Monday, September 22, 2008

Holden and O'Hara: The Candy Computer Unit

Learning is tricky business. One of the hardest parts, perhaps, is trying to remember facts and figures that seem to have no point. If a student is unable to see how subject matter relates to their life, learning can sometimes feel like cruel and unusual punishment. On the flip-side, any time a student is able to connect directly to the stuff they're studying in school, the experience can be life-changing.

This term in Computer Class, we're learning about hardware (that's any part of the computer that you can touch with your hands). The 4/5 and 5/6 classes are researching some of the inside-bits of the computers at school (CPU, motherboard, power source, sound and video cards, network card, RAM, and hard disk). At the end of our unit, we're going to connect the computers to our real lives by building computer models out of candy.

Now, since I teach a class called "Computers" (and not "Candy Eating for Kids") our main goal is feed our brains instead of our bellies. Candy Computer Construction will take place over one or two weeks in late October or early November. Each group of four or five will be "hired" to build a computer for my (imaginary) company, the Brom Corporation. The build teams will be given materials and instructions for minimum candy computer requirements (any team that eats all of their gummy spiders a.k.a. "case fans" will obviously lose marks!)


Info for Parents

Some of my students have asked if they can bring in candy of their own. As I would like to prevent a sugary-food-fest, please keep the following in mind: I have purchased enough "computer parts" for each group. If you would like to send your child with extras, here's what they can bring:
  • One box of graham crackers (that's what we're making the circiut boards out of)
  • White frosting - either in tub or tube form (to stick the parts together)
  • No more than five pieces of candy (five licorice or five M&Ms or five sour get the idea. Like I said before, our main goal is not to eat, but to build)

Any extras that your child brings with them will be sent home at the end of the build period.

More information about the project will be posted closer to the first build date, and photographs of the candy computers will be posted when we're finished. Questions, as always, can be posted here. I can also be contacted directly by phone.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grade Five: The Human Body

Learning about health isn't just about medical diseases and conditions. It's about understanding yourself, your friends and family, and the world around you.
  1. Click on the picture to explore the Kids Health site.
  2. Reply to this post with a paragraph about something that you learned at the site about the heart or the lungs. (Note: This is for marks. You MUST write a reply.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Grade 5/6 English - Music and Technology

Today in class, we listened to several versions of Outkast's "Hey Ya". In addition to the original radio edit, we listened to:
  1. The MIDI version
  2. The We Will Rock You mashup version
  3. The lounge version
  4. The acoustic version

Each of these versions used the same basic melody, but they were each very different in mood, tempo, instrumentation, and dynamics.

Pick one of the four alternate versions of "Hey Ya". Using your best descriptive language, respond to this post, explaining how it was unique from the original radio edit. (Hint: Level 4 answers will compare the mood, tempo, instrumentation, and dynamics of the original radio edit and another version).

For a music glossary, go here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tech News: CERN and the Hadron Collider

C.E.R.N. is an acronym that stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research), and right now, CERN is doing big things. Very big things.

Over the past few years, CERN has been working with hundreds of universities and independent scientists from around the world to build a $16 billion machine called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, spanning the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground.

It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the building blocks of all things. It will completely change our understanding of the way matter works; from the teeny-tiny world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.

Here's how it works. The LHC looks sort of like a massive underground donut. When it's turned on, it uses huge magnets to shoot two beams of subatomic particles in opposite directions around the hollow inside of the donut. With each lap these particles travel, they move faster and faster. When the particles ram into eachother, they will be traveling at nearly the speed of light. (That's 299,792,458 metres per second!)

There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, and we're not quite sure what will happen when the scientists turn it on. To watch a short picture slideshow of CERN's LHC, checkout this video...

(Originally published by a youtuber, here). If this sounds cool to you, maybe you'll be a physicist or an engineer when you grow up. Aiming for good grades in math, science, and computers will get you there.

Welcome Back!

I don't know about you kids, but I'm very excited about today. I always loved September and getting back to school after such a long break. Even as a grown-up, I have problems sleeping during Labor Day Weekend because I'm just so pumped about starting class again.

For those of you who are curious about what we're going to focus on in the lab for the first little while; I've just put the finishing touches on the introductory units that we'll be working on during the first two months of school.

From kindergarten right on up to grade six, the focus is on microcomputer hardware. The bits of metal and plastic that make up the trusty machines that live in the lab, in our homes, and in businesses around the world. During first term, we'll sing songs, make models, watch videos, and have a great time learning about technology.

If you'd like a teeny preview of what's to come, check out this video (originally posted by a Youtuber called lipunkscene). It's a wonderful overview of the history of the computer that was made by a student. Honestly, I couldn't have said it better myself...

The original video can be found on Youtube.