Learning ICT Skills Incidentally

Last night I was reading Edna Sackson’s latest post which focusses on subjects that are still often taught in a separate way in schools rather than in an integrated manner. One of these subjects is technology.

At most primary schools in Australia, children go off with a specialist teacher to a computer lab one hour a week for their ICT lesson. In the past, many teachers have felt satisfied that ICT was being “covered” by this weekly specialist class. In 2010, is this attitude acceptable?

While we may not see the demise of the ICT specialist class anytime soon due to many classroom teachers’ lack of skills and confidence, I believe all teachers have a responsibility to teach ICT skills in an incidental manner every day in their classroom. By incidental, I mean rather than making it a separate lesson, explicitly discuss the ICT skills that you or the students are using while completing other tasks.

This year, I have become very focussed on making my use of ICT explicit to my grade two students. As a result, after three terms I have found my students’ ICT skills have improved dramatically.

While teaching incidental skills, rather than simply instructing, I like to ask the students what they think we should do. I believe that confident users of ICT use their intuition a lot and this is something I want to develop in my students.

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Here is a list of ten things I’ve been teaching incidentally in my classroom (please add your ideas to it!)

  1. Links – at the start of the year I was so surprised that very few students knew what a link was, how to recognise one (the mouse changes to a hand when hovered over, usually underlined and a different colour). I also show the students how to “open the link in a new tab” for easier browsing of websites.
  2. Shortcuts – keyboard shortcuts can make the lives of computer users much easier! Through explicit and incidental teaching my students have become familiar with the shortcuts for copy, paste, cut, select all, undo, refresh etc.
  3. Troubleshooting when a website isn’t working properly what can you do? My students have learnt to refresh (F5) and close other programs or tabs if they have too much open as a start. When the computer isn’t working what can you do? My students are learning to check that the cords are plugged in, jiggle the mouse, check the monitor is on etc. When the computer freezes? Wait and then press control-alt-delete.
  4. Tab for cell entry – another keyboard skill that many students are unfamiliar with is using the tab key on the keyboard to move between cells or boxes on websites.
  5. The best program for the task – in ICT, the students have learnt about program such as MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel however having them develop a feel for the “best program for the job” is something we can discuss incidentally. Eg. we want to type up a letter – what program should we open?
  6. Google search skills– this is something we have the opportunity to work on regularly. When we’re not sure of something, I ask the students how can we find out? They usually suggest Google and then we can discuss what key words would be best to type in and how will we choose which websites from the list might be the most reliable.
  7. Cyber safety and netiquette – this is discussed in an incidental way almost every day in my classroom. Eg. If we’re writing a comment on a blog together we can talk about what name we should put and what information would be appropriate to post on the internet. This makes learning so much more authentic.
  8. Help – using the help feature of a program or website when you get stuck is a good habit for all computer users to develop. This can be modelled and investigated in an incidental way as the need arises.
  9. Vocabulary – what is URL, www, search engine etc? When these terms come up, it is a good chance to discuss their meaning.
  10. What do you think? Leave a comment and tell me what you think or what else you could add to this list.

Leave a comment.

Will the ICT specialist class have a future?

What do you think of the concept of incidental teaching of ICT?

What else could be on the list of skills to teach incidentally?