Computers can be wonderful but without a reason for being, so to speak, they are consoles that attract dust. I have eight computer technology classes. One half of the students meet for three days a week, the other students meet the remaining two days. Many of my peers believe this to be a necessary class so that students can learn to keyboard, making it easier on them when it comes to class writing assignments.
Oh, but if it were that easy! Keyboarding is like any skill; improvement comes with practice. There are numerous standards associated with this class and keyboarding is part of one. At the best of times, five minutes of keyboarding practice takes place.
I use the remaining time to teach literacy, which I believe is the key to success in today’s world. In these United States, people are class divided by education. Other demographics may be factored in but without education, it is difficult to make it.
This is a day-to-day conversation with myself. In what ways can I help to further more literate students? One thing, I decided to do this year was to have a book anchor each class. My 8th graders are reading “The Hunger Games” and my 6th grade students are enjoying “The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963.” Each day I spend about 10-15 minutes reading aloud and except for a few children, most are enthralled.
The task is to find activities that back up the books and teach computer skills. Here is one idea I used. Through a mini unit on characterization, the 8th grade students began thinking about the traits of Katniss or Peeta by making trading cards using an interactive at readwritething.org. In addition to the obvious thinking about character traits, they learned about .pdf files. Most did not know what they were and that the universal sharing of information is important.
Next I wanted them to think visually, so I found a website that allows you to design and then buy a t-shirt. We talked about the things that were important to Katniss and Peeta and how these could be symbolized. Students chose images, which involved a lesson on Creative Commons and fair use, to design a t-shirt with symbols of that character. They then learned how to take a screen shot (and crop it) so that I could see it.
We progressed to what could be learned through dialogue. After discussion, my learners went to GoAnimate and created scenes between Katniss or Peeta and any other character in the book. The dialogue was made up but had to stay true to the characters. This proved quite motivating and taught them how to share a document with me through email.
The unit culminated with a project. Using all that they had learned, students compiled a scrapbook for Katniss or Peeta using Microsoft Publisher. This helped to understand the concept of a template, how to cite images, and reinforced word-processing skills. Of all the activities that I had them do, this was the weakest in creativity. I will have to reevaluate for next time.
This kind of thinking will be continuous – how do I use the computers, meet the standards, and thereby increasing literacy skills???