This post is inspired by a curriculum question raised on by a 'Computer Studies' (CS) teacher (an alternative moniker for a 'Technology' teacher in India). (There have also been several discussions on this CR 2.0 forum as well about technology curricula for schools.)

So, what should kids aged 10-14 be taught by way of technology apps/tools in schools?

I think the question is better answered if we rephrase it to - What skills can kids aged 10-14 develop through technology apps/tools? In my view the 4Cs provide an excellent guideline to develop the curriculum -
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity &
  • Critical Thinking
I’d like to preface my list of candidates tools and/or specific applications that could be considered, by underscoring the need for embedding the learning of specific technology tools in authentic tasks and integrating it in projects/assignments/artifacts that are part of the curriculum of core subjects such as Science, Language Arts, Maths and Social Studies. Technology taught stand-alone as a separate “subject” is neither necessary nor beneficial. The idea that technology is a “tool” can only be impressed on students when it is taught as a tool to achieve a larger purpose.

The other thought that I’d like to voice for consideration is the need to include elements of computer science rather than simply restricting the Technology/Computer Studies curriculum to the learning of software applications. This would mean exposure to the ideas of algorithms, data structures and data management. Programming is of course an important part of this, but programming alone is a narrower goal that does not cover all the elements of computer science that children could get exposure to, even at an early age. Such instruction may have to be cleverly designed and appropriately disguised (a la Randy Pausch’s “head fake”) so that kids have fun learning relatively difficult concepts.

Enough rambling, and on to specific themes/tools... (Note that there are free alternatives to almost all proprietary ones that I mention here). I will try and organize this into a table at some point.

  • Google Docs, Sites (Communication, Collaboration)
  • Blogging & Podcasting (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity)
  • Wikis (Communication, Collaboration)
  • Publishing - Publisher (Communication, Creativity)
  • Photo/Video uploading & sharing ((Visual) Communication, Collaboration)
  • Audio Editing- Audacity (Communication, Creativity)
  • Image Editing - Photoshop, Fireworks (Communication, Creativity)
  • Movie making/Digital Story Telling - Movie Maker, PhotoStory, iMovie (Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking)
  • Concept-Mapping - CMap, FreeMind, Inspiration, many others (Critical Thinking)
  • Presentation tools - Powerpoint, Google Presentations, Slide Share (Communication, Collaboration)
  • Programming - LOGO, Star LOGO, Scratch, Squeak, Drape, Alice, Visual Basic/C++, C, (Critical Thinking, Creativity)
  • Web Design, including HTML (Collaboration, Creativity)
  • 3-D Modeling - Google SketchUp (along with Google Earth) (Creativity, Critical Thinking)
  • Game Creation - Game Maker, Scratch, Squeak (Creativity, Critical Thinking)
  • Animation - Flash (Creativity)
  • Spreadsheets - Google Spreadsheets, Open Office or Excel (Critical Thinking)
  • Databases & Information Organization - Access, SQL Server (Critical Thinking)
I think this is a fairly exhaustive list. These tools can be taught at the appropriate grade level and even in multiple grades through some sort of a spiral curriculum (building on basic skills taught in an earlier grade).

I'd love to get your feedback and thoughts on this...Thanks!

[Cross-posted on Education Musings]

Tags: computer-studies, curriculum, middle-school, technology

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Like you I want to look at what technology helps kids accomplish and then find the specific tool. Here's a link to a treatment you might find useful, excerpted from my book. Essential Learning Functions 4-3-08.pdf
Thanks, Jane. I have yet to read the excerpt closely, but yes, it is similar in treatment and pretty exhaustive too! Thanks for sharing...
Thanks, Nitin. (More on my personal blog and community blog)

I, too, enjoyed your Social Mesh for Education post linked somewhere here...
What say we in throw Game Creation also in for Creativity and Critical Thinking, using tools like Gamemaker? Other suggestions for Game Creation tools (free ones, preferably) would be welcome!



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