View Full Version : 6th Gr. Teacher needs to teach Linux and look good

June 9th, 2006, 07:21 PM
I have been given the go ahead to make a computer lab on Linux in a public school! Administration wants me to utilize open source software and make our school a model school. I need to teach tech stuff and look good. Suggestions?

I'm thinking......basics, like using Linux well, including synaptic package manager.....open office spreadsheets, presentations and writer use, configuring printers on the network....using edutainment in a class setting and teaching HTML!

Help me brainstorm!

June 9th, 2006, 10:58 PM
Moved to the Ubuntu Cafe

June 9th, 2006, 11:01 PM
First off, I commend you. I have some history in the teaching profession and I am thrilled to hear about your plans.

Next, I think you will get more input if you narrow your request down a little, or at a minimum give some specifics regarding your ultimate goals in the class. "Learning Linux" is a huge topic. What do you want students to be able to do at the end of the first day? week? month? term? When your goals are clear and well-defined (and measurable) the means of reaching them will be easier to brainstorm.

June 10th, 2006, 12:51 AM
you want your students to be able to do everything they did on windows. You also want some older students (8th grade) to be really good, and be able to keep the lab running

June 10th, 2006, 01:27 AM
Maybe this question shows how far I'm away from being a 6th grader, but... What do kids that age know about computers anyway?

I wouldn't be trying to teach them about Linux, I'd just teach them about computers; not what they already know like net surfing and games, rather some introductory, but fundamental stuff like how our human readable commands get translated into machine readable commands that the actual hardware uses. Not really Linux specific.

But if it's just stuff like just using and being proficient with a computer, there's the same question. Why even highlight the Linux part? I'd just give them Linux computers, teach them how to use them, and tell them that's how computers are. Kid's brains are pliable; if they learn to use a Linux based computer, they'll be fine with others.

June 10th, 2006, 02:24 AM
I agree with kanem to a certain extent - that it is more important to teach computing basics, (and theory) than linux specifics... However, I think it is important to highlight similarities and differences between Linux and Windows to help kids generalize their knowledge. Exposure to different ways of thinking and accomplishing similar tasks is key here. For example, if a user has only ever seen Windows, then they might become flustered if they did not see a start button on their desktop (as I know many adult users would.) If, however, a person has seen different ways in which an OS presents applications and options to its user, they are likely to be able to muddle their way through any window manager they might be faced with in the future.

Rather than teaching step-by-step methods which are only applicable to a single program, window manager, o/s, etc. it is, I think, much better to show people what is possible and how to figure out the method themselves. Bringing it back to your situation, perhaps if you could put the class in front of Linux computers in small teams and task them with figuring out how to do A or B or C, which they probably already know how to do in Windows. For example, instead of instructing them to open open office word processor, tell them their task is to figure out some way to write a letter. That way maybe you will be able to teach people how to figure things out for themselves on any operating system.

June 10th, 2006, 02:32 AM
I think security is a good topic to touch on.. explain why you need to enter an admin password for some steps.. You don't need to go into the topic in depth, but at least touch on it.

I know my kids already have a pretty good understanding on what a computer does and doesn't do. My oldest is in 7th grade, my middle one in 3rd grade and my youngest not yet in school, but they each have their own laptops and my oldest has done hardware upgrades on his desktop PC with minimal direction.

June 10th, 2006, 07:09 AM
Maybe this question shows how far I'm away from being a 6th grader, but... What do kids that age know about computers anyway?

They can know quite a lot. Or nothing.

When I was at 4th grade, I had a classmate who programmed with assembler.

10 years later I had a classmate who had to ask if you need to put the diskette inside the machine when you want to save files to it ](*,)

Ok, the 4th grade guy was some kind of math genius anyway. And most likely kids today are spoiled by Windows.. But computer skills are not that tightly related to age.

June 10th, 2006, 09:51 AM
Ok, this year I have finished 8th grade, so I guess I can give some advice about teaching 6th graders ;)

Ok, so first of, I guess there won't be anyone who has ever used linux. At first lesson you should tell them about linux history, what's a distribution, what's Ubuntu, etc...
The next lessons you should teach What's GNOME, KDE, Xfce and etc. Maybe some screenshots would help? :)
After that, when they know what linux is, what's a DE, you could start teaching terminal commands. cd, mv, rm, mkdir - simple ones.

That's for beginning :)

June 10th, 2006, 01:14 PM
I taught an IB IT in an international world course for a year.
Kids (and some adults) don't fully understand that all files are data. Here's a little exercise:

Create a tiny file of each of the following types. For example the image file should be 2 x 2 pixels, the word .doc contain only a couple of words etc etc.

OPen each one in a text editor and see what's inside. Now ask them to make a change and resave. Chances are the file will now be corrupt and won't open with the default application for that filetype. The game is for them to make a change that will result in a file that successfully opens but is a bit different. (This is easier with bmp files than with jpgs)

For some people it really is a surprise that an image file is not a little image!!

June 10th, 2006, 01:34 PM
A complete open source computer lab? That's awesome!

Oh, and good luck! ;)

June 10th, 2006, 04:11 PM
Try to amaze them somehow.
Try Xaos (veryl program for displaying fractals). You may want to show them aview once or twice.

Teach them basics of using computers, but don't teach them only to use specific programs and don't make them just memorize routines. For example, show them how to set up free email account (external or school's) how to configure email client, pop3 and smtp. Email providing sites always post this kind of info in FAQ pages, so it's nothing scary.
Now the kicker: a few meetings later, show them another emal client and tell them to configure their accounts in the program they have never seen before.

How about posting images to photobucket or imageshack ?

Try to teach them to recognize patterns, so they can get the job done with whatever email client they see. You might also want to try it with spreadsheets etc. They will be able to adapt.

To teach them something possibly fun, show them GIMP. You may discover some talents this way.
Teach them basics about image formats and file sizes; tell them why it's bad to send 2MB photo to someone (taken straight from scanner). They should be able to do some very basic optimisation like changing image size from 1000666x66666 to 1024x768, so it becomes managable for email.
You may mention some archiving software.
Tell them what the most common desktop resolution is.

How about Audacity ? If you provide a mic or two, you can show them audio-editing software for free. Voice distortion effects are fun.

HTML is perfectly viable stuff to teach, it's very easy to learn and immediately gives visible results. Bonus points if you show them how bad, bloated and unreadable can program-generated html code be. And while we're at it, tell them concept of separating code from form/interface. Show them http://csszengarden.com/ and have them clicking as until they get bored. Especially flash fanboys should see it.
Aside from homepage/html contests, you can prepare 1 page about school/class and make a contest for prettiest stylesheet.
Tip: hindent is a nice program to automatically indent HTML code to make it more readable.
To make sure they understand that GUI/UI is separate from the rest, show two or more different music players, switch skins a bit etc.

Show them that there's power in command line, even if you don't require them to pass any commandline tests. Show them how fast locate command is versus other types of searches ! (Many windows users will be amazed that you can search 100GB full of files this fast!). Show a magic command to find files bigger than 1MB which haven't been accessed in last 3 months. Also show them something along the lines 'ls | wc -l' or 'find blahblahbla -blahblahblah' | wc -l ,(I expect some of them have mp3 collections, or some other collections). Or show them you can redirect results into a file and save for later. Show them, even just once, a crazy regular expression search. 'diff' command can be very useful.
If they're bored by commandline and don't listen to you, install yakuake. It's a console like in Quake games; it slides from the top of the screen when certain key is pressed. Besides, yakuake is simply very convenient for commandline lovers.

Show them how to use a search engine like Google, and get the kind of results they want; how to narrow down results etc. "bob and alice", +, - operators.

For games, of course show them opensource games. If computers you use have some basic hardware acceleration, show Neverball(an Neverput), Armagetron, possibly Trackballs(a little unpolished). Don't forget Lbreakout2, one of best arkanoid/breakout clones. To underline opensource values, show them it is possible to make their own levels for Lbreakout2, it's possible to use custom background textures and other images, change sound files (cow's mooooooOOO each time a ball hits a paddle ?) etc. Games can be changed and tinkered with, as everything in opensource world.

Show them Kpdf or similar pdf viewer, many people will be amazed simply because it's very fast compared to Acrobat.

I suppose showing 3 different window managers (KDE, Gnome the X wossname thingy) wouldn't be bad. If you could xgl working... I hear it's a bit unpolished, but just showing it once would sparkle their interest.

Ooooh, and let's not forget Knoppix (or similar boot distro) on 2GB flash drive ! Windows can't do it !

June 10th, 2006, 07:57 PM
Ok, this year I have finished 8th grade
heh... same here :)

ok, here's a list (imo), from what's been said above:
How to do what they would be doing in windows
Basic theory (what's binary, what's a megabyte?)
File extensions
Basic system management (connecting to internet, etc)
File hierarchy (just really basic... what is /home?)
Maybe a bit of HTML, for an advanced group

It would be really cool to teach a bit of CLI, but most probably wouldn't like it...

June 12th, 2006, 06:34 PM
Personally! Being a 23 IT geek with a few unfinished math related classes...

To start teaching kids about computers.
Go slow.

Teach them how to turn the computer on, open the calculator, change the background. Simple stuff like customization.

Complicated stuf could go over to using the GIMP, OOo.

A few classes could include some command line to allow them to see the world of computers is not all done with a mouse...

You could set up a way for the kids to send stuff like:
Echo "Hello World!" > tty2
Instead of tty2 it could go to another pc and the kids could have fun sending little messages to each other.

You could start with pc on, calculator, gedit, then another one teaching the same thing in the command line...

You could teach them how to install with synaptic, and then how to do the same thing only with apt-get...

June 12th, 2006, 06:59 PM
I would start off with some clips of Revolution OS (http://www.revolution-os.com/)! Of course don't go crazy, since I would bet most 6th graders would fall asleep partway through, but the highlights would be useful to get some background.

I would suggest starting with the very theory basics and thigns such as the differences of file-based configuration and registry-based configuration, as that is a huge difference when tinkering. Move through to configuring your desktop, printers, menu items, adding applications, etc. Then go into office applications, Evolution, etc. Then maybe a day of "how to compile", so they see the very basics of what goes on behind the scenes... I'm not talking having them do coding or anything, just the basic "./configure && make && make install" command. And then maybe some file-based configuring, such as letting them loose in the /etc/fstab file... haha! That way they know that GUI is not the only answer, it may open some minds.

My sister is in 6th grade right now, moving on to 7th, and she could easily do everything I mentioned. In fact she often plays with my Linux computer, and doesn't get too confused with the differences between Windows and Linux... and she is definitely no computer whiz.