Explorations Syllabus


MS Explorations | MS Academics | Middle School | The American School in Japan

Technology Explorations I, II, III

Course Parameters

Course Title: Technology Explorations I, II, III              Grade: 7 and 8 or teacher consent


Technology Explorations I: None

Technology Explorations II: Technology Explorations I or teacher consent

Technology Explorations III: Technology Explorations II or teacher consent

Books & Materials: FrontPage, Adobe Photoshop or LViewPro, Visual Basic 6 or higher; Squeak (an open user licensed programming environment based on SmallTalk); Microworlds ProLogo, MSW Logo; MS Office programs and MS Office Visual Basic help files, Macromedia Flash, and video and audio editing programs. Other programs may need to be installed depending on student projects. Color printers, scanners, digital cameras (video and still), and digitizing tablets should be available. All students will also have an account in the student area of our web server.

Course Description: Technology Explorations is a series of concurrent one-semester courses in which students propose and collaboratively pursue their own projects to further their own learning. The three courses run concurrently in the same classroom. After students finish Technology Explorations I, they may enroll in Technology Explorations II, then Technology Explorations III in subsequent semesters. As they enroll in each subsequent course, students will be expected to pursue projects that are more complex as well as mentor other students. The focus of the series is for students to design, achieve, and evaluate their own learning. Students will periodically reflect on their own progress during a project and assess their progress at the end. For their course grade, students will propose their grade and support it with evidence of their learning. The focus is on each student's growth, not achieving a fixed goal.

Technology Explorations I is for students who wish a general introduction to various technologies or would like to improve general technology skills. After a preliminary assessment to identify areas or skills students would like to improve, they will propose and accomplish several projects that will help them become more proficient in these areas. As it is often difficult for beginners to know what goals to set, students will also be able to choose from sample projects with an appropriate goal. Projects should either integrate with the current assignments outside of Technology Explorations or address another interest for the student. Students will be expected to use available resources (help files, other students, the Internet, etc.) to complete the project rather than receiving detailed instructions. Students who wish to take a tech skills waiver test will be able to do so at the end of the course.

Technology Explorations II is for students who wish to investigate some aspects of technology in more depth. During the semester, students will propose and accomplish several projects that interest them, with at least one of the projects being done in collaboration with others. A key part of the project proposal will be for students to define the final goal of the project. When possible, such projects should fulfill a requirement in one of the student’s other courses. Tech Investigation II students will be a resource for Technology Explorations I students.

Technology Explorations III is for students who wish to focus on one area of technology and have the background and experience to immediately propose a long-term project and begin work on it with only minimal supervision. In addition, they will prepare a short tutorial as a resources for other students and lead one of the class sessions for the Technology Explorations I and Technology Explorations II students and they may also be asked help others within the school on technology or to use their knowledge to document events within the school.

All students will periodically reflect on their own progress during a project and assess their progress at the end. For the course grade, students will propose their grade and support it with evidence of their learning. The focus is on each student's growth, not achieving a fixed goal.

Student Learning Outcomes

Effective Communicators

Students will write project proposals, which will include not only the project itself, but also proposals on how the project should be assessed. They will revise these proposals based on feedback from the teacher and other students, then report on project progress. Whether students elect to create webs, program a simple game, learn how to effectively manipulate images or sound, they will need to have an audience in mind and structure their communication toward that audience.

Literate Individuals

Students will apply their learning to authentic situations as they will be choosing and developing their own project to meet a goal they set. They will need to read fluently as much of the information and help they get will come from reading the documentation and help systems. They will have to get their assistance from diverse sources, which may include a vendor’s web site, other web sites, FAQ lists, or writing to an expert.

Critical Thinks and Problem Solvers

Students will have to use creativity and persistence to plan and complete their own projects. They will demonstrate flexibility in thinking as they develop their projects and overcome the obstacles.

Self-Directed Productive Learners

Students will independently or collaboratively pursue their own projects. They will have to set and achieve goals as part of the proposal process, and they will periodically reflect on their progress. These reflections will help them adapt their project as they progress and also help them evaluate their progress and assess their project at the end. Although technology may seem to be the focus, the focus is really on students actively participating in developing their own learning curriculum.

Constructive Community Members

A large emphasis in the course will be on intellectual honesty and integrity. Students will, often for the first time, be faced with how they can incorporate another person’s work (e.g., images, writing, or music) into their projects while adhering to standards of ethical conduct. Students will also share their time and talents with students who need more assistance.

Part III Critical Questions

Critical questions will vary by project chosen. However, overarching critical questions are:

  • How do you design and implement your own learning experience from your interests?
  • How do you determine critical questions from your goals and use them to design a learning experience?
  • How do you know if you have been successful in learning?
  • Why is responsible and ethical behavior an integral part of working with computers?

Part IV Technology Use and Library Use

All projects will use technology.

Part V What Students Should Know and Be Able to Do

Content: (What are the key topics and concepts of the course?)

Key topics and concepts will vary depending on the project a student chooses to pursue but several should be known to all students who pass through the courses:

  • Graphics, digital imaging and image file formats
  • Hexadecimal and relation to colors and color models
  • Choosing and learning appropriate software.

Addition topics for Technology Explorations I students are:

  • Introduction to Computers (Hardware, software, system components, formatting disks.)
  • File Management (Organizing files, finding lost files, deleting or renaming files.)
  • Network use (Setting up and maintaining network drives)

Skill Outcomes: (What skills and processes do we want students to possess after successful completion of course?)

For Technology Explorations II and III, skill outcomes will be defined by the students for their projects.

Technology Explorations I: In addition to improved understanding from their chosen project, students will be able to:

  • Use available resources to learn a new program
  • Create a simple Web site.
  • Determine which type of software (e.g., word processing, presentation, publishing, or web publishing) is appropriate for a project.

Part VI Examples of Expanded Assessment

As the focus of the course is students creating and assessing their own learning experiences, assessment will focus on helping students gauge their own progress.

Examples are:

  • Projects will be self-assessed and peer assessed.
  • Parents will provide feedback on projects.
  • Students will periodically reflect on their progress and learning.
  • Students will propose and support with evidence their grade for the course.

Students in Technology Explorations I will have a preliminary assessment to help them determine what areas they may wish to focus on.

Original Syllabus: Revision A, February 2003, D. Fincher with assistance from M. Arnote and G. Hoskins


Last maintained 08/31/03


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Original Content ©2001-2004 by Derrel Fincher. Other rights reserved by individual authors