Many computer applications teachers want to add digital curriculum to their courses, but don’t know how to get started. When looking to use digital curriculum in their computer applications class, teachers often ask us questions like: “What’s the best way to blend your curriculum with my other resources?” and “Do you have best practices for using Business&ITCenter21?”
To help answer these questions, Jim Schultz and I interviewed our Product Development Manager, Ken Richard. Here I will share some tips and insight to help you make the most of using digital curriculum in your computer applications classroom.
The 3 main topics I will cover with insight from Ken are:
- How to Get Started with Blended Learning Curriculum
- Ways to Meet Varying Student Skill Levels
- A Pro Tip to Go Above and Beyond
Start by Embracing the Benefits of Blended Learning
Ken once told us that a computer teacher was nervous to use digital curriculum because he pictured students sitting on the computer day after day with no interaction.
When I asked Ken how he would respond to a teacher facing that situation, this is what he told me:
“One of the things I always talk about is that one of the keys to student engagement is variety. If you do the same thing every day, no matter how good of a lecturer you are, how great of a worksheet you have, or how good of a video you have to present, it doesn’t matter because what students need in order to be engaged is variety.
Variety is always important, and even with Business&ITCenter21 as good as we think it is, if you put students in front of a computer every single day and have them go through lessons, it’s not going to be very effective. Maybe they will enjoy it for a couple of days, but then they will get tired of it because it is the same thing over and over. What’s really more effective is to mix our curriculum with other materials.”
At Applied Educational Systems, we encourage teachers to embrace blended learning. Even if you are using our Business&ITCenter21 curriculum, putting your students on the computer day after day is not the best way to teach them.
Business&ITCenter21 was developed as a blended learning curriculum, so that is the number one way you can find success with it. We designed the content to be part of your overall curriculum, and you should use it as a foundation for everything else in your classroom… not as the only resource.
Tips to Start Using Blended Learning Curriculum in Your Computer Applications Class
It can be overwhelming to start using new curriculum and be told the best way to use it is by embracing blended learning. I asked Ken for a few tips a brand new computer teacher would find helpful in getting started. His first comment? To start small!
“I think it’s always best to start small. For example, with our lessons, you could take one lesson and assign it to students to complete. Then you can take a step back and see what worked and what didn’t.
Once you do that a few times and change a few things, you can learn the pattern and understand if your students are being successful…. You really just have to mix things up until you find the best pattern that’s going to work for your teaching style and for the students in your computer applications class.”
An easy test to start with is having students complete a lesson with and without worksheets. You can also do this with our provided PowerPoints by showing them for one unit, but not for another.
In addition to the tips for starting with Business&ITCenter21, here are a few ways Ken suggests to easily start blending the curriculum with other materials in your computer applications class:
- One day students will go on Business&ITCenter21, go through the interactive lessons, fill out worksheets, and take a quiz.
- The next day, put up a PowerPoint you customized for your class and present it in a lecture format.
- On the following day, send students to YouTube and have them find the best video to demonstrate a certain skill that you are talking about.
When adding variation like those above, keep these wise words from Ken in mind:
“The whole point is that any of those things can work and engage students, but the combination of all of them, and the variety, is what really gets through to students today.”
Ways to Meet Your Students' Varying Skill Levels
Blended learning curriculum like Business&ITCenter21 can also be helpful in a computer applications class when you have a diverse student body. One of the biggest challenges a computer teacher faces is the variety in student skill level. You may have students that know most of what you plan to teach, while some students will struggle with basic computer functions.
So what does Ken suggest in order to make the most of digital curriculum while meeting students’ varying skill levels? He believes differentiation is another good way to mix it up:
“What I would recommend is to take one module, for example Microsoft Word Fundamentals, and have the students go through it and make sure you have some related supplemental projects. These could be projects you used before Business&ITCenter21, so they are ready to be pulled out and given to students that move faster.
The other thing you can do is have all students go through the Fundamentals modules, but save the Skills Projects for students that finish quickly. Assign the Skills Projects to those students to let them continue working and continue being challenged to the best of their ability. While the students with less experience in computer applications can focus on the Fundamentals.”
Another way you can make use of extra modules is by giving the quicker moving students the option to explore the Google Applications as well as the Microsoft Office suite:
“If I have a student that goes through Word Fundamentals quickly, instead of making her wait for the other students to catch up, throw her into the Google Docs content. Then she’s learning the same skills in Google and Microsoft, which is really good because the more applications students learn, the better off they will be.”
Prepping extra content for your more advanced students may sound tedious, but it will help you in the long run to ensure your students continue learning something new and challenging. And luckily for you, all you need to do is add those modules to the course!
Pro Tip: Go Above and Beyond the Foundations
Are you a power user who wants to take Business&ITCenter21 to the next level? If so, we’ve got a tip for you, too!
The modules in Business&ITCenter21 were created as a foundational launching point for a computer teacher. There is a lot of room for you to add your own touch to our lessons and projects (and we recommend you do!) Here’s Ken’s explanation for using Business&ITCenter21 as the foundation for your classes and how you can build on our lessons:
“We have our Office and Google Fundamentals modules which have a series of very short projects. Students will go in and do a project that may only take 10-15 minutes to complete. But then as the instructor it is easy for you to take that project and have students go the extra mile.
For example, students create a class president flyer in one of the lessons where they learn to format the document and they do some different formatting. But then they are done and move onto the next lesson. One thing you could do is have students save the document and the next period use that document to complete additional tasks you have assigned to take the document to the next level.”
Naturally, I asked what Ken thought a teacher could do in that scenario, to stretch the lesson further. He suggested challenging students to come up with the best design, or have them work together as groups to come up with better ideas.
One of the best examples we have seen of a teacher “going beyond the foundation” involves the Juice Box Project from the Marketing module. This teacher took the simple lesson for creating a juice box and turned it into a multi-week project. She had students go through the lessons as normal, but then took it to the next level by having people from the industry come to the class and look at the juice boxes to provide feedback.
Final Words on Best Practices for Your Computer Applications Class
The phrase “best practices” is thrown around very often, including when teachers ask us for help. When we asked Ken for his thoughts on “best practices,” he gave a great reply:
“Best practices are a funny thing… People need to figure out what’s going to work best for their students and their personality and teaching style. No two classrooms are the same and no two teachers are the same. Everyone has a little bit of a different approach.”
While we’ve provided tips here to help you make the most of using digital curriculum, we don’t know your students - So we can’t possibly tell you the “best” way to teach in your computer applications class!