For ICT teachers who are just starting out…
In a perfect world I would like to see the use of technology woven through the fabric of our students’ education but in reality many schools continue to have a computer lab that students visit each week. Often this is a way schools provide preparation time for their teachers. Here are some ideas for productive ways to use this time with our students:
I spend the first few weeks simply working on routines so that they are very clear – basically when they get logged on (which takes a long time for the little ones!!) they are free to explore the available software. This frees me up to assist those who are struggling to figure this out, and gives me time to concentrate on routines. I very much encourage my students to be up and looking at what their classmates are doing but what this looks like must be taught directly or it is more chaotic than it needs to be.
Learning and Creating:
I tell the kids there are two things that always have to be happening in the computer lab at school – learning and creating. I tell them that there is never “free time” when they are using the lab at school. I explain that I like to play games on my computer at home just because they are fun (things like solitaire, pac man, and tetris – really dates me doesn’t it…) . I don’t, however, play these type of games at work because I have a job to do and that would be an inappropriate use of my time. Their job at school is learning and creating and while some games are great fun they are not an appropriate use of their time at school.
Learning new software:
I think one of the tasks we can take on is to give kids the chance to explore, play with, and discover things using a variety of software. I call these lessons “Explorations”. They are great lessons and take very little planning. They have the fringe benefit for teachers new to programs of providing them with time to see what the program can do via the students’ discoveries. The structure of the lesson is:
- Demo of how to launch the software (especially for younger students)
- Discussion about exploration – what did the explorers do?
- Free discovery time with the program – during these lessons students are free to wander to see what others are doing and when they find something cool they are encouraged to show their discoveries to their classmates. I am circulating looking for these discoveries to highlight to the class. I have learned so many new things even about programs that I am very familiar with by watching what the kids are doing.
I like this structure not just because it take very little planning :-), but also because I believe it is the best way for kids (and adults) to figure out a program – just to have time to mess with it. I often hear colleagues complain that they wish they had more time to play with the programs on their computer in order to figure out how they work – our students need this time also. I explain that getting up to check out what their classmates are doing is called “collaboration” not “copying” and it is an important part of the learning process.
I believe that one of the best things I can do for my students is to help them understand how to protect themselves while interacting in an online world. It is imperative that we are introducing our students to online environments during their elementary years so that they learn to be safe while they are still listening to us. I believe that many of the negative incidents we have heard about in the news recently can be avoided if we arm our students with a better understanding of the dangers and pitfalls, and the importance of portraying themselves online in a positive way. Many of our young people are finding out the hard way because we have not been able to provide them with guidance because we were unprepared for this new reality. Take a look at Brian Kuhn’s blog post: Privacy Living and Learning Digitally. One great Internet safety activity for young students is The first adventure of the three Cyber Pigs.
Another great thing to do is to get them started on blogging. In Coquitlam we can set up blogs for them within the My43 (sharepoint) protected environment. My43 provides us with a safe place for them to begin to develop an online presence with our guidance and support. Pose questions for them to answer on their blog and have them read and responding to their classmates’ blogs. Whether we like it or not, our students will soon be (if they aren’t already) setting up Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. They will benefit greatly from any coaching we can provide them with so that they have a better understanding of the impact of their online actions.
I hope this helps! Please share any other recommendations you have for teachers working with students in a computer lab setting.