Hi there

I was asked to supply some advice to teachers 'scared' to bring their class to ICT labs. Do you have any useful suggestions to share.

One that I have come up with is
to turn off monitors when setting assignment or instruction

Any help gratefully accepted

John Heffernan

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Hi John. These tips (and others) are discussed in Best Ideas for Teaching with Technology: A Practical Guide for Teachers, by Teachers:
The benefits of teaching with technology are great, but the computer classroom is a different environment than what most teachers are used to:
1. Keep yourself moving. If you are teaching while your students are at their computers, you need to be constantly circling the room, looking at what students are doing, watching for the telltale signs of illicit programs being quickly minimized. Consider the layout of tables and chairs in your classroom and be sure that you are able to move around the room quickly and unimpeded. If you do this regularly, you’ll find that you end up doing a lot of teaching from the back of the room, where you can see everyone’s screens. Teaching from the back of the room has the added benefit that you can see the class, the board, and the projection screen from a student perspective. (With a handy pointer device that can be bought at a computer store, it is even possible to control your computer and projector from a distance.) Plus, all that circling and hovering can be great exercise!
2. Keep the subject moving. If the activity and conversation are moving fast enough and the material is engaging and challenging enough, students won’t have time to mess around. Of course, some students might not
be able to keep up. Use this one carefully, and think about whether the primary purpose at that moment is for the students to amass information or reflect upon it to gain understanding. If it’s the latter, consider asking the students to lower their laptop screens and focus more acutely on the conversation.
3. Hold students accountable. If you do have problems with students misusing machines, often punishing one or two can have a quieting effect on the rest of the group, at least for a little while. If you do so early in the year, you send a strong message to the students that the computers are to be used for academic purposes and nothing else.
4. Make each screen visible. If possible, set up the room in a horseshoe with you at the center so you can watch the students work. If you must have students seated in rows, sit in the back of the classroom where you can see their screens. Screens create a barrier. It’s subtle, but there is something about the laptop screen that creates a barrier between students and teachers.
5. For better discussion, lower laptop screens or close desktop monitors. Whenever you want to just have a discussion with students to flush out an issue, make them lower their screens. If you use laptops, teach your students to “close to a thumb” which means that they don’t quite close the laptop, keeping a thumb’s width between the keyboard and the screen so that the computer doesn’t go into sleep mode. When the conversation ends and you want them to start taking notes again, give them a few minutes to type up a summary of the important points from your conversation before moving on. If you are in a computer lab where students are working with computers, have them shut off the monitors when you want to speak to them.
6. Check Web Browsing history. Direct them all to the same Web site at the beginning of the class. Then check their Internet history at the end of class. See where they have been during class!
7. Have homework waiting in their email inbox. That's likely the first thing they'll open when they get on the computer. Have lesson web links ready in the email message.
8. Be sure that your students’ work is easily portable. It doesn’t make sense for students to take notes on computers if they cannot access their files in class, at school, and at home. Suggestion: Use online portfolios. Make sure students have somewhere they can reliably store their notes online. Suggestion: Use a thumb drive. Some schools mandate that students purchase their own thumb drives, or flash drives, to bring to school. At the very least, you might suggest to your students that they purchase an inexpensive thumb drive to move electronic files quickly from computer to computer.
9. For tests or quizzes require students to make their word processor full screen. Make sure that students are not working in windows that allow them to look at anything other than their work.
10. Save, save, save. Remind students to save their work every five to ten minutes.
11. Write cheat-proof questions. When you ask students common or standard questions about literature or time periods, they can use the Internet to find common answers. If you ask creative questions, students will have a harder time finding ready-made answers.
12. Get your IT staff on call. Tell your school’s IT staff when you are giving an assignement or test, and see if they can spare someone to help you.
13. Practice with smaller, low-stakes assignments. Before you begin that "big project" in the lab, give a shorter assignment so that you and your students can practice in the computing environment.
14. Remember, it's about them; not you. You don't have to be a master of technology, nor do you have to understand everything kids can do with technology. Create a framework for an engaging, student-centered assignment and let students surprise you with their innovative contributions!
For little guys I bought red, green and yellow plastic cups which set nested on top of the monitor. If you were fine the "green" was on top, if you could work but needed help the "yellow" was on top and if you were dead in the watch the "red" was on top. It helped keep the lab quiet.
Turning off monitors is a great one. I love the ones in the reply below as well. I have a signal word that I use in my lab. I call for the students attention and they are to do the following (turn monitors off, hands in lap, voices off, eyes where directed). It takes some pre teaching up front but it works when I need the groups attention.

Also having a seating chart for the lab is a great one in helping with tracking down issues with the computer. Another is if you are still using old school ball mice is to have them turn the mice over before and after class to show you their mice.

Lastly and most importantly humble yourself to your "experts". I have found that asking students who know more than I do about programs to be "experts" and either teach, act as a helper, or provide me with resources helps give me an extra set of helping hands.
My district has supplied me with a school liscence of Insight. It allows me to see and control all pc's from me lab desk computer. I can even blank out their screen or force them to see my screen on theirs. It works very nicely.
Thanks for all that folks :-)
Another tip - forgive me if I am stating the obvious - never ask students to type in a URL if it can be avoided by cutting and pasting from a word document or similar. It saves so much time and frustration!
Along those same lines---I've been using the Internet for 15 years (?) in the classroom and I think "free surfing" is a giant waste of time. I know, I know, kids need to be discerning but I think for elementary students a buffet of sites should be preselected. Otherwise kids will spend hours birdwalking through ads and links that are not relevant. I post possible link choices on our websites and their limited time in the lab is used more wisely.

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