Back to School with Applied Digital Skills
“TBH.” “143.” “Turnt.” “V.” “BOL.”
“Who will keep track of my streaks?”
If the new technology apps and terminology that your students and teens use are like a foreign language to you, then you’re not alone. Many teachers in the classroom did not grow up in the digital age. Personally, we purchased our first computer that could access the internet in our senior year of college. We bought our first cell phone once we were out of college and it only made phone calls. As a result, many teachers and parents are constantly trying to stay current with the latest technology trends for kids. Considering the fact that technology changes so fast and new apps are released daily, this is not an easy task.
One of the main goals that we all have is to keep our kids safe in the digital world. But how do we do that? And who is responsible for teaching these skills to our students? Should it be the parents? The teachers? If we are not familiar with all of the tools, how are we supposed to teach the students best practices? These are all great questions and luckily, many organizations are stepping up to help us with the answers.
Google is known for its famous search tool. However, that isn’t all Google can do for us. Google has recently released their online Applied Digital Skills curriculum which is free for all educators and students. The curriculum is a project-based, video-rich curriculum which aims to help teachers and students “gain invaluable skills that prepare you for problem-solving in a digital world.” Their website is easy to navigate and gives students and teachers voice and choice in how to learn and share their knowledge for each lesson. A couple of the great features of the platform are its flexibility and rich content. It allows the teachers to organize students into classes and select which topics to assign so that students can work through the lessons at their own pace.
The Setup Process
This past spring, we worked through one of the units from Google’s Applied Digital Skills curriculum. When you navigate to the website, you can log in with your school’s Google account and immediately get started.
The landing page for teachers gives you all of the directions you need to set up your first class including asking students to sign in, selecting material for your students to learn about and assigning lessons. A great place to start is the Back to School kit which includes posters, flyers, and a quick start guide.
Check out our blog for tips on getting started with your students. This blog post takes you through how to make your first Applied Digital Skills class. After making a class, you’re ready to share it with students:
The content is organized by lessons. We both loved that it gives you a short description, suggested age level, time to complete, skills taught and even a link to share to Google Classroom for easy access.
The lesson we chose was entitled, “Technology, Ethics, and Security.” It sounds technical, but it can be adapted for both age levels. This is a research-based lesson but there are many lessons to choose from and each has a different approach to addressing the topic. You can learn more about the courses by reviewing the Applied Digital Skills FAQs. Jen works with juniors and seniors and Brian works with middle school students. Each group of students was able to use the reference material from Google to learn about the topic and then make their learning visible by creating a public service announcement using a tool of their choice. Most of our students opted to create a Slides presentation since it is a tool they were already familiar with from previous projects.
Teacher Dashboard and Student Progress
Within the teacher dashboard, there are three tabs: Lessons, Student Progress and Research Topics. The “Lessons” tab has an overview of current lessons, student progress link and tips to get you set up for success.
Student Progress Tab
Sometimes, working online can be difficult to keep track of student progress and their work completed. However, since the students are set up in classes, it is easy to follow where all of your students are within the unit, how much they completed, and what subtopics they chose to work on for their project.
The “Student Progress” tab lists all of your students. The teacher can select the unit to display the date of last activity, survey completion visual, completed tasks with a check mark and where they are currently working. You can also choose an activity to see learner responses specific to that task.
This section is the one that surprised us the most. It shows the teacher what topics the students selected to work on for their project, as well as whether or not they are working individually or as part of a group. The teacher can also assign specific topics to students from this view.
The Results and Student Feedback
All teachers know that sometimes we create what we think is an amazing lesson and for some reason, it just flops with a group of students. So, we always look at what kind of outcome we get from our students with respect to quality of work and gain feedback from the students about their dislikes and likes. In our use of Google’s Applied Digital Skills, the students created some great presentations for their final projects and gave positive feedback. We have shared a few with you here so you can get an idea of the topics they chose (Student Examples). It is helpful to see what resonated with the students. Several groups chose a topic that dealt with the use of social media and depression or body image, cyberbullying, protecting yourself online, and being a good digital citizen. Our students today have grown up with technology and use it heavily. However, we cannot discount the fact that many of them realize the negative effects it can have on all of us. Unfortunately, for many of our students, it has become a huge part of their everyday life that they do not know how to completely get rid of it. If we can teach them to be aware of the impacts, how to protect themselves, and maybe use it for something good, we will all benefit in the end.
As a whole, the lessons were quite helpful for both teachers and students. The curriculum was easy to set up, implement and gain insight from our students. The topic we chose is one that highly impacts our students every day, so we feel it was important and beneficial to take the time out of our daily curriculum and include Google’s Applied Digital Skills curriculum. This is a great way to start off your school year as you are getting to know your students and get started with using technology in the classroom. It is also something easy to squeeze in during times of the year that we often need a break or typically do not have good participation from our students due to holidays, weather delays, etc. We hope you take a look at the lessons and share your experiences too.
I have been a middle school science teacher since the year 2000. I am a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Apple Certified Teacher. I recently became highly involved in the applications of student creation tools for virtual reality and augmented reality apps in the classroom as a result of seeing the increased level of enjoyment and engagement of my students. I am a 1:1 Chromebook classroom and I am always searching for innovative ideas to further integrate technology resources with my students.
I have taught science since 1999 and have been a district technology leader since 2002. I am also a Google for Education Certified Trainer and an Apple Certified Teacher. My interest in technology started with my MS in Instructional Technology from NYIT where I studied effective technology integration. Recently, I have found a passion for virtual and augmented reality now that mobile devices have become powerful and many students carry them daily. As I delve deeper into a SAMR model, I focus on creation tools instead of only consumption in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom.