Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I had an epiphany (no, it didn’t hurt)

The church I attend has a function called Caravan for the younger kids on Wednesday nights. It is somewhat like scouts, in the fact they earn badges for various projects/activities. Somehow I got volunteered to help out with the Technology badge. Tonight was the first night for technology, and was to cover how computers work and benefit people.

The ‘script’ I was given was basically a bullet point list of terms (CPU, monitor, hard drive, mouse, keyboard, etc) with very basic definitions for each, but lacked any explanation of what they do. It was up to me (it felt like anyways) to make the 45 minutes enjoyable, instead of root-canal painful. From the little paperwork I was given, I have been worried about how I was going to fill the last 30 minutes of the overall 45. I did have a couple of old computers at my disposal (key word!).

Monday evening was the moment of my epiphany. I felt like I had come up with a great method to explain the key components of the computer:
       CPU: brain of the computer (common analogy)
       Hard disk drive (HDD): the toy box
       RAM: their floor (or other area to play)

Before any of the kids could play a game, they had to use their brain to think of the game (double click the icon). Once you know what game you are going to play, you go to the toy box to get it (CPU accesses HDD to get a copy of the application) and you spread it out on the floor / table / whatever (CPU moves copy of application to RAM for quicker access during use of application).

During the talk, since I had ‘disposable’ PCs, out came the pieces. First was an old AMD 5x86 processor chip complete with heat-sync and fan (I said they were old machines) when I started talking about the brain. I passed this around while we talked about it. Next, as we were discussing various computer programs and games, I was removing the screws to take out the hard drive (toy box). Last was the removal of the two memory cards, which represented their floor. The more floor space, the more toys you can have out at one time. The difficult part came when I showed off a memory card from a laptop computer and tried to explain that even though it was much smaller, it was able to store several times the amount of information. Monitors, keyboards, mice and removable storage devices (diskettes, CD-Roms and DVDs) were discussed somewhat, but without the clever analogies

The hit of the presentation was when I removed my Pocket PC device from it’s ‘holster’ and shared how it’s brain, toy box and floor was “way more” than the big computer we just got through taking apart.

All in all, I think it was a pretty good evening. In two weeks we will discuss PowerPoint and the ‘sound booth’. To complete their requirements for a badge, they have to help create a small PowerPoint presentation or help run the sound board one Sunday morning.
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