For the past two weeks I’ve been teaching, in a South Wales primary school, a year 2 girls only lunchtime computing class (they’re mainly 6-7 years old – here’s the reason why girls only) and I’ve been using the Craft Computer PDF kit I made [you can download it here]. The material is based on the English KS1 National Curriculum – Wales is in the process of creating its own syllabus but I personally think the English is great, an immense achievement really, so we’re using that.
As a quick gauge of how it’s going, the class is purely voluntary, parent’s have to sign a consent letter. The first week I had 14 girls and yesterday I had 5 new ones asking if could they join in! A big nod must go to their parents for agreeing and thinking it a worthwhile thing for them to learn.
The craft approach was used for the following reasons (some more sound pedagogical reasons are in the above posts!):
- I wasn’t sure what resources the class would have – turns out it was 2 computers for 30 children!
- Everyone loves to make things, especially with paper, card scissors and glue – this is especially true of children
- While hands and eyes are busy making something, young minds listen without knowing they’re concentrating quite hard i.e. it’s fun
- It gives everyone a simple, tangible, foundation upon which we can build throughout a series of lessons.
Lesson 1 – building the computer
My name is Dan and I’m a programer. My job is programming computers, does anyone know what a programmer is?
For our first lesson I started by introducing myself as a ‘programmer’ and asked if anyone knew what that was. Turns out a few of them did and this blew me away! So we did a little q&a around what ‘programming’ was, how computers aren’t really clever and that they are the clever ones by being able to ‘instruct/make’ the computer to do something. I then asked them
What things can you do with a computer?
This is a great question, as they’ll give you a ton of applications which you can use as solid examples later on such as: games, watch videos, write letters, draw pictures, make music, send photos, etc. This is a great area to expand into technology outside of school and digital safety/literacy later on.But for now, we’re interested in the nuts and bolts of what’s going on inside the machine.
We use the children’s examples to reinforce the idea that with a computer you can pretty much do anything, it’s a tool to help you build, model and create to understand things.
Once I felt they were comfortable with the notion of computers as tool, I asked them if they knew what might be inside that could do all these things?
What do you think is inside a computer?
This is where you get to hear lots of amazing and funny answers: lightning, electricity, batteries, pictures, tiny wheels! At this point I ask them who wants to build a computer and see what’s inside and naturally you get a room full of excited children. Awesome!
We then decamp to the craft tables where each child has a pair of scissors, some glue and the craft computer templates – which looks like this!
Once they’ve cut out their templates we then talk about the the 3 main parts of the computer: the cpu, the memory and the storage. I tend to use a lot of brain/memory analogies which is a little fuzzy (i.e. our brains are a mixture) but it works well enough.
The main aspects we focus on are:
- The CPU is where all the logical thinking is done
- The memory it puts its list of instructions when it does something e.g. programs
- The files (storage) is where the computer writes everything down so it can remember things for next time when it’s turned off.
We finished with recapping the main points of what computers can do, how they do it (i.e. programs) and what’s inside.
Next week: Files and how computers store information. (We did this yesterday so I’ll write this up over the weekend!)