Rivendell Technology

Letters and Numbers

At school, we’re all about letters and numbers! In computers, that means keyboard & typing skills, as well as manipulating numbers with spreadsheets.

Students are all working on their typing. Middle and Older Kids continue their progress on Typing.com, and 1st-graders in Younger Kids also received their Typing.com accounts so they can begin their own touch-typing progression. Other Younger Kids are playing various keyboarding games, like KeySeeker, Cup Stack and Type Rocket, to familiarize themselves with the keyboard layout.

Older Kids are getting ready for the science fair, and using charts and graphs to visualize results will be an important part of their presentation. Spreadsheets (in our case, Google Sheets) can help create those graphs. We learned some basic spreadsheet functions, and how to put data into a table and create an appropriate graph.

Our current science topic unit is Light and Sound, and computers have been used by visual artists and musicians since the beginning to create digital art. We’ve been playing with some cool activities and talking about how computers use light (colored pixels) or sound (wave forms) to produce amazing—and interactive—works. Check out Chrome Music Lab, Weave Silk and Fluid Simulation.

Hour of Code

The beginning of December brings the Hour of Code, where we join students all over the world of all ages learning about coding and computer science. We do some “unplugged” pencil-and-paper activities to learn that coding is simply a sequence of instructions.

Then we dive into various Hour of Code activities where the kids get to code themselves. This year for Middle and Older Kids, we learned about AI and machine learning, and then coded up a dance party. There are even pictorial coding activities for our beginning readers in Younger Kids. Anyone can code!

The Powers that Be

We are moving more into computer science concepts in Technology class. Older and Middle Kids learned about binary numbers—using powers of 2 (instead of powers of 10) to represent numbers. All that learning about place value in math comes in handy! They had to convert binary numbers into letters to decode a saying.

It’s so exciting to see them get it, and understand why 101 is actually the number 5. Ones and zeros are definitely the foundation of computer science!

Boo!

Middle Kids did some creepy animal mashups for Halloween. Here’s a spooky gallery.

Connect the Dots

Computers create pictures with millions of tiny dots called pixels. Light them up (or not) and the mosaic gives you the picture you want.

Younger Kids get hands-on with an “unplugged” activity. Take a grid of “pixels” on a piece of paper, color in all the 1s, and they can create a spooky Halloween picture.

Middle and Older Kids get more advanced, manipulating photos in a program called Pixlr. They took individual animal pictures and put them together to create never-before-seen animal mash-ups.

Middle Kids used the simplified Pixlr X editor; Older Kids the more advanced Open Pixlr Editor. The Older Kids’ mash-ups were reptiles with specific adaptations for their environment, as they were learning in their classroom Topic Unit.

Art Works

Creating artwork (drawing, photos, photomanipulation, and interactive sites) is a big use of computer power. It’s also a lot of fun!

We work on art sites like those listed in the Site Sights post. Not only do the students like to create the art, it also reinforces mouse control for Younger Kids, helps all levels learn different interfaces, and they begin to learn how to navigate the file system to save their work.

Documentation

Learning to create various kinds of documents—text, pictures, presentations, spreadsheets—is an important skill that kids will use in school and beyond. Middle and Older Kids get Google accounts through Rivendell that let them create Google documents of various kinds.

Both age levels had to learn to type and format a text document. Then Older Kids created a Google Slides presentation to demonstrate their research on Egypt.

Just knowing where to look can help you find what you need. We emphasized the menu bar (look for “edit” to move things around and copy/paste, “insert” to add things that aren’t plain text, and “format” to make things look different) and the toolbar (with hover-over tool tips). We encourage them to click and experiment, work together to help each other, and if they make a mistake, Undo (ctrl-Z) is your friend!

Site Sights

Teaching computers in 2019 is far easier than it was years ago. The internet allows us to have a huge array of games, learning tools and applications at our fingertips.

Middle and Older Kids can get logged into their Google accounts (1st graders will get accounts later in the year), and use Typing.com to practice their touch typing skills. We’ve also visited a couple different sites to learn about cybersafety and computer security. YK use games to learn to use the Windows interface and the mouse. All grade levels enjoy computer-based artwork as well.

Here are some of the sites the students use that we introduce the first part of the year:

We have a school-wide internet filter to keep kids safe, and use ad-blockers in the lab as well.

Ghosts in the Machine

We’re back in school and back on the computers! We have a lot on tap this year: typing, searching, creating documents, artwork, videos, infographics, coding and more.

After exploring the school looking for computers (and finding hundreds of them!) the Younger Kids got to draw what they thought was inside the computer box. Wires, fans, electricity… ice cream, giraffes and, if you look carefully, maybe even ghosts! I think we’ve all thought there was a ghost in our computer from time to time.

Three Dimensions

Much of what we do on computers is two-dimensional: text-based apps, photographic images and illustrations, many games. But one of the real powers of computers is the ability to design three-dimensional objects. It’s useful not just for games or movie special effects, but designing cars, airplanes, buildings, vacuum cleaners and furniture.

We use a program called SketchUp for 3D design. It can create very sophisticated models, but is simple enough that anyone can have fun creating things after just a few minutes.

Anyone who ends up working in a field designing physical objects will end up using 3D design software similar to SketchUp.