Essay On My Computer Class
Note from Bri: This is a guest post from Frank DiMaria, a middle school computer teacher in Fort Mill, SC. Frank has written a number of articles to help other computer applications teachers be more effective in the classroom.
At AES, we hear from computer teachers across the county about the many challenges they face. One that is hard to overcome is the dreaded time of being kicked out of your computer lab. We asked Frank to share some of his ideas for teaching when he doesn't have access to computers to help other computer teachers like him.
Have you ever been displaced from your computer lab, forced to come up with computer class lessons without computers? This happens to me every May when students take their End of Course exams in my lab and my students and I are relocated. Being displaced disrupts the students’ routine, and middle school students thrive on routine. Program and schedule changes are not pleasant in a middle school. Couple this with the fact that in May students can see the finish line and many seize any opportunity to coast into summer vacation.
Over the years I’ve used a number of tap-dances to keep my displaced students engaged. I’ve distributed digital cameras and allowed my students to take photos that we later used in a graphic arts lesson. I’ve also secured Chromebooks and had my students practice their typing. Both engaged my students, but this year I tried something new.
Integrating Writing Activities for Middle School
As part of a statewide initiative my administration encourages teachers of all subjects, including computer, to integrate reading and writing into their curriculum. To meet this initiative, I presented a lesson I developed with assistance from my school’s reading specialist.
The objective for students was to read a magazine article and respond to a prompt in a text-dependent analysis. The analyses took the form of a standard five-paragraph essay. Students had to cite and analyze evidence and draw a conclusion.
I chose an article called Is the App Mentality Killing Student’s Creativity? The article is one I wrote for a technology website, and is based on The App Generation, a book by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis. The article presents opinion and evidence that digital technology is making students more creative in some areas and less creative in others.
The Writing Assignment Lesson Plan
This lesson takes four to five class periods to complete – two days for reading, discussing, and annotating the article and presenting the video. Then another two to three days to craft the essay. I broke my lesson into five sections:
- Teacher-Guided Reading
- Discussion & Student Sharing
- Video Presentation (optional)
- Student Writing
Introduction to the Assignment
We convened in the Media Center where students sat in groups of four. I gave each student a copy of the article, the rubric, the prompt, and a writer’s checklist for a text-dependent analysis. At the center of each table I place a stack of lined paper.
I provided the objective of the lesson and instructed my students to read the article silently. To ensure engagement, I asked them to circle two unfamiliar words, write two questions about the article, and highlight facts, statistics, and studies that would defend their arguments in their essays. They had the option of annotating the article or using the lined paper.
When my students finished reading I asked volunteers to share the words they circled. After we defined these words I asked students to share the passages they highlighted. A discussion ensued as my students began sharing the examples they highlighted and elaborated on them.
Teacher-Guided Reading and Student Sharing
Next I read the article aloud to my students, stopping to discuss passages I highlighted prior to the lesson and commenting on the arguments Gardner and Davis made. We discussed these passages and arguments, sometimes passionately. I instructed my students to highlight those passages and studies I thought would help support their arguments and attack the writing prompt. (I decided to model annotation after my students annotated their copy of the article in hopes that they would come to the article unbiased and seek out facts and passages on their own.)
After I discussed my annotations and we further discussed the article as a class, I allowed my students to share ideas with their peers. Students swapped papers and for the rest of the period discussed the article in groups of four. This portion of the lesson is where students began to form the arguments they would present in their essays. As they bounced ideas off each other, they began organizing their thoughts and pondering the prompt.
Video Presentation (optional)
This part of the lesson is optional. If you can find a video clip that augments your lesson and you have the time, it may be beneficial to your students to view it. My time was running short. If I had the time, I planned to show a video clip of Gardner and Davis discussing their book before a live audience at Harvard. The video featured several topics in the article and would have put it in perspective.
Writing the Essay
When the video is over, it's time for your students to get to work on their essays. I restated the objective and read them the prompt:
Has digital media (computers, phones, tablets, and apps) made today’s students more creative or less creative in the visual arts and fiction writing? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
My students picked up their pencils and started organizing their thoughts using graphic organizers and outlines, just as they learned to do in their Language Arts classes. Soon they were making and defending their arguments in a well-crafted five-paragraph essay.
Because my students did not have access to computers during this lesson, they were forced to write long hand. For those students who were more comfortable typing their essays, I allowed them to submit a typed version on Google Drive or using Microsoft Word. But they did that on their own time.
On the whole I was pleased with the insightfulness my students demonstrated in their essays. Most had very strong feelings about whether digital technology is making the digital natives we teach more or less creative.
Think Outside the Box When You Have No Computers for Computer Class Lessons
Teachers are a very territorial group – for many, being displaced can be a tragedy of epic proportions. But with a little ingenuity and some help from the creative people around you, being displaced can offer you and your students an opportunity to move outside of your comfort zones and shine in ways you never thought possible.
My Experience with Computers
- Length: 1192 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
My Experience with Computers
Walking down the hallway to computer class excited me and made me a little anxious. The world of technology was slowly opening up to me. It was the year I took my first computer class. I learned how to push a button to start the computer, open up a program, and type. It was interesting, but my fear that I would accidentally hit the wrong key and make the computer crash overshadowed my ability to enjoy it. I would have to learn to conquer that fear, as digital technology became a part of my every-day life.
Computers became more common around school as I got older. In fifth grade, there was actually one computer in the classroom. I rarely practiced it, except if the teachers made us do an exercise using it. I picked up the skill more readily when I discovered the Internet.
The first time I used the Internet was at my friend's house. She had gotten it and was telling me about all the people she was meeting on-line in "chat rooms." I didn't understand how you could talk to real people over the computer. I went to my friend's house and we spent hours in front of the screen talking to people from all over the country on America on-line, the popular Internet access. I was obsessed. That was the only thing we did when I went over to her house. I was amazed at the expertise my friend developed at typing; she learned it after having to carry on multiple conversations with different people who instant-messaged her all at once. I was still pecking at the keys one-by-one.
Everyday I would beg my dad to get the family AOL. Finally he broke down and got it. I was glued to it for the first three months. Then the novelty began to wear off. I wasn't so impressed with talking to strangers anymore. I realized that people I met face-to-face I could hang out with, but I had no way of knowing that "kids" I talked to on-line weren't actually 50 year-old men.
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Computers Digital Technology Internet Access Multiple Carry Hang Wear Meeting Conversations Months
That's always a risk when talking to people on-line. In eighth grade, I took a typing class and learned how to type quickly and maneuver around programs. That was most beneficial to me because it made me actually want to use a computer since I could type faster then I could
write. Also, by that year, all papers were required to be typed. Even if a person didn't own a computer he was expected to find one and use it. The school had computer labs, computers in the library, and two to three computers in most every room, so there were no excuses to not use one. The Internet became especially handy when doing research papers. No longer did I have to search through pages of heavy encyclopedia to find the topic I wanted, I only had to type the subject in the Search button on the screen. It would have dozens of pages of information on exactly what I wanted to know. I enjoyed using it as long as the connection was quick, which became less frequent as more people signed on to the server I was using. The software was being up-dated constantly, so I felt like my computer was going slower and slower. I am not a patient person; waiting for a page to open began to drive me up the wall. That was when my fondness began to decline in computers.
When I read the essay "Luddite vs. Fetishist" in Wired Society, a book about how technology effects society, I understood Bill Henderson when he said that there was " useless data zipping around the earth in a babble of Websites and a cacophony of Internet chat and gossip." Bill Henderson views technology as a bad thing and feels that although something is quicker and easier, it is not necessarily better. He is what one calls a "Luddite." I was very much a part of the "chat and gossip" when I initially encountered the Internet. It was mesmerizing to have access to anything I wanted to know or see. I wasted plenty of time in front of the screen talking to people I knew only be the names of "GQ1981" or "Gr8Iz." Wondering what the color of the person's hair who was sitting on the other side of the connection was intriguing.
In the introduction to "Log on and Shoot, " an essay about all the interactive games that are exploding on to the Internet market, there was reference made to how Internet games not only involve playing the games, but involve socializing as well. That was what the computer had become to me, a social forum.
There is good that comes with the not so necessary, though. Tim Barkow, the fetishist (one who loves computer technology) in "Luddite vs. Fetishist," was right when he acknowledged all the good things computers brought to society. They did help me when I needed to do research or write someone a quick e-mail. I use the computer daily to keep in touch with my family and friends, without acquiring obscenely high telephone bills.
There are certain things I do not like about the Internet, however, and that
is having class on them or having to send research papers to the teacher
over them. Part of that is coping with change. I am used to handing a
paper in to the teacher, and having him make comments with red ink in the
margins. Now I have to send it in through a drop box by the given deadline
or my grade goes down ten percent. It is a good that I learn these skills
now and how to accomplish tasks on the computer, but adjusting to it has not
been easy. Like Bill Henderson, I would much rather use a reliable number
two pencil and have a discussion where I can see the person's response,
rather then rely on the computer for communication.
I get very aggravated when a program doesn't work right, or I can't find a
file I know is stored on my hard drive. If I was computer savvy, I wouldn't
mind these glitches, but I do mind them. Every time it happens I have to
call a friend or a computer technician and have them come over and walk me
through the steps of solving the problem, and this is a normal occurrence.
I do not embrace cyber culture because I cannot deal with the computer
screen freezing when I only have a limited amount of time to get the
information I want off the Internet. Computers are not reliable; they like
to crash on me just when I think I've grasped how to use them. I am not an
extreme Luddite; I am more comfortable with that label then Fetishist,
however. Fetishists know how to play the computer games, jump from site to
site, and link pages. They get excited to learn about new computer tricks.
This is not my passion. I learn what I need to get by, after that, I'd much
rather go on a walk.