Friday, May 01, 2009

Time to STOP teaching Office

This is a response I posted to a listserv for our coaches. The message was in responses to someone who asked about creating a survey to find out how kids learn media literacy skills.

"So much time is spent/wasted on teaching Office in our schools. What if our middle school computer programs spent their time teaching just enough office to get them by, and then taught them how to use a social bookmarking site (delicious or diigo) and tagging, and how to subscribe to rss feeds, and how to set up an aggregator and create custom searches to REALLY search the web, and how to use Power Library and Nettrekker, and how to use either Google Docs (or Microsoft Live) and really collaborate, and how to build a wiki and embed things, and how to use the Creative Commons, and what Copyright laws are, and how to manage file types, and netiquette, and the real pain of cyberbullying, and how to make really GOOD presentations? (see Ken Rodoff and Joyce Valenza for details)

We waste the middle school years on teaching why? Because 'Business' uses it? So what? We spent all those years teaching Office 2003 and then along came Office 2007 and everything we taught them was for naught. They had to relearn it all. In the meantime, all the REALLY necessary skills were ignored.

Here is one person's (mine) opinion that I expressed at the PSLA conference. This is a GREAT opportunity for librarians, I think, to become THE source for information and information management - especially if our computer classes continue to insist on teaching Office. Some of these are tips for personal enrichment and not for school, but it's something to consider. I suggested that librarians re-define their role in the school by doing the following. Instead of 'protecting the books', why not:
  • Hold classes to show kids how to set up an aggregator. Don't worry that they may subscribe to something less than appropriate. It won't get past the filter anyway.
  • Be the one in your building to set up a Diigo account for your teachers and students. Train teachers on how to use it so they can train the students. Question: How do YOUR students manage the resources they find while searching online? If they don't have a way, then they copy and paste.
  • Be the Media Literacy go-to person. Learn how to handle file formats. Learn how to convert. Hold classes to show teachers and students how. Become THE CENTER for information management.
  • Learn all you can about the Create Commons. Make this part of your Introduction to the library each year with new classes.
  • Advertise Advertise Advertise! For two days (three?) hold a class every class period. Fifteen minutes long. One topic repeated for those two or three days so kids with study halls can get in to get the training. Suggested topics: "Finding Copyright Safe Images", "Finding Copyright-safe Sounds and Music", "Managing Your Web Resources", "Making Better Presentations" (do's and don'ts of powerpoint), "All about Widgets/Gadgets", "Collecting Information Automatically from the Web", "Everything You DIDN'T Know About Searching the Web" - Can you think of others?
  • Learn all you can about Wikipedia. DO NOT BLOCK IT! TEACH with and about it! Know why and when to use it. It's a part of their life, now. Blocking it won't make it go away. Do YOU know how articles become articles? Do you know about veropedia? Teach the teachers and students about it, then.
  • Learn how to make screencasts. Install Jing or learn to use some of the free, online tools. Create screencasts of your lessons and put them up on your website.
  • Develop your own PLN (Personal Learning Network or PLC, Personal Learning Community) and share and learn from others. It will change your life!
  • Question: Has the process of researching changed in the last few years? If so, then how has the role of the librarian changed? Have YOU changed?
So, what do you think? Am I WAY off? Or, should we REALLY stop teaching Office and start teaching skills that will last a lifetime?"

So, am I wrong or do our middle schools need a curriculum rewrite in the computer classes?


Richard MacLemale said...

You're spot on. Teaching Office to kids is great... for Microsoft. In reality, the future of word processing is online anyway. Everyone knows it. It's just a matter of time. We should be using Web 2.0 tools instead of 20th century methods.

Congerjan said...

Thanks Bill! I hope librarians in the state, heck in the world, are listening. Libraries will exist in the future but not as we know them today. It is our job to get students ready for that future with the 21st Century technology tools we have now via Web 2.0.

Tech Marty said...

I teach word processing, spreadsheets, and slide presentations using Open Office. (I also teach Internet safety, various ways to do an effective Internet search, how to save a document in another format, how to make a movie on the computer, and how to create a web page using HTML.) Why do I teach these skills? Because they help them with the work they are doing in our school.

I would also like to teach our students how to use Google docs and several other 2.0 programs. However, most of them require students to either be at least 13 years old (which means around 8th grade and I teach K-7) and/or that they have an e-mail account. Many of our parents don't want their children to have an e-mail account. So, I have had to forego teaching many of these new tools. I hope they will learn them in high school, or on their own.