My school is a 1:1 school in grade 5 through 12. At my grade level (4th grade) we have computer carts with 11 – 12 computers per cart. There are 2 carts for ever 2 classrooms. So even though we aren’t totally 1:1, I usually have access to them when I need them.
At the beginning of the year we spent two weeks letting the students show us what their various tech skills were by allowing them to do an open project using any form of tech and any programs they felt comfortable with. From this I was able to create a poster to hang up in the room stating which kids were the “experts” for different programs and skills like: Google Sites, Numbers, Keynote, Powerpoint, Garageband, iMovie, being able to use the schools printers, cameras, transfer photos… Every kid’s name was on there at least once. I checked in with them about every 2 months to see if anyone wanted to be added to a new section. I provide the students with opportunities to get up front and share any tips, skills, or tidbits they might have learned.
Two students in the class each week get the job of being a COW Herder (Computers On Wheels). I don’t remember where I had heard this term, but loved it and the kids like it too. When I ask the herders to go get the carts I usually have directions or a problem for the students to read or workout as they get their laptop fired up. Each students lap top is numbered. I let the students name their lap top and decorate a sticker on the outside to personalize it more. I find they take better care of it once the name it. I also post if students should get out their headphones for today’s work. I had them bring in their own head phones that they could keep in their desk at all times.
My desk is set up so that I have the monitor on my laptop and a separate monitor that is configured with the SmartBoard. This way I am able to have one thing up for the class to see and one side for me to work from. I do have a fancy cart on wheels to put my laptop on and roam around the room, but I’ve found it cumbersome and riddled with connectivity issues to the projector and SmartBoard.
Students use the computers for a variety of purposes in my room: googledocs for writing and sharing work with partners and/or parents, brainpop to learn a topic for discussion, online math games as a center as I work with smaller groups at the smart board just to name a few.
As they work I make sure I am up and wandering once they have started. At the 4th grade level they’re quick to turn each other in when the notice of task behavior, but you do have to look for those that are trying to hide their monitor from you or make swiping motions to change their screen when you’re walking their way. Students that have difficulty staying on task using technology in my room loose the freedom to sit where they want. They have to sit as their desks positioned where I can easily see their monitors as I scan the room. In one EXTREME case I had a student that I had to ban technology use. The only way he could use it was if he was connected to the SmartBoard while online so it was clear to everyone what he was looking up.
When I need to get their attentions I slowly count down from 5 and say “Power down” (a trick I learned from Learning 2.0). The kids make the sound of computers shutting off as they close their lids and pt their heads on their hands and listen. Once instructions are given I say “Power up!” and they turn back on and lift their lids.
I’ve tried to reinforce to the students over and over that using the computers is a privilege. Those that can’t display control and proper netiquette lose that privilege. For those students that show that they are responsible users I share fun videos and online game links with them via email for them to look at at home.
I feel that the the use of laptops in the learning environment is a great opportunity for students to show that they can be responsible learners. You need to give them some room. You can’t control everything they do, but set clear expectations for off task and misuse behaviors.