Training and Development

My life as a tech teacher, part 10: Lessons learned

One of the hardest aspects of teaching is pitching the material at the right level. Although my daughter is one of my students, she's not necessarily representative of the rest of the class in terms of technical knowledge. I can't use her as a benchmark.

So I have to make an educated guess about how to present the information I'm teaching, since it's never been done before in this school. I suppose that's why national curricula exist, though they too have their drawbacks.

To begin the lesson I asked, "What is the internet?" and got a range of interesting replies, most of which were about the web rather than the internet. It's a difference that many adults would fail to appreciate, but I tried to explain it in terms of infrastructure: railway tracks and trains, that kind of thing.

Too abstract. So then I asked the children to come up with a list of their favourite websites for next week. We'll look at the source code for some of them, then move on to one of the Codecademy web development courses. They're designed for adults, but these children are fast learners and I think they'll be able to cope.

For the rest of the lesson we did some more Scratch work: inputs and variables. Asking questions of the user, then using that information to communicate. "What is your name?" "Hello <answer>, how are you?" and suchlike. This piqued their interest, with some of the children generating interactive conversations that were conditional upon the previous answers: basic Scratch chat-bots.

I think I'll continue to use Scratch in the lessons, alongside the web coding projects. It's good for the children to have access to both. Just as with human speech, knowledge of more than one language can broaden the mind. Also, Scratch is more visual and immediate than HTML/CSS coding.

This is my last 'tech teacher' update on IDG Connect, though I'll continue to write about other topics here. I hope this series has been useful and I hope it will encourage other people with IT knowledge to offer their services to local schools. You don't have to be a coding genius to do it. You just need to be willing to teach – and learn.

It's been a step outside my comfort zone and a highly rewarding experience. I don't know how much detail the children will carry with them to adulthood, but I'm pretty sure they will approach computers with greater understanding, awareness and knowledge of the underlying logic. That alone makes the whole project worthwhile.


Catch up on the whole series of ‘My life as a tech teacher’:

My life as a tech teacher – Part 1

Part 2: First lesson

Part 3: The coding lesson that runs itself

Part 4: Would more women in IT make it less Dilbert-like?

Part 5: It's all about control

Part 6: We could live for a thousand years

Part 7: A taste of the real world

Part 8: A clash of logic

Part 9: Planning for phase 2



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Alex Cruickshank

Alex Cruickshank has been writing about technology and business since 1994. He has lived in various far-flung places around the world and is now based in Berlin.  

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