Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On teaching office productivity suites

Reproducing an email from Randy Bandiola of COSCA, adding to our mailing list exchange of Linux teaching experiences. This note touches on issues regarding the conduct of office productivity classes. Note also the direction of diocesan schools in Negros Oriental to go with open source software.
Dom, one problem I see with introducing students to software particularly the office productivity suite is that most teachers do it in a more "traditional" way: click on file, then click on save, then enter filename, etc.

Most of the students are in one way or the other already familiar with the software. They just find the lectures boring. What Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong did and what I've replicated here in COSCA with much success is to integrate it with other subjects - say theme writing in English using OO.org Word Processor. We allow them to explore (with a little
guidance) the nitty gritty of saving files and formatting.

In a way, we don't compare MS Office with OO.org so everything is transparent. They use it as a tool and grading them based on the output. I believe that a little creativity on the part of the teacher will go a long way in making OO.org an accepted contender for MS Office. But we'll have to sell this idea to the teachers first. Right now, my team in COSCA is already preparing the final touches to our OO.org textbook and exercise booklet, in preparation for transition to Open Source of all Diocesan Catholic Schools next school year. We are planning to conduct training tentatively this coming October for all computer teachers.


And my additional comments:

This is going to sound extreme, but my personal preference is to not teach people how to use MS Word or even OO.o Writer. The number of features interferes with the writing process. Students end up substituting good content with fonts and formatting. I would rather start them off with Gedit (or Wordpad) so they can write without any distractions, and transfer it to a more full-featured word processor for the final formatting. But that's just me.

2 comments:

  1. I think your suggestion on using plain ASCII text for writing and composition purposes is very valid.

    The point is to teach people how to write well and do it effectively. Take out the complexity of WP in the process and have people just write.

    Emphasize on clarity in writing, the use of spaces and paragraphs, and of course form and grammar.

    Office suites WP programs should just be used as text formatters, similar to how we use PageMaker a long time ago.

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  2. how about this for a radical idea: why not teach them to write well first and foremost with pen and paper. Typewriters next and then fancy it up with Wordstar or even Wordperfect!

    That's how it was in my day dagnabit. heheh...

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