How To Decide on New Instructional Materials for Your Computer Applications Class
Are you a new teacher in search of instructional materials for your computer applications class? Or a seasoned teacher struggling to keep your students engaged with computer lessons? You are not alone! This happens to computer teachers across the United States. As a computer curriculum provider, we hear from hundreds of teachers facing these challenges. These are some of the actual comments we have received from teachers like you:
“I just found out I would be teaching the class, and we have no curriculum and school has already started!”
“I am currently teaching Microsoft Office / Excel…. Microsoft Office lessons can be boring and unmotivational. I am looking to engage the students in an exciting way and make real world applications.”
“We currently use GMetrix to train our student for the MOS Certification Exams. We are looking to make the students more excited about learning this stuff…”
“Our textbooks are very outdated and with moving from 2013 to 2016 soon it does not make sense to get more. We are currently qualifying students and certifying them in Word and PowerPoint, but are missing the boat in Excel. Looking for better material for practice lessons.”
“The biggest challenge is keeping up to date with all of the new and ever-changing technology and finding lessons and projects to keep the student interest up.”
Do any of those feel familiar to you?
Depending on your specific situation, you will be interested in different types of teaching materials. Each one has a place and purpose in the computer classroom, but it can be difficult to decide what will work best for you and your students. Here I will explore some of the options available and where they are the best fit for a computer applications class. The 5 types of instructional materials we will compare are:
- Homegrown Computer Lessons
- Textbooks and Supplements
- Test Prep Materials
- Interactive Elearning Curriculum
Homegrown Computer Applications Lesson Plans
Many computer applications teachers want to make sure their lessons and activities are relevant and engaging for their students. This pursuit often leads a teacher to create his/her own content in order to teach computer applications.
This approach is AWESOME! It can allow you to provide great differentiation for your individual students. You can also tailor your lessons exactly to what your school’s requirements are, without question.
However there are a few things to keep in mind:
Creating your own lessons from the ground up is time-consuming. It very well could take away your few remaining free nights and weekends. Not to mention, as education standards change, and new technology comes around your lessons could become obsolete… leaving you to start from scratch all over again!
A happy medium for teacher-created content could be to seek out what other teachers have done before you. There are many websites where teachers share their computer applications lesson plans for others to use or build from. These articles can help you find some lessons to get started:
- The Ultimate Guide to Computer Applications Lesson Plans
- Microsoft Office Lesson Plans to Wow Your Students
- A Review of PJ Nicholson’s Free Microsoft Word Lessons
Textbooks for Computer Applications Classes
A common choice for computer teachers across the country is textbooks and the supplements that come with them. It’s a comfortable option, as that is what teachers and students are used to when it comes to instructional materials.
Assigning homework is easy, as students don’t need access to have access to technology in order to do readings. Not to mention, you’ll never have a technical glitch with a textbook!
As our Product Development Manager, Ken Richard, put it:
“The best thing about a textbook is you can buy it once and keep using it for three or four years. If your school runs into financial trouble down the road, you can always stretch it for that fifth year or sixth year…. As long as you want to keep using it.”
Of course, the idea of using the same exact text from year to year is also a huge downside to traditional textbooks for computer applications classes. With a textbook, what’s there is what you get. As education and industry standards change, the content will quickly become outdated. This is extremely important to computer applications teachers, with Microsoft releasing new versions every couple of years, and Google constantly making updates.
If you think a textbook is the best resource for your computer class, these articles can help you decide what to use:
- A Review of the 7 Best Microsoft Office Textbooks for Middle and High School
- A Review of 5 Middle School Textbooks for Computer Applications Classes
Ebooks for Teaching Computer Applications
Many computer applications teachers want to ditch the traditional textbook and use something digital. That’s a great idea, since you are teaching your students about properly using technology! Ebooks frequently contain the same content as a traditional textbook, but there are a few perks for the electronic version.
Middle and high school students often have numerous textbooks to carry throughout the day. With an ebook, that’s one less textbook to carry around. A great benefit for schools is that on average ebooks cost less than textbooks.
One downside to ebooks is that they are usually static like a traditional textbook. Though the content is accessed on a computer or device, students are frequently turning the page without a lot of interaction. This also relates so the fact that if standards or technology changes, your ebook will quickly be out of date.
Another con to the ebook is that even in this very technology-savvy world, some students don’t always have access to a device. To help solve this problem, some companies offer a computer applications textbook and a digital copy (ebook) of the same text.
Test Prep Materials for Computer Class Certifications
Some computer applications teachers need materials to prepare their students for certifications like Microsoft Office Specialist and IC3. If you are focused on getting students to achieve certification, be sure to add test prep materials to your courses.
For many educators, preparing students to pass a specific certification exam can be a struggle. How do you know exactly what to teach? What if you accidentally miss an important skill in your daily lessons?
These articles will help give you a good place to start:
- The Ultimate Guide to IC3 Certification
- How To Help Your Students Prep for the Word 2013 MOS Certification
- Where to Find Microsoft Excel Test Prep Materials
Though, before you dive in and solely go with test prep materials in your computer applications class here’s a few words of advice:
Your job as a teacher is not only to prepare your students for certification, but also provide a good foundation of skills to allow students to succeed even after passing the tests. We usually recommend that you use these materials as an additional piece to your existing curriculum.
Interactive Elearning for Computer Applications Class
Much like all of the other types of instructional materials, interactive elearning materials can be a great fit for some computer applications classes. Many teachers find it difficult to decide between a traditional textbook and branching out to use digital curriculum.
One of the biggest difference in these two types of mediums is that a digital curriculum developer will keep up with changing standards and new technology quicker than a textbook publisher can. As Ken Richard has said,
“People that use digital curriculum will get that updated content, most often for free, depending on whose services you acquire. There’s no installation or downloading… it just arrives ready to go when you sign on. There is no wait for the next edition of the textbook in order to get the newest material.”
Another benefit that computer applications teachers see with interactive elearning content is that it comes with a variety of resources to truly engage the students with the curriculum. Students go through digital lessons, answer questions, and complete projects. This is followed by quizzes or tests that are automatically graded, saving even more time for the teacher.
Like everything else digital curriculum has its downsides. If your students don’t have adequate access to a computer or device, digital content may not be the right choice for your classroom. One way to find out if you’re ready to ‘make the leap’ is to research the different options out there. These articles will help you review some of the options:
- Is Microsoft IT Academy (Microsoft Imagine Academy) Right for You?
- Cengage SAM vs. Pearson MyITLab
- Business&ITCenter21 Computer Applications Curriculum
- LearnKey Online Microsoft Office Curriculum
Choosing the Right Materials for Your Computer Applications Class
This may seem like an overwhelming decision to make, but I hope the information provided here will make that choice a bit easier. Keep in mind that you may find there isn’t just one type of instructional material that will work for your classroom. Many computer applications teacher implement a variety of teaching materials in order to provide the best education possible for their students. A great blended learning teaching style will use a good structured curriculum and add in many other resources!