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Life in the trenches

Computer Lab Management Tips

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.

Computer Lab, Computer Skills, Instructional Technology, Life in the trenches

Oh no! The server is down! Now what will I do with these kids?

Those are words that no Technology Specialist or Facilitator ever wants to hear.  Luckily, I haven’t heard (or said it myself) for years now except for some extremely short events of less than an hour.

That wasn’t the case twelve years ago, though.  I was working as a Technology Facilitator at a middle school when the server went down for six school days!  The staff really scrambled and made it through, but I really felt for the business computer teachers.  What do you do when you are supposed to be teaching keyboarding to six classes a day?

There are slide1very few engaging low tech/no tech activities out there when this happens.  The server might not even be down but the tech specialist might be asked to vacate the lab for some sort of testing or training and end up holding classes in an empty classroom.  Add in a few unruly kids, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!

That very possibility lead to the development of these “no tech” games.  Inexpensive and requiring very little prep, “Scoot” games have been a staple in academic classrooms for years.  So far we have made two versions, “Elementary Digital Citizenship” and “Word Processing,” both aimed at elementary classrooms.  Simply cut apart the cards and place them in order around the room and duplicate the student answer sheet.  This “old school” game is a lot of fun, complete with giggling, as well as an excellent way to review and assess what your students may need in terms of remediation.

If you’ve never played Scoot, here’s a great blog post from the “Learning Resources”  blog.


We’ve included thirty stations in each game that will keep your kids busy and engaged.  Even if everything is running smoothly, Scoot can serve as a great review, substitute teacher activity, or a break and opportunity for your students to get up and move!

Tell us, what are your strategies to make it through these kinds of situations?


Computer Lab, Computer Skills, Instructional Technology, Life in the trenches, School, Word Processing

Are you ready?

Are you ready for the new school year?  I’m not sure what happened to summer but it’s gone for many of us!

As always, I had great plans to get so many things done around the house such aback to schools tackle that closet that drops all kinds of things on top of my head every time I open the door, but I failed again.  No surprise–that seems to be the story of every summer and my kids are grown so I can’t blame it on them!

With some new furniture to make seating more flexible for the computer lab, there is a ton of work to be done!  No more big tables shoved up near outlets as the desktops have made their way to classrooms and the lab is equipped with laptops.  New furniture means new decor and different colors–no more blah, basic beige and blue.

There isn’t a ton of decor items out there for a computer/technology lab compared to let’s say, kindergarten and first grade, so I’ve begun to make it myself!   It’s bright and cute, plus instructional because of the terms used.  Want to take a look?

Click on the pictures to find out more!

Technology Terms Alphabet                          Hardware Word Wall

Slide1 Slide1

How are you getting your classroom or lab ready?

We’d love to hear about it!


Computer Lab, Life in the trenches, School

A Great Bulletin Board Idea…

bulletin boardNormally, I’m one of the more reserved type of teacher which is unusual for an elementary school.  Most of my co-workers are very touchy-feely, warm, and cuddly in a very good way.  I’ve acquired some of those traits over the years to some extent, although sometimes my grouchy self will say, “There are a whole lotta nice people, but nearly as many kind people.”

It’s very easy to plaster on a smile and be nice.  It’s truly a gift to have a kind heart, both as an adult and a child.  When I saw this bulletin board on my Facebook feed, my immediate reaction was that it would be great for a hallway or a classroom.

On further reflection, I think it might be even better to be posted in the staff lounge or mail room.  As teachers, we all need to be kind to each other–we have one of the toughest jobs in the world.  I know how a first year teacher feels when she is crying from frustration or a veteran teacher feels from the lack of respect from their students.

How can you practice a random act of kindness for one of your co-workers?


Life in the trenches