Thanks to …http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanbaptistem
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: