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Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Teach Middle School Tech

Here are some great tips from "Ask a Tech Teacher" on how to teach middle school tech, but I think many of the ideas spill over into the regular classroom too.

Middle Schoolers are a special breed. They definitely need to learn productivity software like word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, but I’ve found it’s better to give them big goals, general guidelines, deadlines, and let them go. I just finished editing a tech textbook for 7th grade and it includes units on problem solving, logical thinking, digital citizenship, programming. To teach these topics, you as the teacher engage students with Robotics, Scratch, games (select games that teach–i.e., Minecraft, Bridge Builder, SimCity), web-based communication tools (Animoto, Glogster, blogs, wikis). It’s self-directed, student-paced, so places responsibility for learning squarely with the student.
Here are some ideas:
  1. flip the classroom. Provide resources to students on the topic (say, Scratch or robotics) via a screencast or a Google Hangout and then do a project using the skill during class time. Students will have to do the homework to be productive in class.
  2. use backchannel devices like Today’s Meet or Socrative–or even Twitter. Keep the feedback displayed throughout the lesson on the Smartscreen so you and students can track involvement
  3. focus units on inquiry, collaboration and sharing, and strategies to be used in all classes
  4. use domain-specific language as you teach tech. Don't shy away from terminology like backchannel, programming, embed, widget
  5. use every tech tool you can for every activity possible. Show them how tech is part of your daily activities, ingrained into your teaching. Use a digital online clock to track time. Take pictures with your iPhone. Scan art projects with an iPad app. Have them come up with more ways to use digital tools.
  6. Expect students to be risk takers. Don't rush in to solve their problems. Ask them to think how it was done in the past or what strategies might provide a solution. Embrace all that come your way.
  7. if a student doesn't like one of the tools you suggest, let them come up with their own. If they can convince you it satisfies the Big Idea and answers the Essential Questions, let them use it.
  8. Regardless of what you teach during the year, be sure to cover digital tools being used by your school, correct keyboarding, and how to be good digital citizens. These are critical.
  9. Differentiate instruction for your students. Be flexible, open-minded, and adventurous. One of techs biggest pluses is that it differentiates well for learning styles. Use it.
  10. Collaborate with other 8th grade subject teachers on cross-curricular planners that involve technology.
  11. Treat students as authors and doers, rather than passive consumers. Consider a BYOD approach in your classes so students can use the devices they have easiest access to and are most comfortable with (if your school IT folks and infrastructure can support this approach). Encourage students to complete projects when most convenient for their schedules.
  12. Assessment isn't static, nor is it bad. Be creative. Remember why you assess: 1) to see if students understand the lesson, 2) to see if what was taught can be transferred to life, 3) to help students prepare for college and/or career.

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