As per the article, I use Think-Pair-Share and then sliding groups to foster class discussion. I was also reminded of the Fishbowl protocol (here called Feedback Discussions). I used this discussion technique regularly as an English teacher, and now I’m going to apply it to the teaching of ECS. I recall the kids asking when we were going to “play” fishbowl again. They saw it more as a game than a discussion technique.
I plan to start with sliding groups.
I plan on using the room next to me. I teach in a computer lab. And there is not a lot of room to move around in there (to form groups).
The room next to me is empty. So I plan on setting up table groups of 4. We will then use this room for discussions. I think my current plan is to just use different signs on the door to indicate what room we are meeting in (on a given day).
On day 1 we will also set up our classroom norms for discussions.
I will start by having the students answer the journal prompt “List all of the computers you have seen in the last 24 hours (Not counting the desktops in your classroom.)” I will then have the students take turns going to the whiteboard in the front of the room to add items to our classroom list. We will then discuss whether everything listed is a computer, and go over the basic definition of a computer, emphasizing input, process, and output.
I’m fortunate that I have a large classroom/computer lab with computers around the edge facing the wall, with enough room in the middle to have tables in a “U” shape facing a Promethean board and whiteboard, allowing for large group discussions where everyone can see each other. And since there are several tables, the room can easily be reconfigured for small group activities.
From the first day of school and throughout the school year I try to create and maintain a classroom environment whereby mistakes are O.K. (we learn from them) and questions are not only welcomed, but are essential tp the learning process.
I started by asking the class to write in their journals all the “computers” in the classroom, then share with their armchair buddy. After making a list on the whiteboard I showed a short video about “what is a computer”, Then we added to the list on the whiteboard, before categorizing the results…
The students are seated at round tables so they are facing each other.
Thus far everything I have experienced here is quite basic. It seems as though the entire PD is structured for 1st time teachers as opposed to building a teachers CS knowledge and skills set. Very disappointing.
I think that the best way to facilitate an active discussion is to give the students open-ended questions where they have have to think and discuss among themselves. The questions should be able to have the students respond in such a thoughtful manner and have them refrain from just giving a “yes or no” answer.
I think getting students to brainstorm and share ideas with one another will lead to a beneficial in-class discussion where we all can contribute to what a computer really is!
Present the idea to students then break them into groups of 3-4. Have them brainstorm ideas together, then welcome that feedback to be shared with all students.
I definitely like the idea of breaking down discussions. Have students think about answers on their own, then in small groups, then large group share.
Different strategies work well on different days. It can be topic dependent, and even time of day. Feedback discussions are, in my opinion, are a modified Harkness method. I do like the anonymous questions, and hope to apply that. I like it for encouraging those kids that might feel intimidated (even mildly by peers who are more “expert” or comfortable with the topic. It also allows the kids who feel they are expert become more willing to ask what they think is a “dumb” questions.
The first thing I will do is to set the ground rules. When we are discussing a topic students must raise their hand to respond. I will sometimes put the classrooms in groups of 4 and they will discuss the topic in groups and then they will report out to the classroom.
I think it is important to allow the students to contribute t heir ideas first. Then, if there are ideas/concepts that do not fit the class, then the reasons why should be discussed as a class together.
I’m not used to a lot of open-ended discussion in my classes so I’ll likely be trying many approaches throughout the year. For this lesson we tried following what was modeled in the summer PD: using post-its to have the kids write down 5 things that they thought we definitely computers, 5 “maybe computers” and 5 “not computers”. We then discussed as they brought their post-its up and debated as to who agreed and disagreed and why.
After doing the “what is a computer?” group activity we modeled in PD, I plan to group the students in groups of and challenge them to think through if they could get through their day (or even get ready for school) without a computer.
I think being topical is super important. The recent Ashley Madison issue has been fertile ground for discussion about data, security, ethics. Utilizing the new Question feature in Google Classroom has also been very helpful in taking discussions to a deeper level and kind of debrief mode after our classroom discussions. I wish there was a way to have students submit comments anonymously as in the Nominal Group methodology. That way I could see who posted what but other students could not…I’m going to have to explore that idea.
Sorry to hear that you are disappointed. The content of the PD and the curriculum both build over the course. CSP is meant to be a course that students can take without any prior knowledge of CS so the content has to match that at the beginning then grow over time. I would suggest taking a look at extension activities suggested in lessons as a way to deepen your content knowledge if you find that you want to know more about a topic.
Hi Dani, thank you for taking the time to respond to my concerns. I completely understand the course is an introductory one designed to attract and expose students who are either intimidated by CS or even never been exposed. However, my main point was not the content for students, but rather the approach for teachers.
The PD makes the assumption that CS teachers do not utilize a myriad of basic pedagogical concepts such as the 3R’s (Rigor, Relevance & Relationships), the 5E’s (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate), etc. Therefore, too much time is spent on ‘preaching to the choir’. Its not the content, but rather the delivery and follow through. As an African American male, I quite thoroughly enjoyed going through the lessons and found them to be very thoughtful, engaging, and encompassing of all cultures and genders (such as the corn rows lesson). I would recommend the material for any demographic group.
But I struggle to see how a 6-8 hour online follow up that reinforces what was already presented in the face to face sessions is beneficial. In the future, Since all of the teachers bring laptops or tablets to the face to face sessions, then it would be more efficient to do is either incorporate the online session during face to face or follow up at the end of each day.
Thank you for taking the time to respond. It was a pleasant surprise. I honestly thought no one was listening.
Thanks so much for your feedback. We truly value hearing from teachers about their experiences and do our best to work to improve the PD accordingly. I will keep your suggestions in mind as we design future PD.
I try to start with a topic that allows for a lot of variety in responses. Each student can focus on something they are really interested in. It gives them a change to talk about something they feel both passionate and knowledgeable about. For example, I might start with unexpected leaders and why the student admires and respects them. The responses include everything from politicians and historical figure to sports heroes, business leaders, scientists, astronauts, musicians, and more. It helps me and the class a chance to see a student’s interest, and builds their confidence speaking to their peers because they feel like experts.