Every May, as the school year begins to draw to a close, I am reminded about the "systems" we have in place in our classroom. Some are extravagant and some are simple--but combined, these systems help keep things running smoothly.
One simple system that works well in our classroom is the use of our "laptop kits."
We are lucky to have a computer cart with thirty-four netbooks. They are now five years old and increasingly slow, but students still spend time on the computers almost daily. The computers are kept in a big, blue cart.
After a bit of training, students can access the computers independently, and they develop and use their technology skills on different websites and with different programs. Because students are often using programs with sound--alongside other students who are having a Book Club discussion or who are working with a teacher in a small group--they need to have a set of earphones or earbuds that can remain at school. I encourage them to have an inexpensive pair; nothing fancy is needed for our purposes.
This is where the Bright Idea comes in. Since my students change seats throughout the day depending on the subject or activity, we don't use the desks for storage. They keep their textbooks on shelves, they keep their papers in their binders, and they store things communally using plastic boxes for books and other supplies.
When we started using laptops, it was obvious that students would need a way to store their "gear." The system needed to be accessible, and easy, and literally, at their fingertips. "Laptop kits" were the obvious solution!
I use small heavy duty "zip lock"-type baggies. These have survived the whole year without a single calamity. Each bag has a brightly colored label, making it easy for the students to differentiate their bag from other students' bags.
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 a pair of earbuds--of every color imaginable. And last week, one of my students arrived with a pink glitter set and another had a pair with tiny monkeys! I try to find a few extra sets on sale in the summer and use them for drawings, prizes, and rewards--especially for those who cannot supply a set on their own. Some students also use a wireless mouse, so this goes into the kit--and the part that fits into the USB port goes in the little envelope.
The students have an ID code and a password that follows them through their school years. Students usually memorize these quite quickly (or arrive in sixth grade knowing them). However, students also have access to other programs and sites that require passwords.
Although they try to remember them, some passwords are forgotten or are simply to complicated to memorize. This system helps students locate the information quickly--without interrupting the teacher! I staple the passwords together with the students' names on top to keep them private--but also to keep them all in one place! The password sets are stored in the students' laptop kits as well.
And WHAT is this?
Likely your first guess was right: It's a baby sock! Our netbooks have a hard plastic screen and I continue to be astonished by the amount of dust and fingerprints (etc!) that can accumulate on a computer screen. Two 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.
Here is Sarah's laptop kit safely stored in one of the table boxes for Table 2.
This system is a little more hygienic than storing the earbuds/earphones all together--and we needed a system that wouldn't create a traffic jam at another point in the room. The laptop kits have worked well for us--and it is rare for things to be lost. That fact alone leaves the teacher smiling at the end of the day!
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.
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