Planning a successful training program

Using the "tools" in your computer classroom

Following up

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Additional advice from our teachers

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Question One: Can you reflect on your own experiences in a way that might help other teachers?

Sue: Don't be afraid to use the technology - it's there, and it's really helpful. It's funny because I was thinking, "oh, I don't know if I'm going to be able to use the y drive," and stuff like that. And, it's nothing that's really that scary - it's really user friendly. And, just trying to find a balance. They'll get to know their own kids in the classroom - you know, notice that the students finish writing early on the computers or if they go, "oh no, now she's doing this." Notice if they seem like they need more interaction, more group work. Really just trying to make it so it's not a classroom where everybody's really isolated because I think that's one of the dangers.

Beth: I guess this is something I just figured out through talking to Kate and just kind of...know your strengths and weaknesses and do things to compensate. Like, for me, I'm not comfortable lecturing, so it makes no sense for me to lecture every single day for the whole hour. It's good for me to practice it maybe 10 minutes a day, whatever, but it just makes no sense to put myself through that and ineffectively try and teach them because I'm so nervous. So just know your own limits and work your lesson plan around that - don't be afraid to change something and do a group activity rather than a lecture situation or a group discussion that you're not comfortable leading.

Question Two: If you were going to give advice to teachers going into the computer classroom for the first time, what would you say?

Sue: Well, it's kind of like the same advice that you'd give to any new teacher. You know, borrow, borrow, borrow. But then again, I would introduce the technology early on and I would have cheat sheets for them refer to so that they just don't depend on having someone there to tell them how to do it every time so they never learn how to do it on their own. And, at the beginning, if you're a first semester teacher, find a buddy to come in on the days while you're teaching the technology so that you have another hand there that can go around and help with questions that the students might have. So that you're not faced with 25 students saying, "Teacher, help me!" all at once.

Kathy: "Oh, don't worry about it," I guess. That, you know, do what you feel like you need to do but also just let things happen and don't try to structure it too much. I think that's what we ran into last semester when we were cutting and rearranging is like if it's too structured you can't do it all. And I know if I were doing it again I'd probably even let up more and try to do more with the computers. . . . But there are things I think I would have done more of and maybe more, uh, just freewriting. . . . I did a couple of those introducing the unit, um, I guess it was the second unit with the multiculturalism that I did again and they were a lot more involved with that than they were last semester. Just freewrite on some time where you were the odd one, uh, you know, the one that wasn't in the given culture. And things like that I think I'd do more of ‘cause they seemed to, their writing is better and they can say, "Oh!" you know, it's a freer style so they don't have to be so self-critical either. So I think I would do that.

Beth: Just to use the technology to its fullest extent, but not to let it take over your classroom - which I didn't do, but I wouldn't want that to happen. I don't know what else. Not try and have a traditional classroom in there, because it won't work, and I don't know why you would want it to work. I just think that there are definitely some benefits that you wouldn't want to lose by doing that.

Question Three: OK. So what do you think, if you were talking to a new teacher - and we're talking about the things that you'd do differently now, and one of them is teaching the technology sooner, or at least getting them in touch with the technology sooner - what kind of sequence would you go through? How would introduce them, and what would you introduce them to?

Sue: The basics that they need for the class first. Just the basic nuts and bolts to get them through. Being able to come in, log-on, open a file, save, print, and then get that the first day, and then move them into maybe learning how to use e mail so they can communicate with me and with each other, and move them slowly through that. I don't know if I'd use the Chat program again in class. I might introduce it to them as something kind of nifty, but I felt like in the class that the discussions got more out of hand - that they didn't really stay on task, and it was more difficult for me to monitor, then just having them just get into a group and talk and maybe work together.

Question Four: If you were gonna be involved in training new GTAs for the computer classroom, what would be the three or four most important things you'd ask them to focus on?

Beth: Just to get your students like into the routine, like something I learned from Laura. She walks in and she always writes on the board what the DAILY's called so there's no confusion and, you know, just make that your routine. You walk in, you write that on the board, your students know that you have a DAILY, they know that they're gonna print and, you know, like, turn it in most likely, probably, turn it in right then. And then they're gonna get together as a class. Cause I think in that room you just lose people as soon as they start typing, they're gone. You know. So if you can get them into the routine, then you don't stand there, looking, aaag, screaming at them to print and to get to the table. So that's probably all I'd say. Just be comfortable with the technology and the routine thing.

Question Five: What did you like about the computer classroom?

Kathy: I think the informality of it, and you can move around. There's a little bit more freedom than you have in a regular classroom. Or, when we were doing things I would sometimes have to tell them to move away from the table, which was interesting too, because I thought - I'd say, "OK, get in groups, or go to the computer and do such and such...." If they were in groups they very much wanted to stay by the table. But I did like the feeling that there was more movement, they were more relaxed in doing what they needed to do, the going back and forth, getting up when their things were printed out. It just seemed more comfortable, and I guess it's why I like that part of it more than the lecture part because that at-ease feeling.

Question Six: What else did you like about the classroom? You liked the informality...

Kathy: I liked the informality. I liked the idea that they so readily felt comfortable with the writing. It was never a chore, I never heard any moaning about, "Oh, do we have to do it." Maybe they were just a stoic bunch, and put up with a lot! But I think they felt comfortable that they were always at the same computers and so I think they all built their own little world there too. But, I guess that's it. Kind of a sense of belonging, that was more of a home base at the computer.