Sunday, July 12, 2015

Which platform to teach with?

When I started teaching technology, my focus was to teach the students how to use software to complete a certain project. That made sense - the students had access to computers with Microsoft products installed at school and home, and didn't bring their own laptops or tablets into the classroom. In the 15 (eek!) years that I have been teaching computers as a subject, the students have become increasingly more proficient in learning how to use the software. So much so, that now I can easily teach the basics of a piece of software within a single lesson (or less). For example, once a student knows how to insert a picture into a Word document, it is pretty easy to work out how to insert a picture into a presentation!

This year was a pivotal moment though. In the last couple of years, I had let students create a presentation in their choice of PowerPoint, Prezi, Animoto, while I highlighted the pros and cons of each one. Some students started with one and switched to another, as the limits of one program hindered their creativity. This year though, I have given free reign over how students tackled a project. 

One Grade 8 project is to research and create a new school campus. Students work in small groups to design how the school looks, collaborating on how schools have changed in the way that they teach and to focus on their interests. I have previously asked students to work in Google SketchUp to complete their models. At the start of the project this year, I decided to let students work in anything. Some stayed in SketchUp (one project far exceeded my expectations), others researched 3D room designers and taught themselves how to use them. A couple of groups worked solely in a slideshow presentation, and there was even a cardboard model! The wide variety of projects did make for an interesting way of evaluating the work, but the enjoyment and focus the students had while working was very rewarding. 

I understand that companies have to sell their products but students should work in what they feel comfortable in using and be exposed to as many platforms and software as they can. The list I present to the students will include the following:

Powerpoint, Slides, Keynote, Prezi, Animoto, Sway to present information. 
Word, Pages, Docs, to write. 
Excel, Numbers, Sheets for spreadsheets.
Photoshop, Paint, Gimp to edit pictures. 
Scratch, Hopscotch, Kodu, Macrolab for programming.
(feel free to add your own in the comments)

Personally, starting the school year I will continue to work in Google Drive with the students, Outlook on my iPhone for email, but I will use OneNote for my planning and marking.

I think that it is necessary to prepare the students of today for their world tomorrow, not rely on what we are comfortable teaching.

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