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Preparing Future Elementary Teachers to Teach Computing

By Joanna Goode

This term, I am teaching an Education course to University of Oregon undergraduates entitled, Teachers as Cyborgs. Most of my students are juniors who intend to eventually pursue teacher certificates and Masters' degrees in education. All but a handful of the 80 students are interested in teaching elementary school. Since they are not yet in a teacher licensure program, this is not a formal methodology course.

The course covers a variety of issues and topics, including the social considerations of children growing up online, the racial and gender stereotypes found in media, copyright law, privacy, security, gaming and learning, and how the Internet has changed our view of knowledge construction. But, I have also designed the course to develop students' understanding of computing as an academic subject area. To this end, I have come up with three strategies for introducing computer science to future elementary teachers:

* They will read Jeanette Wing's Computational Thinking article, and work towards a definition of computational thinking that applies to the K-5 setting.
* Students will experience several Computer Science Unplugged activities and be introduced to the fantastic CS Unplugged website of K-5 lesson ideas.
* Students will learn Scratch, and design a project which incorporates a well-known story or fairy-tale, but incorporates a new ending with a social justice message.

As a former high school computer science teacher, this elementary realm is new territory for me, and so I am looking for any feedback or ideas from the K-5 computer science community on how to introduce future elementary teachers to computing.

Am I on the right track?

Do any of you have thoughts on other activities/readings that might strengthen this course?

Joanna Goode
CSTA Board of Directors

Comments

Your course ideas look great, and the issues that you have highlighted to discuss are so important. A 6 year old asked me to be his Facebook friend today. SIX! Yikes. My first computer course for my Bachelor's degree was how to program in Turbo Pascal!

I think new elementary school teachers really need to understand the elements of adaptive technologies, such as the CAST.org e-reader & book builder, Read/Write Gold etc. One thing that technology can help us with in our classrooms is leveling the playing field for all of our learners in diverse classrooms.

Second, I would cover how digital communities can support teachers. My PLN on Twitter and on Second Life for instance allows me to quickly find answers when I am stuck, and can be an outstanding resource for new teachers who need help with particular situations.

Finally, if you are looking for another text, Dr. Paul Gee's book "What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy" is a great place to look at technology and teaching. The principles of learning that he discusses are all excellent in regards to thinking about how we can have a strong, meaningful classroom program, with or without technology.

Good luck with your course!

Steve Martin

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