high school

Talking to High School Students about Technology Electives

bored-16811_640I don’t often talk about high school in this blog, but one of my contributors, Sara Stringer, reminded me that there’s a lot to consider about tech and high school. Here are her thoughts:

Technology classes are proven to prepare students for college, so why do students sometimes forgo these classes in high school? When the time comes to choose high school classes, it’s important to fit in technology. College bound students will find that technology courses broaden their education, thus leading them to better schools. It really doesn’t matter what profession a student is pursuing, technology skills are important across a very broad spectrum and therefore most colleges are pleased to find the class on a student’s transcripts.

Getting Kids Interested

Simply telling a child, “this is going to help you get into a good college,” isn’t always going to work. Many students think technology sounds boring, or doesn’t factor into their long term goals. This simply isn’t the case. Technology isn’t boring. At least, not all the time. Plus, it has many real world applications.  

Kids will find access to the computer pretty fun. Technology is one of the only classes that utilizes computers on a very regular basis. Not only does technology class offer more opportunities to learn keyboarding, it also teaches children how to navigate the Internet, use computer software, and learn all about a computer’s hardware. If applicable, let children know what types of computers, software, and hardware they’ll be working with and on.

Let teens know that having a hands-on class is going to break up the monotony of their day. They’ll be able to work in groups, in order to complete projects. This means getting up and away from the desk from time to time, not something every class allows for. Engage the child and ask them about their favorite classroom activities and see if these activities fit into the tech classroom.

Technology in the Real World

It’s also important to highlight how technology is applicable and useful in the real world. Nearly every type of job uses technology and most colleges are going to look at technology credits in a very positive light. For example, colleges in Grand Rapids like Cornerstone University, offer online classes – a benefit for students who want to take courses from home and study on a more flexible schedule. A technology background will prepare students for the challenges they may face in a virtual classroom.  

Technology is Fun

Many teens don’t realize that technology electives are actually fun. If you’re trying to get your child or student to sign up for a technology class, it’s important to highlight just how fun these classes are. Not only do you get to work in groups sometimes and use computers, but students are also treated to woodworking and crafts.

Technology will Help Improve SAT Scores

According to Teaching with Technology, an article by Boston University Professor Jim Lengel, “If your classroom and your student’s lives focus on these tasks, they’ll score better on the SAT, and school will be a more fulfilling place.” The “tasks” Lengel’s referring to are common technology course offerings, like:

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Thinking
  • Reflection
  • Analyzing
  • Experimenting
  • and Creating  

Use Positive Encouragement

It’s unfortunate, but not every student is going to elect for a technology course in high school. The best thing you, as a parent or teacher, can do is keep positive. Ultimately, it’s the student’s decision. You should be proud that you took the initiative and steered the student in the best possible direction, even if they still opt out of the course. 

6 thoughts on “Talking to High School Students about Technology Electives

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  2. This article is an example of what’s wrong about Technology classes in high schools. Selling Tech classes because they provide some practice in “keyboarding”??? Please! We have to make major changes when it comes to “technology” classes. First off, let’s lose the term. We would never call a course in cabinet-making “hammers and saws”. Nor would we call a course in algebra “calculators.”. Technology classes are not about the tools, they are about the products, and the craft. Better to focus on Media Arts than Technology. Call your classes “Animation” and “Web Design” and “Video Production”. And focus on the skills, and the esthetics. I’m a “Technology” teacher, but not one of my elective courses mentions “technology”. And they are all over-subscribed. Because kids want to learn how to make videos, they want to create websites, they want to do animation, and game development. But, I can promise you, none of them want to do “technology”. We can do ourselves a world of good by losing the word…

    • I agree with parts of your sentiment–that tech classes are often better taught under the banner of a particular skill. Students identify more with ‘Web design’ than ‘technology’, but ‘technology’ remains a good general term for all these types of skills that use digital devices–a great improvement from ‘computer skills’. It’s also the term used in Common Core so has that blessing.

      I love hearing how popular your classes are! What exactly do you teach (beyond the three you mentioned)?

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • “Technology” is so broad a term, as to be meaningless. When I first left high tech to interview for Technology teaching jobs, half of them were for wood shop and/or machine shop classes. The rest were to teach Excel and PowerPoint (that was 12 years ago).

        That’s one reason I’d like us to evolve beyond being Technology teachers. The other is that a focus on “technology” results in a focus on the tools themselves, and not what one can do with those tools. Learning how to use technology is not the end goal, it’s a means to a greater end. So I no longer emphasize the tech tools themselves in my classes.

        What I’ve learned is that kids don’t want to take an “Excel class”, they want a class in “Small Business Finance”. They don’t get too excited about a class in “Autodesk 3DS”. but they do for “3D Animation”. Kids may not be enthused about a class called “Introduction to Final Cut Pro”, but they sign up in droves for “Video Production”.

        So, I’ve changed how my classes are marketed, and how I teach them. I am still certified as a Technology teacher, but I have built my curriculum around Media Arts, with focus on esthetics and end products, less on the tools themselves. Today I teach “Video Production”, “Broadcasting”, “Web Design”, “Advertizing”, “2D Animation” and “3D Animation”. Kids learn all a lot about technology and software along the way, but the focus is not on the tools themselves.

        It may seem like a subtle difference, but I’ve found it is an important one. Like I said in my first post, a master carpenter doesn’t call himself an expert “hammerer and sawyer”, he calls himself a cabinet-maker. Similarly, when kids finish my classes, they’ve become beginner film-makers and animators, not Final Cut Pro or 3DStudio jockeys.

      • You are so right. It’s the authenticity they want, not the rote drills. I like backing into the use of tech (used as a catch-all phrase for a bunch of digital tools). If we need to summarize plot/characters/setting of a story, what tools do students think would be best suited? Voki? Flipboard? Kuzi? If they can sell me on it, I’m fine with it. There are two great strengths in using digital tools in classes (in the way required by Common Core), and one is differentiation.

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