It is all in the apps.

It being summer and me being on an eleven month contract I get lots of time to think about school subjects big and small.  One of the bigs at the moment is our computer curriculum.  Since we are a smallish private school we have the ability to make curriculum changes quickly without having to go through some big committee.  Now since I write the computer curriculum my thinking time is not actually a waste of time.  Our programming curriculum is pretty much set; the first semester is Scratch and Small Basic and is intended for those students that have absolutely no programming experience.  The following semesters depend on the students and on what I think would be fun to work with.  I am big on a strong fun factor in programming.  There is just so much fun stuff out there that there is no reason to work through some tedious language textbook.  My goal is for the kids to have fun and learn to program at the same time.  C# with XNA, Corona with Droid, Lego robots, and Java with Greenfoot are just a few of the directions we have gone.  Like I said, the programming curriculum set in the sense I know the direction I want to go and I have a bunch of tools that will get me there.
The applications part of the curriculum is where things are getting confusing.  In the K-8 we have a very enthusiastic young teacher who is constantly rewriting the curriculum to meet the needs of the students and the changes in the applications world.  In the high school we offer a required freshman apps class taught by a business teacher that is also trying to stay up with the latest and greatest.  The trouble becomes what apps do we teach?  Do we stick with our traditional Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Audacity scheme or head more towards the Google Docs and web-based software?  We teach nothing in the direction of collaboration software which I feel is a gap.  At what grade levels do we offer what?  We have our 2nd and 3rd graders started on Word yet we have public school kids coming into the high school with only the very basics of Word and nothing in Excel.  At one time I suggested to the business teacher that we eliminate Office from the Freshman apps class, thinking that there would be no need.  He gave me a quick reality check.
Switching the curriculum in the apps class also has the complication of teacher training.  It is not easy for a full-time teacher to get proficient in a new piece of software to the point where they feel comfortable teaching it.  We ordered three Adobe Indesign licenses for our Publications class for next year.  If we did not have a very intelligent student that said she was willing to learn Indesign and teach some of the other kids and the publications teacher we would not have ordered it.  Google Docs is becoming a power in the apps world but there are training issues, account issues and security issues involved that complicate things.
I like to look at what other schools offer in the way of apps classes.  One class I see a lot is web design.  I put this in the same category as small engine repair, i.e. job training.  Fixing lawnmowers and building a web page are both convenient skills to have.  Of course I want to offer a tech course involving maintaining computers and networks and that is much closer to lawnmowers than web pages.
I cannot imagine anyone being satisfied with the apps courses they are offering.  Software changes, kids of all levels walking through the doors, new software can be expensive, teacher training is always behind the power curve and sometimes the hardware requirements are not in the budget.  If the apps course is not constantly evolving then there is an issue.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: