My colleague, Nancy Jo Turner — a phenomenal teacher — knows how to make sure ninth graders learn new tech skills.
She understands that it’s the little things that count.
Today, she wanted her students to learn how to create a new Google presentation, how to title it correctly, how to share it with others, and how to start adding slides to their presentation.
Most teachers would choose one of the following (flawed) strategies:
1. Do a teacher-led demonstration,
2. Give students an instructions sheet and skip the demonstration.
Number 1 bores ninth graders and does not encourage them to learn the process. Number 2 creates chaos and does not ensure that all students understand the correct procedure.
Here’s what Nancy Jo did:
1. Explained the steps first and made students write them down,
2. Did an interactive demonstration with me,
3. Brought students immediately to the computer lab to apply their knowledge.
By taking time with Step 1, my colleague emphasized to students the importance of understanding the process and getting things right. I liked that she did not provide students with a cheat sheet. Although some educators may argue that this kind of notetaking isn’t an example of “21st century skills,” it definitely helped the ninth graders focus on the procedure.
My colleague’s interactive demonstration showed students the power of Google Apps in real time. I turned my computer screen around at my desk so that students could see our simultaneous collaboration. Immediately, there were several loud “oohs” and “ahs.” Instead of listening to a boring, one-way demonstration, the students got hooked.
Finally, Step 3 was crucial, too. Ninth graders learn best when they don’t have to wait until that night or the next day to assimilate their knowledge. Despite some tech problems in the computer lab (Google Chrome is better for Google Apps than Internet Explorer), students were mostly successful beginning their group presentations.
Teaching is very complex. When should we teach step by step, and when should learning be more independent, more constructivist?
Today, my colleague demonstrated that the best way to teach specific, precise tech procedures to ninth graders is to teach directly and to break things up. Although we should allow our students to go off and explore, we first need to teach them the basic tools so they feel confident to be on their own.