I really like the recent trend away from presenting college as the goal for all graduating seniors, opening that up to include a wide variety of careers. Our job as educators is to encourage students in whatever their choice of post-school employment is, be it more education, a technical school, or a job. If we try to force students into a future not of their own choice, they disengage from learning. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Bryce Welker, has some ideas on that I think you’ll find interesting:
One way school districts are ensuring this is by introducing career topics and studies to middle school students. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, middle school is the time when students are the most likely to become disengaged from learning.
This is in part due to them going through puberty, trying to form their own personal identity, and overcoming other challenges that come with navigating new environments. So this is a vital time to introduce courses that teach students about various career opportunities.
Let’s take a look at how educators around the country are helping middle school students plan and direct their future careers.
This December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:
- abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
- creativity – think outside the box
- if-then thinking – actions have consequences
- debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Fix it.
- logic – go through a problem from A to Z
- sequencing – know what happens when
If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are activities by grade that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.
When kids read that America’s $18 trillion+ debt is accepted by many experts as ‘business as usual’, I wonder how that news will affect their own personal finance decisions. Do they understand the consequences of unbalanced budgets? The quandary of infinite wants vs. finite dollars? Or do they think money grows on some fiscal tree that always blooms? The good news is: Half of the nation’s schools require a financial literacy course. The bad new is: Only half require a financial literacy course.
Banzai is a personal finance curriculum that teaches high school and middle school students how to prioritize spending decisions through real-life scenarios and choose-your-own adventure (kind of) role playing. Students start the course with a pre-test to determine a baseline for their financial literacy. They then engage in 32 life-based interactive scenarios covering everything from balancing a budget to adjusting for unexpected bills like car trouble or health problems. Once they’ve completed these exercises, they are dropped into a scenario where they have just graduated from high school, have a job, and must save $2,000 to start college. They are constantly tempted to mis-spend their income and then face the consequences of those actions, basing their decisions on what they learned in the 32 scenarios. Along the way, students learn to handle rent, gas, groceries, taxes, car payments, and life’s ever-present emergencies. When they finish, they take a post-test to measure improvement in their financial literacy.
Teachers register as many classes as necessary. Their dashboard lists all students in each class and a summary of which activities they have finished. Student work is graded by the website and updated on the teacher dashboard.
- 60-seconds Adventures in Economics–videos from Open University
- Basic Economic Terms
- Basic Economics Jumbled
- Be Your Own Boss
- BrainPop—money movie
- Business and Profit Millionaire Game
- Coffeeshop Game
- Economic Concepts
- Economics in Plain English–from Atlantic Monthly–videos
- Economic Systems
- Economic Terms
- Economic Terms Mini-Quiz
- Economics Flashcards
- Economics Flashcards
- Economy Terms
- Hands on Banking for Kids
- It’s My Life:PBS Kids – Click on Money
- Lemonade Stand
- Making Money
- New York Stock Exchange
- Stock Market Game
- US Economy
- You are here—sim of the consumer world
If your children are eager to be creative this summer, but addicted to computers, try these wonderful art-oriented websites. For your youngers, start any visit to the internet with a conversation about safety, privacy, and good digital citizenship. Soon, they’ll know the rules and you won’t have to keep chatting about it:
You can find updates for this page here.
Lots of art websites for K-8
- Art Online
- ASCII art picture generator–instant
- ASCII Art Text Generator
- BigHuge Labs
- Image edit exposure tool
- Image Edited? Check here
Here’s a free lesson plan from the newest Ask a Tech Teacher book, How to Achieve Common Core with Tech–the Writing Strand. This covers K-8, 208 Standards, and has 28 projects.
BTW, the lines at the front of each step are to track progress in case you don’t complete it in one class period. Feel free to print out for classroom use:
How does writing often and briefly improve skills?
Students use digital Quick Writes to integrate writing and critical thinking practice into any discipline. They use a variety of age-appropriate digital tools to prepare their work. Through these short, fun writings, students develop fluency, build the habit of reflection, and informally assess thinking.
Writing routinely for short periods of time, for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences, makes students better writers.
Internet, drawing program, quick write links
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love Photoshop CS, but my school will no longer support the cost of a license. At first, I refused to teach image editing, feeling like any program I used would be inferior to what I should be teaching. I continued with the decade-old CS (not the up-to-date CS 5). No problem with that. Students loved it, found it easy, extended learning to home–and that’s when the problem arose. They–of course–had to buy the upgrade and wondered why I was using such an old program.
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 Barbara, a principal at a local school:
There isn’t a lot of research on the topic of grading tech classes. Anecdotally, it seems to be all over the board–whether teachers grade or not, and if they do–how. The short answer to this question is: It depends upon your expectations of the tech class. If it’s fully integrated into the classroom, treated more as a tool than a ‘special’ class (some call them ‘exploratories’, akin to PE, Spanish, music), then you probably want to hold it rigorously to the grading scale used in the classroom. The projects created will be evidence of learning, more like summative (or formative) assessments of academic work than tech skills.