Success with Classroom Laptops

MacBook Pro

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Working at an international school in Indonesia, our English speaking students are learning to speak indonesian. The Indonesian teacher has asked for lots of support learning to use her new macbook pro. Also we have added some Windows machines (some of the older models) to her classroom so that most of her classes can jump onto the web (almost one machine per student. Admittedly the processors run a bit slow. The good news is that she requested a regular weekly meeting with me (I am the tech integrator) and we spend nearly half an hour improving here skills and brainstorming ideas for her students.

We also have a cart of fifteen laptops available. Any teacher can sign up for these macs using Google calendar. In an effort to make our Indonesian teacher’s session successful I used a number of strategies as I helped her run her first few classes. Here are some suggestions about managing a class full of laptops.

1 Make it clear that the teacher thinks that the laptops will be really cool and that she is committed to setting up some projects that will be a nice change and full of potential. If managing the class is a hassle, then say “good-bye” to any future sessions on the laptops.

2. I explain that the tools are shared. No laptop is yours and you can do things within our own accounts, but don’t change the desktop or the docking station location, or anything else in that vein.

3. To the students I explain that when I need their attention I will ask for two fingers. This means to close the close the cover so that only two fingers can fit between the cover and the the main part of the laptop where the keyboard is located.

4.  With all computer/technology I have a few rules that go with the privilege of using the hardware. In general the students love these rules. I have met many teachers on the other hand who can not manage this system. While they may disagree, the premise of these rules will continue to become a bigger and bigger factor in education in the years to come. The bottom line is that education is changing. There is too much knowledge for teachers to carry and the sage on the stage will be replaced by the guide on the side AND the students will have a role as guides on the side.

A.  Use inside voices. You may not talk to anyone at a distance. If you want to talk to someone then get out of your chair and go to that classmate and converse in a way that is not distracting. There will be an announcement if someone is given the floor.

B.  If you are ever stuck and not sure what to do next, quietly ask the person next to you. If that person does not know then ask the person to the other side of you. If that person does not know then get out of your seat and find someone who can help you. Keep searching until you have exhausted all of your peers as resources. The last person to ask is the adult in the room. Get help from the adult by getting out of your seat and going to the adult and explaining your dilemma. Do not raise your hand unless someone has the floor.

5.  Kids have always worked and finished at different rates and the teachers has always had to have a plan in mind for those variations. With technology there is a huge opportunity to make the extra time freed by the fast worker to be really productive, powerful, and engaging. it is not hard to imagine. Blogging advocates like Jeff Utrecht have commented on how you can keep your students full of engaging challenges throughout the lesson or during the course of a whole unit.

6. Finally, the last key to making a successful lesson with laptops is to remember to teach to the way students have always learned best. They should be given as many opportunities as possible to own and participate equally in the learning process. The laptops provide a huge avenue of opportunity so the teacher should facilitate as often as possible engaging opportunities for learning and sharing. There are many resources for how to do this well. Not every lesson needs to be a fascinating, engaging, new, technology enhanced project. But if you can aim for some and work towards a reasonable balance the students will appreciate the effort.

I have several teachers at my school who are engaging students in amazing ways. They are building wikis, sharing on Twitter, and recording on iMovie or QuickTime. Lots of wonderful projects are happening. On the other hand, my Indonesian teacher has had some interesting projects that will not set the world on fire, but provided a more engaging learning experience. For example, we used Comic Life to let the students create comics based around the content they are studying. Simple but engaging and productive. Her students really appreciated the moment to make something more creative and interesting. And it is only the beginning.

For more on using laptops, try some of the following links:

  1. Classroom Management in a One-to-One School District for Laptop …
  2. Classroom Management of Laptops – School Computing…/Classroom_Management_of_Laptops
  3. 23 Things about Classroom Laptops «…/23-things-about-classroom-lapto..
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5 Responses to Success with Classroom Laptops

  1. Hi Linc

    I agree with all that you say. So much of this is just teaching 101, so it still amazes me that in my 1 to 1 school, we still have teachers saying the tablets make teaching harder – if you cannot manage your kids normally (if we can call it that now) then you will not be able to in a 1 to 1 environment. I love your 2 finger idea – I usually get the kids to just open their tablets all the way. This is more cool for them…

    • linc says:

      Thanks Wayne… little steps at a time, right? I have a word processing story that goes with your comment… I can share it with you at EARCOS

  2. Hi Linc,

    Great post. Great advice! The two finger strategy is definitely something I’ll use and suggest to other teachers. At the moment, we ask the students to lower their screen and of course a few students unavoidably end up slinking down in their seat or slouching over to keep reading. I’d find it comical if it weren’t the fact that it’s usually the kids who really need to listen who get so distracted. In the lab, where we have monitors, I usually have kids turn off their monitor to give key instruction and that works like a charm.

    I totally agree with the inside voice and once in a while I take it a step further. For example, if the kids are working with Google docs, I’ll ask them to imagine being in a virtual bubble where they need to use tech tools to communicate with others. (I’m always reminding them that chances are they will be working with people all over the world one day, and can’t take turning to someone in class for granted. ) This was a good way to introduce them to the chat option in Gdocs and to get them to use their Gmail account for school work. I found that whether we’re in the lab or in the classroom with laptop, the virtual bubble cuts down on talking and helps them focus. It’s not perfect; yes they do chit chat, which is ok with me, especially while they’re getting used to their new tools.

    This said, I completely agree with your “students will have a role as guide on the side.” This has been a hard one for me because I always worry that the helper isn’t getting his/her work done. I also assumed that the helpees are getting help to engage socially, didn’t listen to the instructions, or weren’t willing to exhaust the possible options on their own and start depending on others. It’s such a negative way to look at motivation and so I’ve been working hard to control my impulse to send the helper back to their seat. I’m getting better, but I’ve decided to implement one small rule: the helper cannot touch the helpee’s mouse. (It’s something I have to watch myself.) Our natural impulse is to grab control and explain as we go, but as I’ve explained to our students, people learn kinesthetically and it’s important to go through the motions in order to remember. I’ve found that it also forces the helper to slow down their instructions and speak more clearly. So far so good.

  3. linc says:

    Josee, Great reply. Such fun when someone reads a post. I need to do more responding. Thanks for the reminder about not touching anyone else’s mouse or keyboard. This is definitely one of my rules and I totally forgot to include it. On the desktops I do the same thing… “Monitors off please.”


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