With the advent of 1:1 technology, many are predicting the demise of the computer lab. This is probably true, but it will take many years before they are completely phased out. Many schools have to direct their resources to other needs so this transition will take a long time.
There are some great computer lab specialists who do extraordinary things with their students that rival the 1:1 model in this setting. In order to extraordinary things in your lab, you must have a management system that is effective and maximizes student learning. Here are a few suggestions that have worked well for me.
Give your kids an idea of what they’ll be doing before they enter the lab. Quite often, my classes show up at the door a few minutes before their class is supposed to start. While the other class files out, I always greet the incoming class to set off a positive note and let them know what activities they will participate in.
Make sure that your equipment is in good working order. Let’s face it–kids are hard on computers and printers and I’ve run into some teachers who are just as hard! Malfunctioning or broken equipment can really throw a monkey wrench into your lesson. The more you can learn about hardware trouble shooting, the smoother things will run. There is a tremendous amount of information online that you can access. I learned to change the fuser and rollers in my laser printer with a tutorial I came across. Had I not, I would have had to wait weeks before the school system’s printer tech to show up. I’ve swapped out hard drives, CD-Rom drives, and internal speakers.
Make sure you have tested your lesson! Nothing is worse than finding out that the cool website you found has been taken down or trying out a new program that you have never used in front of your class. My students tend to run off the rails if there is any down time whatsoever so I keep them on task the entire time. If I am fumbling around trying to remember how to do something, havoc will result. I also put all the links to any online activities on my website where my kids know where they will be. In fact, I am a huge advocate of flipped learning; I create videos where I state the objective and model the process for just about every lesson I do. Yes, it does take time, but I’ve had excellent results in terms of on task behaviors and student made products.
Make your lesson meaningful. If your kids aren’t interested or are bored, your lesson is probably history. My administration wants all the specialists to use science and social studies content as part of our lessons so the kids get a double dose. When the third grade studies the Solar System, I have measuring tapes around the lab so kids can measure how far they can jump. We plug their findings into a spreadsheet and calculate what the length of their jumps would be on the moon and other planets. It’s a great way for them to review the concept of gravity, learn to enter data correctly, and select the right type of graph to display their data.
These are just a few suggestions–there are many more to consider. If you haven’t adopted any of these ideas, try them out! Consistent routines that utilize these suggestions are bound to improve what happens in your lab! I’m anxious to hear what you do! Please leave some suggestions in th
e comments below.