In working with thousands of computer applications and technology teachers, we have started to see a trend of teachers who are pushed into these courses from different subject areas. These teachers could have been teaching business education, math, or even language arts! Many of these “new” computer teachers struggle due to a lack of available resources to build their computer curriculum.
To help you and your fellow teachers get into the swing of things with teaching computer applications, we put together this guide! Here you will learn:
Most often when you hear “computer applications” you immediately think of the Microsoft Office suite. While Office is an integral part of any computer curriculum, your lessons should include more than Word and Excel. So how do you know what to include?
To start, look at some standards. What does your district or state require to be taught in your course? Though there are some cases where you may be teaching a course that doesn’t have standards fully created yet, this is an important place to start.
After reviewing your standards, it’s a good idea to decide which certification exams (if any) you want your students to take after completing the course. Some common ones are the Microsoft Office Specialist certification and the IC3 certification. If you want your students to take a certification exam, you should review what topics are on the exam and make sure to include them in your curriculum plan.
If you are stuck with not much in terms of standards, and aren’t sure about certifications, don’t worry! Here are some important topics every computer teacher should include in their lessons, and some tips on where you can find resources to teach them:
For any middle school technology curriculum, having Microsoft Office lesson plans is a must. At some point your students will find themselves needing to use one of the Office applications for school, personal, or professional use. If you aren’t sure where to start with teaching one or more of the applications, don’t worry… there are many resources out there to help you! Here’s a few places you can get started:
Right along with Microsoft Office, Google Applications is becoming more and more important to teach. While some teachers opt to cover one or the other, we find that your students will get the most out of learning about both Google Apps and Microsoft Office. Including Google Apps lesson plans in your curriculum will give them an edge when compared to those who didn’t learn to use Google Apps.
For some help finding lessons to teach your students how to use Google Docs, check out this article: Google Docs Lesson Plans - Missing in Action?
Teaching middle school computer science can seem overwhelming, especially for a teaching with no experience at coding or programming. However, these skills are becoming more and more important each day, so introducing them to your students can have a big impact. A great way to incorporate coding into your curriculum is to use one of the resources listed here: 8 Places to Find Free Middle School Computer Science Resources
Depending on what grade level you are teaching, your students could be in dire need of learning how to type properly. While many schools have decided to kick keyboarding classes to the curb, for your students to have real success in anything involving computers, they need to know how to type! Spending time on keyboarding will make a big difference as your students start using applications in your classes.
You can learn about some great options by reading this article: A Review of 3 Popular Middle School Typing Curriculum Options
Why include Digital Citizenship in your computer lessons? Here’s an excerpt from Common Sense Media on the importance of teaching digital citizenship:
“Being a good digital citizen is more than knowing your way around the web. It’s about connecting and collaborating in ways you didn’t even know were possible. When you teach digital citizenship to your students, you help create a positive school culture that supports safe and responsible technology use.”
For some tips on where you can find lessons to teach digital citizenship, check out this article: Where to Find Digital Citizenship Lesson Plans
Though many teachers include cyberbullying as part of their digital citizenship lessons, it’s important enough to warrant some extra attention in your classroom. Middle school is often where bullying takes a life of it’s own, so it’s a great time to begin these conversations. For some ideas on how to talk about cyberbullying with your students, read this article: Tips for Middle School Cyberbullying Lesson Plans
While we’ve listed some articles to get you off on the right foot with teaching each of these topics, we do have a few more ideas on where you can find lessons, activities, and ideas for your curriculum. There are a number of different paths you can take when choosing instructional materials for your computer applications class:
Depending on your situation, you will be interested in using different types of materials. Each one has a place and purpose in the classroom, but it can be tough to decide what will work best for you and your students. As you review each type of material, this article can serve as a guide to make sure you pick what you need: 5 Questions to Ask When Researching New Middle School Computer Lessons
Many computer teachers want to make sure their lessons and activities are relevant and engaging to their students. This often leads a teacher to compile a large collection of free resources from the internet. This option is a great way to pick and choose exactly what your students will be learning, down to each specific activity sheet. Here are some of the many websites you could use to find free computer lessons:
Finding lesson ideas can be pretty quick and easy, however it can be challenging to verify that the resources are appropriate, have the correct depth of coverage, and have factual accuracy. With free resources, you may not know who created them or how effective they are. Not only will you spend time finding these lessons and activities, but you will spend even more time vetting them and finding out how to put them all together in a comprehensive computer curriculum.
A common choice is to go with a traditional textbook as the base for your computer curriculum. It’s a comfortable option since teachers and students are used to textbooks for many classes. With a computer applications textbook, there are often supplements included in order to provide more activities for your students.
Assigning homework from a book is easy, since your students don’t need to have access to technology in order to read. Not to mention, you can’t have any technical glitches with a physical book! Another great reason many teachers go with a textbook is that you buy it once and can keep using it for a few years.
However, using the same textbook in a technology class for five years is also a big downside. With a textbook, what you see is what you get. If your school upgrades to the newest Microsoft Office suite, your textbooks will be instantly outdated.
If you think a textbook could be the right option for your classroom, these articles can help you decide what to use:
Teachers who want their students to take certification exams are interested in using test prep and study materials as a main piece of their curriculum. If you are focused on getting students to achieve certification, you need to spend time figuring out which materials will work best.
For many teachers, preparing students to pass a certification exam can be a challenge. How do you know exactly what to teach? What if you miss an important skill in one of your middle school technology lessons? These articles will help you get off on the right foot when it comes to some common certifications:
As you search for lesson and activity ideas that align with these certifications, keep in mind that your students need more knowledge than what is required to pass the exam. Ensuring they have a good foundational knowledge and ability to do more with computers is an invaluable skill they will need down the road. If you choose to get test prep materials, make sure you supplement your curriculum with other things!
Many teacher find it difficult to choose between using a traditional textbook and digital curriculum for teaching computer classes. A big reason many teachers end up going with eLearning curriculum for computer applications is that digital curriculum is better kept up to date than a physical textbook. As Ken Richard, our Product Team Manager, has said:
“People that use digital curriculum will get updated content - most often for free, depending on whose services you acquire. There’s no installation or downloading required by the teacher… it’s 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.”
To learn more about why eLearning curriculum could be the right fit for you, read this article: 4 Big Benefits of eLearning for Computer Applications
Now that you know what topics to include in your technology lesson plans, and what type of instructional materials you want to use… how do you implement your curriculum? It can be overwhelming to figure out how you should compile all of your lessons and activities into a comprehensive curriculum that will carry your class from day 1 until your class is done.
Many computer teachers implement a variety of materials and teaching strategies in order to provide the best education possible for their students. A great blended learning teaching style can help to keep your students engaged while also ensure you meet the needs of varying student skill levels.
“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.” - Ken Richard
Blended learning is not only a great way to keep students engaged. There are a number of other benefits that you and your students would experience if you used a blended teaching style. If you’re not sure what those benefits are, or how you can easily start implementing your computer curriculum in a blended style, this article is a great starting point: A Beginner’s Guide to the Benefits of Blended Learning