In-Class Computer Lab Use

In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • Apr
  • 11
  • 2005

A friend of mine recently went to a conference on educational technology in Pasadena. He turned me on to November Learning, a pretty nifty site by Alan November, who I am quickly learning is the cat I should have been paying close attention to all these years.

After just a brief spell of searching, I came upon an article that gave me pause. Having been guilty of technolust (both in my professional and private lives), the title caught me a bit. “No more shopping lists!” I muttered, a bit suspiciously. “Then how are we teachers to get our stuff if we don’t have a list?” After I read the article, I imagined what I want to do with technology in my classroom. I have to think to myself: why do I want all this technology?

There’s a difference between what I want to do and what I am doing with what I have. A little note to those reading this that don’t know me: I am much more critical of myself than even my worst enemy. That said, I feel like the computers in my classroom are wasted. They are relegated to word processors for much of the school year, with students rushing in to print that paper due today because “my printer broke!” or “I ran out of ink last night!”

The computers sit on tables and scream out to me “We can do much more than this!” I’m experimenting with blogging in my section of English 1. Even there, though, I’m thinking that having another class looking at what my students post and responding (with my class doing the same) would be a better way to do it. And even then, I’m just replacing pen pals with blog pals, not something I’m terribly keen on.

So, if you had/have about 15 computers in your classroom, all online, what would you do with your class of 32 kids? Leave a comment here with your ideas. When it becomes appropriate, I’ll cull everything out of here and write a new post with all the ideas conveniently formatted and linked as the ‘net allows. I say this imagining 100’s of teachers coming across this page, when I’ll be lucky if I get 5. Still, those 5 of you, post ideas as you have them.


1. Todd says:

[4/14/2005 - 9:43 pm]

Good point about their voices. More than using my technology perfectly, though, I want to use it better. The interesting thing will be to check their blogs out in 4 years to see if they’ve used them for anything else. If this turns into a life-long writing forum for these kids, then I’ve really done something good.

2. Rushton says:

[4/13/2005 - 10:05 am]

You aren’t using your technology perfectly? Tar and feather the man!

My compliments, though, on using the computers you have to explore possibilities. However well the projects do or don’t go, it is meaningful to the kids that they have a teacher who is willing to try out interesting ideas.

I suspect that at the end of the project, kids who would never have spoken up in class will have articulated ideas that will be important to other students. Any way we can find to help students find their voices and celebrate the voices of others is worth your time.

3. Weck says:

[4/19/2005 - 10:23 pm]

How many times have you been exposed to a new idea or piece of information and finally formulated a response to it, say, 7 hours later after dinner, homework, and the latest reruns of South Park? I think that through the use of blogs we can virtually extend the learning continuum. Rushton is right, students need a place to have a voice. We certainly aren’t giving them one on our campus. We have no student newspaper, no student interested represented in the staff senate, not even a drama production or band. Our students will use this as they see us use this–as a means of collaborative communication or as another type of transparency to slap on the overhead and make them copy from.

4. Tom says:

[5/18/2005 - 5:59 am]

I thought I would be able to find some interesting high school level lesson plans from our district. We have had a one-to-one laptop initiative for several years now. After looking around I didn’t really see too much that excited me. Most things just seem to be exchanging paper or an overhead for a computer screen.

I think the key is to focus on what the web allows that is so different from texts and paper. You have access to a huge amount of information and a huge number of experts. You can also create things that are more than static text- hyperlinks, graphics, movies. The power of creating something real for a real audience is also important. Your ideas about bringing in other classes to contribute and critique work is a great example. would be a possible way to get good teachers involved in a project like that. I haven’t used it but the idea seems good.

It would be nice to see teachers using technology coming together with their classes on the net. The power that audience would bring would be amazing. If students knew several hundred (or several thousand) other students would be examining and commenting on their work I wonder how the work would change. There are lots of pitfalls in something like that but done correctly it would be incredibly powerful. I know that your comments have impacted my writing and thinking. Knowing someone “real” is out there reading and thinking about what you write really creates excitement and purpose.

I’ll be checking out the TeacherEd site to see if it is worthwhile and will get back to you. I do know some high school teachers who would be good candidates for partners.

5. Todd says:

[5/18/2005 - 8:56 pm]

Certainly! I can’t tell you how excited I was to see an additional comment on this entry! It makes a difference when you know other people are reading your paragraphs. I wonder the same thing about my student who titled one of his entries “Responceto R&J.” I wonder if he would have been more careful or just thought more about it if he knew someone other than his classmates and I was going to read it.

One of my students actually has a comment from someone not in the class and likely not in the school. He just doesn’t know it yet because he hasn’t checked his comments.

My next challenge, after I’ve figured a way for the students to write regularly, is to encourage maintenance. There are so many facets of a project like this, though, that there is no perfect system.

As soon as I find other sites for educator collaboration on something like this, I’ll put together an entry about it.

And Tom, let me know who those candidates are for partners! I might want to take you up on that for next school year!

6. Karen says:

[9/1/2005 - 12:43 am]

Here in New Zealand, we are trying to get teachers to see that use if ICT is about more than just doing the old things in a new way. It is hard work! A lot of teachers are still finding themselves lacking in the skills and confidence they think they need before they can do new things with their classes. Also we have Computer Studies and ICT classes timetabled into computer labs and teachers from other curriculum areas ahve difficulty getting the computer access that they want/need.
Did you make any progress with collaborating with other teachers and classes across the world? I am looking for ideas to try out in this area – probably 13-14 year olds in October/November…

7. Todd says:

[9/2/2005 - 10:52 am]

The problem of dealing with limited computer lab space is a big one. How can a small computer lab serve the entire school? It’s tough to schedule everything to work. That’s one of the big reasons I started getting my lab together, so that I can do what I want, when I want. I don’t have to worry so much about scheduling around other functions. We have a computer lab in the library, a place that is often closed down for special presentations or is filled with kids taking tests (AP and other standardized tests). That means the library is unavailable and we lose a computer lab as well as access to books.

I didn’t have any luck collaborating with other teachers, though I didn’t try too hard, either. I’m thinking of having the blog project this year revolve around the independent reading I have students do. I’m dealing with 16-18 year olds, but if you want to work on something together, get a hold of me through the contact page.

8. Laurie says:

[9/3/2005 - 11:18 am]

If teachers really want to incorporate the use of computers as a communication tool, then they must have ready access to them. I think this means they must be IN THE ROOM. If you have to go to a lab to use a computer, they never become integrated into your planning. Instead, they remain something you do outside of your daily routine.
I have always had a few computers in my room because I have been either the journalism or yearbook advisor. I have learned to maintain my hodgepodge of 14 Apples (I have old G-3 all in ones, Imacs, G-3 and G-4 towers) over the years out of sheer necessity. We have 1 tech at our school to maintain hundreds of computers. Maintaining my lab takes time, a lot of time. However, I do not ever have to schedule time in a lab and then rearrange my lesson plans to fit that schedule, or create a lesson that keeps students on computers for 50 minutes at a time. Instead, computers are part of many of my daily plans in all of my classes and students move fluidly from their tables to the computers and back again.
Would I have this many computers if I hadn’t been given the journalism class and with it 5 computers? I am not sure. I used to think that was the answer to encouraging teachers to better utilitze computers. Put computers in the classroom. But, I have seen way to many teachers who let the computers just sit there and collect dust and get in the way and get used during lunch for game playing. Now I think we have to just grandfather them in. As new technology savvy teachers come in to the classroom, give them the computers that the others aren’t using. We can’t force teachers to use computers. But, we can take their computers and give them to those who want to use them.

9. ilka says:

[4/8/2006 - 6:30 am]

I am a NYC teacher who has been blessed by her principal. He recently gave me 30 laptops on a rolling cart to use in my classroom between 2 classes. I am not new to computers or its many uses however, I am a little unsure of where to start with my students. I teach 6th grade literacy and social studies courses. Does anyone have any suggestions?

10. Todd says:

[4/8/2006 - 6:56 am]

Anyone else have any ideas? 6th grade literacy and social studies are outside my area, but give The Amazing Flash Card Machine a try. You can use that for just about any concept, have students create flashcards for each item, include pictures, definitions, whatever you want. This gets them used to working on the computer and dealing with databases. That might be a good starting point for them. I’ve been introducing to my students by posting articles that I feel they might find interesting and then turning the daily writing into a time for the students to pick an article, read it, and answer a few questions. That’s a pretty seamless way to start integrating technology into the daily lessons.

Pop over to The Tech Savvy Educator, particularly the entries about an online trip to Egypt, mash-up writing (though Writely isn’t taking new accounts for the time being), reading chapter books online, and SimCity because there simply must be a way to use SimCity in the classroom for something really cool!

11. Penner says:

[2/10/2010 - 9:43 am]

There are many organizations that would donate computors to needy schools. I suggest you contact civic organizations in your area.