[plt-scheme] computers in elementary school

From: Matthias Felleisen (matthias at ccs.neu.edu)
Date: Mon Oct 25 18:11:20 EDT 2004

On Oct 25, 2004, at 5:46 PM, Bruce Butterfield wrote:

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> I have a kid in fourth grade; she attends a private elementary school 
> for gifted students. All in all I'm very pleased with the education 
> she is receiving -- small class sizes and a well-trained and 
> reasonably well-paid teaching staff make it a pretty nice place to be 
> a student.
> I am less happy with the "computer class" they attend once per week, 
> for about an hour. It's kind of a mess; typing tutorials, math and 
> reading "skills", and worst of all, lessons on building Powerpoint 
> presentations. Now, personally, I think Powerpoint is a noxious virus 
> leading to brain cancer and early onset Alzheimer's but sadly I'm in 
> the minority on this.

Minority is often good when it comes to thinking.

> Since you PLT folks have extensive experience training teachers to 
> develop deep programming skills (read: critical thinking) in their 
> students, do you have any thoughts on what would be an appropriate 
> "computer class" for younger children? I'm not thinking so much of 
> programming skills; more on the order of showing what kind of powerful 
> tool it can be and what are its current limitations. Thanks for any 
> info/references.

Check out StarLogo and their program for middle school students. I 
think you might like this "powerful tool" approach. Eric Klopfer at 
MIT's urban Studies department runs the program and has published a 
flashy tutorial on it, with some kind of NYC-based edu publisher. 
Colors and everything. The kids learn to program little agents (ants, 
trees, trees on fires, etc) as simple rule-base automata. These agents 
replicated 1,000s of times and then begin to interact according to 
these simple rules and the kids watch complex emergent behavior.

Let me know if you try it -- Matthias

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