David Warlick, Chris Lehmann and others have posted about teaching computer applications. Iâ€™m not sure if Iâ€™ve been â€œdoing it right,â€ but for years Iâ€™ve taught computer applications sparingly. If I had just started out using tech with students Iâ€™d probably claim it was because with all the testing and all that entails I donâ€™t have time to teach applications. But years ago when I wasnâ€™t so encumbered I didnâ€™t spend much time on applications either â€“ or maybe I should say I spent only as much time on it as it required so that students could do the work and meet the requirements of the project or assignment we were working on. Much of it was â€œon the fly.â€ A student or their group would want to know how to do something and I would show them on the spot (or a bit later depending on time). Inevitably someone else would need to know and either I would show them, or the expert from the first group would show them. Of course very often I would note that soon they were doing things that not only had I not shown them how to do, but didnâ€™t even know you could do – so sometimes rolls reversed and they were showing me something.
Years ago when iMovie first came out we did a project where every group in my sixth grade had to produce a video about a geology topic (What is a rock? What is igneous rock?..) After we had been working for weeks most groups had finished all their shots and were ready to edit. However, 2 groups were still finishing up so I quickly ran around and downloaded each groupâ€™s video onto a laptop and showed them how if they clicked on a clip and pressed play you could watch that clip. I didnâ€™t have time to show them more. I went back to work helping the 2 unfinished groups get their final shots set up and of course it took much longer than planned (it was very â€œmessyâ€) I soon realized that the finished groups could have watched all their clips 5 times over – and yet a class that was prone to being noisy and off track if they didnâ€™t have very specific things to do â€“ was literally â€œhummingâ€ – just low talk and deep concentration on the laptop in their group.
I kept wondering exactly what they were up to. I would ask and glance at their goings on and they were still viewing clips, but it wasnâ€™t until later that I had time to visit each group to see what they were doing. I was amazed! Each of the 5 groups that were done had figured out how to pull their clips down to the edit strip and put them in order. â€œHow did you even know to do that?â€ I asked them. Shrugged shoulders and â€œI donâ€™t know, we just did,” was always the answer. Their only frustration was that they thought the videos would be dumb because the beginning and end of each clip had stuff that needed to be cut out and they didnâ€™t know you could do that. When I showed them that â€¦ the real excitement started.
The same is happening right now with my fourth graders. We spent some time this week cut and pasting URLs from web pages about animals into an Appleworks document because I plan for us to make numerous wiki pages and that is one skill they will need to have. I also showed them the shortcuts for copy and paste (command â€œCâ€ and command â€œVâ€) and they wondered why I hadnâ€™t taught them that before. My answer? â€œYou didnâ€™t need to know that before, and we didnâ€™t have time.â€
Learning is messy!