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Generation LinuX, Part 1--The Basics - page 2

Who's Teaching Kids About Computers?

  • March 13, 2006
  • By Rob Reilly
Log in to your machine, using your user name and password. Next, start KDE, Konqueror, and your Thunderbird client. Surf to Google and type in your search keywords. Use the plus sign to ensure words are included. Page through the results to find relevant articles on your subject.

Huh? What kid would understand that paragraph?

It's unrealistic for a 10-year-old to know the terms, technical language, or internal parts of a desktop computer. They can't possibly know what Firefox or a network card looks like, unless somebody tells them. They don't have the experience to infer what those things are, either.

A good place to start is to help them understand the language and components. It's tough to drive a car if we have no knowledge of a steering wheel or a gas pedal. Likewise, how can you find things on the Internet if you don't know about Web addresses or that Google is not the same as Firefox can be just as difficult.

Generation LinuX Tip #1 - Teach The Lingo

Below is an introductory list of terms and descriptions, to get you started.

processor the guts of the computer
memory where data is stored temporarily
data information, words, stories, pictures, numbers
file a container of data
directory a set or list of files
folder same thing as a directory
server a computer that hands out data
client a computer that gets data from a server
save record your data somewhere
card a circuit card that goes inside a computer
CD the silver disk with data and programs on it
CD drive the big cup holder where you put a CD
software programs that run a computer
hardware physical parts of the computer
Internet a networked collection of servers and devices
Web page a collection of information, on a server, somewhere on the Internet
browser the program that shows web pages
Web address a Web page location - commonly starts with www
Google a large Web search engine
search text words typed into the search box
Firefox an Open Source program used to look at Web pages

Naturally, those are simplistic definitions and you should customize your own list. Watch out for inconsistent terminology. For example, calling a disk a drive and vice versa.

Too complicated? You bet. And we are just getting started.

Generation LinuX Tip #2 - Make Computer Flash Cards

Have your kid make some flash cards out of construction paper that they can use to practice their computer words and definitions.

Most kids love to make things and as their computer vocabulary grows, new words and definitions can be added to the pile. Looking up their new terms in a dictionary, is a useful habit to encourage.

Generation LinuX Tip #3 - Build a Machine Together

Kids love it when I take an old Pentium desktop and some cards to their classroom and talk about what's inside the box. They practically fight over who is going to examine the memory chips or network cards first as I hand them out during my demo.

Your kid will be the same way at home.

So, if you have a bunch of old computers, hard disks, and cards why not pick out the best parts and build a computer together. Even if you are not a hardware person, resurrecting an old desktop using Linux is a good learning experience for both kid and parent.

Have them put labels on parts that you don't want anymore and then make a game of identifying each one. It brings a new meaning to flash cards.

Generation LinuX Tip #4 - Be Patient When Doing an Installation

Nobody I know has done this, but I've heard of tech gurus who get really edgy and impatient when doing a Linux installation.

Modern, easy-to-use Linux distributions (like SUSE, Ubuntu, and Mepis) practically install themselves, so it's easy to just blow through them. A great little exercise is to have your "tech assistant" write down all the installation steps as you go through them. Have them start writing a little how-to guide.

Later, start up OpenOffice.org Writer and have them type their guide into a document. Don't forget that they may not know why or how they need to save their work to the disk. Another learning opportunity.

Kids love these types of projects. They relish the personal attention and get a special treat out of learning important things with Mom or Dad. And talk about a confidence booster!

Building a firm understanding of computer terms and the various hardware parts sets the stage for the next level of education.

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