16 March 2010

Back to Basics?

Last week I ran across this article "Of Mice and Mentors" at the School Library Journal. I had the pleasure of meeting Keisa Williams last summer; she impressed me with her great ideas for tech integration and her obvious love of her library and her students.

My biggest takeaway from her story about using technology in the library is the reminder that sometimes we really do have to go back to the basics when introducing technology in the classroom. I have found that many of my students don't know the difference between minimizing a window and closing a program. Some have trouble distinguishing between a new browser tab and a new browser window. Others don't know how to use the Start menu on a Windows-based computer.

Most of my students have computers with internet access at home and about half of them have smart phones in their pockets, yet they haven't learned the basics of effective computer use. A few years ago I had fewer students with computers, but those who did seemed to have more basic knowledge.

Don't get me wrong, I do have students who are quite tech savvy and are easily able to navigate their own computers and teach their classmates effective technique. I have a few who are even suggesting more effective ways to use Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. My concerns lies in the fact that students arrived to me either unable or unwilling to poke around on the computer.

The good news is that week before last, we had a breakthrough. I created a document that students had to download, then complete. Because the document was a graphic it opened in Photoshop. Students pairs figured out the toolbar and even helped each other out. No one lost data. Everyone finished the assignment in a timely manner.

While I do some demonstrations for my students, I try to keep those at a minimum because I want them to figure things out. I think this is easier to do with high school students, than elementary students, but it can still get frustrating for all of us. I have established naming conventions for accounts that require sign in, but will be sure next year that all accounts have the same naming convention.

Overall, it appears that most of my previously uncertain students are feeling more comfortable moving around on a computer. They are able to embed a document into wikispaces without assistance and can open, work on,  save and submit a document from Edmodo.

Whether you go all the way back to teaching the very basics in how to use a mouse or open and close a browser window or throw students a task figure out with minimal demonstration, having kids work with the computers or other technology tools consistently and persistently is the key.

photo by Nathan Arnold http://www.flickr.com/photos/82016566@N00/7189811/