I am looking for some suggestions on managing elementary students on classroom computers. Most of the teachers and classrooms I work with have 3-4 student computers, but they rarely have them on. I am trying to find advice from other teachers. What are people doing to make sure students are staying safe, engaged, and learning?
For staying safe, engaged, and learning nothing beats a solid teacher with good direction. Make the computers useful for a purpose, where the students have to use them to a result. Problems tend to arise when there is undirected "free time" with no supervision. Having guidelines for acceptable use, and consequences for misuse, go a long way to ensuing proper use.
You can setup individual student accounts with restrictions, so each student logs in to their own account and you can restrict software use on a pe student basis (if you are Mac based I would recommend OSX Server software and WorkGroup Manager for easy permission controls of multiple accounts - works throughout a building, not class specific - Sync does similar functions for the PC side).
What platform are the computers? Is there a possibility of a server to handle individual accounts/permissions?
I would have to agree with Christopher that proper direction is the key to purposeful use of the computers. Providing students with clear and simple directions about what needs to be done while using the computers as well as establishing time frames will ensure that something actually gets done.
A question I have would be around the configuration of the computers? Are they situtated as a hub or in a row? Rows prevent multiple students from sharing a computer because they start to get bunched up; if the computers are in a circle or placed around the room then it is easier to have multiple students use one computer thus increasing students' access to the computers. The Florida Center for Instructional Technology has some great suggestions for leveraging computers in a variety of settings: http://fcit.usf.edu/multimedia/deliver/deliverb.html
Other alternative computer management software programs include Synchroneyes and Lan Schoolbut these would probably be better for computer labs rather than classrooms with a handful of computers but you can be the judge of that.
Thank you for the helpful links to the different monitoring software :)
The reason why I posted this question is because I am currently in an itinerant position (7 schools total) for supporting 4th and 5th grade gifted students. Most of the support service that are available to the students are in a digital format. A road block that has come up is many of the elementary school teachers do not utilize their students computers. I am trying to get a comprehensive list of different management techniques and ideas of what might work for their classroom.
Since there are only 3 or 4 computers in your class you could try to partner the students up on the computers. Have them play interactive games together in pairs. That way it's not just one student staring at a computer screen being anit-social. If you have the students pair up and work together they will be practicing their social skills, learning new technology and working on academics.