Photo by Charles Dyer
People refer to students as “digital natives” as if they were born with an innate mastery of computers and software. I fear that this admiration of kids’ technology skills is overstated.
Sure, students use a lot of technology, but that doesn’t mean they use it correctly or completely. Kids have an improvised tech-literacy in the same way my bright niece had an improvised ability to read before starting school. And we wouldn’t call her a “reading native” just because she grew up surrounded by books.
Because students are self-taught, their tech-literacy has gaps, and those gaps are randomly distributed across your class. I watching bright 12-year-olds center text in a word processor by pressing the space bar until the words lined up. But a quick lesson on word processor skills quickly cleared up these basic gaps.
We cannot assume that our students have an expert level of tech-literacy. Spend some computer-lab time going over the basics. It’ll build a solid foundation for later projects and equip your class with truly practical skills.
General Computer Skills
- Moving, copying, deleting, and renaming files
- Organizing files within folders
- Finding files and applications that aren’t on the desktop
- Coping and pasting text
- Right clicking (or control clicking on a Mac)
- Keyboard shortcuts for (these examples are PC then Mac):
- copying and pasting (Ctrl-V/Ctrl-C or ⌘C/⌘V)
- saving and opening files (Ctrl-S/Ctrl-O or ⌘S/⌘O)
- printing (Ctrl-P or ⌘P)
- restarting after freeze-ups (Alt-Ctrl-Del or ⌘-Opt-Esc)
- switching applications (Alt-Tab or ⌘-Tab)
- Bold, italic, underline text
- Change fonts and font-sizes.
- Left, right, and center justification.
- Adjusting for line-spacing
- Using built-in bullets and outlines
- Inserting and manipulating a table
- Keyboard shortcuts for these basic tools
After those basics, I’d move on to spreadsheets, presentation software, and search skills.