The days of teaching kids computer skills through games is over... it's time to get serious. This lesson plan provides teachers with a framework to introduce a variety of computer applications including office programs and leisure apps, giving students the opportunity to use their analytical skills.
Preparing The Lesson Plan
In order to teach this lesson successively, review the objectives, lecture plan and class project to determine how to adapt this plan to the needs of your school's curriculum. This lesson plan is designed for an introductory computer or technology course. Teaching students basic computer terms and building confidence in using computer applications are the main goals here. It is assumed that this lesson is delivered as part of an introductory computer course where students begin with little or no knowledge of basic computer applications or procedures.
Student Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students will improve their critical thinking skills and understand what computer applications are, and how to use them.
Understand how to compare and evaluate a computer application: The process of comparing and contrasting two computer applications is a skill that will be useful to students in many other contexts, inside and outside of the classroom.
Learn basic computer terminology: Terms that students will understand as a result of this lesson: hardware, software, operating system and computer applications.
Increased confidence in computing: Instilling this sense of confidence will help students learn more about technology and use new applications on their own.
Teachers and students will need access to the following resources and tools in order to successfully complete this lesson plan:
A Computer/Computer Lab: This lesson plan will be more effective if students have the ability to download and install programs. Consult with your school's IT staff to see if this is an option. Given that students should work individually or in pairs, a number of computers will be needed.
Internet access: The classroom project (detailed below) requires Internet access. If Internet access is not available, teachers will need to install a number of applications (10-12) on computers for students ready to use in the class project.
Digital projector (optional): To deliver the lecture effectively, a computer and a digital projector will be used to show students how to download applications, show basic functionality and explain how to use the operating system (i.e. how to launch and close applications, how to delete files and so forth).
Demonstration Applications: During the lecture phase of this lesson plan, the teacher will demonstrate 2-4 applications installed on their PC. By showing students how to open programs, save files and other basic operations, students will understand the basic operations of all computer applications.
IT Staff Participation: Since this lesson plan involves installing new applications, it is recommended that the school's IT staff be available to address any technical issues or problems that students may experience. Downloading and installing applications may require extra permissions or configuration changes by IT staff, so discuss your less plan with them two to three weeks before starting this lesson plan.
Present the concepts in this section as a lecture, preferably supplemented with the use of a PC and a digital projector so that students can see the demonstrations live. The estimated time for the introductory lecture is approximately twenty to thirty minutes; allow time for questions and comments from students.
Introduction: Students may already know about some computer applications such as web browsers, so begin by asking them which applications they have heard of and tell them which family of applications they belong to -- database applications, word processing applications, entertainment applications, and utilities. Explain that these are applications and then define the technology terms referred to in the student learning objectives: hardware, software, operating system and computer applications.
Definitions and Examples: According to Merriam-Webster, an application can be defined as "a program (as a word processor or a spreadsheet) that performs one of the major tasks for which a computer is used."
In this concept, you can give many examples of applications and their practical uses using a "day in the life of a computer user."
"In the morning, John checks his email on his office computer using the Outlook email application. In the afternoon, he writes a report using a word processor. In the evening, he uses Adobe Photoshop to create a flyer for his football team's Saturday game. Late at night, he uses Skype, a communications application, to speak with his cousins in Europe." The rationale of this approach is to show the many kinds of applications that a person uses in their daily life.
Application Demonstration: Select at least two computer applications for demonstration, one commonly used business application (e.g. a Microsoft Office application) and one leisure application (e.g. a utility or entertainment application). If your school computer lab does not have access to these applications, work with your school's IT staff to install a number of free applications for students to work with such as OpenOffice (office productivity applications), Mozilla Thunderbird (email), or Audacity (audio editing).
Demonstrate how to open the program, perform some basic actions (e.g. type in text, bold text, underline text etc.) and save files. Compile a simple cheat sheet with these basic functions on so the students don't feel lost when they first tackle the project.
Now introduce the class project.
For the class project, students will use two different computer applications and write a short report on their experience. The reports can be written individually or in pairs - decide one way or the other for the entire class. Prepare a one page handout summarizing what you expect students to cover in their reports:
Application Category: Examples include word processors, databases, music applications, graphic design applications and utilities.
Specific Applications Reviewed: The application name, software publisher (e.g. Microsoft) and version are required.
Application Recommendation: Since students are comparing applications in the same category, the report will recommend the best application and explain why the application is best. Students can use whatever reasons they wish, but these reasons must be presented clearly.
Application Improvements/Changes: What changes or improvements are recommended for this application? Which changes are most important to change? Students may choose to suggest no changes but this choice must be supported with clear reasons.
Length & Due Date: The suggested length of the report is 2-3 pages, double spaced. Make sure deadline day is clearly displayed.
Marking: The marking scheme is based 70% on content, and 30% on style and presentation. This grade distribution will make it clear to students that their report must be in clear English.
You can determine how well the majority of objectives of your lesson plan on computer applications have been met by the report your students produce. Make sure the report shows an understanding of comparing and evaluating the applications, and that they have used the basic computer terminology you covered in the lecture. Observation while students are working on the project in the classroom is the best indicator that by the end of it, they have an increased confidence in using the computer.