Headed to Costco on a Saturday afternoon, you pull your car up to a gas pump, slide your credit card through the reader, select the appropriate grade of fuel and begin pumping. Then you head into the big box store, gather the items on your list, and line them up on a conveyor belt for the clerk to scan and input into the warehouse computer system.
On Monday, you head to the doctor for your annual physical. While he’s talking to you, the doctor pulls up your digital medical file online and reviews your medical history; Then he opens your lab results from an email and shows them to you on the computer screen.
On Thursday, you head to the airport, but before you board your plane to New York, you use the automated self-check-in machine to avoid the lines at the counter. Then you board the plane and the pilot boots up the plane’s computer systems to navigate you to your destination.
Computer technology is a seamless part of our lives, and an increasing number of jobs that previously did not rely on computers – like auto mechanic, teacher, doctor, police officer – now require an extensive knowledge of computer software and hardware.
In order to meet these demands, the U.S. Department of Education released a National Education Technology Plan. It is called Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology. This plan outlines strategic goals for the implementation of technology in classrooms across the United States.
So, we have a plan. But the question that teachers continue to ask DataWORKS when we visit their classrooms is simply, where do we start?
Many schools, districts, and county offices of education have developed plans or rubrics for the mastery of technology in the classroom. The rubric below shows at which grade each computer skill should be introduced, reinforced, or mastered.
But even with plans like this, teachers continue to ask us HOW do we do it? What software should we use? What websites or programs do you recommend to prepare students for these demands?
So, here are some recommendations for free resources that can be used to create digitally literate students:
Basic Computer Words
A free online program with two options:
- Review – Do this first. Teach students the names of each component and what it looks like.
- Find – Allows students to locate each component in a messy kid’s bedroom. Beyond just identifying the components, students must answer a multiple-choice question about the component’s use.
Ten free levels of typing courses help students learn the layout of the keyboard. Level 1 begins with basic home keys. One. Letter. At. A. Time.
Typing Factory is a free online game where students can gain valuable repetitive practice using the home keys as letters slide across a conveyor belt.
Typing Challenge is an advanced keyboarding practice session where students are asked to type short paragraphs. In the free program, students are timed and at the end of the paragraph they are provided with a report that details the number of errors they made, their average words per minute (WPM), and more.
Bees and Honey is a free game that provides novice students with practice moving the cursor over an object, clicking on bees that hover about, and dragging and dropping bees off at a nearby flower.
This Mouse Practice Homepage was originally designed for senior citizens, but works equally well for young people. Students can practice hovering the cursor over specific numbers, clicking, double-clicking, and dragging and dropping trash into a garbage can.
Google has created a Web Search Lesson Plan that shows students the basic skills needed to do online searches. It also helps students learn to differentiate between advertisements, sponsored links, and useful sources. Google also gives some insight into how search results are organized once students hit that “search” button.
The article News Literacy: How to Teach Students to Search Smart has great information to remind students about being smart when searching for content online.
The University of Connecticut has an email etiquette reminder guide which outlines common courtesies in email communication, tips for how to “keep out of trouble”, and general housekeeping topics. Designed for high school and college students, this guide is a great reference for students to carry with them.