Rivendell Technology

Around the World in 60 Minutes

One of this year’s topic units is Geography and Maps. And who uses a map on paper any more? Most of us rely on computerized maps and GPS navigation to get around. So while the kids did learn how to read and use a paper map in class, we went with the high-tech version: Google Earth.

We learned how to fly around the globe, find interesting locations, and search for places. Older Kids even created their own tours of interesting spots. Going around the world doesn’t take 80 days any more (or even 80 minutes!).

Sheets and Searches

The computerized spreadsheet revolutionized how we deal with numbers. Modern versions not only do the numbers, they can quickly and easily make charts and graphs from those numbers as well. Perfect for students getting projects ready for the science fair!

Older Kids learned the basics of using spreadsheets: rows, columns, and formulas. Then we practiced entering scientific data into tables and converting those tables to charts and graphs. Those graphs help visualize the data and make it easier to check out hypothesis: did the data show what we thought it was going to?

Middle and Younger Kids practiced their search skills. Not only does this involve figuring out the key words to search for, it uses typing and reading comprehension skills.

By the new year, all the computer skills we’ve been working on in computer class start to come together as we get real-world applications.

Coding, Unplugged

Every year, Rivendell kids participate in the Hour of Code. This is a world-wide event to encourage students of all ages to learn computer programming.

But before we do coding with on-line activities, we do one “unplugged” in Older Kids. Using pencil and paper, they have to “program” their friends to stack cups in specific patterns. They learn about coding fundamentals like instruction sequencing, loops and conditionals without even being on a computer!


One of the things that kids learn about computers is that there are “conventions” for using things. These are relatively standard ways to do things that you see in multiple different apps and computer systems. Things like the “x” button to close a window, Back, Play or Reset buttons, saving options under the “File…” menu, handles to drag or resize objects, etc.

Leaning these conventions means that new applications or computers aren’t quite as mysterious. You can still find many of the same features just by looking for something you already know!

Pixels and Pictures

A great way to practice using various parts of the computer interface (mouse skills, browser buttons, menus, using bookmarks) we use fun art sites to create digital images. Younger Kids might start off making funny faces or doing sand paintings. Middle and Older Kids learn about basic paint programs and move on to digital image editing.

Younger Kids learn what pixels are in an “unplugged” activity, turning on all the appropriate “pixels” in a grid on a piece of paper to create a hidden image.

Back in the Saddle (er, Lab) Again

Welcome back to a new school year! I’m excited that we get to be back in the computer lab again this year–masked up, of course. We’ll be using our Windows 10 desktop computers there (Older and Middle Kids will also have Chromebooks that they’ll use in their classrooms).

We have lots to cover this year. Younger Kids will learn about using a mouse, the desktop computer interface, keyboarding, creating digital art, searching, games and activities based on our topic units, simple coding, and more. Middle and Older Kids will learn about internet safety, how to use Google Docs, image and video editing, search skills, coding and binary numbers, and 3D modeling as well as other topics.

Computers are everywhere these days (Younger Kids counted over 300 in the Rivendell building alone!) so we are looking forward to getting to know all about them.

Telling Stories

Younger and Middle Kids got started painting, not with brushes but with pixels. Younger Kids will be using ABCya Storymaker to draw pictures and type text to create a story with information they are learning about birds and dinosaurs in our current topic unit. Middle Kids will make their paintings in ABCya Paint, and then bring them into a Google Doc where they will create an illustrated story.

World Wide

We’ve been travelling the world in computer class. Google Earth is a program that lets you go anywhere on the planet, and the kids have been exploring the globe. They can just spin and zoom anywhere, search for a favorite location, find guided tours of amazing sites, or “feel lucky” and get dropped in a random spot. We’ve gone lots of places in our school topic units this year (ancient Greece and Rome; following immigration and where our families come from) and Google Earth is a great way to bring faraway places to life.

Site for Sore Eyes

Older Kids got a chance to make their own web sites using Google Sites. After learning what HTML is, and hand-coding their first “hello world” web page, they got to choose something that interested them for their subject, like animals, pets or games. Then they learned to add text, pictures, pages, menus, links, even videos. Google Sites makes it a lot easier than writing all that HTML code themselves!

Thinking Inside the Box

What, exactly, is inside of a computer? What are all those board, fans and wires? And how to they make those powerful but tiny computer “brains”? Younger and Middle Kids got to explore inside the box.

We learned about the basic hardware pieces: case, power supply, motherboard and bus, disk, memory and processor. Then we got some hands-on time with them! Seeing how computer chips are made is fascinating, and we got to see some of the parts of that process as well. It’s incredible just how small everything is.