Now that we've got our students following computer lab rules and working on their assignments (part 1 has those details) , let's talk about a technique for handling the overwhelming experience getting 30 elementary students started on computers at the same time.
It's like a math problem: 30 excited students x 30 computers = _____. I think many of us could fill in the blank with "chaos" or "teacher meltdown." If this describes your answer to this equation, don't avoid the lab...help yourself by working up to it.
Excited? Oh yeah! I'm not even allowed to touch this at home!
Arm each of your students with a book before they leave your classroom and set the expectation that they will be taking turns to log on...and if they complain, they might get to go last.
After seating them, help the first row (or as many as you are comfortable with) get started while the rest read. Move on until the entire class is ready to go.
NOTE: Rotate the starting group the next time our you'll have a mutiny!
Be sure to have your students start on a self-paced instruction site, such as a typing tutorial. This will diminish the questions from the first group while you get the next group going.
After three times, your students will be familiar enough with the process that you will be able to manage all of them at once.
So they are up and running...and now you are too - literally! There probably shouldn't even be a seat for the teacher in an elementary school computer lab. Managing technology in elementary schools requires a teacher to always be circulating, answering questions and providing assistance.
Keep your regular classroom rules in effect. My biggest one is that students must raise their hands for assistance but must not "Mrs. Weigle!" me to death...or at all. I assist students with raised hands and ignore those who are calling to me (they know the rule).
Computer labs are question factories...protect your sanity at all costs!
You can save yourself some questions by projecting the next step or other explanatory information on a screen in the room. Think about how to expand teaching with technology to all elements of a lesson...even to the process of computer usage.
Don't hesitate to rely on a those kids in your class who just "get it." To these students, the way computers and programs and websites do things are naturally understandable. They sense the patterns. They are your helpers in the elementary school computer lab...send them around to help/catch kids up as needed. They'll be eager to show off their mastery, but make sure they have time to finish their own work as well.
They know more than you think...
Your percentage of "helpers" will increase with grade level...don't count on having any to start with in the primary grades, but keep an eye out for those who catch on very quickly.
And a final reminder about maintaining high compliance with elementary school computer lab rules: The first time a student doesn't follow the expectations you have set ...to the back of the room they go to read their book for the rest of the class.
One thing we don't want to do is schedule computer lab time for an hour of "Do whatever you want as long as it is educational." Technology integration in the classroom is much too important to use the lab for Friday afternoon play time.
So a lesson plan is just as important in the computer room as in the classroom.
Your "teaching with technology" lesson plan for the lab is actually pretty straightforward. A very typical one might be:
NOTE: A project such as a PowerPoint would require it's own lesson plan...or should be part of the lesson plan for the particular curriculum area.
You can schedule a little free time for those who finish the work first...but they may only go to a specific website you have determined, not a free-choice site. This site should be a reinforcement for a particular curriculum area that they need to work on (spelling, math, social studies, etc.) and fit into your overall plan for the week.
REMEMBER: Keep your state or district technology standards in mind...it takes a lesson plan to be certain you are hitting all of them.
Leave some time for cleaning up! The elementary school computer lab is one room where you know you will be followed by other classrooms. Leave it like you found it so their learning is not impacted. Start your save-and-shut-down process with at least five minutes to spare.
Follow these steps:
That last one is my own quirky way of teaching respect for property.
When the shut down is complete, the students remain seated while you walk about and do a cord/accessory check. I make point of touching each computer as I walk by to reinforce that I am examining each one.
Getting up takes a special technique as well. Stressing cords by shoving tables will cause problems in the long run. So computer lab rules for standing up are important:
Too detailed? Effective teachers always mind the details.
All that is left is to quietly file out of the room. Oh...and to report to your IT person if you noticed any malfunctions so they can be fixed as quickly as possible. Teaching with technology is a partnership...don't neglect the staff who handles the hardware.
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