Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where did my work go?

I was very frustrated at a number of students going into what I call "Cow - Mode". This is where they just blindly do what they always have done without thinking is this what I have been told to do, are these the instructions. I am sure we have all faced these problems as teachers. These mistakes in my computer class, however, have had some students in the verge of tears.

I have tried to help a number of grade 4 and 5 students learn how to save files, and how to open files up when using the "File" menu common to pretty much every application. What frustrates me is when students open up a program, like MS Word, and then clicking file -> save instead of file -> open. They have just overwritten their work with a blank document. Undo does not work in this case (or hasn't in our version of MS Word). I don't have access to server logs, and I can't go back in time. What to do? Some students have done this 3 times, despite having been taught the proper way to open, save, and close your work. I have to teach the students to read messages and think about what the computer is asking them to do before just clicking "yes" , "no", when to hit "cancel" and think some more, and when it's ok to hit "Ok."

Thus I have begun teaching computer education classes that are still engaging and creative lessons, but whose Learning Intentions are teaching them BASIC FILE MANAGEMENT skills, or BFM. BTW "learning intentions" just mean THE BIG IDEA of why we are doing this lesson. And I am starting at grade 1.

What I hope to accomplish is this - make a lesson that is so interesting, that students have to follow the steps exactly in order to "enjoy" the lesson. Our lesson with grade 1 and 2 students today was to take a picture of them using the new web camera, and put it in their student folder on our server. Students would then have to:

1 - open up the paint program

2 - browse to the file, and this involves using a drop down menu so that they can select "all files". Otherwise, their picture file (a jpeg) won't show up in their folder. When browsing to the file, the paint program in question is searching for .bmp or "bitmap" files.

3 - open their picture (it has their name on it)

4 - draw on the picture using paint tools - we are making disguises.

5 - after each drawing is complete use "save-as". I have taught them that this creates a new version of your picture, so that your "clean copy" stays clean.

So the Learning Intention is to learn how to create versions of files, and use save and save-as commands for different tasks. If they just hit save after making a disguise, then they will not have their original photo, and can't make more disguise - pictures. Of course I have the originals safely kept in another file, but I don't want them to know that!

Here are some of the teaching examples I have used:


Me with a cool mustache, glasses and missing tooth

Me as a bandit. The grade 1's and 2's were really interested now!

I will create another post next week to say whether or not the grade 1's and 2's are able to better manage files, and navigate the file system.

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