Computer Time in the Classroom

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

After posing the question of “how to cope” to the Teacher-2-Teacher mailing list, Lorrie Felts received the following responses and compiled this listing.

I have a couple of computers in my room, but I thought I might give you some examples of how to use the one you have. I placed a computer pocket chart on the wall. Every morning I change the name. This person is allowed computer time during the morning while the other kids are doing their morning work. Morning work is just practicing testing skills, DOL, ADD. It is a subject that can be missed because it is done everyday as a review time. The computer is used for EPALS exchange, the student is allowed to correspond to others across the country. Also, it can be used with computer games (Learning ones). I have a scan converter which displays the computer on my TV screen. This can be used for whole class instruction with writing, spelling and extra.. I hope some of these ideas help. You can use the computer to promote good behavior. If they had bad behavior, which is a punch on a punch card in our class, then you don’t have the privilege to use the computer. -Wright

I only teach Language Arts, so I usually center my power point lessons around English and Spelling. (Reading is taught by another teacher). I use a size 44 font in my power point presentations. That seems to work the best so that all students can see. My lessons last 45 minutes, but the technology part usually lasts about 15. My other students are doing the exact same thing “manually” on their papers that the student is doing at the computer. In other words, I make a hand-out of my presentation, essay, etc… prior to the lesson so that each student has a copy. If someone comes to the computer to highlight for instance, the other students are highlighting at their seats. I try to coordinate the lessons as much as possible. We just did a poetry unit and as we were writing the poems, the student that made up the next line would type it as others were writing it on notebook paper. Or sometimes I would type it to save time–it depends on how much time I have available when it comes to letting them type long phrases. They aren’t that familiar with a keyboard yet. -Dianne

We are fortunate in our district to have our computers linked to a TV which is mounted on a wall. It makes it easier to incorporate various software and the internet into daily lessons (I teach Reading/Language Arts). I also have two additional computers (one is a castoff from home) which the kids use in their free time as they finish their work. To enable some of my slower students to get some computer time, I occasionally use a roster with the kids’ names to decide who will have computer time that day. Sometimes I’ll start at the beginning, middle or end of the roster to allow everyone an equal chance of using the computer. Good luck! Using the computer effectively in the classroom can be a tricky business! -Karen

I too have struggled with having only one computer. One thing you might check into is buying one of those cables – sorry, I don’t know the proper name – that connects the TV to the computer. Assuming of course that you have a television in the room. Your school media center may even have one. One other idea is to check out using a Power Point presentation. If you are not familiar with it see if your technical support person can show it to you.

“The Well-Connected Educator” articles could be very helpful to you including my article, “1 Computer, 1 Teacher, and 20 First Graders” -LuAnn

Our class of first graders uses the computer almost daily. For taking turns, I made a vertical pocket chart out of two sentence strips that I pleated and stapled on the bulletin board right beside the computer. I made cards with the student’s names on then and put a name in each pocket. When the child has had a turn at the computer, he/she turns over the card with the appropriate name on it, and then knows that another turn will come after all the other cards have been turned over. I shuffle the cards before replacing them in the pockets, so they all have equal chances at being first. If I find that we do not have much time for the computer on any given day, I can always find time for the children to play a quick game of JezzBall, or some other quickie game that involves eye/hand coordination. The entire class can, quickly, usually in a matter of 1/2 hour, each take one turn, then turn it over to another child. They really enjoy this! Hope this helps. -DJ Thomas

In my fifth-grade class, what we do in my classroom with only one computer:

* One student per day (the Student of the Day) is in charge of the computer on his/her day. Usually they choose to do all work (that is assigned that day) on the computer. If they don’t want to use it, they’ll give permission for someone else to work on it. If the work they begin is not finished by the end of the day, they print it and handwrite the rest on the printed copy.
* If the Student of the Day is finished with work and has some spare time, he/she may invite another finished student to play a game (CD roms mostly) on the computer. Sometimes, they stay in during recess to play. Only 2 are allowed at the computer at a time. This keeps me sane, and keeps others from telling the kids on the computer what to do (less fights and arguing).
* If someone else is finished with work and wants to use the computer, they have to ask the Student of the Day. That way, I don’t have to deal with it at all! (The one in charge is quick to ask if all their work is done, etc.) It also makes them become kinder to one another, because the more generous THEY are, the more generous the others are to them!
* I find that this system works well because no one is racing to finish work just to get on the computer. Each person has his or her own day once every 28 days (# of kids in class)!
* I use this same computer when we do an internet lesson in Social Studies. My kids aren’t allowed to “surf” on their own. Any internet lesson must be teacher-controlled in 5th grade. I attach it to a TV and we do our lesson that way. (We adopted the Macmillan/McGraw-Hill series last year. It came with an Internet Project Handbook.The company also has a website with these same lessons on it: Check it out!)

-My school has a computer lab that we visit as a class once a week, so it’s not imperative that we do certain things on the homeroom computer, therefore, my rules may seem rather lax when compared to others!

I have seven computers in my classroom: 1 Compaq, 3 MAC LC2s, 2 Apple 2e s, 1 Power MAC. I have five printers so two computers share. Because of the variations within the computer capabilities, I have had to structure usage creatively. All of them are set to do word processing w/ printing (even the Apple 2e s). I primarily use the 4 MACs for that simply due to convenience for me. I can show beginning students what to do and then they assist others when writing. The Apples are used primarily for drill and kill with skills, the Compaq is the only one set up to use the Internet so I focus its purpose on that. At the beginning of the year, I write each child’s name on a tongue depressor. I place these in a blue plastic cup set on one of the computer stations. Each and every computer has a red plastic cup placed on the back topside of the monitor. I have a kitchen timer. My strategy is this: I draw names from the tongue depressors. I instruct those students how to do whatever they are doing at the computer station. They set the timer to 20 minutes. Should there be a problem, they place the red cup on top of the monitor. This enables me to continue teaching while scanning for red cups. When the timer rings, those at the computers close up whatever they are doing and each draw a new name. The initial students instruct the next round of kids and the process repeats itself. This way, the kids have only lost 20 min. of instruction and I continue working w/ the remainder. If red cups appear, then the student who was previously at that computer quietly gets up and checks to see what the “problem” is. If they can solve it, they do, and the cup is returned to the back of the monitor. If not, it remains on the top front of the monitor frame. I know that I need to cruise by that area to see what I can do (usually in a second or two). They make very basic mistakes. This works so well, and I still get to do my instruction. Our ECS (elementary computer specialist) came in one day and asked me what all the red cups were for. When I explained the scenario to him, he couldn’t wait to share it w/ other district ECSs. Also, there is a second blue cup in which the previously drawn tongue depressors are placed so that everyone gets one “pull” from the full cup. When all are in the second cup, the process begins again. Hope this helps! -Chris