The Awesomeness of Applied Digital Skills
I admit I am a totally “Googley” teacher. From Google Classroom to creating journal entries with Google Draw with Kindergarten, I love immersing my students in the educational amazing-ness provided by Google For Education! You can imagine my chagrin when I found the Applied Digital Skills curriculum would be geared toward middle, high school, and post-secondary students. This would potentially be the curriculum of my tech teacher dreams, but it would be mockingly out of reach for my wonderful elementary aged students! Of course, I used the G-Suite for Education in my tech lab, but I was dying to see how Google would get kids elbow-deep in the functions of their applications.
Not ready to accept defeat, I researched the curriculum and quickly observed that Google did not disappoint yet again; the lessons truly introduced and familiarized learners with the “ins and outs” of the G Suite for Education. What was most intriguing was the engaging manner in which the lessons were presented. I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to create their own “You Choose” adventure using technology (we are blessed to have touch-screen Chromebooks at my school-everything is cooler with technology! :)). I was so impressed, I knew I had to share this with my students. Would my 4th and 5th-grade students be up to the challenge of a middle and high school-level technology curriculum? There was only one way to find out!
Buckle Up and Dive In
5th grade began the exploration with Applied Digital Skills first; these were my students who had me the longest and wouldn’t judge me if this experiment failed! I was candid with my students and let them know we would be taking this Google journey together and I would depend on them heavily for feedback on what worked and what didn’t. We started with the “If-Then” Story unit using Google Slides and Google Docs. The student buy-in was huge as many of the students in my classes were fans of the “you choose” adventure story genre. Framing the lessons so the students get what the “take-away” is supposed to be, I informed my students this project would sharpen their collaboration and creativity skills; two skills that would further them on their journey for college-readiness. My technology lab has an HBCU theme (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) theme, so when I say “college ready skills”, my kids know I mean business!
The format of the lessons is very student-friendly! The videos are incredibly easy to understand and the instructions are clear. It was most impressive that the rigor was appropriate for my intermediate aged students but if the focus was put on the more challenging learning outcomes, it would provide the same rigor for upper-level students as well. For students of various learning abilities, the opportunity to work with their classmates in addition to having the video instructions to a reference provided differentiation like no other technology units I’ve come across. The submission of work was seamless with our Google Classroom usage as well.
Just Keep Swimming!
The biggest “challenge” my Rockets ran into was the accountability factor. A majority of the student projects they were responsible for in the past were heavily teacher-guided. On a few occasions, when meeting with small groups, students expressed they were concerned about keeping up and being on schedule with the progression of their stories. I enjoyed that my kids experienced this, as time management and keeping on track are major factors in a student’s success in middle school and beyond. One of the major benefits of “specials” classes such as technology is it provides the academic “life lessons” that students must learn. To help guide them along, I posted “assignments” in Google Classroom letting groups know where they should be by the end of a class period. Each group elected a secretary (responsible for document submission) and an “Accountability Manager”, a student responsible for checking their work against what was due in Google Classroom. This student marked each class period’s assignment as “done” to make sure they moved along at a proper pace.
Once my students moved past the collaboration document and dove into their “If-Then” virtual novels, the magic truly began to happen. The amount of ownership and creativity displayed on the part of my students was truly awe-inspiring! Many of my 5th graders who were withdrawn discovered a new motivation and were huge contributors to their group success. My kids took the basic skills of Google Slides and added video, color, font and other features that blew my mind. They were displaying creative genius and didn’t realize it 🙂 I am my students’ biggest fan and this project only increased my admiration for their academic prowess. Perseverance was the name of the game and my 5th graders rose to the challenge time and time again during this unit.
My favorite moments of the lesson were certainly the student presentations. The amount of pride in each child’s face made this entire process worthwhile. They enjoyed taking a project from start to finish and sharing their treasure with their classmates was the icing on the cake. Their classmates encouraged them and we celebrated learning at it’s finest. The outcome was so amazing; I am working on the next unit for 5th grade and decided to introduce the Applied Digital Skills to the 4th-grade classes as well. I am remixing some of the lessons to include a “college-ready” theme and I’ve been inspired to create some of my own for other grade levels. For example, my 3rd graders are working on comparing costs of college using Google Sheets; the possibilities are endless! This “Googley” tech teacher is signed, sealed, delivered on the awesomeness of the Applied Digital Skills curriculum.
“Coach” Victor Hicks is an Elementary Technology Instructor in Atlanta Public Schools. Victor enjoys developing “college and career ready” skills in his students through the engaging world of educational technology. In addition to teaching, Coach Hicks is the proud coach of the National Champion Psi Phi Beta Step Team.
Want to learn more? Sign up to participate in Applied Digital Skills Week to receive daily tips and challenges as well as access to live events and prizes for using the curriculum with your students!