As the year begins to wind down (we're in school until June 12th!), I have begun to think about the things that worked in my classroom this year and those that that did not.
In order to run smoothly, in my opinion, a classroom needs routines and systems. It has been suggested that I have systems for my systems--but that's okay; I do what works for me.
My thirty-four sixth graders have been lucky enough to have netbooks for the past two years. These small computers have limited capability, and the battery rarely lasts for more than an hour, but it has been a good start for many children who do not have computers at home. Currently we have 34 netbooks in varying stages of "fortitude"--I think there will be a lot more "sharing" next year when it is projected that our class sizes could stretch up to 40!
Having computers in the classroom leads to the need for several systems to keep the use of technology as easy and efficient as possible. In the beginning of the year, we spend lots of time learning how to hold our computers, walk with our computers, care for our computers, learn our passwords, log in, log out, etc. In addition, each family signs a "contract" to underscore the need to treat the equipment with care--and to use the computers appropriately and responsibly (no YouTube, no e-mail, tell your teacher if something goes wrong or if something inappropriate has appeared on your screen, etc!).
It was quickly clear that students were collecting a variety different things necessary for using the computers, particularly ear buds or headphones. I knew that hygiene concerns necessitated keeping these items in a designated place--and initially, storing them individually presented a challenge. And, although the computers have a touch pad, many students prefer using a mouse. Many of the mouses/mice(?) looked similar, so quickly deciding which mouse belonged to which student often led to confusion. (BTW, it has become my secret chuckle to watch children attempt to use a touch pad using two or three fingers--from each hand!)
And so was the origin of our "Laptop kits." I decided to use small heavy duty "zip lock"-type baggies. These have survived the whole year without a single calamity. Each bag contains a brightly colored label, making it easy for children to differentiate their bag from other students' bags.
And inside the bag are the components necessary for students to work successfully (and independently) on the netbooks...
Some students have traditional headphones (These won't fit in the bag. Darn!), but most have ear buds--of every color imaginable. I try to find some on sale in the summer and use them for drawings, prizes, and rewards. As I mentioned, some students also use a wireless mouse, so the part that fits into the USB port goes in the little envelope.
My students work on a variety of different sites, many of which require personalized passwords. One program that our District uses requires a different (nine digit!) password for each content area! In exasperation, I printed all of the passwords needed for the different sites and stapled them together--with one exception. The students have an ID code and a password that follows them through the years. This is used to access their content though the District server and allows them to log on to any computer (which is helpful as many of the computers seem to require repair all at one time!). These passwords are a little more private (since they are more permanent), so they are kept on a ring in a (locked) drawer. After the first month, I have seldom needed to get a card from the ring to remind a student. Students also keep a second copy of the passwords for computer programs in their binder for use if/when they want to work on these same programs at home.
And WHAT is this? Likely your first guess was right: It's a baby sock. I continue to be astonished by the amount of dust and fingerprints that can accumulate on a computer screen. Our netbooks have a hard plastic screen, so it is less vulnerable than many. Two of the kids' fingers fit perfectly in the sock, and now and then a gentle wiping up allows the students to see the screen a bit better. This is not an option for many screen types, but for ours, it's a perfect match.
My students don't have access to their desks, so everything is stored in "table boxes" or on shelves. The laptop kits go into the table boxes along with reading books and Book Logs. The kits are always within reach which is wonderful when a center activity requires the students to do an activity on netbooks or a student chooses to write on the computer during CAFE choice time. Here is Sarah's laptop kit safely stored in one of the table boxes for Table 2.
I think the "kit"system could just as easily be used if the baggies were stored in students' desks or transported to/from the computer lab.
As I reflect on the systems that have worked this year--and those that have not--I think that the laptop kits are a keeper. They have allowed the students to develop increased independence and have decreased my frustration level since students do not have to depend on me to locate missing or misplaced items or program passwords.
I'd love to hear about other systems you use to keep your students organized as they become more successful in learning to use technology. I'm also interested in knowing which computer sites you/your students just couldn't live without...
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