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  • Andrew T Schwab 10:56 pm on September 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , assignments,   

    What to teach in Business Apps? 

    There is on ongoing discussion at my high school about what we should and should not be teaching in our Business Applications classes.  The same curriculum has been in place for several years (at least six) and consists of typing, Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and very basic computer history, Internet search, hardware and Operating Systems information.  On one side of the discussion is the status quo, open to some minor changes but generally OK with the sequence and overall objectives of the classes.  On the other side are those of us that would like to see the classes transformed into something much more.

    Pretty much all freshmen take Business Apps I and for this reason I believe it to be a critical class to student’s future success.  This is the one opportunity we have to give them the knowledge and skills they need to effectively use technology over the next four years as they navigate the challenges of High School.  Right now, we teach them how to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  We teach them how to find images on the Internet and how many bytes a floppy disk holds.  We teach them how to save files to the hard drive and how to print assignments to be turned in.  We teach them how to follow step-by-step instructions in a book with exercises that have no relevance to them whatsoever.  We teach them all the skills they need for the workplace of a decade ago.

    What we don’t teach them in the class is how to compose an email.  We don’t teach them how to find and critically analyze information on the Internet.  We don’t teach them how to collaborate online, how to responsibly share information or how to backup their files to the cloud and access them from home later.  We don’t teach them how to use alternative applications like Google Docs or Open Office.  We don’t teach them about creative commons, open source or building their brand.  We don’t teach them how to live and work in a Web 2.0 world.  And I think we should.  Especially in this class; the only computer class they are required to take to graduate.  These skills are too important to their futures not to.

    It would be nice if these were also the skills student’s needed to succeed in our school but I would be fooling myself if I said they were.  Writing a three page paper in Word, making a PowerPoint with lots of images and animations and wild colors, charting their test scores in Excel and saving files to their network drive are really the only skills they need to get through their four years here.  In most classes anyway.  Some of us are pushing the envelope.  We are teaching our students how to use Google Docs to collaborate.  We are teaching our students how to turn in assignments in Gmail, how to upload files to Moodle, how to search for useful information on the Internet and how to create presentations with tools like Animoto, Xtranormal and Prezi.  We are teaching critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration using the tools available to us through the Internet and Web 2.0.

    I see the updating of the Business Apps classes as a critical step in our school’s journey into the 21st Century.  With an Internet connection, a computer and an idea anyone can start a company, find their voice, write a book, build a community, make a difference and change the world.  These opportunities are what is being left behind in our Business Applications classes as they stand today.  The tools are there, they are free and they are waiting to be used.  Teach the students how to use them and they will do the rest.  Last year I introduced Animoto to the students in my classes and within a month, students were doing Animoto presentations in their English classes too.  Their teacher’s didn’t have to know how to use Animoto to accept them as assignments, they just had to be willing to make a change and decide that it was OK to do an Animoto instead of a PowerPoint.  Change is always a struggle.  But I think it is a struggle worth fighting.

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    • iteachag 11:42 am on September 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Bravo!!! It sounds so simple written out, but we all know how the average teacher is. Change is hard for them. I think you are on to something, with the students. If we can’t get the teachers to change as fellow educators, get the students to help them to change.

      • iteachbused 12:34 pm on October 8, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        Until the corporate world catches on, we need to teach students the applications that are used by the majority, not minority, of businesses. These are fine programs and can save schools much needed $, but they are not used by corporate america. I’ve found that kids know the basics, but businesses whant the more than just how to copy/paste. That is why they are taught.

        • anotherschwab 6:54 pm on October 8, 2009 Permalink

          I have heard this argument over and over but the reality is that if a kid can type a letter in Microsoft Office, they can type one in Open Office or Google Docs. The same goes for entering data into Excel or building a presentation in PowerPoint. I don’t think we should be teaching Applications so much as Operations. Knowing how to properly organize data in a spreadsheet and analyze and graph the data is the important skill. Formatting the data to look pretty in MS Excel, not so much.

          Only a small subset of power users utilize Office to its fullest potential and then usually they are in highly specialized jobs or industries. The alternatives to Microsoft Office offer much more than just copy/paste and as Chis Dawson points out in his blog (http://education.zdnet.com//?p=3084&tag=content;col2) the alternatives are good enough for 95% of his users. Change is coming in the office suite world. Should we still be teaching one Vendor’s App in a General business course and ignoring the trend towards cloud computing and open alternatives or perhaps we should be focusing more on the concepts rather than the particular platform?

    • Techkilljoy 1:06 pm on October 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      My vote is for concepts but… iteachbused has a great point for the present. I HATED my comp science profs who taught Turbo Pascal instead of Java or VB or C++. Still do! I vowed never to teach different apps than what are mainstream in the industries Im prepping kids for. MSO is the default in business, government and on most home computers and kids better know how to use it, especially Office 07 – grrrrr.

      My biggest concern with a basic apps classes is that they should go well beyond wp, spreadsheets and presentations. Kids have to understand databases and I have yet to see a book on the subject that was worth teaching to HS kids. Also, how to keep their attention for more than a week or two? I stretch it by moving from DBs to GIS which, after they master the basics, allow them to do queries and manipulate tables for reinforcement of DB concepts. Kids need to know web design and programming concepts as well just to understand how modern computers and web browsers work. Add in web 2.0 technologies (as mentioned in the actual blog post above!) and that is a full semester for me and I wish I had more time!!!

      One thing Im seeing is that for teachers to buy in to all this, I must get involved in teaching them what 21st century tech skills are and “what is in it for them” as a professional educator. Then I get mucho support for endeavors!

      Bottom line I guess is don’t let the sticks in the mud drag you down! Go for it!

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:42 pm on September 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: assignments, classroom management, daily objectives   

    What the? 

    One might look at my last two posts and ask, “What’s that stuff doing there?”  Well, I have decided to start posting my class objectives for the week on my blog as a way to capture them in time.  You see I post my objectives in Moodle at the top of my courses every day:

    class objectives for the week in Moodle

    class objectives for the week in Moodle

    Which is great.  I really like having this information right at the top of the Course.  The problem is that I am losing the previous information as soon as I update it.  I have seen teachers logging this information in binders and books.   I can’t quite bring myself to go analog on this.  Not with Moodle already there.  But I haven’t found a way to keep this information in Moodle (where I would really like to store it) and easily reference it in the Course Topic section.

    I have experimented with embedding Google Calendar and entering the information as an event for each day but it felt clunky.  I really like to have a database back end with a simple web front end that I could pre-load with objectives and assignments and have it populate automatically.  I just don’t have the time right now to do that.  So for now, I’ll capture the information in my blog.  At least I will be able to go back and find the information when I need to.

     
    • TechKilljoy 12:50 pm on October 6, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      While a serious tech nut myself I am a big fan of analog backup on some things. Lesson plans are one. I keep two binders. Period. One is full of all the stuff my paper-based school still feels they need to kill trees for (grrrr) but the other has all my lesson plans arranged by class and tabbed by week. When Im sick or end up needing a sub with short notice they can flip to the page and at least attempt the lesson if they are one of my “regulars”. No fiddling with the computer required which can be a bother for a sub at times with a semi-familiar system. Call me old fashioned but I think 2 binders (one forced on me!) is not excessive and it has stood the test of time including getting deployed to the middle east for 8 months as a member of the National Guard and having 4 successive long term subs in my room.

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