Why use computer technology in the classroom? What is it's
purpose? Most often, computers are seen as something extra to work
on once the class work is completed. Computers used in this format are
often used to practice specific skills, reinforce, or extend a skill that
is being taught in the classroom. Most often there is some sort of
software that students will use to work on specific skills. However,
technology can also be used in ways that will help students and teachers
accomplish something better, faster, neater, more efficiently, and more in
depth. We can teach our students to use computers as a tool, just as
they might use a protractor or compass as tools in Geometry. When
computers are used as tools, you are using some sort of productivity
software: Hyperstudio, Kidpiz, and PowerPoint are three examples of
productivity software. When using computers as a tool, students are
creating a product such as a word processed document, charts and graphs, a
piece of art, or a multimedia presentation.
Which philosophy will you
use with your students? Most literature suggests some of both; they
both have their own place within a technologically oriented
Once you've decided to have students create a product using computers
as tools, you'll find the need for certain management
- "What do I do with only one computer and 20 or 30
- "What does the rest of the class work on while other students
are working at the computer?"
- "How do I teach or work with a class, when a student has
problems or questions on the computer?"
- "What do I do when the computer crashes or simply won't
It is the intent of this web page to help you, the teacher, manage your
classroom while students are busy creating multimedia projects. A
variety of strategies will be presented. Choose the ones that work
best into your current classroom management system.
||Strategies are divided into three categories. There is some overlap
between categories, however, I've tried to break things down into a
- 1 Computer Classroom
Many options for scheduling are available. Choose a scheduling
strategies based on how your classroom
schedule is currently setup. Most projects will be group or class project
with the work divided up and placed into the same presentation.
- Assigned Time - If you have your day structured in larger
thematic blocks of time (for example 90 minutes for Language Arts, 60
minutes for math, history, or science) this strategy may work for you.
Generally, when you schedule large blocks of instructional time,
instruction will take place all at one time, near the beginning of the
block. Groups will be working on different things, while you
move around the room, helping and guiding as needed. One of
these groups would be computers, where children are working on a
- Group in mixed ability groups
- Chose group names
- If an individual activity is assigned, students take turns at
the computer based on who is prepared and ready with their
- If a group activity is assigned, each student is responsible for
one aspect of the project.
- Each group will have computer time during the same block but on
different days. In this way, other work is still being
completed, students are not "missing out" on worksheets
- Fox example: You have a Language Arts block of 90
minutes daily. Students are working on a book report as
part of their L/A assignment, only this time you would like
the report to be done with illustrations using multimedia
- After the "lesson" has been taught on grammar,
reading, writing, or whatever students will be working on that
day, they will then begin their small group activities based
on the assigned tasks. One group's task on Monday is to
work on the book report using the computer. (If they
have not read the book or taken notes, they do not yet use the
- Groups are rotated daily giving each group an opportunity at the
computer during each block throughout the week.
- Hang a string with a paper clip over the computer area. Attach
different color sheets of paper as it is time to rotate groups.
This only works if your group names are colors! A student could
be responsible for changing the sheets at the appropriate times.
- Equal Access to computers can also be an issue. Perhaps use Popsicle
sticks with the student's names and two jars. One jar is labeled
"NOT YET" and the other "BEEN THERE" or some other
name. As students go to the computers, they move their sticks
from one jar to the other.
- Simply schedule computer time around your "teaching" time.
Post a chart indicating the time frames throughout the week that
different groups can visit the computer. The only exception is
when you are actually in the "teaching process".
- Create a poster chart with two large columns and enough clothespins
for each student. Label a clothespin with each child's name and
place it on the "NOT YET" side. After the students
have been to the computer, they move their clothespin to the
"BEEN THERE" side. On the 'been there' side of the
chart, list the other activities students should work on.
- Free Computer time could be organized with a Sign-Up Sheet. If
someone was absent, or the computer crashed, or needs more legitimate
time on the computer, they could sign up. The teacher would
determine the priorities for work over play time on the computer.
- Hold a Class Meeting- this works well for upper grade
students. Sometimes, the students come up with great ideas on
how they can use the computer equitably and still get other class work
- If your computers are not all networked, assign students to a
computer. All of their work is done at this computer. This makes
it easier to manage their projects.
- If your computers are all networked, use a networked folder
from the server and store their documents on the server. In this
way, students can use whatever computer is currently open.
- Try to keep the groups with mixed abilities. This way students
can help each other in the group.
- Many of the items listed above for single
computers will also work for multiple computers.
Because many technology projects require work and planning in advance
by the students, they will probably not all be ready to go to the computer
at the same time. See the scheduling
section in order to work out a schedule to be sure all students get
their computer time. In addition consider the following:
- When you don't have a lot of time for a particular project, but you
still want to create something well suited to your unit of study,
consider having the students work in pairs or groups. To monitor
students computer time within the group, use an egg-timer. This
way one student will not monopolize the computer.
- Each group member has a job.
- Graphics Engineers
- Audio/ Video Engineers
- Computer software engineers - those students responsible for
putting the slides or cards together.
- Children should change jobs on different projects in order to
learn all the aspects of a multimedia presentation.
- At the end of the project, have students write a
"narrative" about how they contributed to the overall
- Introduce the Activity to the whole class at once. This works
well no matter how the project is to be completed.
- Explain the objectives of the project.
- Develop a time frame and time line for completion.
- Provide project directions and post them near the computers.
- Provide Software Help Tips and post
them near the computers.
- Designate a group of students who can be the Student
Technology Specialists. Teach these children a little more
depth in various areas. Perhaps have a specialist in
- Text - cutting, pasting, formatting, etc.
- Graphics - inserting, modifying, formatting, creating
- Audio/ Visual - inserting an audio or movie clip, record a
sound on a selected slide, narrating an entire presentation, etc.
- Animation - Custom animation, order, sequence, and special
- Transitions - Slide Show finishing touches, timings,
- Use a Progress Chart to Monitor Group Progress - this could be a
laminated store bought chart, or a chart created on the
computer. List the areas in the order you want them
completed. As each section is completed it is checked off by the
students. There could be a slash for "working on it" and an
"x" when it is completed.
Post tips for various aspects of the software your students are using.
Different "How To's" come in handy and will save you a lot of
time and energy. Examples include: inserting clipart; narrating;
adding slides/ cards; saving; opening a file; creating a folder on the
desktop; and anything else you choose. Make you own or copy and
print some of the information from the Software
Tech Tips page. These "tips" can be made into posters
and placed on the wall near the computers or placed in a small binder for
student/ teacher reference.
Keeping information in binders can be a helpful means of sharing
projects and ideas year after year.
- Software help tips and cheat sheets. Its easier than going
through a full software manual!
- Frequently asked questions - answered in one place
- Technology Projects and Lesson ideas and unit support
materials - these can be ideas you would like to use as well as those
you have already used.
- Scheduling information
- System information - passwords, configurations, backup information,
- School/ District technology plan
- Technology Standards
- Curriculum correlations with a particular unit incorporating
- Teach mini 5 minute lessons that focus on only one aspect one
- Teach how to open, close and save a document correctly and in
the correct place.
- Teach about the undo button! (This is one of the first things I
teach my students. If they lose something, I tell them not
to touch anything else - if they haven't you can usually get it
back for them!)
- Teach how to change the font and size of the text as well as explain
where to use these modifications.
- Teach how to import pictures, resize them, wrap text, place in
- Teach how to record a sound or narrate a presentation.
- Teach how to spell check and edit a document
- Teach or remind students how to set margins.
- Keep the lessons short and to the point. (Try using a timer to stop
yourself after 5 minutes!)
- Teach how to use the Tool/ Software to be used to the entire
class. Perhaps teach it in steps requiring the text to be
input before the graphics, animation, and audio are entered.
- Students may have to work out their project in order.
At first, you may also want to limit the number or graphics,
animations, or audio clips permitted. Perhaps in
proportion to the amount of research completed. Otherwise
you may end up with a project filled with animated graphics
but no real content.
We do not always have control over where we can place our classroom
computers. Generally, they will be placed near a plug and the
network drop. The monitors should, however, be visible from various
places in the classroom. Teachers should be able to see the computer
screens when children are working on the Internet as part of their
project. This is for safety reasons. Even though every child using
the Internet must have a signed Acceptable Use Policy (parent or guardian
signature), older children still tend to want to explore. There are a
variety of ways you can restrict this exploration and still give the child
the freedom to use the Internet for research. Read the District's Acceptable
- Place your computers away from chalkboards or pencil
sharpeners. The dust from these two items can damage your
computer's hard drive.
- Try to locate a computer in a place where it can be used for full
class demonstrations. The computer can be connected to a
television through the means of a small piece of equipment called an
"AverKey". The TV will become a computer monitor and
you can effectively teach your mini-lessons.
In order to connect the computer using an AverKey, it must be located
close to the TV.
Storage and File Management is an aspect of planning you will find
worth your time. Think about what makes sense for you when you want
to locate one student's file on a specific topic in one subject. How
are you going to do this quickly, easily, and efficiently. Everyone
is a little different, but the File
System Analogy works well for most people. Take a look at it and then
create your own based on your particular style or organization.
Saving will be done in different ways depending on the setup you are
using. If you have only one computer, you can save the student's
files on the hard drive, perhaps in a folder called "Student
Work" or something obvious to you. However, you should
also always have a back up of their work just in case of a computer
crash. Believe me, you do not want to explain to your students that
all of their hard work is lost - even though you probably didn't cause the
computer to crash. I've been there - and the looks on their
faces. They trust you to be sure that nothing happens - you know -
the miracle worker thing!!! I was lucky - I was able to
recover all the lost work. I haven't made the mistake
- You can back up to floppies - although it is probably the least
recommended or safest way - they do not tend to be too
- You can back up to a zip disk if you have a Zip Drive.
- You can back up on a CD if you have a CD Writer.
- You can back up you files on the server if your computer is on the
network. In order to back up using the server you will need to
contact your site Technology Coordinator. He/she will contact
the district techs so that a folder can be set up on the server for
- You can back up multiple copies.
- Back up any time students have done a significant amount of work.
You may need to set different rules when using the computers.
Most children are pretty well behaved. Generally speaking, allow
them to talk quietly or whisper as they help each other.
- Sample rules could include:
- Explain respecting other's work and privacy. Stay out of
other peoples folders or files.
- Leave the settings on the computer as they are. Changing
desktop settings creates confusion.
- Treat the equipment with respect.
- No drinks or snacks near the computers.
- Move carefully when around the computers.
- Post or explain consequences. There have been times when
students lost the privilege of using the classroom/ LMC computers for
damage and theft. In this case, the assignment will still be
required, but it will have to be completed on a home computer, or the
old fashioned way - with paper and pencil.
The easiest way I have found to know when students need help is using a
green and red plastic cup. Green means "I'm doing great!"
and red means "I need help". These cups are simply kept
near each computer and placed on the monitor or CPU as needed.
Generally, the green cup is always up. (If you want you can use only
the red cup when help is needed.) If help is needed, the student
places the red cup on top of the computer. Either a Student
Technology Specialist or the teacher will know, without class
interruption, that someone needs help. Most of the time, the student
can continue to work on something else until help arrives.