Blog Topic: Many educators feel that students should be taught the software applications they will have to know to succeed in their lives beyond school (e.g., work or college). Please make a list of five specific applications you think every student should learn, from more important to less important (you can name the application or just give the title -- e.g., 'MS Word' or even just 'word processors'). Explain your ranking in your blog entry. At what level in school do you think each application you list should be taught? Why?
Word Processing: I hate to be so predictable, but I feel that learning word processing programs will benefit students most. Word processors can be used by people with all levels of skill, from elementary to high school students. It really is a good starting point for learning types of software because it can reinforce basics, such as typing and formatting, and then become more complex as the user masters different concepts such as incorporating tables and charts or graphics. If students don’t learn word processing software, they will not be able to do basic things after graduating. Resumes, cover letters, and memos are all basic items produced by word processors that come into play in almost every adult’s life.
When to teach this application: I believe that the basics in word processing should be taught at an early age, maybe third or fourth grade. At this level, students can grasp the concept of creating their own stories and have a good grasp of spelling and grammar. I feel that every computer class a student has should go a bit further in teaching students the capabilities of word processing software.
Web Browsers/Internet: I feel this is a pretty important application to learn. It’s obvious that we have become an internet-centered society and it is important for students to learn the basics in order to navigate themselves around the web. It’s also important, as discussed in some of our forum conversations, to teach kids about internet safety and information integrity. Enforcing these concepts at an early age will lead to more internet-savvy students.
When to teach this application: Web browsers should be taught at an early age, probably once students have mastered the basics of word processing. Incorporating ideas such as information integrity will help students develop their research skills and study methods at an early age, leading to success throughout their school careers.
Spreadsheets: I may be biased because of my financial background, but I love spreadsheets. They can do almost anything and are underrated. These are good for basics like creating address lists, but also more advanced accounting practices as well. Basic math can be done and formulas can be created to help a student see how changing one part of an equation affects the answer. Statistic tables can be created without having to rely on a separate form of software. The bank I work at used to create complete loan proposals in excel, so it can also be used as a pseudo-word processor at times.
When to teach this application: I think that basic spreadsheet applications can be introduced in middle school grades, but that teachers should wait until high school to introduce the more advanced concepts. Personally, I would like to see more math classes use spreadsheets to analyze formulas in order for students to do more than just input data to get an answer.
This is vague, but bear with me. I think that it is important for students to be exposed to software programs that they may come into contact with in their chosen profession. For example, students choosing architecture should have CAD classes. Students wishing to go into education should be exposed to programs like Blackboard or forums like we use in this class. I think that this is important to give students a good idea of the types of technology and software they will encounter in their profession. I realize that students don’t always know what they want to do and that schools have limited resources to make different types of software available, but I think that helping students focus on the software they will frequently encounter will help them in the long run.
When to teach these applications: These applications should be saved for junior or senior years of high school, possibly in a capstone class that incorporates all electives in a chosen career path. I feel that these types of software should be integrated in a class that provides a general simulation of future jobs.
Presentation software: This is low on my list, not because I think it is irrelevant, but because I feel there are other applications that are a little more important. I don’t think that a PowerPoint slideshow is necessary for all presentations, and I feel that students have almost become stuck in a rut because PowerPoint is required so often. I had a public speaking class in college and almost every speech had a PowerPoint to accompany it. It becomes boring and repetitive. That being said, I feel that if presentation software is going to be taught, it needs to be taught in its entirety. Students should learn how to effectively incorporate graphics, animation, and music as basic requirements in every presentation.
When to teach this application: I never learned PowerPoint in school. It was reserved for a special multimedia class that I never took, so I taught myself. I think it should be taught in all of the required computer classes in the curriculum. Basics should be taught at the middle school level, and more advanced concepts should be taught in high school. I also think that students should be taught how to integrate word processors and spreadsheets into presentation software to make presentations more effective.