Middle School Technology

Tech Class Distance Learning FAQ

Q:  How is my 7th grade student doing in Tech Class?

A:  PowerSchool has all the official grades.  Look for any work marked missing, and anything with a grade of P or I which can and should be improved.  No penalty for late work, and as a reminder ignore any points or percentages: Tech Class is graded on the I, P, M, E scale.

Q: What should my 7th grade student be working on for Tech Class?

A: Right now students should have turned in their Collecting Game assignment which was due on May 21.  On Thursday a new assignment will be introduced, the Obstacle Avoidance Game which will be due on June 4.  This is our final assignment for the year.

Q: Help!  My student is behind and wants to catch up.  How do we get started?

A: Watch the videos on the Tech Class Streams Channel.  This requires the student to login using their school Office 365 account.  I can reset passwords if needed.  There are other resources:  the classroom page, the Tech Class SharePoint page, and Microsoft Teams, but these are all reviewed in the videos on the Streams channel.

Q: How are assignments turned in?

A: Using Microsoft Teams.  See this video.  Students need to share their Scratch projects and add them to the class studio on the Scratch website, but their work is not submitted for evaluation until they turn the assignment in, including a link to their project, using Microsoft Teams.

Q:  What else?

A:  Show up for our weekly calls on Microsoft Teams every Thursday at 11:15.  A link to join is sent by email to every 7th grade student.  Mr. James is also available for 1:1 or small group calls to support students in their work for tech class.

Tech Class

Middle school students have one period of technology instruction per week, for one trimester.  6th grade students have technology class in the fall trimester, 8th grade in the winter, and 7th grade in the spring.  It adds up to 10 hours of classroom time per year.

Tech class employs a workshop format offering several options to engage every student.  Students learn coding in Scratch as they complete short and fun projects that build mastery of specific subjects from the computer science algorithms and programming standards.  They also have the opportunity to develop 3d modeling skills to create 3d printed objects in support of their other class projects.  Learn more about how tech class works and what to expect.

While students may now also use tech class time to work on 3d modeling class projects, the core curriculum and assignments remain focused on computer science.  I strive to make the assignments fun and engaging, with a maximum opportunity for student creativity while still addressing key computer science standards.  Learn more about computer science standards and St. John tech class.

6th and 7th grade students learn computer programming using the Scratch programming language.  Scratch is a teaching language designed by MIT specifically for making programming fun and engaging for new learners.  It has specific features and a drag-and-drop LEGO-like design tooling which makes it easy to create animated videos and games.

8th grade students will complete a capstone project, either an adventure or quest style game, or a 3d model of a building.  The programming option focuses on completion of the algorithms and programming standards, including nested loops, compound conditional branching, and the use of flow charts as a design tool.

Independent study options with more advanced programming assignments are also available at each grade level.


Technology is not graded on the A, B, C, D, F scale and does not impact a student’s grade point average.  Each trimester features one learning assessment which students may retake until they pass.  Tech class is graded primarily on participation and effort on the following scale:

I:  Improvement Needed.  Student makes extremely poor use of classroom time.  Behaviors may include visiting irrelevant websites, talking with friends, and disrupting the learning of others rather than working on class assignments.

P:  Progress Shown.  Student effort and engagement is low with minimal progress towards standards.  Students who do not pass the quiz after multiple retakes also receive this grade.

M:  Meets expectations.  Student demonstrates a commitment to growth by participating in class and consistently working on class assignments.

E:  Exceeds Expectations:  Student submits completed assignments for grading.  Completed work consistently meets the assignment’s criteria for exceeding expectations.

When reviewing grades in PowerSchool, ignore any points or percentages it displays for Tech Class.  Just the E – M – P – I grade matters.

Intro to Scratch

Student Accounts on the Scratch Website

All students in grades are required to create and use an account on the Scratch website to complete, submit, and share their technology class assignments.  In addition to expectations for compliance with St. John Technology Use Policy (see the Family Handbook), students are instructed to avoid the use of any personal information such as their name in their Scratch account and shared projects.

We use special Scratch education accounts and a classroom page on the Scratch website to manage our work.  These Scratch accounts are setup by students using an invitation URL provided by Mr. James in class.  These accounts have student-specified passwords but do not have an associated email address.  Shared projects are still publicly visible and students may interact with others on the Scratch website just like a regular account holder.  As the teacher for the online classroom, Mr. James can reset passwords.