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Monday
Oct062008

Advice to the computer-lorn

As Blue Skunk readers know, I sometimes get "advice to the computer/library-lorn e-mails. Being a guy,  I am always happy to provide a response. But you all can do better! So here is the letter:

Hello Mr. Johnson,

My name is Nancy ... and I am a 42 year old, 1st year teacher.....that says a lot right there doesn't it!?!

1 week before school I was given the 4-5-6th grade computer classes to teach.  I know very basic about computer and I know nothing on how to teach computer.  An example of how I feel about teaching computer......Let's say you sang in the choir during high school and I will even give you college choir.  Then one week before school started you were asked to teach music class ~ This is how I feel about teaching computer class.  I am an accomplished musician so I could easily go in and teach music and do a wonderful job but.....computer?  I have used a computer and I am familiar with Microsoft Office but that is my extent.

My question.....is there a book, a program, a curriculum available to the average computer person that would help them become an excellent computer TEACHER?

Thank you for your time and prayers (if you would be so kind)!  I can hardly wait to hear from you!!!

Blessings,

Nancy


Here is my response:

Hi Nancy,

First, please call me Doug.

I suspect that I will give you an answer you may not want to hear. Although I am sure they exist, I can’t recommend any specific textbook series or professional development book on computer skills. Teaching tech skills alone, without immediate application, is counter productive, IMHO. But that doesn’t help you.

This would be my plan:
  • Find another district with a set of technology skills already written and use it as a starting point for the things you want your students to know and be able to do by the end of the term. You are always welcome to use our district’s.
  • Next I would work with my classroom teachers to determine the units of study they will working on during the term. Develop projects related to those units that support. complement or extend the curricular objectives. Examples can be found here.
  • With students, develop quality criteria for each project – a checklist or rubric.
  • Thread Internet safety discussions throughout the class.
  • Finally, make it your goal to learn along with the students. If you don’t know a program or know it well, then let the kids figure it out and teach it to you.

This may make an interesting question to post to my blog readers. They, I’m sure, will have more and better ideas than I’ve presented to you.

All the best,

Doug

And here is your chance to help Nancy out. Please leave any resources or advice she might be able to use.

I can use all the prayers and blessings I can get. Thanks!


Sunday
Oct052008

To Put a Man on the Moon


I rarely praise my boss. It's not that he isn't an exceptionally good leader and manager, because he really is.  I just don't want to look like a suck up. 

When we met last week to discuss my departmental and professional goals, he made a simple request. He asked to attend our next technicians' meeting so he could explain our district's new strategic road map.

I appreciate this.

There is an apocryphal? story about a reporter doing interviews at NASA in the late 60s. He was interviewing different people about their jobs. The response of one custodian was interesting. When asked his job, he said, 'To help put a man on the moon."

If you asked members of your technical or library staff what their jobs were, how many would say, "To educate children"?

And if they wouldn't, why not?

Saturday
Oct042008

Monitoring one's web rep


Be alert... the world needs more lerts. -  Woody Allen


Anytime I get a chance to hear a presentation by Dave Eisenmann and Lisa Carlson from the Minnetonka (MN) Schools, I do. At our state library/tech conference, I got a chance to attend the session catchin ^ W hi tek kdz about their district's efforts to educate both kids AND parents on Internet Safety issues. The handout is here. (BTW, NECC conference planners, this would make a great session for an international audience.)

My big take-away from Dave and Lisa's talk was how they help students maintain an awareness of their online image and reputation by teaching them to create Google Alerts with their names and communities. This is like automating Googling-yourself so you don't have to remember to do it on a regular basis. While I have read about the need for professionals and schools to do this, I applaud the Minnetonkans for extending the practice to students as well. Today's kids will be Googled by potential employers and colleges (and romantic partners) far more than our generation will be.

What does Google say about you?

Oh, Dave and Lisa also showed Cyberbullying- Talent Show, a commercial by the Ad Council. Very powerful and well worth sharing with students and teachers.