Hello. I am not sure if there is a discussion out there for computer lab teachers yet. If not, I would like to start one so we can bounce ideas and resources off each other. I spent my first year teaching as a computer lab teacher. At first I was hesitant because I thought I would be a classroom teacher. Now, I love it and feel I am in the right place at the right time.

This September I start my second year only this time i am at a Chicago Public School with 600+ students. I have a lot of work to do to prepare and would love to talk with anyone about tips, tricks, what to avoid, etc.

Jeremiah Olson

Tags: computer, lab, labs

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Kia -

I would love any activity suggestions you have. I have been teaching technology for about 6 years now but everything changes so rapidly that I'm always changing my lesson plans. Do you have a link where I could look?

Jane Otto
I'm always looking for cool activities! Please send!

Hi Jeremiah!
I teach computer ed to 1st-8th grade at a private school in Delaware. There are two of us (two computer labs). The lab is also open to students and faculty in-between our classes for whole class instruction, study halls, and one-on-one help. We keep very busy.

We need to teach them what they will need to use now and in the future. So, what does that entail? Everything from basic word processing and typing to creating multimedia projects such as Photo Story3, Movie Maker, etc., yes, even PowerPoint since so many teachers want it (and it quick).

The kids love everything that's not mainstream. They like podcasting using Audacity. I've been trying Web 2.0 tools--some work, some don't. I tried a blog, but they didn't seem to care for it. I don't give homework because I don't see them more than once a week.

I'm always looking for new ideas. I'm heading for NECC in a few days, and hopefully learn more!

Sheila Fredericks
I am putting together curriculum for grades 6-8 computer courses. I am going to be introducing podcasting. What topics do you have them work on? What type of podcasting lessons? Video. audio, both? I would love to here or see some examples.
We just started podcasting with our 8th graders. I did it at the end of the year since I needed something really cool to keep their interests.

The subject was Internet Safety and Social Networking. They could do it individually or with a friend. I gave them a list of sites to use to find information (they also could find their own). They wrote out a script. The next class I showed them the basics of Audacity, and then they created their podcasts. The last day of the class for the year I had them present them.

The cool part of the podcasts was that they ranged from serious to very off the wall--but still got the message across!

You could also have them use another class for the subject. For example, in Photo Story 3 I have them bring their Social Studies books with them. They take a chapter from a future lesson (such as WWII) and create a presentation from that. They had a great time. It was noisy, sheer madness at times, but the end products were great!

Thanks, Carl.
We have Scratch loaded on all the computers. Unfortunately, I see the kids once every six days for 48 minutes. Not enough time for this in regular classtime. Scratch was taught as an after school activity and also a summer activity last summer. The kids really seemed to like it! I just checked out Alice. That is also a really cool program. It seems that there would be a learning curve to that, too.

Ideas on simple things? In the digital storytelling contest I saw examples with claymation and something similar that uses what looks like paper dolls with mouths that move. Is that done like claymation?
No matter what avenue you choose, the students will need time -- that's the one commodity we can't provide. There are so many free tools (Alice, MovieMaker, Scratch, and so much more) available to students. If they have a home computer, internet access, and a personal disciplined self-motivation, there's no limit. There a a multiplicity of contests, too.
As educators our job continues to be to point students to opportunities and sustain their efforts!
I attempted a podcasting course two semesters this past year. I learned lots ... I'm pretty sure my students didn't.
While many of the students mentioned the desire for video -- none of them mastered the tools of audio to the extent necessary to publish a useful podcast. Second semester I asked for student created topics for projects. Even with this input, the class wasn't successful in my opinion.
I very much recommend storytelling as the underlying foundation -- their own stories or those from family and friend. Keeping the raw audio files short is another key; students definitely lost heart editing and meshing files.
I agree with keeping it short. I told my middle school students the podcast only needed to be about 30 seconds, and most did more than that. Knowing that it didn't have to be too long made the task seem easier to them. I don't think any of them had a problem with the length after that, and they were all more than 30 seconds.
Try Scratch or Alice, use them as presentation tools or interactive programs.
Hello Jeremiah,

My name is Joe and I am a tech coordinator. Next year, I will be teaching computers in the classroom. Our school is a Middle School in the Bronx. We are a one laptop per child school. Every student at our school has a laptop. I would be glad to share ideas with you and the other members.
I just thought I'd share a few classroom management tips. I teach in a Chicago school that can't afford much in the way of lab management software so these are just a couple little things that I've found useful

I have found that one of my biggest friends in the lab has been the monitor's power button. I am amazed at how entranced some of my students can become by simply moving the mouse around their screen - even if they are not clicking on anything. This is frustrating when you are giving instructions or having discussion. If I need to be sure I have their complete undivided attention, I have them all power off their monitors.

I also set their desktop backgrounds to black or a darker color. (Honor role students earn the right to change theirs) Since my room is usually hot (30 computers + 30 students + my LCD projector) I tend to keep the lights down. When I am giving instructions at the beginning of class I need their full attention. If they decide to go onto the internet while i am talking, they will usually start at google which has a white background. This has the effect of lighting up their face. As a result you can call out a student who is sitting at computer with a monitor facing away from you. This builds a good amount of mystique as the students next to them see you 'bust' someone without seeing their monitor (this blows their minds.)

Also useful - turn around fast - when students minimize windows it takes a second. If they are surfing or on a different site you will see the trail of the window as it rushes to the task bar (PC environment btw.) This can build a good amount of mystique as well if you bust someone sitting clear across the room.

Of course the best classroom management strategy is engaging activities. Here's a project that my kids enjoy.

Excel bores many students (and teachers truth be told) so I developed the "Million Dollar Challenge" spreadsheet. I challenge them to spend 1 million dollars in two class periods. They have to create a spreadsheet that contains an initial deposit of $1,000,000 and displays a running balance of how much money they have left over after each purchase. They have to include a per item cost, how many of each item, then the total cost for the item. They also have to insert hyperlinks on the name of the item to the site where they found the cost. They are limited to no more than 5 of any one item. They also have a loose budget where they can only spend 50% on real estate, and 25% on transportation.

Things to watch for:

Make sure they are using formulas for all of their calculations - believe it or not many students will open the calculator program and calculate costs by hand.

Keep reiterating a sense of urgency - My students will spend the whole period buying different Air Jordan's, Play Station games and items of clothing 5 at a time if not prodded to mind the time limit of the challenge.

Watch the budget limits - let them buy multiple vehicles but make sure they stay under the $250,000 limit

You also want to make sure you covered appropriate search techniques and internet literacy. I always have a student or two who try to use eBay for the whole project without realizing that those prices are not final.



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