I had a conversation with a teacher today about how to teach students the 'basic skills' of the Microsoft suite (Word, PPT, Excel, Access). Students at one of the schools where I am working at do not really know how to use these programs and she believes that students need to take a course that teaches them these skills, while I believe that it has to be integrated into the curriculum. She thinks that integration is the final goal but in order to get there we have to train the teachers as well as educate the students on how to use these programs. How do you go about this problem?  What kinds of 'basic skills' are important to teach our students and how can we make time to make them a part of the curriculum?

Tags: basic, excel, microsoft, office, powerpoint, skills, word

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Wow - I've been teaching Microsoft applications for over 10 years and I see a trend towards the direction that you speak and the goals of a 21st century learner and user of technology. Since this is my "core" area, I hope the future does not eliminate the "standalone" course since I plan to put in my 25 years. But I see the "shift" as our Business Dept. went from 5 teachers to 2 in the last 4 years. I foresee computer applications (podcasts, word processing, spreadsheets, etc) being integrated into core courses and electives to meet new standards, but that's just skimming the surface of pedagogy for developing the technology skills necessary to take it to the level. And yes, teachers do need training. Do you want to be in the class with the teacher who is just getting by with technology? The time it takes to teach technology and integrate into the curriculum is tedious and shouldn't be taken lightly. Rather than put pressure on "core" subject teachers, maybe an in-house technology coordinator is a solution in addition to a basic course in computer usage and troubleshooting, etc. That would maybe save my job?:-)
I can see both points of view - you and the teacher - and think that it could be more of a teaching style difference. Personally I would favor integration, but you need to make sure that you have a skills map that covers all the 'basic skills' in whatever projects you do to integrate them. Also, depending on the projects you pick to integrate them, you may want to think about the order that you introduce certain skills as some are dependent on or similar to/linked to others. If you do go the open office route, there is an Open Office for Kids version aimed at 7-12 year olds that may be useful to use, either as a replacement or introduction to the Microsoft apps.
I think all of these ideas are great. As a Technology INTEGRATION specialist I prefer the integration method but if the teachers themselves are not proficient in the use of the technology then we are at a loss.
In regards to your comment on the brand, I guess I am just used to talking about word processing in terms of microsoft word because of the power of the brand, but I do believe that we can teach out students google docs, open office, and other productivity tools that are free or not branded.....yet. I am all for the free tools if they work.
In terms of thinking long term for our students and tools they will be using in the workplace, does it make a difference what they learn? Or are most kids savvy enough to be able to translate those skills.
I have to agree with cprofitt. I prefer Google Docs applications, but the fact is that the concept of applications like Microsoft Office as a suite of specific programs from a box is going out. I also agree that the general concepts regarding spreadsheets, word processing, and presentation software need to be addressed.
Integration is great, but as an experienced user of MS Office suite and similar products, I find that many teachers are woefully inadequate to teach the basics of these tools, and current teaching programs are also very lax. I am especially concerned when I see people teaching such products without knowledge of styles, stylesheets, and slide masters, or telling learners not to use built-in layouts.

One of the beauties of these applications is to replicate styles automatically. Imagine producing a table of contents in MS Word manually? Totally unnecessary, and yet often done. Having said that, I can see technology, research and business classes as part of a curriculum where these skills are taught alongside others. It is very true that brand specific applications are not always necessary, but if creating written reports remains an academic requirement and option for students, knowing how to use word processing (and the keyboard) properly should be taught by someone who is proficient. There is good reason to have separate classes for such skills, and also a great idea to collaborate with other teachers and SME's to fold-in content from other areas and create complimentary assignments.

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