Google Apps Ninja

For the second year, I will teach an Introduction to Computer Technology course. This course is provided to incoming 6th graders and other new middle school students. The focus of the course is for students to become familiar with the suite of applications provided by Google that can help them in their studies:

  • Gmail (Students receive a school email address but often have one of their own – until Google surprises them with an age check.)
  • Calendar (I was impressed by how many students began tracking assignments from other courses on gCal.)
  • Search (My, oh my, there can be fewer time sinks than a student in front of a search engine.)
  • Drive (The biggie)
      • Documents – Word Processing
      • Spreadsheets
      • Presentations
      • Forms – Surveys
  • Sites (Students build their own pages).

The fact that students walk into a class at different ability levels is compounded in an intro course as this one. Last year, I provided a series of mini-lessons to teach the applications to students though some were already quite familiar with a few of the programs.

Site modified for the purposes of my tech class.

This year, I am jumping on the Ninja Program started by Jeff Utecht. His program appears to be designed for a school community at large whereas I intend to focus on my class. A few changes:

  • Fortunately my class is Pass/Fail so I do not need to assign students a grade but I do need minimum expectations.
  • His program is based solely upon the completion of “belt” tests. I am working on projects that students will also complete to fully earn the belt level..
  • Mini-lessons will continue. Students have the option to attend or continue working if they understand the concept being discussed. The daily mini-lesson will be posted on the Home page.
  • Students still have the option of taking a test as often as they need. I want them to continue working and to seek out help (Searching is a key skill.) I hope to have more time to work with the students who struggle.
  • Several people using this program have sites that post students in the class and their current belt level for each category. I fear that a ranking system in the class could develop that I want to avoid. Instead, I have place a “Congratulations: board on the home page and will keep this updated on a weekly basis as students earn belts.

My AST Ninja site is almost fully functional. I need to finish linking the tests and plug in appropriate projects. I am definitely looking forward to seeing the reception to this self-paced learning experiment.


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