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It looks like Lua programming is not a good fit for Dana at this time. He needs an approach that allows him to learn by doing from the beginning more than the Lua tutorial allows. Or maybe it is because he doesn’t relate well to an online tutorial that has him linking to several other pages he has to become familiar with before he can actually do the programming. Anyway, I have done a lot of looking and think I have found what he needs.

Phrogram
is a language and program that was originally designed to teach kids ages 10-14, but it works so well that it is even being taught in colleges and universities.

The book on Amazon,”Phrogram Programming for the Absolute Beginner,” says near the beginning, “…Learning how to program by doing is key to becoming a good programmer and learning how to program by creating games just makes the whole process a lot of fun. Since Phrogram is specifically designed as a learning language that emphasizes graphics, animation, and game development, this book’s approach to learning Phrogram programming makes for a perfect match.”

A review on the book by the mother of a boy much like Dana, who also has Aspergers, says it works great for him. Each chapter ends by having the learner create a simple game. They say it also carries over quite well when the student is ready to move on to more complex languages, like C++, etc. This is not true of the drag and drop languages, some of which Dana has done, like Robolab and Scratch. The program you use in the computer is fairly cheap, too, and they give you a free 30 day trial, which is great.

He has also decided that he is not ready to “fly solo,” and still wants me beside him while he learns. Even when he is working on his own, he likes to have me near by to watch and so he can check with me. He says it is mostly because he wants me to learn along with him, and this may be true. He constantly “plays teacher” by asking me questions about what he is doing, even when he is playing games.

In any case, after doing the first simple programming lesson in the book, he decided to explore Phrogram a bit by running some samples provided. He was very impressed by finding one that allows you to control a spaceship in a “3-D” space environment. The idea that he can learn to write the programming for games like that excites him.

Once again, we learn that Dana’s learning style is uniquely his own and he fits no better in the regular unschooling box than he does into traditional schooling! We’ll see how it goes.

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CNN recently posted a video about a study done with students who were referred to a website about the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Reports tell us that many of the kids believed the story, even after they were told it was a hoax. However, contrary to the beliefs and slanted reports in the media, education experts agree that it does not prove that the internet is dangerous or should not be used to gather information. Rather it shows the increasing need to teach students how to critically evaluate information, which even adults need to learn. Many adults also quickly assume that online information is accurate and trustworthy without checking it out.

I found a great website which provides background information and even lesson plans and worksheets to teach both safe internet use and critical evaluation of information found on internet sites. I highly recommend Kids on the Net. I particularly checked out the pages for 9-10 year old and 11-12 year old kids and was very pleased.

“CyberSense and Nonsense: The Second Adventure of The Three CyberPigs,” an online interactive for ages 9-12, looks like a good place for us to start. The website says, “In this sequel to Privacy Playground…, the three CyberPigs learn some important lessons about authenticating online information and observing rules of netiquette. They also learn how to distinguish between fact and opinion and how to recognize bias and harmful stereotyping in online content.”

“Deconstructing Webpages” for ages 11-12 provides a complete lesson using a real website containing information which should be evaluated. Worksheets are also available for download and printing. Be sure to look for the download link for the complete package in pdf format (in the yellow box on the page).

Other resources on the site provide materials for teaching cyber safety, which I have also addressed more fully in another post.

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Here are a few links and resources I found for friends on the All Kinds of Learners list:

For a kid’s book and kit to build 20 electronic projects with the same type of chips used inside a computer and learn how a computer works, check out “Fun With Computer Electronics” by Luann Colombo. 

To download Computer Systems: Gateways To Cyberspace and more advanced books in the “Professor and Pat” series, go to https://mathrider.dev.java.net/alm-process/2-ebooks/Programming%20newbies%20series/
 
A Google search for “Technology Skills Checklist” or “Technology Skills” will give you many pdf files that can serve as guidelines for different ages on learning to use computers.
  
For learning to use the computer see:
etc.
 
for videos:
 

I like this quote from Computer Systems: Gateways To Cyberspace:

“One summer afternoon Teacher and I were installing a sonar system on a boat at the lake. “Teacher,” I said “What is the secret to effective learning?” Teacher looked at me, cocked an eyebrow, paused and then grabbed me by the back of the neck and pushed my head under the water. Teacher’s reaction surprised me so much that I did not have time to take a deep breath before hitting the water and I was soon struggling. Teacher finally pulled me up and, after I had recovered somewhat, asked me what the thing I wanted most was when I was under the water. “Air!” I replied, “The only thing I wanted was Air!” Teacher then said “In order for your learning to be effective, you must want to learn the thing you are learning as much as you wanted air when your head was under the water. That which is learned without desire is soon forgotten. That which is learned with great desire, however, is knowledge that will be remembered forever.” (A modification of an old parable). Computer Technologists Must Be Motivated Self-Learners”

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My 9 year old has a hard time getting excited about learning spelling or math, but you hand him some electrical components and you’d better get out of his way! He hates getting books for Christmas. I guess because we have a houseful already and he associates them with everyday life, or at least homeschool. But he got a couple of electronics books with kits this year that really pleased him.

He will talk for hours about spur of the moment robotic inventions and can tell you all about electronics components and schematics. So, I figure this is a passion that should be encouraged and fed. I am also hoping that he will learn higher math more easily and willingly when he sees he needs it for electronics. I have been searching the Internet for resources to help him learn. The problem is that once you are past simple circuits, there isn’t much geared to a boy his age that is both interesting and understandable and doesn’t use too much math.

I recently stumbled across http://makezine.com which is a great website for builder-types of all ages, and I subscribed to their free podcast as well as getting Dana a subscription to their magazine. Then they notified me about a fabulous book for learning electronics. “Make: Electronics –Learning by Discovery,” by Charles Platt is going to be Dana’s next textbook for science, just as soon as we finish “Real Science-4-Kids Physics Level I”. “Make: Electronics” teaches in a fun, hands-on way. As the back cover says, “You’ll build the circuits first, then learn the theory behind them. I love this book! You can find the book on their website or on Amazon.com. Better yet, you can download a free large portion of the book at: http://cdn.makezine.com/make/Make_Electronics_Excerpt_1.pdf (Caveat: This book is not written for kids and may be too difficult as a starting place. My boy started much further back and “grew.” For beginners, you might start with Snap Circuits, and then go to “Fun With Electronics” or “Fun With Computer Electronics,” nice little books with a kit of build and learn projects.)

If you want more, check out the free downloadable article  “Teaching Some Basic Concepts of Electricity” by Laura Spoerri for the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. These lessons are designed to teach a few basic concepts of electricity to middle school students with experimentation, demonstrations, analogies, discussion, work sheets and vocabulary review. Handouts and a materials list are included.

If you go to http://www.tryengineering.org you can find “Get Connected With Ohm’s Law”, a lesson for ages 10-18

Then for high school age, there is “Electricity Visualized: The CASTLE Project,”  by Dr. Melvin S. Steinberg. CASTLE stands for “Capacitor-Aided System for Teaching and Learning Electricity.” It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Dept. of Education National Diffusion Network. This course is a part of the New York State Regents Physics Core Curriculum. The student manual WAS free to download. There is a teacher guide, but I am still trying to get that. (Apparently the original paper has just dissapeared from the internet. It appears that Pasco has obtained rights to change/update it and include it in a kit with supplies which they sell for around $79.00. Since the original student curriculum was funded with federal money and specifically states that it is free and can be duplicated, I have placed links here for you to download the student  files. Go to the bottom of this post for links.) UPDATE: PASCO now has their new revised and updated version available for free download on their website: click here. They also let you request a free download of the teacher’s guide. I have requested it and am waiting for their response.

For more advanced high school or beginning college/technical school level, go to: http://www.ibiblio.org/kuphaldt/electricCircuits/ for a free series of six big textbooks on the subjects of electricity and electronics, revised in 2009, by an instructor who was not satisfied with available textbooks. He encourages full free printing and use (including revision).

To cap this off, here is a great free computer program. For hands-on computer learning for the visual learner who likes to try stuff to see if it works, I recommend that you download Yenka at http://www.yenka.com/en/Free_Yenka_home_licences/  Yenka is a powerful piece of software for learning, which lets you use – and edit – an ever-growing library of free lessons for mathematics, science, technology and computing. It is used in schools, but they specifically encourage homeschoolers to download it for free, as long as you will not use it in a classroom (co-op) setting, etc. My boy tried working with the lessons on circuits already and certainly knew more than I did about the circuits and about how to use the program. Once we exploded a light bulb and it was fun – with no danger or mess to clean up.

Also, check out WatchKnow videos on electricity. And for knowledgeable comments and suggested teaching resources, click here.

Electricity Visualized, The CASTLE Project (Capacitor-Aided System for Teaching and Learning Electricity) Student curriculum. To download the pdf files, right click on each file name.

Intro.Student.09     Section.1.Student.09    Section.2.Student.09    Section.3.Student.09    Section.4.Student.09    Section.5.Student.09    Section.6.Student.09    Section.7.Student.09   Section.8.Student.09    Section.9.Student.09    Section.10.Student.09    Section.11.Student.09

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Welcome to Hilltop Homeschool.  (See dated additions below)

 I am a grandmother and retired teacher raising a now 8 year old right-brained boy who is a creative learner, gifted in some areas, delayed in others and diagnosed a few years ago with mild Asperger's Syndrome. We are eclectic homeschoolers, which means we do what works for us! I would say we are unschoolers, but we are not strictly so, since we use programs like Time-4-Learning (mostly for math) and "Story of the World" for history. His passions are science and building things, so much of what we do revolves around those things. The header shows the trees surrounding our hilltop home. Our woods give us lots of learning opportunities, too.

This blog was created to share some videos and Smilebox presentations with homeschool friends and other parents interested in learning how to share stuff about their kids, and also so I could share some information about educational science and technology "stuff" I use with my own future scientist or engineer grandson. It may expand, but that is the current focus. I keep adding as I come up with new things, so check back often. And please leave a comment to let me know what you want to know about that I just might possibly be able to help with, or to make suggestions of your own. If you ask a question, and choose "subscribe to comments," you will be notified when I respond.

Just call me a "Senior Research Consultant in Child Development and Specialized Education." (in other words, a blogging grandmother raising and homeschooling a child with unique learning needs and interests)

From now on, many new entries will be posted as pages (see the tabs above) or added to those pages. (Technology and Homeschooling has been updated with new photos and links.)

Jan 31, '09 - "Our Science Videos" has a new Smilebox added - "Nature Notebook," and "Technology" has new info and links.

Feb. 01, '09 - "Scrapbook" page added with pictures and "movie" of pages.

Feb. 08, '09 - "Activities & Field Trips" page added with video of old music box & phonographs, and photos with write up about making a Chinese New Year dragon puppet.

Feb. 09, '09 - New link and info on Worldwide Telescope on "Technology & Homeschool" page.

Feb. 10, '09 - New info and link to new "Did You Know" video emphasizing importance of learning how to learn on "Technology & Homeschool."

Special welcome to my on-line friends!

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“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

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