Making the Most of Your School Computer Lab
- Grades: 1–2
Teaching today has its challenges, especially if you're not comfortable teaching computer and information technology skills. Our students have never known a world without the Internet, computers, cell phones, and Xboxes. They were born into a world of technology and take to it like ducks to water. You can make going to the computer lab a weekly occurrence even if your district doesn't have a computer teacher to man it. Read on for some helpful hints on how to make the most of your computer lab visits.
Computers are in almost every household today and are a part of every child's educational journey. In California, students are required to take a technology proficiency exam in the upper grades. Many students are having difficulty passing those tests because they've had insufficient time, equipment, and instruction. For this reason, learning about the computer, word processing and presentation programs, and Internet research and information consumption should begin in the primary grades.
At my school, we are very lucky to have an updated computer lab with 29 lovely Mac G4s and an ActivBoard with a projector. We are also extremely thankful to have an awesome librarian to help plan and execute computer lab lessons that the kids look forward to and that cover our district's technology standards. If your district doesn't have technology standards, you can take a look at ours.
Even if you are not comfortable with computers, don't worry! Most of the standards at the primary grade levels are easy and can be presented a variety of ways. We go to the lab every week and focus on one or two of the tech standards using software like Kid Pix and Microsoft Word, as well as free online sources like Scholastic's Computer Lab pages and Starfall.com. Even in 2nd grade, I teach my kids a little about creating spreadsheets and graphing in Excel and using PowerPoint to create short slide presentations. I even have them dabble in moviemaking with iMovie and an inexpensive flip camera.
If your district has a little money to invest in purchasing a technology curriculum, I highly recommend Learning.com's EasyTech curriculum. It takes all the guesswork and planning out of creating your own lessons to meet the standards.
Objective: Mastery of 1st and 2nd grade technology standard 6.8. Using Kid Pix (specifically the line and shaper tools), we will divide a circle into fractions and then turn the slices into pieces of pizza.
Lesson: Students will observe a demonstration on the ActivBoard on where to find the line and shaper tools and how to use them. We will also use the free draw tool to top their pizzas with pepperoni, mushrooms, and olives. Students will be assigned a fraction from 1/8 to 7/8. Each student will practice using the tools introduced to create a pizza with the appropriate number of toppings on their fraction.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from the tech savvy people at your school. Ask your friends, colleagues, school tech coordinator, or even the tech person at your district for help and training. Most of the time, they are thrilled to help you.
- If it is your first time in the computer lab, make sure that everything works and you know how to turn it on and off.
- Bookmark any Web site that you are planning on using and save the bookmark to each desktop. Trust me, it saves you the huge headache of asking 1st and 2nd graders to type in a Web address!
- Team up with another teacher to plan, set up, and teach and monitor kids. Kids also can be paired up in each class. Students in the primary grades tend to work well in pairs on the computer.
- Spend some time and play with the Web site or program so that you feel comfortable and familiar with it.
- Try to connect the tech standards with things that you are already doing in your class to reinforce core curriculum. For example, our pizza lesson related to our in-class unit on fractions.
- Murphy's Law. Even with the best planning, sometimes the universe doesn't cooperate. Roll with it. So what if the Web site is down or you forgot what the shaper tool does? Have a backup plan, but also know that kids are excited just to be exploring a fun game, program, or video. As with any other lesson, you adapt. Don't let a bad experience ruin your attitude.
- Have fun!! There are so many resources, videos, and fun Web sites out there!
Don't Have a Computer Lab?
Neither did we. But with several enthusiastic teachers, a wonderful parent faculty organization, and support from our community and administration, we raised about $25,000.00 in one year to purchase the computers. Our school focused our efforts to plan and execute a very successful "jog-a-thon" that specifically raised money for our lab. There are also many programs funded by companies looking to help a school in need; it just takes a little elbow grease to find them. DonorsChoose is an amazing source that can be utilized to gather funds to buy computers for your school. Many corporations and people donate money to schools through DonorsChoose, and it's super easy to create an account and get started.
I hope that going to the computer lab weekly is fun and educational for you and your students. Join me next week when I post about Read Across America Day and plan a FUN day around Dr. Seuss!