GRASPS & Technology Planning

It’s been a little bit since I’ve updated, and testing has been a big part of that. I’ve not been able to do much of anything in classrooms, nor have teachers asked for me because so many are focused on either staying focused for the test or testing. I’ve been working on some things for the end of the year inventory, as well as monitoring testing and assisting teachers with that. However, I use the bits of free time that I do end up with to begin working on things for next year.

In particular, I’m trying to prepare a bit of a technology curriculum for the elementary school. My first task in completing this was to break down the technology standards for each grade band into a checklist. The idea is that every student will be given a checklist where I can record where they’ve demonstrated competency in the standards. Each year they get a new checklist that is added to their file. I am also creating digital portfolios
for each student, so I may put the check list in there instead. I’m not entirely sure yet. My biggest takeaway from doing this was the realization of how out of date West Virginia’s technology standards are. They were originally filed in November 2006 and went into effect July 2008. The standards focus heavily on desktop publishing skills, with some focus on basic computer skills and digital citizenship. There is no mention of anything relating to computer science. The standards still mention diskettes, which shows how dated they are.

Even though the standards are a bit outdated, I still find many of them to be applicable today. Students still need basic computer knowledge, and they also need basic desktop publishing skills. Elementary school students tend to not be taught these things, and when they get to middle school, they are unfamiliar with the programming when it comes time to use these programs for projects. This is based on my own observations of students
in my area, so other areas may be different. I’ve watched over time though, and things have not changed. Teachers have not taught these skills, and some have confessed to me that they aren’t very confident in their own abilities when it comes to these skills.

With all of that said, even with outdated standards, I still need a bit of a curriculum to use with students next year. My plan is to teach a lab class once a week when I am at the elementary school. Of course, that doesn’t give me too many weeks in the school year to use. I already know that when it comes to teaching digital citizenship, I will be using the Common Sense Media curriculum. I will also throw in lessons from the
curriculum as I see fit. With both of these, I’m set for teaching the digital citizenship portion.

The area that is troublesome, however, is basic computer skills, and potentially desktop publishing. I have searched for lessons on basic computer skills, only to come up empty handed. I have not searched for desktop publishing items, as I plan to create projects based around that. Since my research was empty handed on the basic skills, I decided to develop my own lesson plans instead. I researched a few thing, and decided to take a
performance task approach using the GRASPS method (Wiggins & McTighe). This method helps one to develop the task using the acronym:






Standards & Criteria for Success

It’s all part of understanding by design. One actively works backwards with the standards and objectives first before deciding any type of lesson activities. It helps cut down on unnecessary components to the lesson. I have to confess that I’ve never really planned this way before. Either the curriculum was given to me, or I took a topic and came up with an activity first, then added the standards around it. I realize the approach isn’t the
correct one to take, but when I had to plan out lessons for all subjects, it was the one that was the least time consuming week to week.

I chose instead to do things differently this time. Not only did I want to create lessons for myself, but I also decided to share what I created online. I worked to design a template first that would encompass all I wanted to include for both myself and anyone using the template online. I planned to keep the same template throughout my work. The next step was to look at the standards and develop my lesson. I wanted to start the year with basic
computer skills and so I located the standards that worked around that topic.

From there, I developed my GRASPS form. I decided that the students would be computer experts working at Computers ‘R Us. Aliens would land in front of their store one night, and want to know about Earth’s computer systems. Students would be called into a meeting by their manager so he or she could review the equipment and rules of care. Students would create posters that showed care rules for the aliens to take back home, and their final project would be to create a class video that explained each piece of equipment
and its proper care so that the aliens could take it back home to their planet with them.

It definitely wasn’t easy. I’m known to get sidetracked at work, but I spent a good many hours working on and tweaking the lesson. I decided that I still needed to cover basic skills in 1st and 2nd grade as well, and am currently in the process of developing Alien Encounter II and Alien Encounter III. Ideally, they follow most of the same standards. However, the students have different performance tasks to complete that allows me to review the same concepts, but in a different way. For example, they were computer experts in the first task. In the second task they will be retail salespeople. In the last task, they’ve gotten out of the computer business, and became a children’s book author and illustrator instead. All three tasks still deal with the aliens, though the last task deals with the school children on
the alien planet instead.

Part of me can see why I didn’t really plan like this in the classroom. It does take a lot of time, and if I had done this for every lesson, I would never be finished with my lesson plans. Being out of the classroom now allows me a little more time during my work day to plan so I’m taking advantage of that. I’m also sharing my work as I complete it. If I needed a lesson plan for it, chances are someone else may as well.

I’ve still got a long way to go, but at least I know how I want to tackle things!

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