in Education, Technology

Middle School Technology Syllabus

Free software for computer studies

I believe that computer studies at the K-12 level should have two strands – computer science and technology integration. I believe that all students should have experience in both strands. Next school year (which is fast approaching), I’ll be teaching a one quarter semester class to each middle school student (Grades 8 – 6) and a full semester course to grade 9 students. As I plan my syllabus, I’m conflicted by desire to focus on computer science concepts (programming, web design, the design cycle, networking, etc.) and my perception that my students need better skills in using word processing and other similar applications.

I don’t want to teach Microsoft Word. I find it boring and my students do too. But isn’t it important that my students know how to format a document using tab stops, indentation, paragraph spacing, etc? Do I need to explicitly construct learning scenarios so that they are forced to learn these skills or should I just teach them how to effectively search the web so that they can figure out how to do what they want to do when they need to do it? I’d prefer to do the latter but how do I go about creating that culture in my classroom?

I see many adults who are inefficient in their use of office applications. How important is efficiency? For example, I’ll spend a few minutes trying things out in an app and then search on the web if I can’t figure out how to do something. I know many other people who are the same way. But I also know some people who will wait to ask a person to solve a problem for them or who will give up or stick to inefficient methods when faced with challenging/new tasks.

What’s your philosophy of technology education? Do you explicitly teach office applications or do you just integrate when needed. How do you ensure that students develop proficiency/comfort/resourcefulness in their use of technology?

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  1. This is definitely something I struggle with too. I teach K through 8 technology and I often find myself trying to decide between teaching basic office applications and the areas I know my students will enjoy. So far, my approach is to do a little of both. However, I think emphasizing how to look for help using web searching is a good idea. Most office applications are not very complicated and simple searches yield useful help.

    I’m also starting to think that basic word processing should not be something technology teachers teach. These are applications that every professional adult should know how to use properly and be able to help students with. My time with students is pretty limited and I’d rather be teaching them things, like programming and graphic design, that others cannot.

    Thanks for your post.

    • I agree with you. I haven't taught computer applications as a stand-alone class in several years. I think that every student should have the opportunity to create a program at some point(s) during their K-12 experience. Luckily, I have lots of autonomy so I'm working on a Grades 6 – 9 curriculum that does not focus on particular applications.

  2. I teach K-8 and I think it is important to do both. It is important that students know how to do the “fun” things like create web pages, graphic design, etc but they also need to enhance their knowledge of Microsoft Word and other applications. They will be writing research papers in high school and applying for jobs in the future and they need to know the basics like how to spell check and grammar check their papers for spelling and subject verb agreement, how to use the thesaurus to make their essays “come alive”, etc. My students seem to enjoy it because I incorporate fun activities to make sure they understand and can apply the concepts. For example, when we did our unit on Microsoft Publisher, I introduced the application, and then gave them projects to complete to make sure they understood how to use the different functions of the MS Publisher toolbar. They created brochures, flyers, menus and newsletters and by the time we were done with the unit, not only did they understand how to use Publisher, they had a great time learning!

    • I agree that students need to learn how to do these things. However, I also think that students need exposure to computer science concepts that build habits of mind of that field. In fact, I do teach word processing and other such technical skills to students either within a project framework or through integration into core classes. We\’re in the process of trying to formalize what this looks like on paper.

  3. These days technology is updating constantly and to keep up with such pace every school need to teach all students basic about latest development. Middle school technology seems to me similar for that purpose. Thanks.

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