Classroom Computer Integration at the High School Level

As a Continuation High School teacher in a rural central California town, I seldom cease to be amazed at the many different routes my students took to find their way to my classroom. My students’ computer proficiency varies as much as the ways they came to Continuation school (a school for students who have fallen far behind their peers in the amount of units required for a high school diploma).

One day, after working on a technology assignment during my prep period, I decided to determine the level of computer literacy of my class. I discovered that all of the students had experience with the Internet and Microsoft Word; about half of my students were comfortable with PowerPoint; 20% of the class knew how to use Excel, and one student had created his own Web site.

The interesting point here is that these are Continuation students, the same young men and women who are labeled as "At Risk." Ironically in today’s world our At Risk youth are more computer literate than perhaps a majority of the teachers instructing them everyday. After all I was sitting in a technology class on the weekends learning how to use Excel and PowerPoint while some of the students I instructed already had these skills.

The next question I had for my students was: where had they picked up these skills? All the young men and women had taken a computer literacy course in junior high school and over 90% of the students had taken a word processing class as freshmen in high school. Fifty percent of the students had taken a computer application class as sophomores. The bottom line was that the education system was doing a good job of instructing the students in technology.

Where am I going with all of this? After surveying the students I asked them if they were using regularly the skills they had acquired. Not surprisingly the answer was no. At this point I decided it was my job to reintegrate into my class the technology to which they had already been exposed. We have two computers in our room and integrating them into the class was not difficult.

The following are some adjustments I made to my "pen and paper" driven curriculum. I now give out extra points to students in their core classes for doing the English assignments using Microsoft Word. For the history presentations due this spring I am giving a complete letter grade bump for any student who does his/her presentation using PowerPoint. I even found a way to integrate technology into my P.E. curriculum. Every spring one of our Physical Education activities is a softball unit, including two games against the Continuation High School in King City. I decided the student who was excused from softball would be our scorekeeper, and one of her tasks was to keep batting averages of our players in both games using Excel.

These are some of the ways I came up with integrating technology into the classroom. They are just my ideas but hopefully they will have you finding more ways to keep the computers in your room from collecting too much dust.

Email: Matt Gildersleeve