March 24, 2016

One Quick Guide To Teaching Computer Science for the First Time


Teaching Computer Science in class can be daunting. Especially in Hong Kong. You think you need a computer for all the students and sometimes it’s not the case. You think you have to be an expert to teach it. You think students won’t like it and the whole experience will be a mess.

If you are teaching in Hong Kong and curious to help your students discover Computer Science, all you need is us and some resources you’ll find in our website.

We’ve made our mission to help teachers and schools offer Computer Science workshops to students from any social backgrounds. This is one quick guide to teaching computer science for the first time and you just need to follow the methodology to begin with in order to have a successful experience with your students.

Step 1: Start with the basics

Computer Science is a scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. In 12 hours, you can ignite the sparkle within your students to actually love it. Most of the time, we overthink teaching Computer Science in schools whereas it is much simpler in reality.

You can start for example with explaining new words. Teaching concepts like binary numbers, algorithm, sorting, cryptography, the Internet, or digital citizenship is easier than you think. New words like algorithm, decompose, abstraction or pattern matching can be taught orally first.

Imagine you have a group of students in front of you and you say out loud to them: “Al-go-ri-thm” and then define it and make them repeat the word. Tell them these new word out loud, and repeat. Have them repeat the word to each other as well. Once, twice, three times. Have the students repeat them again.

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Step 2:Use alternative methods

Once these new words are said out loud, you can go further about and play unplugged activities and games to demonstrate what is Computer Science. Take a couple of markers, some scissors, paper, and write one activity all the students do on a regular basis: go to school.

Then apply the definition of an algorithm to this activity and have the student list the different steps they are doing every day to go to school. Put some papers, and have them decompose and write down all the steps in the right order.You will have them think about their process of going to school and this is what an algorithm is: a list of steps that you can follow to finish a task.

It involves the students as they play with markers and cards in order to understand the concepts. For instance, once you have said the word “Algorithm” out loud, you can have your students write down all the steps they follow. It will give something like the following.

“Steps a student needs to perform to go to school”:

set alarm clock / sleep / wake up / have a breakfast / wash / get dressed/ prepare school bag take MTR or bus / walk to the school

It works with any new concept and word you are trying to teach. No computer is required, just some ideas and if you’re running out of them, we can help you with it.

Step 3: Involve students with games they are familiar with

In order to grab the attention of students, there is nothing more efficient than play with them with games they know about first. It requires some discipline though and clear explanations of what to do and what to expect with these games.

To teach simple concepts of Computer Science, we can use Minecraft to teach principles of programming. You know about Minecraft, and your students know about it too. Minecraft programming is fun and the fact that many students know about it first will arouse excitement and interest. Which is good to open the mind of students.

There is even a website to help you find the right angle to teach Minecraft in the classroom, called MinecraftEdu. Teachers from all around the globe can build workshops and classes and you can download them as well as share what you are building with a growing community!

Step 4: Make it concrete

What’s better than a concrete outcome at the end of the effort?

Whenever there’s a challenge ahead or new concepts for students to learn, you have to make it concrete with a project, physical objects and real interactions between people. It is the best way to approach teaching, and the most efficient to learn for students. It makes it easier to digest the flow of new information students have to learn.

Creating the right atmosphere to teach Computer Science is great to encourage discussions, group projects, and activities so students can make their own games. When you move from interactive theory to practice, students will validate what they learnt and apply new principles.

For example, you can introduce your students into building their own computer. We know a tool you will like. It’s Kano Kit. Have a look at it and let us know about it in the comments. This is great for students to discover computational thinking.
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Step 5: Always reward them

Teachers have to encourage students and reward them. In our workshops, we always take pride in spending some time cheering and celebrating at the end of the effort.

It’s a necessary step to conclude an intense yet friendly session between teachers and students but we decided to add spices. If you apply to our workshop and decide to work with us, we have decided that the successfull participants who will complete the course are entitled to join the “Junior Computer Scientist” contest in May 2016 at Cyberport.
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The details of the competition will be announced soon, but you can be sure there will be some serious competition between talented young computer scientists!

Teaching Computer Science in class does not have to be complicated when you have the tools and the method to approach it. At FifthWisdom, we want to help you prepare this workshop and give you everything you need. Only a couple of hours, 12 to be precise, is what it takes to get the basics and shape the curiosity.

You can get in touch with us via email at [email protected] and ask us the questions you have about it. You can find as well the resources to teach new concepts in the classroom or at home and make sure your students learn and have fun in the same time.

Happy Learning!