New Year, New Job!
I’m back and with a renewed commitment to blogging and social media! For the past six years, I’ve taught mostly seventh-grade math, which I have loved. I’ve always coveted a job teaching computers, however, and this year I have the opportunity to refresh and renew our Computer Science program. Computer Science and Coding have benefited from a huge publicity push this year, with many big school districts such as New York City and Chicago deciding to add coding as a key part of curriculum for all grade levels. My school district is not diving in yet, but they’re watching my little pilot program to inform some of their decision making. I’m trying my hand at curriculum development with three new preps.
This year I’m teaching:
6th grade: Web 2.0. This class is a district requirement, and I’m keeping almost all of the basic structure because the concepts are so important for kids just learning their way around the internet. This is a quarter-long class in which students learn internet safety and citizenship, online research and data, and computer programming. I am updating the computer programming unit to include algorithmic thinking and programming with Scratch. I am using a limited number of the CSTA standards for elementary school, plus ISTE standards.
7th and 8th grade: Electronics. I got the idea for this class at a workshop using PicoBoards and Scratch. This was such a fun, kid-friendly way to learn programming and a little about electronics that I pitched the idea to my administrators to offer this elective. In the end, I purchased a class set of SparkFun Inventors’ Kits with Arduino, along with a lot of other basic electronics. In the class, I plan to cover the basics of electromagnetism, types of circuits, measurements / units and proportionality in circuits (think V = IR), and programmable digital circuits. The mapping to standards was really “interesting” for this course. I had this conversation with a science teacher.
Me: I’m excited to teach a class on electronics. I’m going to map it to science standards since it’s sort of a science adventures class. What electronics concepts do you already teach in middle school science?
Science Teacher: Well, electricity isn’t really in our standards.
Me: In Eighth grade? Or at all?
ST: Not really in there at all. Just kind of mentioned as a form of energy, and a little something about renewable energy.
Me: You’re kidding me. So even the basic electric circuit with the battery and the wire and the bulb…
Me: So a kid could conceivably go from elementary school all the way through to high school physics and never build or learn about circuits, or what a volt is, or how a battery works, or the series or parallel circuit or….
ST: Yeah, that’s right. In fact, if you want any of this lab equipment, help yourself. I haven’t used it in years.
I looked. He’s right. Not in there. Electronics are briefly mentioned in the Next Generation Science Standards as a form of Energy, with a slight nod to quantifying and measuring electromagnetism. I used what I could from the NGSS and from the CSTA standards, but this whole curriculum design raises some really interesting questions for me. A bunch of really smart people wrote our state standards and the NGSS standards. They didn’t feel electrical energy was a power standard. Why do I think it’s so important to teach, and how do I justify my thinking here?
I will be adding to this page a Wiki of the Common Core math standards and computer science / programming / electronics lessons I uncover that are good problems for those concepts. I believe we’ll really make headway in middle school computing when it’s part of the core classroom. In the meantime, I’m excited to offer this as an elective.
Onward! I am writing pre-assessments today. If you’d like to distract me by helping me puzzle through the mystery of being a standards-based teacher in a standards-based school who’s working way outside the standards-based playbook to teach something I think was a mistake to leave out… I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In closing, here are some pictures of my classroom.