Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Looking Back To Move Forward

I think most teachers do some introspection at the end of the school year about how things went for them. They think about what worked and what didn’t work so that they can make the next year better than the previous years. That is the difference between n years of experience and one year of experience n times. Certainly I’m doing a lot of thinking. Inspired by some teachers I really respect who have blogged their thoughts (Garth Flint and Laura Blankenship) I’ve decided to put some of my thoughts to print.

I taught two computing courses and Yearbook this year. I did everything possible wrong with Yearbook (I’d never worked with a Yearbook before) but thanks to some incredible students we did turn out what I think is a great yearbook. Thankfully someone else gets that course next year. That is better for everyone.

My first computing course is a course we call Explorations in Computer Science. It is loosely patterned after the Exploring Computer Science course but adopted for a single semester and some particular needs of our school. two of us taught a total of ten sections of this course which is mostly taken by freshmen (ninth graders). In it we cover a range of topics including the Office Suite, some HTML, computing concepts (some of it using materials from CS Unplugged), and some basic programming.

Overall it went well. The other teacher and I shared and co-developed a lot of the materials. We were able to tune some of it from semester one to semester two which was helpful. Students seem to like the course. One of the things we are still working on it making the material on the Office Suite more about problem solving and less about mechanics. We’ve made progress with the first semester being better than our previous course that was all mechanics and the second semester improving on the first. It’s still an area were we think we can make progress.

The programming has been a mixed bag. I think the other teacher may have done a better job than I did because he was more organized. Organization is my goal over the summer. I also want to revisit the projects we used to make them more interesting. Most of all I want to get more interactive with students.

Honors Programming was my second computing course. Because of how we changed our curriculum around I had more of a range of previous experience this year than I have had in the past and will (I hope) next year. Some students had a previous semester course (or more) in programming while some had no prior experience in code at all. That made things interesting.

I’m pleased with the projects I used for the most part. Students liked them and did some good work. Here again I want to get more conversation going with students as I explain things. Lectures just don’t work no matter how interesting one tries to make them. I taught without a textbook this year. Sometimes that works but sometimes it doesn’t.

I think what I want to do over the summer is write up some supporting materials for both courses. Less than a textbook but more than a PowerPoint deck. Maybe I’ll call them tip sheets or sometime like that. I envision one to three pages with pictures and sample code as well as  textual information. I’d like to cover both the required material and some supplemental things. It’s a thought. We’ll see how far it goes.

Organization will be a must do for the summer. I think I have a good handle on timing or at least how long things should take. If I document it all as a clear plan I hope to keep things moving more smoothly. Hopefully that will help students as well as me.

So what are you doing to prepare for next year? Or can’t you think about it before August?

1 comment:

Garth said...

Yearbook!? You poor man. I have to learn Java this summer and write a high school dual credit course so I think I will have enough to do. I also have to go to central Oregon for a week mountain biking and go to the Oregon coast with the wife in the new convertible sport car for a week. I cannot wait for the new school year to start so I can relax again.