Posts tagged education

Laptop Management in the Classroom

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Using laptops in the classroom has been such a wonderful experience for me. I have loved teaching these last two years having them. Little things like being able to use Schoology to manage our assignments to being able to let the students research topics as soon as their interest is peaked.  Next year is my final year at the school I am currently in; we have a five year limit. I hope with all my heart that my next school will be as enriching an environment for both myself and my students.
I start out the year setting up routines: charging station, routines, procedures, and organization.  The students have a charging station, nothing fancy, just a table I have blocked out with tape, so each student has a specific place and outlet to charge his or her laptop. This way everyone has a special place for their items, it reduces having to sort out problems later.
I also have two signs that I use. As the student come in to class I will have them posted along with the days schedule. One says: Laptops ready, Tops Down and the other says:Laptops Charging. This way they know where to put their laptops as the enter the class as well as being able to anticipate when we might use them.
My favorite thing about my classroom has less to do with managing laptops in the classroom and more to do with the space the students have to use them. Last year was our first year implementing the laptop program across our Middle school. The desks and chairs we had were, at best , minimally appropriate for paper and pencil work, and I found them atrocious for working with their laptops.
I did some research and proposed that we our purchase a new style of desk that had recently come on the market in the U.S. They are made by Safco and are called the AlphaBetter Desk. What sold me on the desk is that they are adjusted for each student at a height that allows them to work ergonomically , while standing up. Then the stool is adjusted to that height. This allows the students to stand or sit throughout lessons as they need. They don’t have to ask; they just move when necessary. And the crowning touch was a swing bar located under the desk. While sitting or standing they can swing to their heats’ content, burning off excess energy. Admittedly, I did have a couple of particular students in mind, and the anticipated satisfaction that they wouldn’t be able to slouch in their chairs, since the stools are backless. And I honestly though the students would complain, but they have been such a success. The students love them, particularly the swing bar. I chose the largest desktop at 36” x 24” giving the students plenty of room for their laptops and any books or resources they are using.
My final thoughts on managing laptops in the classroom follow the same management strategies I have always used. I move around constantly. The desks are set up in a U-shape so from the center I can easily get to everyone, and then I can quickly go around the outside of the U to make sure no one has strayed to Youtube or Facebook. I am they still do(usually my own son), but as I have said before I have a small class, just seven, so it’s really easy for me to get around to all of them quickly. I try my best to keep them organized. We have folder and files set up at the beginning of the year using Dropbox. Some students are able to continue organizing independently and other need constant help, just like binders!

Will Technology Change Education?

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Thinking about how education might change due to new technology seems like such a huge topic. In many ways, technology has greatly changed the way I teach in the last year. But I do think I have been very lucky to be working in a school that has technology integration through all grade levels as a major area for growth, as well as the budgetary support that is needed to go along with that.

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My school considered purchasing class sets of iPads for our K-2 students. Already we have sets for Pre-school and Kindergarten. In the end, we upped the total number to 14, so that other classes could have a chance to use them as well. The applications I have seen used so far for this age group (I have only looked at the ones related to Language Arts) have been for teaching letter/sound associations, tracing letters, matching and interactive reading. Which brings us back to the question that this program has us looking at—is the technology allowing the students to do an old task in a new way or is it allowing them to do something new? To me, it seems, that it is the same literacy related activities that students would have done before, but now they are doing it on the iPad. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t amazing or engaging for the students, I just don’t know that it is moving them in to the realm of something new.

We are an extremely small school. I wondered what the cost would be for larger schools. Earlier this month PCMAG.com posted an article discussing an infographic that focuses specifically on the cost of using iPads as opposed to traditional textbooks in response to the release of iBooks 2. It makes a lot of assumptions, such as students purchasing iBooks for classes, but it is an interesting way to begin getting your mind around the costs involved.

Connectivism, as described by George Siemens is learning that occurs as part of a social network with many diverse connections and ties made possible by the various tools of technology. I found this article a bit difficult to digest, so I followed some links and found this neat little video that really helped me make sense of what this means for students. And now I am sharing it here with you, in the spirit of Connectivism.

 

I think technology will change education in the next five, ten, fifteen years. It will be much faster for some, those schools that have the funds to purchase the technology and the students that have access to these schools. For others, I think it will be a slower process. I really have no idea how it will work out for the majority of schools that face budget constraints. Sure many students will find ways to connect themselves to their personal areas of interest and learn through the model proposed by Connectivism. I am just not sure schools for the general public will ever catch up.

So what about me? Where will I be teaching in the years to come? I hope in a school that has required laptops for students. I don’t think I can go back to teaching without them. I can’t imagine having to plan my lessons around a shared cart that may or may not be available when I need it. I love my Smart Board and document camera. I have become very dependent!

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