The Steps to connection: Preparing students for programming.

It’s about control really.
How then, do we get 5th graders to be in control of an environment that has had them controlled since they first learned to swipe on a parents’ mobile device?
“Aww, look what Jimmy can do”!

The Startup
The g word
Magic Fingers and a song
This is hard
The Buy-in
Peanut butter and Jelly in a nut free school
Group work in this class?
Throwing Cards
The Try-in
I know that
Bots of light
And the winner is
Female tech
Logo A GoGo
Slow and steady wins the race
Button pushers
Critical Clicking

The Startup
The start up phase lasts four years. It’s a wonderful journey. As captain, I cherish each child’s voyage and every moment of their discovery.

For years my students have been responding to buttons that appear, images to chase, shoot or run from. Children have been exposed to technology in a way that I can best described as backwards. They are being pushed rather than doing the pushing.
Much, if not all of that technology exposure must be re-mastered and redefined.
I have to give you some background before I continue with my fifth graders and their programming. By the time the 5th grade student enters my classroom I have already been his or her tech teacher for four years. My students start with me in first grade. So, in my lab the students grow from 6 year olds holding up their “magic fingers” (ctrl, alt, del) and singing a grade level username and password to log in, to 5th graders who can write and run programs.
I’ve found that the most effective way to begin the learning process of programming, in fact educational technology in general, is to first start by changing vocabulary in the classroom.

The G word

“Mr Luetjen doesn’t let us use the G word in class. We don’t play games at school. We do online activities.”
That’s correct, I don’t allow students’ to use the word Game in class when referencing the websites they engage in. What we do in my classroom are online activities.
Almost every first grader associates the word ‘computer’ with the word ‘game’ with the word ‘internet’. It is important to have a separation from computer play at home and what happens in the computer lab. What they do at home with their computer is often drastically different from what’s expected of them in a computer lab.
A simple change in vocabulary is enough to begin the separation from home to lab. It also marks the beginning of the students’ control over their tech environment. I have to re-engineer their thoughts, feelings, and experiences and, I must confess, attitude, towards tech that they have grown accustomed to.
Math at home is an extension of the math learned at school. As a computer teacher, I don’t share that luxury with the math teacher. Computer use at home by a first grader is, most times, completely opposite of what happens in the lab. On the first day of school, the children are wide-eyed with oh-my-god-we-get-to-play-games-once-a-week-in-the-lab look about them.
A website that my students are engaged in during class may have the appearance or the look or interaction of games they play online at home. With the change in vocabulary, I can increase their awareness of the STEM activity, or counting mechanism, or spelling word on the screen rather than what button to hit and how fast. The underlying theme I am presenting to my students; that they are engaged in an online activity, class work, if you will, makes all the difference in the child’s respect and eventual responsibility in regards to technology.

So one of the first things my students don’t do in class is use the word “game” when referencing an online activity they are engaging in.

Next Post…
Magic Fingers and a song

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