Inspiration

Teaching Computer Skills to Middle Schoolers

There are a number of skills that students should know before reaching high school. To increase your childś computer skills, focus on these specific areas.

“I can’t find any information related to why the Titanic sank! I am going to fail this project,¨ screams the frustrated middle school student. Approaching them, you see that your child has typed in some very general terms into the search engine. Shaking your head, you realize that there has to be a better way.

This brief scenario likely isn’t too far off from what many parents of middle school students feel when trying to complete computer research projects. The term digital native gets loosely tossed around today in reference to students. The implication is that today’s children are computer literate and able to master computer skills; nonetheless, the International Computer and Information Literacy study found that only 2 percent of students scored at the highest levels. What does this mean? It means that out of the 42,000 middle school students who completed the assessment, very few were able to work independently with computers which includes information-gathering and management tools. As a parent of a middle school student, you may be wondering how you can help your child develop greater proficiency.

According to Connections Academy from Pearson, there are a number of skills that students should know before reaching high school. To increase your childś computer skills, focus on these specific areas:

  1. Typing. Students use devices more than ever before. Many schools are now 1:1 in the classroom meaning the days of writing out assignments with pen and paper has been replaced with Chromebooks or other devices. Consider these options to help your child practice his or her typing skills: Type-Fu or Typing Club.
  1. Digital communication. Sometimes students forget that there are multiple ways to communicate digitally. Help your child understand proper etiquette for communicating with different audiences via text, email, chatting, or social media. In brief, this includes their ability to differentiate between using poor punctuation, texting lingo, and emojis versus being scholarly in an academic email that should be formal and precise.
  1. Google Workspace and/or Microsoft Office. These tools have various features and include word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and so much more. Having an understanding of these different programs can give your child an advantage when completing assignments, collaborative projects, and so much more. Part of their understanding of these programs should be how to organize computer files. Students should know how to create folders and organize each file in an appropriate location. This how-to beginner´s guide to Google Drive is a great place to start. Control Alt Achieve is another phenomenal resource to help your child improve their productivity skills.
  1. Using web browsers. Major browsers include Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Having an understanding of how to bookmark sites and save favorites can be a great tool when completing research. Additional skills for fixing browser performance issues should include how to clear a browserś history, cache, and cookies. These problem solving skills can save your child time when working on those important projects. These free basic computer skills lessons are a great place to have your child start. Another wonderful resource is Basic Browser Tools.
  1. Online research skills. One of the most important skills for your child to master is online research skills. By developing the ability to do keyword searches and differentiate between legitimate resources, students will be well on their way to mastering online research. Students must also know how to fact-check information, cite online sources, and more. These practice ideas are a great way to help your middle schooler become more competent in completing research skills.

Sara Dexter, an associate director in the University of Virginia’s education school, commented that she has been assessing students´ computer skills for more than twenty-five years and says that acquiring 21st-century skills is a necessity for today’s middle school students; nonetheless, she says that when students were asked to complete simulated computer-based real-world scenarios, they struggled. The majority could not work through real-world scenarios that required them to access, process, and communicate information using different technology mediums. She notes that these skills are a necessity for success in today’s era.

When seeking to help your middle school student become more proficient in computer proficiency, start small. Find ways to build these topics into their daily routine. Make it fun and allow them to see the benefits of mastering computer technology. The sky is really the limit when it comes to helping your child go from computer illiterate to a true digital native! Investing time in these skills now will help save your child the anxiety that comes with failed results similar to ¨I can’t find anything about this topic¨ while in a rushed panic trying to finish their homework.

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