Are you as Tech-Smart as a Fifth Grader?

I’ve been teaching technology to kindergarten through eighth graders for almost fifteen years. Parents and colleagues are constantly amazed that I can get the

puzzling
Are you puzzling how to teach problem solving to students? Read on

littlest learners to pay attention, remember, and have fun with the skills that are required to grow into competent, enthusiastic examples of the Web 2.0 generation.

I have a confession to make: It’s not as hard as it looks. Sure, those first few kindergarten months, when they don’t know what the words enter and backspace mean, nor the difference between the keyboard and headphones, and don’t understand why they can’t grab their neighbor’s headphones or bang on their keyboard, I do rethink my chosen field. But that passes. By January, every parent tour that passes through my classroom thinks I’m a magician.

What’s my secret? I teach every child to be a problem solver. If their computer doesn’t work, I have them fix it (what’s wrong with it? What did you do last time? Have you tried…?) If they can’t remember how to do something, I prod them (Think back to the instructions. What did you do last week? See that tool—does that look like it would help?) I insist they learn those geek words that are tech terminology (There’s no such thing as earphones. Do you mean headphones? I don’t understand when you point. Do you mean the cursor?) No matter how many hands are waving in my face, I do not take a student’s mouse in my hand and do for them, nor will I allow parent helpers to do this (that is a bigger challenge than the students. Parents are used to doing-for. They think I’m mean when I won’t—until they’ve spent a class period walking my floorboards.). I guide students to an answer. I am patient even when I don’t feel it inside. My goal is process, not product.

By first grade, I let them help each other. Why not kindergarten? Because every kindergartner I’ve met is sure they know the answers whether they do or not so two things happen: 1) I have to retrain the student they trained which makes everyone feel bad, 2) the ‘teacher’ doesn’t get his/her work done and likely neither does the ‘trainee’. First grade and up, they have a year under their belt. They understand basic terminology and problem solving. And, they’re eager to share their knowledge.

The result of all this critical thinking is students learn that they can solve their own problems, they can think through a situation and come to a resolution, and many problems are solved by following what they did in the past. In the end, it’s not just about technology skills. It’s about life skills.

I’ve developed a list of twenty of the most common problems elementary school students face and how to solve them. Once students know these twenty problems, they can solve over half the situations that stop them from moving forward on any given day. Next month, drop by. I’ll share with you the problems that my fifth graders can solve. Don’t’ worry. I’ll also give you the solutions.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Author: Jacqui
Welcome to my virtual classroom. I've been a tech teacher for 15 years, but modern technology offers more to get my ideas across to students than at any time in my career. Drop in to my class wikis, classroom blog, our internet start pages. I'll answer your questions about how to teach tech, what to teach when, where the best virtual sites are. Need more--let's chat about issues of importance in tech ed. Want to see what I'm doing today? Click the gravatar and select the grade.

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