Today’s Contributor: Jessica Trevino, CIC, computer teacher, and campus technology guru at Pickle Elementary School
I had a computer teacher in elementary school who taught us how to use a computer, from the mouse to the keyboard, to the internet. When I was in middle school, my computer teacher made us learn to type on a typewriter before she even thought to let us on a computer. None of my students believe me, obviously – much less know what a typewriter is – but it’s true. These skills helped as I moved into high school and college; assignments had to be turned in online and technology advanced. However, I have seen many of our students exhibit a very limited knowledge of how to use a computer properly, not only in the lower grades (as is expected), but also in the upper grades. In this age where we are heavily dependent upon technology, and where it is a critical tool in our children’s educations, these students must learn the basics of how to use a computer in order to pass. Should be easy, right? Right?
Watching each class, it made me realize that my students are behind in a way that is now considered fundamental. As much as I hate to use the word “behind,” when compared to other schools, they are. I have students in the upper grades who still cannot hold a mouse properly, that are afraid to use a mouse and would rather rely on the touchscreen functions of the mandapro computers in their classrooms. I have students who don’t know where their letters are on a keyboard. Who search and search and search for even one letter. Even the teachers have noticed. “They act like they’re afraid to touch the [insert computer item here]…” Students will completely give up and slump in their seat when they encounter something they consider difficult. The same goes when I try to help them. They get upset, go limp, slouch in their chair and stop trying after a few attempts. They physically (if not verbally) go, “I can’t click on this thing to open it so I guess I won’t do it.”
It’s worrying. And yet, they CAN do these things. Instinctively. Without thinking. They do what they need to do to get where they need to go on the computer and they keep trying when it doesn’t work. The problem – the disconnect – comes when you instruct them to do those same things – put names and words to the things they’re doing – it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to do. It becomes overwhelming. And they give up.
I don’t want to do mindless instruction – “Where’s the mouse? Pick it up and show it to me!” – with the upper classes (this works with the lower classes, though). These kids like games and perk up when I mention them. I’ve seen them play Prodigy and learn how to play, doing math questions to battle monsters, following the gameplay necessary to complete quests and get prizes. So I know they can do that, why not give them lessons in a gaming-type format? While I know that a BLEND module may not be as fun as Prodigy, it may give me a chance to see if they can figure out, on their own, what to do. And in doing so, learn the vocabulary – the language – behind what they know instinctively to do. I’m using games to show to them the individual parts the computer, how to use the mouse, even games for the vocabulary. I want to tap into that motivation and intuitiveness that they possess to learn how to play a computer game, by making these basic skills a game.
I want them to learn the basics of the computer. I want them to learn how to navigate a computer with the knowledge of what each thing is, give them the terminology behind these things that they can do instinctively. I want to give them that boost to catch up to the students who already know these things. Through games, they can do this.