Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Knock, Knock: Let Me In To Your Virtual World

At the beginning of the school year, at a new school, in the newly created role of technology teacher, I found myself grappling with the question, "What am I supposed to teach?!" (It is after all very easy for teachers to preach about how important it is for students to be taught 21st Century learning objectives, but it is another thing entirely to actually start doing it.)

Now that I'm into the second quarter I've restored my footing on what I'm supposed to teach and instead am focusing on how to teach the content. I find that even though my classes are very small- four to eight students- I often have two or three different instructional strategies going on simultaneously. Working with special populations I quickly found it would not be possible to have a wonderfully synchronous class working together. Some of my students find more success working independently on software tutorials, others need one-on-one guidance with a step-by-step approach. Some students can accomplish their tasks after viewing a quick demonstration on the SMARTboard, and then I have a few students who need the actual assignment altered in some way due to special learning abilities. 

Slow, but steady, I'm gathering a collection of instructional strategies (read: bag of tricks) to use for various students. One population I still struggle with is my group of middle school non-readers. I want to teach the technology (computer basics) in a fun and creative way, but I'm having a difficult time finding resources that offer more audio and less text- AND (here's the hard part)- aren't juvenile.  Lectures, mini-lessons, demonstrations, and the like so far are not proving effective. Our teens respond well to anything that can be passed off as a video game. Trying to teach students who live in a virtual world seems rather difficult when you don't have the resources (or they don't exist) to access that virtual land.

Maybe programming language should be part of our next in-service.