As the school year is winding down, I find myself thinking about and planning for next year’s students. I suppose that might be considered a modification of my action plan. However, the resource of time is one that a new school year can provide. As for goal one of my plan, I have a research site linked to our school’s web site. During class last week, my students and I attempted to inquire and explore a variety of topics following a collaborative brainstorm of ideas. With both computer labs booked with district testing, I used the one-computer classroom model. We took turns researching topics using the wireless keyboard and mouse and projector, and found the sites on the Google custom search to be effective at meeting our needs. Generating questions and using these safe sites to research the answers was more of a real-world alternative to the lengthy research papers. It mirrors what adults do all of the time, as we “Google” a plethora of questions that arise each day. I plan to reserve the netbook cart next week, and let the students conduct some mini-research with partners. I am excited to put this into place in the fall.
Secondly, although a comment was made regarding my district’s vertical technology curriculum, the actual computer skills have disappeared from the standards. Instead of teaching our students basic computer skills such as saving documents, inserting pictures, and even moving the curser above text that has already been entered (yes, this was an issue for a group of fifth graders), our standards focus on creative applications. A colleague of mine commented that years back, when she taught third grade, all of her students could open a document, name it, add text and images, and save it to the correct location. We were shocked when our fifth grade students were working on a grade level standard related to displaying data on a graph, and many could not find the “save button”. Later on, a group of reading students had typed their body paragraph, and many of them could not figure out how to get the curser to move above the text so they could type the introduction. Granted, this was not every student. However, there were enough students who lacked these basic computer skills, due in part to the decreased focus on general computer knowledge. I believe that once the computer standards deviated from word processing skills, and with the onslaught of gaming and texting, our students are sorely lacking the skills that will help them successfully communicate and complete classwork via computers. One of my new questions is when to begin the vertical conversations with K-6. Sometimes, it is a good idea to discuss it at the end of the year so we have time to process information and plan effectively. However, the fall would bring a fresh perspective and possibly more focus. Another question is how to schedule these lessons around all of the fun and creative activities the other teachers want to do in the fall. My colleague mentioned having a “computer boot camp” in the fall, where we assess students’ proficiency and computer savvy in order to differentiate our instruction.
I need to make a few decisions in the next two weeks. Any feedback or advice you have regarding either goal is much appreciated.