Today, it’s very common to hear how skillful students are with technology. When parents and teachers watch the speed and nimbleness with which students operate their mobile phones or small electronic devices, they can’t help but acknowledge and admire such know-how.
The fact that many students are so adept at using these forms of technology, however, does not mean that all students are, or that students can demonstrate equivalent know-how with a full-size computer, including the names of its parts or its peripheral equipment, and the terms and operations common to its use.
Have your students mastered the technology terms and operations that they will need as they advance in their education and move into the work world? This blog post was written to encourage you to think about that question. The post does not provide comprehensive advice or a complete program for teaching students computer skills; it is simply a prompt for you to gather your ideas and determine a plan of action.
Where to Begin?
Once you’ve decided that you want to improve your students’ computer literacy, how do you know where to begin? Here are some important primary considerations:
- How much and which computer-based content is essential to cover in your class? (Near the end of the blog post is a link to a word bank with 133 common computer terms, which should give you a good starting point for determining the high-priority terms and operations to teach. Terms can of course be deleted or added based on your class subject(s) and your students’ abilities/needs.)
- In what sequence are terms and operations to be taught and at what pace?
- What can be fit into your lesson plan/schedule?
- When and for how long will computers be accessible to students?
- Does the content serve the school’s educational goals and have administrative buy-in?
- Is this computer-specific content to be part of the required coursework or is it simply for extra credit or free time?
- What are your students’ ages?
- What support staff will be available to help?
- Does instruction fit within school rules and procedures?
- What are the security and safety considerations?
- What are your students’ literacy levels?
- What are your students’ levels of English proficiency?
Inform and Gain Consent
Make sure to inform the appropriate staff in your school of what you are planning to teach and what students are going to be doing, and get approval. There’s no sense spending a lot of time and energy developing an instructional plan that will never be implemented because consent has not been given.
Show, Explain, and Have Students Repeat Your Words and Imitate Your Actions
Now that your preparations are complete, you are ready to jump into this exciting new adventure!
Via whole-class instruction, walk students through the basics of using a computer, focusing first on the highest-priority terms and operations. Only present a reasonable number of things in one class. Show students, explain terms and operations, and have students repeat your words and imitate your actions. If you quickly determine that students have already mastered what you’re teaching, pick up the pace and select students to lead individual demonstrations and explanations in your place. Always make sure that every student can see what is being done/shown, and likewise make sure you can see what your students are doing.
Be sure to fully explain the functions of keys, i.e., what the escape key does or what the arrow up key does, rather than just naming and pointing to the keys.
Give students hands-on experiences as they are learning, and involve as many learning modalities/language skills as possible. In short, be sure to provide more than just a teacher-delivered, word + definition type of instruction.
Below are 20 ideas for activities and instruction to improve your students’ computer literacy. Near the end of the blog post is a link to a printable version of these ideas that you can put on your classroom wall for reference.
20 Ideas to Help Students Improve Their Computer Literacy
- Create a technology “word of the day.” Have students learn it, use in a sentence, and tell and show you what it means/how it is done.
- Have students identify a computer term as a noun, verb, or adjective, or as a term with more than one part of speech. For example, “format” can be a verb or a noun.
- Have students make a simple drawing of a computer, and have them label the different parts. Or create a labeled drawing yourself and give a copy to students for reference.
- Have students share stories on when and how they first learned to use a computer and what their experiences were like.
- Have students think of all the different ways to say how an operation is done on a computer. For example, “shut down,” “power down,” and “turn off” are all ways to say stop the computer from operating.
- Have students show and explain to their classmates how to do something on the computer. For example, have a student show/explain how to create a spreadsheet and apply functions to its cells.
- For a homework assignment, have students teach an older family member who doesn’t know much about computers how to use one.
- Hold a question-and-answer session during which students can pose questions on things they don’t understand. Have the other students give answers, suggest ways to resolve the problem, or identify who should be contacted for help, or provide those suggestions and identifications yourself. Example problem: a software program has locked up.
- Set up students in pairs for call center role-playing. One student can be the one having a problem, and the other can make recommendations on how to fix the problem. Review recommendations as a class.
- Have students identify a computer topic that they’re interested in, and then have them watch YouTube tutorials to learn more about it. For example, a student can learn how to add text to a graphic. A variation on this would be to have students create their own tutorials to show the class how to do something on a computer.
- Create a word search or other puzzle that contains computer terms.
- Have students investigate and discuss the similarities and differences of Windows and Mac computers. For example, have them identify which computers feature a backspace key. This activity allows computer-savvy students to shine.
- Pair up computer whizzes with students who haven’t had many opportunities to work with computers before (recent immigrants, students from economically-challenged environments, etc.) .
- Create a spelling quiz or an oral vocabulary quiz on computer terms.
- Create a competition in which students on different teams have to think of as many computer-related terms as they can within a certain amount of time. Students can get one point for each real and relevant word, one point for each word spelled and/or pronounced correctly, and one point for explaining each word.
- Have a discussion with students on the risks and dangers of carelessly posting information on the Internet or visiting questionable websites.
- Create a class computer club.
- Create a list of fictional document names, including the file extensions (the part that comes after the period), and have students identify what kind of file each one is (.xls, .doc, .jpg, .pdf, .bmp, html, zip, etc.).
- In a blended learning environment, have students learn lesson content using a computer at home, and have them practice and apply in class what they learned.
- Have students write you an email.
Click below for a printable version of the 20 Ideas.
Click below for the word bank with the 136 common computer terms.
Technology is constantly changing. New devices, terms, and operations are continually being added, and old ones are becoming obsolete. Be sure to review your lessons each year and adapt instruction and content as needed.
Finally, be open to learning about technology from your students. Show your students you understand that learning is a lifelong endeavor—for everyone.
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