Middle School – ah, Middle School. This is such a fun and challenging age group. My goal when I took the job as the Computer Teacher at my school was to have students graduate from our school who could test out of the required Computer Applications class in High School. I don’t know if my students can because none of them have bothered trying but I do know that they very easily get an “A” in the class. The main areas covered during the year for my Middle School students included: Microsoft Office & Google Docs, Keyboarding, Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship.
6th Grade did not participate in any online collaborative projects this year. So much of their time in 5th Grade had been spent unsuccessfully (as I blogged about last year) on the Time Zone Experiences project and I just didn’t find a project that was a good fit for them. They did help 7th Grade with a survey project they ran and voted for their favorite Internet Safety videos made by 8th Grade but there were no outside of our school collaborations for 6th Grade. Both 7th & 8th Grade contributed to a Voice Thread about their goals for the school year after listening to President Obama’s Message for American Students.
7th Grade also conducted and analyzed surveys which had participation from our school’s 4th-8th grade students and from some other educators and students outside of our school.
Lessons I Learned
- Just because students say they REALLY want to do something doesn’t mean they really understand the work involved in doing it. Some of the 7th graders this year really, really, really wanted to create a newspaper so instead of teaching what I had planned, I created a series of lessons on journalism and journalistic ethics which 7th grade completed and they learned how to use Microsoft Publisher (which we don’t usually use because it’s not installed on all of the computers in the lab) and they produced an issue the paper. Yes, one issue – after that they didn’t want to do all the work involved in creating a newspaper anymore.
- Students will tell you want you want to hear. I am very concerned about our Middle School students and the digital footprints they are creating. As they go through lessons and activities and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship, they’ll tell you all the things that adults say they should do to be safe online: No full names, No pictures, Keep online spaces private, Don’t share your password with anyone, etc. They’ll even “pledge” to follow these online rules but most of them are on social networking sites using their full names and pictures and videos, quite a few of them have public pages, they joke about being “bullied” online, they tell stories of how they told their best friend their password and what that friend did, etc. How can I help them to match their behavior to their knowledge?
- Middle School students work best collaboratively. The most successful activities and projects in the lab have been the ones where students can work together. Middle School students are social – they just are and I need to remember to take advantage of that.
Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year
- Digital Citizenship Lessons & Activities – This needs to be a primary focus in Middle School, in my opinion!
- Keyboarding – They really do need to have this skill in High School to get that “A” in the Computer Applications class but also because they are required to type a lot of what they turn in.
What technology rich projects or activities do your Middle School students do? Is there an engaging online collaborative project that you have found for this age group?