Software Lessons with Students

When you have meetings, try to balance meeting time between addressing club business (special events, t-shirt orders, etc.), teaching kids information about Linux, and doing software lessons in which kids get to try doing things with Linux.

When conducting software lessons, it is a good idea to try to have enough computers for every kid, although having them partner with a friend can work if you don't have enough. Some things to try:

    1. You can do a simple lesson in which students have to find and navigate to different files, folders, and apps within the default installation you set up for them. Can they find the Dash? Can they search for a particular program through the Dash? Can they open the Nautilus file system and get to the music or downloads folder?
    2. How about a troubleshooting lesson? Can kids check to see if they are connecting to the school’s wifi, and if they are not connecting, can they troubleshoot and fix it?
    3. You can do a lesson on how to install software using the Ubuntu Software Center.
    4. You can do a lesson built entirely around commands in a terminal window. For that purpose, we used this website: http://smashingtips.com/linux/cool-terminal-commands-for-linux. This gives kids a chance to install using the command line and see fun things happen as a result.
    5. Depending on how much time you have, you can conduct a lesson in which kids are actually installing the operating system on computers. When we first started with our Linux club, we made it a point to upgrade the operating systems on the Linux computers in my room, giving kids the software and having them do it.
    6. You can do a lesson in which kids are learning how to use specific apps, office stuff (Libreoffice), or getting experience in photo editing (GIMP), audio editing (Audacity), and video editing (Open Shot).

Not sure where to start? Fair enough. Luckily, you don't have to start from scratch if you don't want to. Our friends at the Open Source Initiative developed a Linux curriculum called FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) Desktops for Kids. The curriculum is broken down into 13 different lessons, each with its activity and assessment. It is a GREAT resource. I did not write this curriculum (credit for that has to go to Patrick Masson and a few other folks), but I endorse it wholeheartedly and it is used by the Asian Penguins. You can find more information about their program at this address: FLOSS Desktops for Kids.

There are lots of possibilities here, and you don’t have to be an expert on everything. One tip for conducting software lessons is to enlist the help of kids in your club who have shown an aptitude for different tasks. When we did a lesson on terminal commands, I had one of our 8th graders actually lead the lesson, because he liked doing that kind of thing and was good at it. It also gave him a chance to demonstrate leadership.

© 2017 Stuart Keroff. All rights reserved.