My official title is "instructional technology specialist." For grades K-6 I work with teachers to find ways to integrate technology into their teaching. We use their curriculum and look at both, revising units they have already taught to see if a technology tool could improve the way students are learning, and we also devise new projects and think of how best to use technology to improve student learning.

And then there is "computer class." I teach 7th and 8th grade computer class. We do a lot of "fun" things and we use a lot of different software tools, but there is no underlying content. This drives me crazy. The students treat the class as a "special" and don't really care about either their work or their behavior.

I'm wondering how other people deal with this issue. Do you teach "computer class?" How do you feel about it? Do you think it is a good idea? What advice or suggestions do you have to make it work?

Tags: class, computer.class, content, integration, tech

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I teach "computer class." I experience some of the same problems because I am in fact a specialist. I have the benefit of working in a elementary school this year, so I am spending a lot of my time collaborating with the classroom teachers. We get together and plan units that incorporate technologies, which I introduce, with curriculum units, which they introduce, then we all give the students time in our classes to work on the units so that they get the benefit of both content and technology experts. This seems to be working fairly well for the teachers and the students.

I am still trying to decide how I feel about schools that separate the technology classes from the other classes. I fully believe that technology ought to be integrated into the classroom content, but I see that my colleagues are much more willing to do this when they have someone who will share the burden by teaching the technical details.
Or sometimes it can take teachers "off the hook." They don't worry about using technology in their classrooms because they know the kids will get it somewhere else. I have a lot of veteran teachers very near retirement on our Middle School "team." They really don't function as a team and, as nice as they are, they have started on the road to burn-out and are very difficult to inspire.
My, Julie, this post rang with echoes for me! I AM a specials teacher, and love it! I have a curriculum of my own, which I have the freedom to have devised, as the Information Media (read library class) teacher as well as the tech teacher. I don't have the time to give this response the thought that I should give it, tonite, and I think I will make it my next topic for a blog post. (Since I spent so much time this weekend exploring this site and all the little avenues it opened up for me, I expect that the post will come next weekend.)

Nonetheless, here are some spur of the moment thoughts I will blurt out in my usual verbosity: the Middle School 6-8 class is, for me, very much like yours, and my most challenging to get students to take responsibility and ownership of their work (and often, to pay attention). I find I can't assign them work to do outside of class and expect them to remember to bring it in for the right day, when I see them only once a week. On the other hand, I have an hour and 15 minutes with them, which is a good long period for them to get something done.

I find they are motivated when I post / display work products, and I always talk about the product I want them to be able to make. I tell musicians that they should want to create a cd cover for their "demo cd," and all of them that they should be able to "wow" teachers with the looks of their papers (with examples). I can begin a unit by catching their attention with what they don't know (I gave them all a quick list of web2.0 terms to explain, for instance (cloud, mashup, bookmark, web2.0, rss). When it became clear to them all that they did not really know most of the terms, rather than collect the quiz sheets I asked them to sign on for one of the terms on it and create a four-slide (or so) powerpoint to present to the class with their research findings about the term. I liked this because I also asked those who had made power points already to find "one thing new" to do (like transitions, sound, creating their own background) and then point that out after their presentation. I gave them a class to research and compose, and interrupted the class and had a student present the first one as soon as she was done. That set a bar, and they all thought it was cool that I gave her a presenter and the front of the room. For the rest of the year, every time a student began a work product, powerpoint or not, I asked them to think of one new thing they wanted to learn, and present a how-to to the class when they were finished. They began talking about their learning objectives and accomplishments this way, a nice conversation!)

Attention-getting transitions between different activities: I play videos that last a minute or two, get them to settle and get quiet, and they like the ones I've chosen (Did you know, Tech Support (the invention of the book vs. the scroll), Dove Campaign for Beauty, Putting a plane together while it's flying ad). It's a good way to recapture attention and energy.

I've been thinking, lately, about what ways to encourage these students to do more. Some of it is hooking into their own passions, some of it is the "cool factor," some of it is to display their work. My individual student evaluations are key to getting across to parents what they should want their kids to learn (I have linked the standards to a set of descriptives for developing, capable, and strong students that parents understand--everyone wants their students to be "strong" in this area!).

But, I don't have a way to get the less-motivated students to take enough responsibility to follow-through on projects at home. I have been thinking about what ways I could structure a reward for that kind of performance-show a movie for those who've finished while the rest complete their work? Dunno.
You could restructure the purpose of the course. I have had a pretty good run of using digital publishing with the students. 7th and 8th graders are pretty obsessed with their social scene, school included. You could make the course into a digital publishing class that made podcasts, magazines, videos, student artwork galleries, etc. The students could be on two week rotations through the different areas, learning the skills important in the variety of methods for telling a story. Basically, you would be publishing the story of the school and the lives of the people that make it a school... which both parents and students love to watch... and it is a rare thing to find something that speaks to both middle schoolers and their parents.
I´m involved in some computer classes. At my school we´ve got a schooladmin software for computers available. That means, each teacher decides which tools cought be open in their lessons by students. And even if there is a possibility to join the net. That works very well.
We are trying to move away from "computer class" and into the support role. The teacher will be completing curriculum units with students. (the Business letter for Language Arts, the graphing in Earth Science, assisting with the digital science notebooks, etc.).
I co-teach with our art teacher and we do animation and claymation projects. The kids love it, but I think that is because it is based in the art curriculum and not simply technology. We don't have site licenses for Flash, Dreamweaver or Photoshop, so we are using KidPix and iMovie to put together our animations. These are not the best tools. I am trying to get some money to at least get a site license for Flash. I also think that will make the kids feel more "grown up" because it is a real professional design tool.

I would really like to hear more about what you mean by breaking the rules. And also how you got students invested enough to redo and improve their projects. What age students were you working with? How often did you meet with them?
Hi Elizabeth,
For yor 'fun' computer class I believe that whatever you choose for them to work on - it must obviously appear to be fun ( and I am sure it will ) it has to be planned to some extent with set outcomes which they have to achieve. I run 2 after school classes one for 10-11 year olds on podcasting which they percieve as 'fun and creative' however they have a set task to produce a timed piece of work to fit into a podcast show. I also run 'film making club for 9-10 year olds and again they are introducd to the technology and then have a set time to complete a piece of work to show to the group.

I think Computer basics courses and programs. Students enrolled in this course will learn to successfully navigate the Internet. Students have very little experience with computers can learn the basics in this class. The goal of this course is to illustrate important computers are in modern society and their value in solving problems. Fundamental operations and functions of the computer will be covered.

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