Overall methodology

inkscape bird

Graphic from “Inkscape Sky and Bird” tutorial – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GbVQTw8-ss

Computer classes, where a group of students face the teacher and follow along, can be challenging — it moves too fast for some students, too slow for others, and you have to wait for help from an outnumbered teacher. All these factors are particularly overwhelming to kids on the spectrum, who can rapidly escalate when frustrated.

In our second year, I felt the answer was self-paced, written documentation so the students could self-study, but the prep time for written lesson plans was overwhelming. Meanwhile, personally, I’d been learning everything about programming from online learning sites like Lynda.com, Amplify MOOC, YouTube and Team Treehouse. I’d also been making video tutorials to explain things to co-workers and clients.

And that’s when it hit me: just make videos. Although making a videos isn’t as fast as you might think, they’re quicker than the detail oriented process of taking screenshots and writing text. Suddenly, creating self-paced instructional materials was do-able.

However, video is only one piece of the pie. We still have a myriad of other tools to manage the classroom, and there are other problems, they still need a lot of in-classroom support, and we still have to asses the student and make sure they’re on the right level and switch or upgrade their level based on how they’re progressing. We also have to keep track of where they left off (so they know where to begin next week).

But really, I don’t know how we’d teach without video. When I do classroom-style teaching, as soon as a student gets stuck, they immediately begin frantically calling out for help, then the next student gets upset at the student being upset, and if one more student goes off the track — at that point you’re no longer able to teach, you’re just putting out fires while the quiet kids stare at the screen.

So the key to understanding our computer lab is to see the videos and learn how they combine with other tools, an organizational system, and other classroom management tools — and  see how it all works together.