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Middle School Technology
September 19, 2010 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Calling All Current Middle School Teachers and Parents of Middle Schoolers For Technology Information

An educational company has asked me to update some study skills print materials for grades 4-6 that someone wrote before the widespread use of computers, super cell phones, IPads, Kindles, et al. The materials will be sold through school book clubs, written for the kids, with teaching guides offered separately. The demographic is the lower economic end of middle class school districts where there might be one shared computer in a child's home, probably no iPads, iPhones, and not quite enough up-to-date computers in the classroom. I would like to know the following from middle school teachers and parents of middle school students:

--How do middle school kids, particularly the younger ones, actually use computers for organizing themselves, studying, preparing for tests in all subjects, writing, scheduling, reading books/textbooks?

--What awesome and useful homework helping web sites do teachers and parents recommend to their kids, and which the kids actually use?

--What educational programs and apps are popular and effective with this age group?
posted by Elsie to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Middle school = grades 6-8
Jr high = grades 7-8 or 7-9
posted by k8t at 12:50 PM on September 19, 2010


Also, if you're focusing on specific devices or sites that are hot right now, the material will be even less useful because it will be dated more quickly.

Some quick difference between late 80s and now:

- papers and projects will use a printed out document rather than handwritten
- computer games with learning outcomes are more integrated into the school day
- teachers can get materials/activities from the web
- research for papers goes beyond the encyclopedia and 2 books in the school library - assessing credibility of sources is more of an issue now
- kids now might carry high value items on them, increasing theft
posted by k8t at 12:55 PM on September 19, 2010


(For the record, there are middle schools, junior highs, and intermediate schools in my area that are all grades 6-8, dunno where k8t's divisions come from, but nobody would consider grades 4-6 middle school).
posted by brainmouse at 1:13 PM on September 19, 2010


My middle school and jr. High titles come from a research study I did a few years ago. I studied junior high (7th and 8th in this city) students. In my literature review, I had to explicitly state what claims were made for what ages.

Based on that study, it seems that in the majority of districts in the US use middle school if it is 6-8 and junior high for 7th-8th and sometimes 9th.

Without a doubt, 4th and 5th graders wouldn't be considered middle school except in a handful of districts and most certainly wouldn't be marketed to as middle schoolers. (And an obvious difference is that 4th and 5th graders are with 1 teacher most of the day while 'middle schoolers' are likely switching classes for different subjects.)
posted by k8t at 1:22 PM on September 19, 2010


Middle school teacher here. Schools are still very wary of adding in technology pieces for home use for many reasons, but basically, we can't assume that every kid has computer access at home. So we rarely assign computer-based homework or create assignments that have to be completed at home on the internet. However, we create a lot of lessons from online sources.

How do middle school kids, particularly the younger ones, actually use computers for organizing themselves, studying, preparing for tests in all subjects, writing, scheduling, reading books/textbooks?

They don't. They still use their handwritten organizers (day planners).

--What awesome and useful homework helping web sites do teachers and parents recommend to their kids, and which the kids actually use?

We recommend lots but the kids really only use quia.com, which they LOVE. Teachers create homepages and on those pages we create (or borrow) quizzes, study materials, basically stuff that reinforces what they learned in class. We also use coolmathgames.com in class; it reinforces skills via games.

--What educational programs and apps are popular and effective with this age group?

Again, quia.com and coolmathgames.com are often used in free class time.

It's generally felt that until we're sure every kid has a home computer, we need to keep computer work to the minimum.
posted by dzaz at 2:18 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do middle school kids, particularly the younger ones, actually use computers for organizing themselves, studying, preparing for tests in all subjects, writing, scheduling, reading books/textbooks?

With direction, my students will play games as part of the study or review process. Like dzaz says, the rest of it is on paper.

My 6th grade students respond well to the videos and follow-up quizzes at Brainpop. They like to also play versions of games built around Jeopardy, Who Want to be a Millionaire, hangman, matching.
posted by john m at 2:49 PM on September 19, 2010


(And an obvious difference is that 4th and 5th graders are with 1 teacher most of the day while 'middle schoolers' are likely switching classes for different subjects.)

Not in our district. The 4th graders have a 2-3teacher team (depending on the number of students in the grade) and switch several classes. The 5th and 6th graders have 4-5 teachers on a team and switch for just about every class.

Anyway, my daughter is in the OP's age range (5th grader) and they don't use technology at home nearly as much as the middle schoolers here (7th and 8th grade). They have Smart Boards in the classrooms and laptops that float around the rooms. But at home, computer use is limited to typing reports and doing a little research for projects.

My 8th grader, on the other hand, uses technology a LOT. They do a lot of PowerPoint stuff, lots of online research, they have chat rooms on their homework sites they can use to chat with the teacher and other classmates, etc. We also have access to Progress Book, which tells us things like daily averages, test/quiz scores, and homework for the week. I love it. I feel more informed with him than I do with my daughter.

I haven't found any of the homework sites we've been directed to over the years to be any good (aside from the ones the teachers set up themselves, like Wiki pages or Progress Book).
posted by cooker girl at 2:52 PM on September 19, 2010


We school at home using a "virtual" curriculum. That means that some of the classes are online, but others are more traditional. My daughter is 5-6th grade, and navigates through her lessons mostly on her own with some instruction from me. That said, mostly she does games from www.coolmath.com or pbskids.org in her free time. She does no organizing of her day on the computer. She is learning to type using Dance Mat Typing at http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/. We do not have Kindle, Iphone or any use for apps as we do not have those products in part because geography prevents us from actually getting cell coverage at our house.

We have friends of the lower economic levels. I would say it is fair to say that if the kid is free and reduced lunch at school that they do not have reliable computers or internet connection. Key word is reliable. They may have it off and on as the finances allow, but food and rent are more important. If they are a rural family they may not have access to transportation to take the kids to the library.

I am not sure about the district that we now live in, but the one in CA had one classroom computer of indeterminate age. (I got the impression it was not linked to the web.) The newest technology was a white board and dry erase pens. There was a computer lab, but the kids only got to go once a week, and the teacher was funded 1/4 time by the state, and 1/4 by the PTA. (Unless funding has been cut, which is possible.) The other half he taught gym. There was one technology person for 15 schools, and generally he was able to come to this school one day a month. This same school district also cut librarians so that the elementary schools (k-6) had a librarian for the whole school only one day a week. In this district you would also have to add in the factor of English as a second language and assume that in many houses there would not be someone to help with any computer issues at home.
posted by 445supermag at 4:00 PM on September 19, 2010


Middle school teacher here as well. Our middle school includes 5th-8th graders. All grades have 4 teachers that students rotate to as well as specials teachers (art, music, French, PE). Our students use quite a bit of technology on a regular basis. We do PowerPoint presentations from 4th grade on, papers are done on the computer and saved so they can be revised after each draft, and technology is used with our math curriculum for students to do online review quizzes or games, as well as online games and puzzles that aren't part of our curriculum. We are beginning an online blog for some of the classes so students can chat back and forth about assignments and things they are discovering or wondering about between classes.

We have the same issues with at-home computer use as stated by other here. We know there are some students who don't have internet access at home and therefore, we can't assign homework that you have to use the computer to do. Sometimes we give homework that can be done during study hall at school so these students have an opportunity to complete the assignment before they go home. This does make it more difficult to incorporate technology into the classroom.

We use websites that coordinate with our curriculum, as well as websites like: its.leesummit.k12.mo.us/smartboard.htm (Smartboard, etc.)
www.quia.com/shared (Great for Stations…)
www.funbrain.com (Also Great For Stations…)
www.iknowthat.com (Science, Math - Interactive)
panoramas.dk (Quick Time Virtual Reality - QTVR)
www.learner.org/interactives (Interactive Learning)
www.lizardpoint.com/fun (Geography and more)
www.mrdonn.org (Lots of Areas!)
www.awesomelibrary.org (Tons of Resources!)
www.pocketmod.com (Paper Organizer!)
www.getreadytoread.org (Early Literacy Resource)
www.readwritethink.org (Tools for Literacy!)
grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ (Grammar!)
www.mathsnet.net/logo/turtlelogo (LOGO Programming)

There are lots more websites out there - you just need time to find them all!
posted by garnetgirl at 4:21 PM on September 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


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