Whether required by school administration or initiated by teachers organizing their school year, long range planning is an effective tool to build a technology-rich learning environment. A successful plan for computer curriculum can:
- focus learning in a systematic way
- manage time and resources efficiently
- integrate computer skills with other subject areas through project based learning
- improve student learning through effective evaluation and assessment
Follow the steps outlined below to develop your long-range plan.
Step 1: Identify Technology Skills
To begin, consider the computer skills students should acquire. Some school administrations or school boards have a list of required technology skills to be achieved in each grade. This will provide an excellent guide.
In addition, when selecting technology skills to target it is important to consider the background experience of the students. If possible, poll last year’s teachers to gain an idea of what the students learned last year.
Step 2: Select Topic or Theme for Technology Projects
A project based curriculum promotes learning most effectively. This is an instructional approach that poses real world problems in order for students to gain skills in a meaningful learning environment. Multiple subject areas are integrated with technology to simulate an authentic real world challenge.
If you are a classroom teacher, examine other subject areas and decide where technology can supplement, foster, and facilitate learning goals. For example, students can use computer programs to write a report about a research project in Social Sciences, analyze numerical data in Mathematics, or create a digital story for Language Arts.
If you are a computer lab teacher, collaborate with classroom teachers to find themes that can be studied using a cross-curricular approach. For example, if students are studying a distant land in Geography, they can produce a travel advertisement for that location using computers to demonstrate their new learning.
Step 3: Chunk Technology Projects Based on Reporting Periods or School Breaks
Consider the school year and reporting periods when planning computer curriculum. Plan to finish a project before winter and spring breaks, and well before the end of the school year. If computer skills are included in grading requirements, plan to complete and evaluate computer projects in advance of the report card dates.
Step 4: Study the School Calendar
Using the amount of computer time allotted to your students, make a rough calculation of how many sessions in the computer lab will be required to complete each project. Students who have access to the computer lab once a week will need much more time to complete a project than students who have computer lab periods several times a week or even daily.
Try to take into account school holidays, trips, and any other activities that limit instructional time. Always add some extra time for unexpected events, student absences, and technology gremlins that could extend the number of class periods needed to complete a computer project.
A completed long range plan will save time and minimize stress for teachers. For students, a long range plan produces an effective technology program that teaches a comprehensive index of computer skills in an organized progression. And finally, integrating computer projects using a cross-curricular approach will actively engage students and promote learning. It’s a win-win case for everyone!