My friend Alex, a middle school teacher, asked me what I'd like middle school students to know as they entered our high school classrooms. While obviously a bit utopian, I was surprised to find myself really talking about foundational, and somewhat predictable, skills.
"1. "Google It" - I want students entering 9th grade with a sense that they can find anything they want on the internet. I would love to see students who "Googled" their question before they raised their hand. It's not that I don't want to help, but I'd love to have students walking in the door who know that they can be their own first resource.
2. Registering for things and basic internet ability - In 2.0, our students have to register for a pretty wide array of internet services, apps, and accounts. Our students register accounts for Picassa, Moodle, Blogger, Voicethread, Wikis, Email, DropBox, Google Reader, Google SketchUp, SlideRocket, usually all within the first six-weeks of class. The more familiarity our students have with setting up and managing internet accounts, the better. This is even more true for "netiquette". Issues of internet identity, the permanent nature of internet publishing, cyber-buillying, appropriate use, and civil conduct are significant lessons that we currently teach. Any help at the middle school level on any of that would be helpful.
3. Open-source software, copyright, and sharing - As students become not only consumers, but producers, of content, a keen awareness of what's available, what isn't, and what can and should be shared is crucial. This is an area in which our students have a good deal of expertise, and we'd be wise to engage them in these conversations as soon as we can.
4. Back-up everything and have everything everywhere - Our students should be able to access everything they do, wherever they are. This really stems from the big push for portfolio assessment that you and I heard alot about in college. The kids need to use cloud computing and services like DropBox to manage their files/portfolio. Likewise, students should understand that data loss occurs and that they need to take precautions against it. For example, sometimes students write an email, blog post, or forum contribution and the internet or web service "times out". At this point, they often come running up to me saying they've lost everything. Students need to take precautions such as writing everything in Word or GoogleDocs and then copy/paste it into their post or email. Even something as simple as hitting "select all" and "copy" commands before hitting "publish" need to be taught early on. If nothing else, it cuts down on student frustration."