I hear people refer to students as “digital natives” as if kids are born with an innate mastery of computers and software. Kids’ technology skills are wildly overrated. Sure, some 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. But we wouldn’t call her a “reading native” just because she grew up surrounded by books.
Let me just hit on that point a bit more.
Imagine a child who is never explicitly taught English, but grows up in an English-speaking country. What would their English be like? Better than a person who was never exposed to English, sure, but would we even consider them to be literate?
Just because kids grow up around something, doesn’t mean they have any kind of expertise. Skills need to be explicitly taught.
We explicitly teach English to students who grow up in an English-speaking country and we do it for at least 13 years!
Do you see how ridiculous it is to think that, since kids have grown up with tablets, they must be technology experts.
How To Center Text
Because students’ understanding of technology is self-taught, they have all kinds of gaps. Plus, those gaps are randomly distributed across your class. You have no idea who knows what.
During computer lab, I watched several of my very bright 12-year-olds center their essay’s titles in a word processor by… pressing the space bar until the words were in the middle.
I also witnessed them double-space an essay by, yes, going through and hitting ‘enter’ after each line.
Now, a quick lesson on word processor skills quickly cleared up these (and other) basic gaps. But let us not assume that, because kids play Pokémon and surf the web and text all day, they’re “good at technology.”
Building General Computer Skills
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.
- 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)
And here are some Word Processing Skills:
- 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.