Fourth and Fifth Grades

It’s been a month since I last posted here? Wow. Two new responsibilities have kept me busy: managing our new web site configuration and teaching fourth and fifth grade technology classes. I see these lovely kids twice a week for forty minutes each. It feels exciting and appropriate to get back into the classroom after too many years in the office. Luckily, I still have all of my other responsibilities to keep me busy! ;^)

Fourth grade students take technology classes for the first time this year. They started typing practice in third grade but otherwise have had only occasional computer contact in their classrooms. We started with class expectations, explained the Smart Board, and then set up usernames and passwords to access network resources. Fifth graders got started similarly but then left for a week to visit three farms as part of their “Pitchfork to Plate” curriculum.

My main goal this year is to have technology periods build on activities taking place in the rest of the kids’ curriculum. The first two projects are already underway. Fourth grade students start keeping a reading log, and I’ve build an online database for them to use. They will use their newly acquired network accounts to access the database and post their first book of the year. This will allow for a simple lesson in structured data, fields, records, and reports. As the year goes on, they will see patterns in their own reading: what titles, authors, genres, and difficulty levels of books they have read. Once we have a fair bit of data, the reports will become more complex, and we will take a look at reading patterns across the entire class. I am excited to start the year with databases, which most adults conflate with spreadsheets!

Fifth grade students will build paper-based diagrams of how substances move through the farms they have studied. Whether studying milk, meat, or corn, the students will sketch a plan, search for clipart, and each create one or two frames for their diagrams. We are using as an example National Geographic digrams (though we won’t quite approximate the quality of their illustrations). We successfully resisted the temptation to use presentation software, which would only allow us to view one step in the process at a time. It’s important to us to be able to view the whole process at once, and we have the billboard space to spare! I suppose we could also create some extra-wide web pages with horizontal scrollbars, a favorite trick from the old days.

On a technical note, I searched for an hour to find a good source of free, vector, farm clipart, only to find the best source under my nose: Microsoft Office Clip Gallery! Too bad their clipart objects only download properly in Safari, and Firefox is our default browser!

Another tech point: I am using Apple Remote Desktop in the lab to make batch changes to the 22 computers in there. It’s allright, but I miss the capabilities of Workgroup Manager (but don’t really want to do the back-end Windows-Mac integration work there, either).

I’d like to expand my professional learning network to include more elementary tech educators. Drop me a line if you’re in that group!


  1. Jim Heynderickx says:

    Richard, that sounds like fun. I’ll admit that I’ve never spent an hour searching for vector farm clipart, but I did teach a summer camp about making web pages to K-1 students.

    Our MS tech coordinator has been bringing all fifth graders to visit the server room this week– it’s been fun to wave hello!

  2. Steve Ruddy says:

    Maybe this will solve your clip-art issue –
    Command-shift-4 will let you capture the clip art as a jpg which should display well in any browser. It is also a nice lesson for the students.

  3. Richard says:

    Thanks, Steve. It was an important part of the project to keep the artwork in vector format for the purpose of taking it apart or modification.


  4. Charlie says:

    Awesome work, Richard! I’ve dabbled in part time Tech Teaching at the middle school level. I think what worked best for me was information gathering challenges that were independently directed. Anyway, now I work at iD Tech, a computer summer camp</a>. If you have some really techy kids, send them my way.

  5. Richard says:

    Thanks for the comment, Charlie. In fact, our fifth grade students are sending out peer surveys on self-selected topics, and fourth grade students are researching "mysteries" (big questions) they have identified on the web! Yes, the students are pretty well engaged in these topics.

    Your camps look interesting, but you don’t offer any in Oregon! Too bad.