What is the ideal middle school technology literacy curriculum? What is the perfect course structure? Should their be a formal computer applications class at all? Should the technology program be totally infused into the content areas? If we select that method do we need a formal lab or should we be looking at laptops and netbooks?
I am currently working on a middle school curriculum for a 6, 7, and 8'th grade computer course. These are the questions I have been asking myself. What should be the role of the computer applications teacher. Should the primary focus be on developing fundamental skills using various applications? Should the focus be totally on content area using the available technology were applicable? Should the computer applications teacher be instructing the students on how to use tools like photostory, movie maker, powerpoint, wikis and blogs so that when a classroom teacher infuses them they do not have to teach the basics? If we do not have formal lessons on double spacing text, creating a table, editing a picture, were will the students learn it? These are not the things they are doing at home. In many cases the classroom teacher are not knowledgeable themselves to spend class time teaching these mini lessons. The frustration of having to show "the simple things" causes these teachers to not want to utilize the technology.
My current opinion is that we still need to teach the fundamentals of applications. However, in a computer applications class we can develop project based lessons that culminate with the creation of a final project. Within this project exists a series of mini-lessons that will address the basics of each application. There also will arise a series of 'teachable moments" that can be the most valuable moments in a lesson.
An example that i am providing is the project of creating a digital story/documentary on a global issue using MS photostory 3. This project addresses a few of the cccs in our state. It is interdisciplinary and is authentic and relevant. The outcome will be a video presentation. Within this project are a series of mini-lessons.
1. File and folder management - where to save your images, project and documents and how to retrieve them on a network.
2. Internet Searching - How to find the info you are looking for, searching strategies, image searches, sources.
3. Information Literacy- How to validate sources of information. Blogs, wikipedia, databases etc..How to cite online sources.
4. Working with pictures- How to select appropriate image resolution, how to save an image, copyright, creative commons, image manipulation in photoshop or other software.
5. Writing and Storyboarding - How to organize a script. Planning your story.
6. Creating of you Multimedia Project Using MS Photostory. -Narration, transitions, music.
7. Publishing your work and commenting on the work of others. - Peer review. Collaboration with a school in another part of the world. Possibly a school who is a victim of your global issue. Discussion through a wiki.
This is one example of how the "computer class" can remain a relevant course and a valuable addition to a school. By working on the fundamentals of the tools in this class, the students are entering their core content classes with the knowledge necessary to utilize these tools as an alternative assessment. A content area teacher can offer students the option of creating a multimedia presentation, website, wiki, blog or podcast as an assessment of their understanding. The necessity to spend time teaching these skills in the classroom should not exist.