Wishes Do Come True

I wish I had 1:1 laptop problems to report – because that would mean we had 1:1 laptop classes. At SSIS, the lucky teachers dealing with those issues are in the MS and HS. I should point out that the MS students have tablets – nice light, portable and cheap but very functional tablets.

In the elementary we have one computer lab attached to the ES library and one cart shared between the 4th and 5th grades with heavy, old, slow but functional hand me down laptops that had previously been used in the middle school. I remember coveting those laptops 2 years ago …and then hearing that the MS was going 1:1 begging the IT director to let us have them. He didn’t seem too keen on the idea; as he explained to me, they would be so old by then they’d be more trouble than they’d be worth.

Laptop Cart by Alles-Schlumpf

But we got them – actually, they salvaged the best ones from the two carts and brought them over to the elementary in one big ol’ unwieldy cart. We were overjoyed! We’re still over the moon and use those dinos constantly – mostly for the kids to type up assignments, access the school server, or use the Internet to work with Web 2.0 tools. It doesn’t take much RAM to work with MS docs or Gdocs – thank goodness!

Our students are very much aware that we are sharing these laptops with other classes and they have been drilled in the careful handling of them. As we repeated over and over when we first got them, if we break one, it will not be replaced. We, the teachers, felt lucky to have them, and that transferred loud and clear to the kids. They carry them with both hands, they walk, and they replace them carefully & plug them in when they’re done. It dovetailed well with our ‘Respect for All’ ESLR.

Are we having ‘staying on task’ issues? Surprisingly few. No more, I would venture to say, than we do in the lab (where all the computers line the wall so one teacher in the center can, theoretically, see all the screens). In fact, it seems to me that some students who have problems focusing seem to do better with a laptop. I haven’t tested this theory out, so I’d love to hear what other teachers have noticed.

For the most part, teachers like Jessica know to give students the task first, and then given access to the laptops. If further instructions are needed we ask them to lower the screen and have eyes on us. (In the lab we have them turn off the monitor.

One strategy that we are starting to use more often is peer mentoring. At the beginning of the year, I was asking the kids who would get out of their seat to help their friends or neighbors to go sit down and let a teacher answer or give help. I was worried that these good Samaritans would not get their own work done.

Now I realize that they just need a bit of coaching. For example, they take over the ‘helpless’ student’s mouse and go through the steps at light speed. Instructing them to let their classmate handle their own mouse forces the helper to give clearer directions. We’ve also started opening up the lab at lunch recess for some ‘blog mentoring’ giving eager volunteers a chance to help others catch up with blogging assignments or learn new skills.

So even though we don’t have 1:1 in elementary yet, just that one shared laptop cart has made a huge difference. Wishes do come true – well, almost and for now, we’re very grateful.

I know the focus of our fifth week post was supposed to be how to avoid or deal with 1:1 problems, but you know what? If we ever do get these problems to deal with one day, I’ll be glad to deal them. I see so many advantages to giving kids more access to technology that you’ll never hear me complain about the hiccups. Like Megan said in her post, with appropriate management and routines, it’s been an easy transition and the little problems encountered are worth it!

3 comments for “Wishes Do Come True

  1. February 10, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Ha! So true! We are so very fortunate in international schools that sometimes we forget what others deal with on a regular basis. This is my first year working in a 1:1 environment and I simply can not imaging going back. Literally. Can. Not. Imagine. Any and all challenges we have now are so worth it. A great reminder to be appreciative of what we have!

  2. Avatar of jbass
    February 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Hopefully that wish will come true in the not so distant future. What I find especially maddening is that we meet with our CoETaIL cohort in the MS computer lab. The students come to this lab daily and open their notepads in front of the unused desk top computers. Meanwhile in the next building, grade four and five is arm wrestling for the computer cart. It’s a bloomin’ shame they can’t use those rarely used computers in the MS lab.

    It’s great to hear how the peer mentoring is evolving. What a great sense of achievement and teaching skills for the students.

    • Avatar of Josee Marshall
      February 12, 2012 at 7:08 am

      Thanks Jill. For now, the peer mentoring is to help the fifth graders who want to learn more about blogging or catch up on blog based assignments. I’m thinking we should have the computer lab open at least once a week (with supervision) for kids who have trouble getting online time at home or just want to dabble.

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