Monday, September 23, 2013

Hacking Tech Apps

This is my 10th year to teach Tech Apps to 8th graders.  For 8 of those years my TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills - what the state of Texas says should be taught in Tech Apps classes) were very descriptive.  2 years ago, my TEKS changed and now focus on the '21st Century' skills.  I can't stand that phrase by the way but that's another post for another day. The TEKS now resemble the ISTE-NETS Student Standards.

The sign on my door last Tuesday
Last year, I continued my class as usual.  We did keyboarding, Word, Excel, Multimedia and Web 2.0.  But it didn't seem right. I wanted to innovate. I wanted to do something different.  I want students to think thoughts instead of learn facts.  Last year I tried Genius Hour with little success.  My students were still focused on the 1st right answer, the easy way, the first page of Google.  I knew I had to do something different.

Last week we finished keyboarding.  I do believe keyboarding is an essential skill and it's in the TEKS so I still teach it. Besides, the rest of the year go much smoother for students who can touch type 35 words per minute with 97% accuracy.

On Tuesday, we sat in the floor and I handed everyone (I have 9 students this year) a copy of the TEKS.  I told them this is what the State expects you to learn. Let's dive into it.  I want you to understand what you are supposed to learn this year.  We spent the rest of the class dissecting the TEKS.
The circled TEKS need
direct teaching

On Wednesday, we sat in the floor with our copies of the TEKS, chart paper and smelly markers (sometimes you just need to write with smelly markers!).  This time we categorized each TEKS as a Task or a Behavior (something you need to do over and over no matter the task).  We then discussed which Behaviors need to be directly taught.  From this we created our first 6 units.

After the units, we'll start the student directed learning. They will solve relevant problems.  Relevant to them.  Through these problem solving units, we'll complete our Tasks.  When a student needs to learn something about Technology, I'll teach it when they need it.  JITT - Just In Time Teaching. We'll change the audience.  Their first relevant problem needs to be solved to help others.  This time they are working individually.  In the future, they will work in pairs and groups.  But they will always work on problems that are relevant to them.

Throughout these discussions, I've talked to them about thinking critically, thinking deeply.  We've talked about making decisions that matter.  We've talked about moving beyond Google's first page. And looking for the 2nd right answer.  I told them it's not going to be as easy as they think it will be.

We are going to blog about our journey.  Thursday and Friday they did some blog exploration.  Today they began writing their first blog post - a reflection on what we've done so far.  It wasn't as easy as they thought it would be.  Those posts will sit and simmer until Wednesday when I'll meet with each student to review their work.  Tomorrow we're planning on setting up our blog.  Be on the look out for it!


  1. Wow....this is awesome. I cannot wait to read what happens next.

  2. This is so cool! Thanks for sharing your learning and the awesomeness of your kids. Wish I had been HALF as innovative as you, my kids would have benefitted SO much from it! :)


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