Back in the saddle…again

Thank you Aerosmith (or Gene Autry depending on you age). We’ve got a short 3 day week, so I thought I’d give my students something difficult to challenge them since I won’t be able to give them the usual 5 days of hard work. Since we’ve been creating tables that mimic the function of databases in Social Studies, it’s time to graduate them to the real thing; Access. While it may seem a bit daunting to use a database program with elementary age students (although sixth grade is really middle school in my school), I think that the extensive work we’ve done creating tables, organizing notes digitally, and making entries with the Amazing Flash Card Machine has prepared them for the no-thrill (no cool web interface), slow process of data entry.

Alright, so it’s not the most creative and ingenious integration of technology, but it is an important skill to have. As I periodically sift through the classifieds of our local paper I notice more and more general help needed with data entry and/or database skills. This lends credence to my personal belief that the old “mechanically minded, works well with his or her hands” skill set is quickly being replaced with a new “computer friendly, work well with his or her head” skill set. As our so called “digital natives” learn how to rapidly play games and access entertainment content on the Internet, it’s increasingly important that we as educators show them how to use tools that allow them to access information, arrange data, and prepare them for the world after the games have been turned off.

To help I’m using a great site for tutorials and learning new software called Classroom Connect. While it is a subscription based service, they have quite a liberal free trial period that I would recommend any teacher using. The site has pre-made tutorials that help learners understand software, while creating a usable product in the process. You can organize an entire class, give each of them a login and record and grade their individual progress or assign different resources. If that’s too much work, you can arrange for all of the students to have a single class login that allows them to all work on the same project or tutorial at once. The database tutorial works perfectly for my Social Studies benchmarks as the students will be creating a database of foreign countries that they’ll be able to add to once it’s done.