The school year isn’t even over yet and I’ve already been planning for next year. I do this every year; I try out new stuff at the end of the year that I want to implement fully the next year. The IT department has been after me for a couple of years to do away with the Mavis Beacon typing program that I use and to find one that is web-based. I have half-heartedly looked, but this year I found one that I hope will fill my needs – Custom Typing. The 30 day – trial allows for 30 students so I set it up for my 8th grade computer class only. They liked the change from Mavis Beacon, and I think it has enough flexibility to meet the diverse needs of 6th, 7th and 8th graders.
For the past few years, I have drifted away from teaching my students the fine details of using Word and Excel to doing more projects that integrate those programs and doing more ‘fun’ stuff, like digital stories with PhotoStory and Movie Maker. I don’t want to abandon the ‘fun’ stuff, but as I was working with my Reading kids on typing and printing a book report, I realized that they do not know the basics of setting up a document. I told them what margins and line spacing they needed to have and most of them had no idea how to change those settings. I think that next year I’m going to have to go back to teaching the basics and maybe even testing those skills. I do only see about half of the 6th and 7th graders each year (one class of 20 – 25 students in each grade four times a year – and probably 50% – 75% of the 7th graders had my class in 6th grade) and then I only have one class each year of 8th graders (about 25 kids). It is entirely possible that I could have kids in my reading class that have never had one of my computer classes. But it still made me think about what I was teaching in my computer classes. I have to admit, too, that I have become lazy in those classes; pretty much everyone gets an A. But that makes me think that I’m not challenging the kids enough. I AM exposing them to new technologies, which I intend to keep doing, but somehow I need to work the basics back in. In a 9-week class thats tough, though. I added an Online Safety component a few years ago too and that takes a couple of weeks. I usually end that unit with a digital story of some sort. After we’ve done all that ‘fun’ stuff, the kids don’t want to sit still for boring Microsoft Word parts of the screen and how to set margins and line spacing. If anyone has any ‘fun’ ways to teach that, I’d love to hear ideas!