Saturday, 3 May 2008

replication and pizza

One of my experiences in helping the computer science programmes grow was in the form of mentorship.
Through my teacher training I was put into three very different schools and worked with the computer science teacher in the school there. They were passionate about their subject. The would try different things with their students. In one school the teacher always wanted to do beowolf clusters with the students, so we modified the course I was to teach, the students had to put computers together, make their own network cables, install a linux distribution and then link all the systems up to create the beowulf cluster to render a 3d image. I know it might not seem much, but I still remember the students who would come in during their study period and roll the system out, plug it into the data projector and work on it while a junior class was working on another task. It showed the junior students what the seniors were working on and got them interested in taking the subject later on in their schooling.

You have to be passionate about computer science, don't worry if something doesn't work right or if you don't know how to do something. Build on these with your students, they find it great if you cannot do something and you work on it together to get the answer. It creates a team building atmosphere.

The teacher is not there always to teach, they are there to facilitate learning both for themselves and for the students.

Tell new teachers not to be worried if they don't know it all, ask the students what they want to learn, make it real world. They love working on real world problems.

Get innovate, think outside the box. There is one unit of work I do with my students, they learn networking, linux, netbasics. It's called "hacker high school", now when you say it fast it sounds like "hack a high school" they love it, and they learn so much from it, for the resources they are at

Start reading blogs of other computer science teachers, I found some real cool ones on xna development in high schools, which has got me and my students playing xbox 360 in class and designing simple but fun games. We have just fund raised for a xbox 360 dancemat to make a physical game that you have to move around in for our learning support centre. It doesn't have to have the greatest graphics or sounds the students have found out, it has to have decent game play, realistic goals, and realistic attempts.

Look at other areas of the school and get involved. We have a Library of 10,000 books yet we have an average of 2.4 books per student a year borrowed, so the students designed a dynamic website using php and mysql that the students could enter a competition based on the number of books that they read and entered on the website. This has increased the junior school (aged 13-15) borrowing an average of 5 books per student. The thing is it is a start.

Don't just offer microsoft software, look at open source, I have microsoft virtual pc installed running ubuntu, they enjoy personalizing another operating system and they then can compare windows xp with linux. I even have vmware player running with mac os x. It is fantastic seeing them trying to work it out.

Mobile apps for their cellphone is next, though I am waiting for the iphone to come out in New Zealand before I start looking at what I can do with that next.

Don't just do the same thing each year, you have to move with the times. Computer Science is an ever changing area. The concepts are the same, but the applications blow your mind.

No comments: