Innovating in a Computer Sciences Classroom

I teach computer technology and CompTIA A+ certification at Thomas A. Edison CTE High School in the New York City public school system. Alexander Bell Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to make my program successful:

  1. Hands-On Performance Exams: I use official and approved online course data to give my students the best possible chance to be certified just like professionals. When it comes to testing my students though, I add fun, teamwork, and critical thinking to my course by creating what I call “Hands-On Performance Exams.” Teams of 2-3 students must show, discuss and prove a given learned task to me in response to surprise question on a topic they have prepared for. I always put a primary focus on making these exam scenarios as “real-world” for my students as possible while challenging their critical thinking skills.
  1. Technical Notebooks: To help my students foster good organization habits, I have them create a “Tech Manual” that includes their classmate names; teacher names; a grading/comments page; index; signed documents by student and parent illustrating commitment; course data with graded assignments and homework; and vocabulary. I inspect their books for completeness and organization 2-3 times per marking period. As a result, my students leave proud of themselves for making a useful resource that they can use to reflect on at the end of the year.
  1. Student-Run Services: The MOUSE (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools & Education) Squad is an engaging CTE program that I have advised at my school since 2004. This program is an in-house help desk paid internship via the Department of Education’s Work-Based Learning program. The top students enrolled in my program are recruited to join the MOUSE Squad, where they develop their IT and leadership skills by directly responding to incoming live service calls throughout the school for assistance with printers, smart boards, internet, and other computer-related problems. Beyond making our school’s staff members really happy by resolving computing hardware problems within minutes, this program also saves our school thousands of dollars annually in IT support.
  1. Marketing CTE Accomplishments: Display, display…display!!! I like to hang motivational accomplishments in my classroom, including student certifications, posters, partnership posters/promotional data, awards, and other CTE accomplishments. I also currently have three themed billboards outside of my classroom that I use to promote my A+ Certification course, the National Technical Honor Society which I advise, and the MOUSE Squad. This strategy is a very effective way to market your program(s) daily toward the students, staff, visiting parents, and political guests, and allows your programs and activities to market themselves even when you’re not in the building. Be sure to frequently update the data and images.

Feel free to email me for examples of any of these activities, or read my next post about the important partnerships I’ve created for my program.

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Alexander C. Bell

2015 ACTE Region I Teacher of the Year

Teacher, Thomas A. Edison CTE High School

Jamaica, New York


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