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What do I do with students who ‘get’ tech really fast?

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Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Linda:

I have taught elementary school many years but this is my first year in 6th, with 4th the highest grade I have taught.I work with 2 other 6th grade teachers who have happily handed over technology to me. So I have 3 6th grade classes to teach technology to. I am a fan of technology, like learning about it and am pretty comfortable with it – but not as quick as the students. For many of my students ( I have a GATE cluster) the sky is the limit so I would like to challenge them as much as possible so I thought tutoring would be the fastest route to make this happen. What do you recommend?

Hi Linda

The 6th grade curriculum (update due within a month) is great for a diverse student group. You can let them work independently, get through material at their own pace with you as coach. A lot of schools have tech clubs after school that act as tutoring groups–where students teach each other a skill they like and let them go. They are very popular. That might be perfect for your students.

Here are five more ideas the crew at Ask a Tech Teacher suggested (and have tried):

  1. simulations-games–let students who finish the lesson content play inquiry-based simulations and games. Gamify your classroom. That motivates students to work hard to get through whatever material you are covering to get to the games they perceive as more fun. Here’s a list of games and simulations you might offer. Most popular: Minecraft. Sure–offer that with guidelines for what students should accomplish (i.e., create 3D structures that align with math class)
  2. Google’s 20% rule–give students 20% of class time to work on projects of their choosing. You must approve, they must create a guideline, but from there, it’s self-directed, student-managed.
  3. more depth on the topic–offer student-directed enrichment in the textbook topics. For example, find good Photoshop videos (here’s a short list as an example–look at the upper left box of links) that students can watch and learn new photo editing skills
  4. MS Office certification–highly popular in lots of schools. It’s also part of the 7th and 8th grade curriculum. Students can self-manage the training and testing. You can even set yourself up as a testing center. Check Certiport for more information.
  5. Khan Academy–there’ll be a lesson plan for this in the updated 6th grade curriculum.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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