On (not) teaching applications

A discussion arose on an email list about teaching/using Google docs vs. Microsoft Word.  That discussion actually made it to Google+.  A teacher posted reasons why he teaches Google docs, the most important of which is about teaching concepts because applications change.  The conversation on Google+ is interesting and one I participate in at nearly every parent night.  The key point that comes up is that Office is used in the “business world” and won’t kids who use Google docs be at a disadvantage.  I’m in a slightly different situation in that all of our students are going to college.  I hardly think a lack of hard experience or a specific course in Word or the Office suite is going to keep them from a good job.  And using Word is not rocket science.  And, I always talk about and point out how similar docs is to Word.

Ten years ago, Google docs did not exist.  My students won’t be going on the job market for about ten years.  Who knows what will be around, what even Word will look like.  When I learned these things, you had to actually type in tags/codes to format documents.   Things have changed a lot, and I’ve adapted quite well, thank you.  So I teach kids to adapt.  I don’t focus on specifics of where functions are.  I encourage them to find it.  And I teach HTML and CSS and talk about how word processing used to be like that. And now, of course, you can make a web site (like this one) without even knowing those codes.  I still think it’s important to understand that there is code underneath all these programs, and that’s what I really try to emphasize in my classes, not how to italicize.

I’ve shifted my curriculum away from applications and toward Computer Science concepts as much as possible.  While there may be a group of students who would benefit from putting “proficient at Microsoft Word” on their resume, I’m guessing that “proficient at HTML/CSS” with an actual web site to show for it is going to put them a little more ahead.

One Reply to “On (not) teaching applications”

  1. We have the same discussions. We have tried to focus on teaching kids how to learn software apps, not teaching them software apps. I have them find app tutorials and comment on them. When my advanced programming class starts a new language I could really careless about how well they can manipulate the language, I am more interested in how well they can learn from the given learning material, be it a tutorial or a text.

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