Elementary Computer Skills Training

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The CLIP Program Provides an Intensive Approach to Teaching Computer Skills to First-Graders

Local elementary schools are moving away from setting up computer labs in favor of getting computers into classrooms. Unfortunately, this d'esn't leave teachers with much of an area to teach students how to use the computers as a group. The CLIP (Computer Literacy by Intensive Preparation) program was developed to meet this need - to initiate first-grade students to the computer and its use in a single day. Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, developed the CLIP program as a pilot project with a small elementary school in an adjacent county. The program consists of first-graders who, along with a parent or guardian, come to the university for a day of intensive training on computers set up to match the software load the students use at their school.

Program Goals

The CLIP program has been running for two years. It was designed to partner with local elementary schools that have computers in the classroom, but don't have a central computer lab for initial student training. The program's goal is to bring first-graders to a computer lab equipped with a data projector and prepare them to use the computer, rather than to learn any piece of software in depth. This enables the school district to focus its resources on providing computers in the classroom, rather than in a central computer lab. In moving away from computer labs, teachers find it difficult to teach basic computer skills to an entire group of students with only one or two computers in the classroom. The CLIP program lets students work on classroom computers by themselves, without the time-consuming, one-on-one teacher training needed at their own schools.

Elaborate software is not required for the program to be successful. Because many of today's commercial educational software packages are very good at helping students use the software, the CLIP program focuses on teaching students to master the basics of the computer interface. The six main goals of the program are:

1. Teach how to use the mouse to select objects.
2. Teach how to click or double-click on objects.
3. Teach how to open and close programs.
4. Teach common conventions for keyboard use.
5. Teach how to print.
6. Expose students to the conventions of software use.

 

Once the students have mastered these goals, they are ready to use new software and learn its complexities on their own. Simple programs such as calculator and paint programs, which are provided with most operating systems, can meet all six of these goals. In addition, specialized software for children or education enhances the students' experience.

This is how the single, daylong program works. It starts with each child sitting down with their parent or guardian to work at their own computer. For some, this is nothing new, but for others this is a first, exciting experience. Using the data projector, the computer lab instructor shows how the calculator program works and calls out a few practice problems for the students. At this point, some students know what they are doing, while others are still being assisted by their adult helper. The students are eager to solve the problems and check their answers against the instructor's. The next step is to close the calculator program and open the paint program, which the students quickly master using the paint tools - easily changing colors and erasing strokes. By this time, the adult helpers are still assisting the students in executing some tasks, but the students have their hands on the mouse and are not letting go.

After the students have mastered the paint tool, they move on to opening line drawing clip-art files, which teach the students how to use the Fill tool and the Text Insert tool in the paint program. They then get to print out their colored clip-art file with their names on it. After seeing other students' printouts, each student tends to want to try a different clip-art picture. By now the students have met all the goals set just a few hours before, and are happily opening new files, selecting different colors and printing their work. Following a short break, a commercial software reading package is demonstrated for the class. The goal of this section of the program is for the students to understand that clicking on objects initiates certain actions. This is followed with a quick afternoon review of the lessons learned in the morning. The rest of the afternoon, the students use a variety of educational software suited to their age level.

 

A True Learning Experience

The CLIP program has been a great success so far. And while there is more lab setup time than regular users might require, the lab technicians look forward to the event each year. The preparation process includes some difficulties, but always provides a learning experience for all. Some important considerations before implementing the program are:

1. Recess space. Because children at this age still need time to run and play, take some time out for recess.
2. Room for adults and kids. Provide enough room for both students and adults at each computer station.
3. Re-creating the classroom. Make sure the lab has the same operating system and computer desktop as in the students' classroom.
4. Set up/breakdown. Allow enough time for the lab's desktops and systems to be set up and broken down in the same way they are in the classroom.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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