This past week, I’ve begun planning my courses in earnest. I’ve had ideas in my head, made some notes, etc. Now I’m really in the thick of it. I have four classes–6th, 7th, 8th & 9th grades. The middle school classes meet once a week while the high school class meets twice a week. The rest of my time will be spent doing professional development for the teachers and/or running tech-based classes for their students. One thing I’ve been reading about in the K-12 world these last few weeks is the idea of paid pre-planning. I get it. Teachers should be paid for time they put into developing a class, or grading, or pretty much anything that counts as “work.” Many schools and districts have apparently cut this time out so that teachers are expected to show up cold on the first day of class. I haven’t been paid a dime yet and don’t really care that I’m not paid. We do have the week before classes begin, but I suspect, like me, most of my colleagues need more than a week to get ready. In higher ed, of course, there’s no nitpicking over whether prep time is paid for; professors just prep before the semester begins or not (most do a lot of prep).
Anyway, I’ve been excited about teaching the entire summer, so now that I’m starting to see some of my ideas solidify into web pages and lesson plans, I’m even more excited. So here’s where I am so far.
In 6th grade, I’ve chosen a theme of communication as a way of organizing the different technological tools that we’re going to use. The students will pick a topic (guided by me) on the first day of school and we’ll work with that topic to eventually end up with a web site and blog about the topic. We’re starting with word processing and moving our way through images, charts and graphs, video, and web sites. In each of these lessons, we’ll talk a little bit about what it means to communicate with words, words and images, video, etc. and a little about audience. For our websites and blogs, we’re using Weebly for Education, which I’m very excited about. I can create usernames and passwords for all my kids and it’s easy to use, so we can focus on the content, but then it has the ability to “get under the hood” and do a little html and css, which I’m planning to do a tiny bit of at the end.
In 7th grade, we’re focusing on digital storytelling, going through several different tools to create stories, ending with either Storytelling Alice (which I suspect won’t work, unfortunately) or Scratch. So, we’ll use presentation tools like PowerPoint (or any number of more exciting tools on the web), video editing, image editing and whatever else the kids want to use for their stories.
8th grade is all about Scratch with an eye toward creating a group of students who all have been introduced to the basic concepts of computing. I’m basically following the arc of the workshop I attended at MIT. We’ll be doing some Art/Music projects, Storytelling projects, and some games. I’m still working on the actual order of events and given that we only have 10 weeks, I may drop the storytelling or I may give them the option of doing any of these after spending a couple of weeks going of the basic concepts. As I start to fill in the schedule, I’m sure I’ll start to morph my basic idea into something that will work within my constraints.
9th grade is an Art and Technology class. Here, I don’t really know what I’m going to do yet. The teacher who taught this last year is meeting with me in the next week to show me what she did last year. Many art and technology classes focus on using Photoshop or Illustrator or CAD. I am terrible at art, so I haven’t used any of these tools very much–well Photoshop for editing photographs, but not for creating my own art. I’m very interested in the connection between art and technology, though, the way that some really cool art is coming out of programming, i.e. making programs that create art. Because this class might change dramatically next year, morphing into a programming class, I’m not sure what to do with it. I could also see keeping it and adding a programming class. So it’s all up in the air.
So that’s where I am so far. I’ve been putting everything up onto a web site, though the school does provide a content management system. It’s pretty basic though, with no customization possible, so I will use it to point students to the main site. At least that’s the plan. I’ll link to it when it’s more finished.