Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Laptop Kits" for Using Computers in the Classroom

This post was originally published in June, but I am "recycling" it again to link up with Debbie Clement's post on Classroom Organization Tips. Check out Debbie's AMAZING  (and comprehensive!) post where she discusses tips and materials for organizing your classroom. Then link up and add a strategy to share. There are already lots of great ideas in the link-up section at Rainbows Within Reach!
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...

Want to see more organizational materials and systems for your classroom? Click the button below to link back to Rainbows Within Reach....


  1. Wow...what great organization! A netbook for everyone? That's pretty amazing, too.

    Fun in Room 4B

  2. Oh my friend!!! How organized you are:)))) Love that you're planning for next year....that makes me feel less guilty as I have been doing that too!! My silly mind won't shut off...and it's not the coffee!!!
    Hugs to you!!!!

    4th Grade Frolics

  3. WOW!! I don't have anything close to this organized for my computers, but now I know what to do thanks to you Kim! This is perfect!

    I can't believe you could have that many students next year...there isn't even an appropriate word to describe what that is beside madness :/

    I hope you have a lovely week!

  4. These kits are perfect! I love how you organized them. My favorite.... the SOCK :)
    I used to use snack size baggies fo rear buds when I had a listening center in 3rd grade. They work perfect!
    Thank you for the reminder to reflect on what work and didn't this year. I def. have some thinking to do...

    Have a wonderful week!!!! Hugs!!!

  5. I love it! We just have a few desktops in our room, but occasionally we check out the laptops from the library. I plan to use them more often next year and these kits would be good to have. I especially like the the password booklet for each student. Some are able to memorize them more easily than others (I teach 2nd grade). I agree that setting procedures and practicing them until they become ingrained in their brains is very important. The hard work up front pays off in the end!

  6. I love the idea of the computer kit! We did not use our computers much this year, with 1st grade it was much harder. If I keep this same class, I will definitely use this idea. As usual, Kim, you are the organizing queen!

  7. I'm with Mor . . . my favorite is the SOCK! It'd be SO cute if they could decorate their socks to personalize them . . . FUN, fun, FUN!!

    Love how organized you are.


  8. Oh! I love this!! What a great idea. I am pinning this so I remember to use it later.

    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  9. Terrific idea! Finding earbuds are always an issue for us. Will definitely use this next year.

    Diary of a Sixth Grade Teacher

  10. Ok, Kim, you have to clear up some confusion for me! You said your students don't have access to their desks-do they just hover above them? LOL! :)

    Your laptop kits are A.W.E.S.O.M.E.!!!! You are the best!! I have 2 working desktop student computers in my room. Hmmm.....

    Another change for me-I will not be teaching science next year. I will be teaching 5th and 6th grade history!!!! Which was my 1st choice anyway!!!

    OMG-you might have 40 students next year????


  11. Oh my word - 40 kids??? Oh Kim - you're going to need a Starbucks to open up beside the school! LOVE the baby sock in the laptop kits - fabulous idea! My board is piloting a program for netbooks in grade 4 - one for every 2 students - and nobody is allowed to borrow them ... I may be a little bit jealous!

    Runde's Room

  12. Thanks so much for this post! I will have a class set of laptops next year, and I need to start thinking. Your kit is the perfect place to start!

    Mrs. Tilmon Says...

  13. Brillant! I was thinking about how I would be storing headphones and other miscellaneous stuff in my computer lab next year.

    Thanks for sharing Kim! :)

    Life in Middle School

  14. What programs do your students use?

  15. KIM!!! Thanks so much for linking this insight of yours into my blog hop for organizational ideas. I can see by all of the comments of others how much this will help teachers. I hope that you receive some extra reads for this info as a result of your linking it up!


  16. Love this idea. Our local district is implementing iPads in the classroom (3-5 per class) and allowing students to bring technology from home (with a "contract" signed by parents) this would be great to have!


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