years ago | (#165521)

you are correct, trying to teach them is no different, but chances are those in the inner city do not have a PC sitting in their home, whereas those in suburbia have a better chance to own one...

Suggestions... (1)

teekmaster (454553) | more than 13 years ago | (#165524)

Many kids today are not into computer programming, especially languages like C++. What tends to work out well (What I've seen teachers do, I have worked in school computer labs) is making web pages, teaching how to use Word, etc.
If you do want to do programing stuff like JAVA applets tend to work well...
Also another idea is if you can find some old computers, many companies might have some, you can have the kids take them apart to learn how they work, and how to put the together.

Re:Can't do everything (1)

tfreport (458641) | more than 13 years ago | (#165531)

He is right, you can't do everything.

But what is proposed is the most boring idea I have heard for school children. You will quickly have to learn discipline and forget teaching them about computers. Instead, do some games as has been proposed and show them how to use a computer. They don't care how it works, just that it works.

Suggestions (1)

nasteric (458648) | more than 13 years ago | (#165532)

First, teach them basic computer skills.

I would, in this order, teach them the following:

1. Basic keyboard/mouse skills
2. How to use the operating system
3. The Internet.
4. Various software packages (DB,word processing, etc.)

Keeping their attention will be the tough part, so if try to incorporate some digital video/pictures or educational games into the curriculum.

For instance, bring a digital camera/camcorder and take pictures of them. Set up email accounts for them and send the pictures to their accounts.

Those are just some of my suggestions.


Re:Network Gaming (1)

Drink_Paint_Copulate (458653) | more than 13 years ago | (#165533)

These are kids! In most cases, they'll have absolutely no attention span. Taking kids through a course in basic network development - thats nuts...given that most of us didn't see it until college. As far as network gaming...don't you think that we all waste enough time as it is trying to frag each other? This guy only has a summer to work with them....his focus should be on internet use, mail, the arts -- essentially using the internet as a tool for information and learning. That's telling someone to play solitaire during Calculus lectures. Sure gaming is fun...but really....where does it get us in the end ? ....fragged...

Let the children guide you ! (1)

Hartmut (458656) | more than 13 years ago | (#165534)

Thus you can get answers for all your question. - Ok, it needs some expertise in the art of understanding: empathy ;-)

"inner city" == money (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#165540)

I didn't think of it as rascist at all... I thought he was emphasizing it so that the readers of /. might consider what resources these kids have, and their computer experiences. How is that rascist? Its a fact that kids living in our urban centers don't have what kids living in the higher income suburbs do, be they white, hispanic, black, asian, or martian! I'll bet that few children in that classroom will have a computer at home, no matter what their race or ethnic background - simply because their money situations at home won't allow it.

There wasn't a prejudiced comment in that post at all, you just jumped on 'inner city' and took that to mean 'too black'.

still around? (2)

Micah (278) | more than 13 years ago | (#165541)

Anyone know if that game (Oregon Trail) is still available, preferrably as a C program that can compile on Linux? I'd *love* to play that again!


what is this? (2)

Micah (278) | more than 13 years ago | (#165542)

You must have a low opinion of kids to think they're only capable of THAT.

Teach an OS design course based on Tanenbaum's book. Then give them a copy of Linux 0.1.0 and tell them to add a virtual memory swapping system.


something to include (2)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#165547)

A lot of your students will not have a computer of their own. You should probably heavily research where people can buy very inexpensive used computers in your city and present that material to your students.

You might find that you have a star student in your class. After the class is done, you could tell that star student that you'll make them a deal (if you are in a position to do that). You could give them a summer job mowing your lawn. If you pay them $20 each time, they could buy a machine from you for $100.

You can't help every child by yourself, but you can pick your most promising student and become a mentor to them.

More than appliances (2)

mik (10986) | more than 13 years ago | (#165549)

Don't try to "hook" them with flash (video games, movies, music, etc) - the point is to teach them that computes are more than all that.
  • Start by convincing them that computers are general-purpose things that are ubiquitous and are getting more so: take apart a video game, show 'em where the computer is, put it back together and it still works... take apart a cellphone or pager, point to the TV, dig up a smart card, etc. It isn't what they do that's important: it is what they can be made to do that is cool.
  • Next, go outside and do "people programming." Get a volunteer and have your class figure out how to get the volunteer to do something useful: make sure that the instructions are declarative and are followed verbatim.
  • Next class, take the instructions that worked and program a Lego robot [] to do the task (or any logo [] with a turtle, etc). Seeing a lego monster doing the same things that the volunteer did outside should be suitably cool as to hook 'em.
  • Keep the action going: robots are good, but glowing turtles (especially dynaturtles!) are ok, too.
  • Don't play games - write games that the kids can extrapolate into the video games they see all the time. Mugwump and daleks aren't substantially different from Quake (illustrate the point by playing quake for a bit after writing daleks). Maze generation and solving is a good one to try: simple but powerful algorithms.

There are a zillion sites on the subject of teaching computer science to kids. The net of a million lies [] might not be your friend, but it can be a valuable source of information.

Imagination and creativity is the key... (2)

Slynkie (18861) | more than 13 years ago | (#165551)

Believe it or not, it's been my experience that kids that young, when plopped in front of a computer, become virtual vacuum cleaners of knowledge. They suck it all up...their minds are so open, and so curious, that they truly can accept a LOT of information.

In terms of applications, other than educational games, I'd look in the direction of maximum creativity. Hypercard's great, as would be any multimedia creation tools...

One project in particular that the kids LOVED was to create their own commercials using a mix of live-action shots and hypercard frames...that's pretty dependent on yer budget though.

(Although i'm not a professional educator, I have taught elementary school level computer classes at a summer camp and a local YMHA...)

hope this helps,

Re:constructive curriculum suggestions: (2)

Saige (53303) | more than 13 years ago | (#165558)

While you're at it, work with them to solve the traveling salesman and halting problems. Also, run them through the process of creating a 1 GHz processor from materials available from the nearest part - make sure that the processors they make are improved from commercially avaliable ones. Teaching them how to break into any government system in 60 seconds or less may also provide useful experience they can make use of later in life.

Oh yeah, get world peace and eliminating hunger in there also.


mentoring kids (2)

eVarmint (62178) | more than 13 years ago | (#165560)

I've personally mentored several kids from late grade school to high school seniors. Here are some things I've learned:

1) Be careful not to overestimate the understanding of your students. Over the years, certain computer concepts have become second nature to me, but most average students have a really hard time with them. I'm talking about things like if-then statements, functions, and loops. If you want to teach programming concepts, try to keep it extremely simple.

2) A lot of people seem to really grasp on to the concepts of customization, paramaterization, and formatting. That is why a formatting language like HTML is so readily picked up and embraced. On those lines I might suggest POVRAY or MIT's LOGO programming language as something to consider.

3) The more you can incorperate graphics into your presentation, the more it will captivate your audience. Digital manipulation of video and audio can keep kids busy for hours.

Step 1: (2)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 13 years ago | (#165564)

Install mIRC, and direct them to the #hax0r, #7337, and #teensex channels so they can learn to be annoying, whining, script kiddies like all of the other lame ass kids surfing the 'net today.....

I'm not bitter.....

Re:What I did (2)

OmegaDan (101255) | more than 13 years ago | (#165565)

Im second that emotion ... a few years ago my cousin came over (was in the 4th grade or something) and he saw my bryce 3d box ... hes like "ohh you have bryce ... I have that to ..." Im like "whatever" ... So I was completley frustrated with bryce a few hours later and give up ... he sits down at my computer and makes a whole scene, then starts to ANIMATE IT! Anyways, I ended up quite humbled that day getting a lesson on how to use the keyframer from a 4th grader! :)

Re:Can't do everything (2)

ab762 (138582) | more than 13 years ago | (#165571)

A favorite exercise, for early on: Make the computer display or print
2 + 2 = 5

Maybe not necessary, but every computer course ought to go near the issue of how the machine lies.

Henry Troup

My .sig is in the .shop

Sample curriculum (2)

radvas (159894) | more than 13 years ago | (#165575)

Check out Sun Micro's [] Open Gateways program. It is primarily a grant program, but they also post suggested lesson plans [] , and training materials for teachers. It could be a start anyway. Keep in mind, you may need to start very basic, like mouse and kb skills, for some of the kids.

Linux (2)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 13 years ago | (#165577)

Sit them all in front of a linux prompt (no X, just a prompt).

After about 30 minutes of them staring at the screen, yell something like "Well? Do something!"

Honestly, I'd take apart a computer in front of them and show them the parts, and use good analogies to explain how everything works. Watch "The Magic Schoolbus" when they dealt with computers. They had some good analogies.

Can't do everything (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#165578)

You can't cover everything, and you should not try.

Each week should make them familiar with some aspect of computers, with some practical info

something like:

week 1 basic ideas of computing. calculations. relationships of bytes to character to dots on your screen, etc.
week 2 computer insides. Open one up. see what happens if you disconnect somesomething. (error messages etc)
week 3: basic Concepts of OSen [guis, command lines, etc.]
week 4 basic concepts of word processors
week 5 basic concepts of spread sheets
week 6 basic concepts of databases
week 7 basics of games and networks
week 8 basics of programming and loose ends - how to learn more

make sure as you go along that you cover the things that make people truly clueless. Like how to follow directions, etc.

Make sure you give lots of practical details. (what to do when the computer catches on fire, etc) and what is wrong about computers you see in movies, etc.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

Re:Can't do everything (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#165579)

remember that computer training for first and second graders is very different that training for 5th and 6th graders - make adjustments accordingly

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

LOGO, open sourced (2)

CritterNYC (190163) | more than 13 years ago | (#165581)

We all remember using EDU the turtle on the old Apple computers. There are pay-versions of LOGO still out there. But, you can also get it for free. Some links for ya:

Turtle Tracks [] - A Java version released under the GPL. Requires a Java 1.1-compliant virtual machine.
MSWLogo [] - A windows-only version. The source is available, but I'm not sure what license it is released under.
Other logo software [] - This list, at the Logo Foundation's website lists commercial and free versions of logo.
rLogo [] - An online in-the-browser logo interpreter.

I prefer to KISS (2)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 13 years ago | (#165582)

I did this back in my high school days. It wasn't kids, it was adults, but the same ideas apply. You need to go over the basics. Don't get overly technical, but get started on some of the jargon like RAM vs. HD. The thing that keeps most adults from getting a clue is that they hear a term and associate it with the wrong thing. We've all heard somebody say they got 1 GHz of RAM and a 20 GB of memory.

After filling them in on the terminology, go over the wide variety of uses for a computer, from things like databases, to complex calculations to games and the internet. It's best to give a wide variety of examples and show them that computers in general are not as limited as what most kids have as far as applications on their home computers. Using examples like the movie Toy Story for animation would be good to, so that they can associate with something they've most likely seen.

Then get into explaining a certain OS and some of the mundane things.

Well, from experience.... (2)

mx90 (203711) | more than 13 years ago | (#165583)

When I was still in university, our engineering department ran a summer Eng. camp for kids in both elementary and high school. While the primary focus was on engineering techniques & process in general (you know, building popscicle stick bridges etc.), there were some dedicated courses we ran on computing.

For the elementary school kids, we didn't try to overwhelm them with technical details - we found that starting with some webpage making, following up with some basic JavaScript was sufficient. We also started further back with an introduction to proper typing. The kids at this point didn't seem too interested in programming per se. Rather were more interested in how to *use* a computer - surf the web, use Windows, how to use Word to type a letter to Grandma etc., how to use PhotoShop to create cool graphics for their webpages.

The high school kids were a bit easier. All of them had had exposure to computers - they wanted to know C, C++ and Java. While game programming would have been nice, none of them had the necessary math background required for graphics (well, 3D graphics anyway.) Noone expressed much interest in knowing how to use Excel (whats the point, when do you use a spreadsheet in high school?) or MSAccess.

So we kept the programming exercises pretty simple. Essentially we asked each team what they wanted to do and helped them out as best as we could. One team came up with a pretty slick text based RPG a la Zork (You see a grue. Eat grue. The grue eats you. End.)

Also, don't forget the power of the Hello-World program. Nothing's cooler then seeing that first *anything*, that you programmed yourself... so it doesn't have to be fancy.

check your own assumptions at the door (2)

cbowland (205263) | more than 13 years ago | (#165584)

First you need to determine their level of experience. Don't make any assumptions about how much you think inner city kids know, they might surprise you. Just as important is to keep your own mind open to their insights to computers. Kids are great at asking why - don't blow off those questions. Great innovation comes from asking why with enough persistance to get the answer. Find out their itch and them help them scratch it.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.

Need more details! (2)

skoda (211470) | more than 13 years ago | (#165585)

  • Is this one 8-week course, or 8 one-week courses?
  • What age group?
  • What hardware, software, books, and other resources are available to you?
  • Is there money for field-trips (or other off-site excursions)?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you have professional contacts that could do presentations, demos, etc.?
  • Has this summer camp course been done before? If so, can you get the previous years' course notes, study guides, demo programs, etc.?
  • Does the school have a computer class for this age group during the school year? Can you get the books, notes, coursework used for that?
  • Do you have any teaching experience? (if not, talk with professional teachers)
  • Do you have any camp counseling experience? (if not, talk with those who have done this before)
  • How many kids will you have?
  • How is the day broken up? Do you have one class all day? Is it several classes, possibly of different kids in each one?
  • Will you have assisstants?

Those are just some questions to get started. While the general curriculum might be independent of the class size, age group, computer hardware available, and time spent in lab vs. in other parts of camp, the thousand details of just how you will run the course can be very dependent on those issues.

Get the best information you can about what's been done before and what the situation will be for your camp, to help you prepare.

Hope it goes well -- this could be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding (for you and the kids).
D. Fischer

Key Words (2)

deebaine (218719) | more than 13 years ago | (#165587)

experience teaching computers to elementary school kids

The key words in the above line are "teaching" and "elementary school kids." For starters, kids don't have long attention spans, so whatever you come up with, try and keep the "ooh-wow" factor up there. This probably means discussing the finer points of the GPL probably isn't going to make it.

Your lesson will inevitably depend on their background. Are you going to need to teach them how to interact with a computer? Maybe. Demonstrate how to use a mouse (the little Java/Javscript game in which one tries to click on the button that moves onmouseover comes to mind).

Showcase some of the strengths of computers--speed and accuracy, for one, and availability of information. Keep your demonstrations brief and highly interactive or you'll lose people. Maybe have the kids add 10 numbers as fast as they can and time them. Then let a computer do it. See who wins...Talk about the Internet, and show them some flashy (or even Flash-y) things (like /.!). Maybe coordinate with a friend and show them email and maybe instant messaging. Depending on the resources you have at your disposal, teach them to email each other. Show them how big the Internet is. Visit sites from around the world and describe what's happening (the Internet is Big. The Internet is Fast. Big and Fast are Good when one is in fourth grade).

A developer from Dragon once impressed a college CS lecture with a NaturallySpeaking demo just before it was released. I'd be fairly impressed by speech recognition software if I were a fourth grader. Something to think about.

Show them different kinds of computers if possible (calculator, Palm, laptop, desktop) and let them come up with other places that one finds computers. Have them talk about where they'd *like* to find computers, or what they wish computers would do.

My examples are primarily of the lame "off-the-top-of-my-head" variety, but I think that the overriding advice is sound. Keep it interactive, and always have something for the kids' hands to be doing (even if it is just raising them to shout out answers). Keep their attention, and you'll have success teaching computers or anything else. -db

Re:Can't do everything (2)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 13 years ago | (#165588)

You did read where it said elemenrty school students, right?

Study Subjects (2)

tunabomber (259585) | more than 13 years ago | (#165589)

Be sure to teach them about computers and how they work, not just how to use specific pieces of software. Despite the fact that they're from the inner city, I'm sure they'll be told how to search the web or format Word documents thousands of times by the time they leave high school. Instead, try demonstrating how software is written and executed, or how files are downloaded from the internet or something. It wouldn't be good for their knowledge to be worthless as soon as the next version of Netscape or Windows is released.

Re:keeping them interested... (2)

banuaba (308937) | more than 13 years ago | (#165592)


Your daughter, Jamie, has just died from typhoid fever.

You try to ford the river.
12 horses and 42 of your children have died.
Do you want to buy more bullets? (Y/N)

God, I loved that game.


stupid comments == racist (2) (311067) | more than 13 years ago | (#165593)

It sounds like you are the one who has the prejudice. He never mentioned anything about these kids being different, you brought that on, don't project your feelings and overly PC attitude onto others.

Wake up, inner city is different, the kids aren't dumb, they just aren't the same as more suburban kids, I know this from experience, having lived in both environments, and it is a fact that many inner city kids have had less computer experience then those in other environments.

Understanding the world isn't racism it's life, If he had said, "now what am I gonna teach these getto monkeys?" that would have been racism, but no, you covered that for us.

I don't work here, I'm just along for the ride.

computers and kids (2)

industro (313821) | more than 13 years ago | (#165594)

My father is a principal at a New Orleans school deep in the Ninth Ward, and his is the only school in the area with computers. Good ones at that, with even a full T1. It's a very rare thing to see. Yes, everything is CHAINED to the desks and every door has humongous bolts on them. There's even an impressive 'server room' that holds all the routers and stuff. HUGE BOLTS and lots of alarms. ANYWAY, from the experiences he's told me, it's best to use the very basic programs. The Typing Spelling and Math Blaster! programs (something like that) he uses a lot and, of course, OREGON TRAIL! Ah yes. And don't try to get too multi-tasked on them. Keep it simple. These kids will pick up quick and you will be amazed. Most of them had no problem at all getting used to a mouse and keyboard, either. So don't fret that.

Re:keeping them interested... (2)

Magumbo (414471) | more than 13 years ago | (#165597)

Here's a perfect game [] . And it's open source.


Computer Curriculum for Inner City Kids (2)

johngaunt (414543) | more than 13 years ago | (#165598)

I used to work as the tech guy for a grade school, and had the honor of getting to teach for two hours a day in the process. Teach the kids how computers work, as in binary math. Nothing complicated, just a little addition and subtraction with very small numbers.
Then, show them how a computer draws a picture. draw a simple picture, then cut it up. paste an address on each one piece then mix the pieces up and hand one out to each kid. Have them line up as you call the pieces in order. another way is to give each child a few pieces of colored paper, then assign a value to each color, then write a series of number on a chalk board, and let the kids make the picture.
Be creative, have fun, and just remember, the computer can only count to one, even if it can do it 100 million times a second.

Re:Emphasizing "inner city" == racist (2)

No Tears In The End (452319) | more than 13 years ago | (#165599)

I didn't take this as being racist.

By emphasizing that the kids were "inner city" kids, I suppose it implies that they are disadvantaged economically, and maybe don't have computers at home. Or maybe that as a part of avoiding the daily violence of the inner city they may not have as much time to study as suburban kids.

Some suggestions for topics... (3)

jd (1658) | more than 13 years ago | (#165603)

These are topics either used by, or based on, ideas covered by the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) in the UK, for around this age-range:

  • Abstract logic. One place to start, here, is to define "plink" as 3, and "plank" as 7, and require that the kids substitute accordingly. This teaches kids the concept of variables and constants, in a way algebra classes -should- but don't.
  • Identifiction Keys. One of the simplest, yet most effective, ways to identify an unknown is to run through a series of multiple-choice questions, where each question is based on the previous answer. "Animal" is a good example of a program that uses this kind of logic. This teaches how to construct and use n-ary trees, and why you might want to, in a way that isn't so high-brow that kids can actually afford to enjoy this.
  • Animation using colour-cycling. This is one of the oldest techniques, and is really no different from the old technique of sketching a picture in the corner of a page, a similar picture in the same corner of the next page, etc., then flicking the pages to produce animation. This technique has many advantages, in that it's (a) going to be similar to stuff they've covered in art class, for animation, or at least close enough that they'd recognise the idea, and (b) it doesn't require worrying about machine speed, getting image components transformed correctly, etc. It just works.
  • Simple message passing. This would allow one machine to send some simple piece of data to another machine.

Ok, that's three lessons covered. What could you do with those lessons? Well, how about having a stick-man figure that can walk around one screen, off the edge, and onto another screen? Right the way round the room?

IMHO, if a bunch of kids could put something like that together, and could see "their" creation hop from machine to machine, around the room, those kids would feel more of a sense of achievement than any one-armed bandit, space-invader, or pac-man clone could ever do. Sure, each of those requires more graphics, and more logic, but nobody sees logic, and any graphics they do will not compete with the latest console game they just bought.

Give them a problem that grabs their attention, but doesn't compete for it with the cartoon channel or the latest video game. Running an animation across a massive virtual distributed computer (even a game of "pong" across multiple machines!) will appeal in a way that almost nothing else will.


Medievalist (16032) | more than 13 years ago | (#165604)

I learned to program because I needed more photon torpedos than the Star Trek game gave out. You know, the ancient one with the square grid of dots?

Learned about the limits of precision of variables, too, when I figured out why I could only have 32767 ptorps at a time.

Taught myself BASIC on a Wang System 2200 at age 14 (and I can still RTFM today).

keeping them interested... (3)

jonathansen (68749) | more than 13 years ago | (#165605)

I know what kept me interested in computer classes in elementary school... education video games! Ah... Oregon Trail. It'd be worth checking into what games are cheap/free for education purposes.

stick to the basics (3)

mach-5 (73873) | more than 13 years ago | (#165607)

I think you definately want to stick to the basics, especially if they are younger kids. First start out with hardware..."this is the monitor, the keboard, mouse, CD-ROM" and teach them how to use each one. Then teach them about proper bootup and shutdown. Then move into stuff about Windows in general, this is the taskbar, start button, etc. Then teach them to do some general tasks like launching programs, deleting files, etc. Do all of this before you even start getting into games or programming like logo. A fundamentally educated group is much better than a group that knows how to do one task (launch a game and play it). The trick to all of this is keeping the kids interested and involved. So making it fun is the challenge.

Re:Get them on LOGO (3)

VoidOfReality (156286) | more than 13 years ago | (#165608)

Like it or not, graphics programming is what's going to get kids hooked on coding. It's relatively easy to do (assuming you're somewhat creatively inclined), and kids can start hacking and see immediate results from their changes. After playing with this for a while, kids will tend to get bored with doing just that and they will try and figure out how to do more stuff with the language they've used. Of course, there will always be some kids who find the whole thing immensely boring, but you can't win 'em all...

Re:Depends... (3)

Sir_Real (179104) | more than 13 years ago | (#165609)

Wordprocessing, spreadsheets, and databases? I'm going to assume that you didn't understand his question. These are inner-city elementary students. Programming should almost not even be broached at this point. Navigating a filesystem, executing programs, internet stuff (irc/ftp/google whatever), MAYBE help them build their own websites and show them how to add stuff to them. Without knowing the reading level of the students, this is about as much as one can offer.


Other Groups (3)

Sandlund (226344) | more than 13 years ago | (#165611)

I'd suggest you touch base with several other organizations that are doing similar work around the country, including:

The Bay Area Video Coalition [] in San Francisco, which is training adults for jobs in Internet industries. They will probably be familiar with local groups doing stuff for kids locally.

Playing to Win [] A long-time New York organization providing computer training in East Harlem. Director Mara Rose is particularly helpful.

The National Urban Technology Center, Inc. [] which has developed a curriculum for 4th graders to be taught at neighborhood computer centers in New York. Pat Bransford was the president last summer and very helpful.

United Neighborhood Houses of New York, Inc. [] which is running a tech program at 8 community housing projects in New York City. Director of the information technology initiative is Michael Roberts.

Also, you might as well go directly to the Borg. The Gates Learning Foundation [] was set up to fund efforts like this. They are probably an excellent source for finding groups that have already been working on curricula.

Lego LOGO / Mindstorms! (3)

tunabomber (259585) | more than 13 years ago | (#165612)

My first experience with computer programming was building cars and stuff out of legos and programming them with Lego LOGO. It was wayyy beyond cool to be eleven years old and get to build robots. What's more, it was really easy and I'm sure just about any kid could get the hang of it in a short period of time. Right now, the descendent of Lego LOGO are the Mindstorms robotics kits. If you can afford them, they are well worth it.

Technology Access Foundation (TAF) (3)

gokubi (413425) | more than 13 years ago | (#165614)

I've been volunteering at a Seattle area non-profit called Technology Access Foundation (TAF) [] for 8 months teaching networking to high school kids. TAF is an amazing organization that is internationally acclaimed [] for its work to close the "digital divide."

Working with ages 5-18, TAF starts out doing just what you are talking about--getting kids using computers in constructive ways. They just completed their first year of TechStart (a program for 5-12 year olds.) Check out their site--they're great people.


lessons learned (3)

notCNE (443816) | more than 13 years ago | (#165615)

Several years ago I taught a web class for elementary school children for a summer camp. It was quite an experience.

Here are some thought from what I have learned about teaching kids tech:

  • Keep Them Busy: I made the mistake that all the kids would be happily content with the simple lessons I threw at them. Several students were extremely fast and I could never keep them satisfied. I didn't plan on the kids to finish quickly. Making kids just surf the web to buy time didn't go over very well.
  • Web Pages: I was able to get the kids to work progressively on their own home pages. Gave them a primer on HTML, then we used an AOL GUI application to build the web pages. That application totally sucked, but because it was GUI, the kids pick right up on it. Also gave them a simple server/client explanation on how the web worked. The artistic/imaginative kids in your class will be swept up in making their web pages.
  • Careful When You Chat: Also gave the kids a impromtu course on IRC chat... then watched as some hooligans came in our seperate chat room and started cussing. The kids really enjoyed that... but their parents didn't...
  • Get Permissions and Trial Runs: Take the time to set up every client-based application yourself. Get early access to the labs if necessary. Also, tell those in charge exactly what you plan on installing on thier systems, and how to get it off.

For just about anything you want to teach (HTML, IRC Chat, etc) you can find free stuff on the web. I was surprised how the kids took to using Also, be sure to be prepared when some kids just don't get whatever your teaching -- its difficult on the child when his peers are ready to move on.

Christopher N Emmick

Re:Get them on LOGO (3)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 13 years ago | (#165616)

no, it really is a good idea, were talking about elementary school kids here, those that have probably never played on a computer. Teach them that they are all work and you will lose 95% of them. teach them that they can do many fun things and you will hook 95% of them... one suggestion is you may want to buy an old 386 and tear it apart for them so they can see what is under the hood so to speak... kids love to tear things apart :)

Re:Get them on LOGO (3)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 13 years ago | (#165617)

coding? im perty sure they are just trying to get the kids comfotable around computers, and to let them figure out routine tasks... I would be very suprised if anything other than basic operation is taught... especially in the timeframe listed

I can tell you what not to do (3)

tfreport (458641) | more than 13 years ago | (#165618)

What you should teach them depends on the age of the children. I would help lower elementary children first how to use a computer with simple games and maybe even a couple songs. As they get older add some lecture and give them more freedom in what they can do. The thing not to do is assume that they are children and do not know how to use a computer. At my high school we had this required computer class, it became the most pointless worst class anyone had to take. All the class consisted of was a semester of MS Word (all of the different tools) a few weeks of PowerPoint, Excel, Acces, and if you were lucky how to answer the telephone. Oh and unless I forget, the ever popular create a website using Word. Please be creative, they might be children but the last thing you want to do is turnoff the future of computing because you were boring and taught them nothing new. Good luck and I think you will find working with youngsters a lot of fun.

web pages (3)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 13 years ago | (#165619)

get them doing web pages.

Start with a WYSIWYG tool to make it easy. You ought to have a scanner handy, that'll help. Get them to hit some of the graphics repositories to gussy up their pages. The kids will have quick feedback, the'll be able to compare results which will get their competitive juices going and if you're using one of the free hosting sites they can show they're web page to people outside school.

Then have them get into the HTML, to make the connection between the HTML and what shows up on the browser. Modifications to the HTML using a text editor with side trips to Webmonkey and WDVL to show them where to find out more about HTML.

Lay in some canned Javascript. Then get into modifying that.

During all this they'll have to learn about directories, file formats, moving files around, editting files and debugging pages/scripts when they go wrong. That ought to keep 'em busy for a summer.

Network Gaming (4)

matman (71405) | more than 13 years ago | (#165620)

What better way to learn about networks and computers? Get permission from parents to let the kids bring in games... then have them set them up and play against eachother... have them set up the ethernet network that they're going to play over, and teach them how it works. Most kids like playing video games :) They'll learn how to install software, what files are, what networks are, vaguely how networks work, and they'll do it having a lot of fun (which is the most important thing). When I was in elementary school, I hated sitting in acedemic classes - you've got to disguise the learning in fun :) I'll bet kids don't really care that an ASCII character is 8 bits, and which is different from a 16 unicode character... they won't care to know how to count in binary, and they probably won't care how to address memory in any programming language.

Elementary Technology Instruction (4)

Lahjik (181864) | more than 13 years ago | (#165621)

I am an elementary school Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. I was also director of a technology camp for 2nd/3rd and 4th/5th grade students last summer. Kids are VERY interested in learning about and using computers. It doesn't take much to keep them interested, just hands-on use of skills that you are teaching.
From my teaching experience I can recommend a couple of approaches that I know work for kids!
1) Multimedia Presentations: Kids tend to be expressive. Use PowerPoint, HyperStudio, or KidPix (depending on the level and availability) to create a presentation about their neighborhood, their lives, or whatever. Get a digital camera and document the world around them. This project lets them explore digital cameras, scanners, using audio clips, graphics, and fun fonts.
2) Create a WebPage: Find a local organization or community aspect that you could create a web page for. Teach the kids basic design principles and some HTML code. Have fun laughing at some of the really bad web pages that are out there. Create a virtual zoo, a virtual rock garden, a virtual forest, or anything else.
3) Hack: Get into the nitty-gritty of a low level programming language like (please don't laugh) PASCAL or LOGO. Kids catch on to these languages quickly because they can think through commands in English and then write in PASCAL. (Unlike, for instance, PERL).
4)Explore: Take virtual field trips on the Internet. Go check out the National Archives Exhibit on When Nixon Met Elvis [] . There are other neat sites that you can preview and then write scavanger hunts about.
Just remember that the kids will need to see what you are doing. Showing them the task is an important step that you cannot skip. Also remember to show them that you love working with computers.

Re:Can't do everything (4)

arnie_apesacrappin (200185) | more than 13 years ago | (#165622)

This is very true. You need something that the students will be interested in. The local NSBE had an Engineer for a Day program, and I told them that I would run a room. I had mostly young highschool students, and 2.5 hours. We built a network (4 routers, two switches) and a web site. I had everything mapped out, and tried to give the kids all the info they needed, but make them put the info together to make the network work.

But to keep the class interesting, I brought my digital camera, so that we could put pics of students on the web site they built. And I brought in MP3's of the latest pop music, but they had to use the network we built to get to them. By the end of the class, we had a fully functional network, an interesting web site (pretty good for kids that had never done that before) and a room full of laptops blaring MP3's.

The kids enjoyed the MP3's and were supprised at how unhard setting up a network could be. The adults in the room had a good time too. And I got good contacts with the CEO of the company, so I was grinning.

All in all, be engaging, and make sure the kids have a good time. If you get an idea for what they like to do, run with it. Oh, and take apart hardware if possible. It's usually a crowd pleaser.

Mentioning "inner city" != racist (5)

Chewie (24912) | more than 13 years ago | (#165627)

I'm sorry, but I see absolutely nothing in his tone or in his words to imply that, as you put it, "inner-city students just can't learn because they're too stupid or too black." Talk about jumping the gun. First of all, any concerns would seem to be made on a socio-economic basis, not on a racial basis as you seem to assume (who's prejudiced now?). The fact is that the term "inner-city" is most widely used to refer to poorer residents of highly-populated urban areas, and as such, they probably do not have the best facilities or equipment for learning. Now, someone who has grown up in an affluent neighborhood (or even a lower-middle-class neighborhood) has probably at least seen a computer in his life, whereas poorer students may have never experienced them, and the teacher needs to find a way to engage them, to get them to care about what he's trying to teach. Also, these kids are more likely from a very different social background than he is (again, not about race, but about socio-economic levels). He seems to be genuinely eager to help these kids, and jumping on him for something over-interpreted as racism isn't helping anyone.

Personally, I think your over-zealous inference of racism is doing more harm than the author possibly could.

Start with the basics and see where the class is (5)

powerlord (28156) | more than 13 years ago | (#165628)

I'll preface everything by saying I've never given this sort of class and I'm not a professional teacher :)

That aside...

Two things I think you need to do. First off see where the class is. Some of them may have computers at home. Some may be hackers in their free time (you also make mention about age range). Some may have no exposure to computers (hard to imagine but true). Some may have programing background the others, nil (or NULL if you prefer ::grin::)

The second, start with some basics.

If nothing else, cover what the parts of the computer are, and how they work IN GENERAL. You don't need to get too specific but one or two quick overviews would
1) allow you to have a basic knowledge to build on
2) help ease many future tech support calls
3) have some basic lesson that you can start with, while you are still deciding how much they know, so you know where to take the class.

It would also depend on what sort of equipment you have available (1 computer per student, 1 per 2 or 3, 1 for the class).

Beyond the basics of what computers are, and how they work, you could also work on both GUIs (ie, what they are and how they work), as well as some basic programming.

For GUIs you could work with either Windows, Mac, Gnome/KDE, or any other. Try to teach the concepts they include (point and click, drag and drop, menu bars, etc.). Even for those people who use computers, a lot of the time they don't look at the GUIs. How many times do you stop and think about the functionality of the buttons and layouts? (or how much better it might be done?)

For programming try a simple scripting language like Perl or Python. (depending on your preference). If you don't have computers available, you could also try the basic technique of having them write simple scripts and acting like the computers themselves (follow the instructions and see what happens).

It all depends on the ago of the children. With kids you can try explaining programing as commands to make something happen (you want to tell the dog what to do, first go outside... but the door is closed, which direction should it go, etc). For GUI development you could work with a paint program (there are oodles of them for kids, and it might work well), for older kids I'd try a word processor and/or spreadsheet since its a valuable skill to have. Also, don't forget that many of them will already be familiar with Web browsers.

If you have limited resources that might be another thought, teach them how to build web pages. This includes some creativity, some programming (okay HTML isn't programming per se, but Javascript could be), and some general computer skills (how do you enter the files? How do I use the internet, etc.).

Sorry for the rambling.
Hope these ideas help some. Let me know how it goes.

What I did (5)

pmbuko (162438) | more than 13 years ago | (#165629)

I had the chance to be a special computer guest for my teacher-friend. What I did was bring in a 3D graphics program. I showed them all some animations I had done and they were glued to the computer screen.

I then sent them off to their own computers where I had pre-laoded the software and ran them through the basics. By the end of the class period, they were making some really cool scenes! And they were only K-2!

Whatever you do, make sure it's something that's fun and involving. Kids are awesome and most of them pick up on things quick, so you have to keep it interesting.

Computer Clubhouse & Geeks in the Streets (5)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 13 years ago | (#165630)

There is a well written paper The Computer Clubhouse: Technological Fluency in the Inner City [] that I just found by doing a web search. It includes a list of principles to keep in mind when teaching kids.

You might want to also check out Geeks into the Streets [] - "Geeks Into The Streets (GITS) is an opportunity for people who love computers to bring them to people who might otherwise not have access to them." Their primary project is House Agape [] .

some advice (5)

Preposterous Coward (211739) | more than 13 years ago | (#165631)

I've helped teach (admittedly privileged) elementary-school kids in the past, and I've also done some work with a volunteer organization that helped wire New York City schools and gave computer instruction to teachers, so here are some observations I've derived from those experiences.

The Prime Directive: Be as direct, and hands-on, as possible.

Try to minimize the amount of time you spend on background material. While it's fascinating to techie types like us to know what's going on under the hood, the thing the kids will probably want most is simply to get their hands on the machines and play. Put as few obstacles in the way of that as possible, and encourage exploration. Get their hands on the computers on the first day! You can circle back and teach the "why" material later.

Also, don't try to shove too much material into too little time. Save time for the kids to explore and have fun, not just plow through prefab lessons.

Find out what the kids are most interested in, and teach them that.

You want to keep the excitement level and sense of discovery high so that the kids will develop a lasting interest in computers, so I encourage flexibility rather than strict adherence to any particular course of study. The kids may not know enough about computers to even know what most interests them, but think about Web surfing (careful with what sites they can access, of course), email/IM, games, maybe even digital imaging if you can get your hands on a digicam or scanner. It'll be a lot easier to introduce word processing after you've gotten people hooked on email (which has a much higher fun quotient) than vice versa. Things involving graphics will also have a lot more appeal than those involving text, particularly since many of the kids may not know how to type or, in the worst case, may have limited literacy.*

Encourage the more knowledgeable/experienced kids to help their classmates.

The kids will learn at different speeds. Some will pick things up right away and others will agonize over it forever. Use this to your advantage and have the fast learners help out the slower learners, if you can do this without causing too much friction.

Come up with lessons that convey the ideas that the kids will need to know for future success with computers -- but subtly and in the course of something they can relate to.

Identify the basic concepts you want kids to understand when they leave. That probably includes something like:

  • The difference between working memory and permanent storage
  • Basic filesystem concepts (what's a file, what's a folder, what does copying and deleting/trashing do)
  • What an application is, how to start it, how to get information from one to another (i.e., the clipboard)
  • How to get on and use the Internet for e-mail, basic research (search engines and the like), etc.
(Some of these might be overkill if you're talking early elementary school -- first-graders might not need to know about filesystems, for example, but fifth- or sixth-graders ought to be at least introduced to the concept.)

Come up with a list of resources the kids can use after the class is over.

Two things: First, where are places they can go to continue using computers if they don't have one at home. That could be places like public libraries. Second, what books, Web sites, etc. can they turn to if they want to learn more on their own.

*--Note: the comment about limited literacy, in this context of teaching a summer camp that includes "inner-city" kids, is not meant to be any kind of coded racist reference. It's simply the sad truth that many kids in school in the U.S. who are not in affluent suburban schools (and probably quite a few who are, as well) are reading well below grade level. This is something you should be prepared for.

Get them on LOGO (5)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#165633)

Text parsing and DB accessing are B-O-R-I-N-G. Get them doing "graphics programming" with LOGO or some other similarly easy-to-learn-with-quick-results language.

Dancin Santa

Re:keeping them interested... (5)

banuaba (308937) | more than 13 years ago | (#165634)


Your daughter, Jamie, has just died from typhoid fever.

You try to ford the river.
12 horses and 42 of your children have died.
Do you want to buy more bullets? (Y/N)

God, I loved that game.

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