Teaching With Laptops for Every Child
Laptops in Kindergarten? The answer is yes! Why not? Students are digital natives completely surrounded by a digital world. With the increase in class size and students still needing one-on-one support, technology like laptops can assist us in reaching all students. Read more to learn about how we started using laptops in our classroom and the results I've already seen.
This year I am piloting a 1:1 laptop program where every student in my class has a laptop. Currently, we have five classes piloting this in our district, spanning grades K-5. My class is using the new Dell Latitude 2100 netbook marketed for education. We've had our laptops for about 2-3 weeks now and are just beginning to tap into the potential of this powerful teaching and learning tool.
The first day we started with the laptops many students were unsure of exactly how to work them. Several students had played games on their parents computers, but never had to login with user names and passwords, or get to a web page by themselves. Students needed to learn basic computer vocabulary, such as, icon, minimize, close, and scroll.
You would be amazed how quickly they have picked it up! After 2-3 weeks most of my students can now login with their 8 digit username and passwords without it written down. They can quickly open up the internet, maximize screens, click hot spots that hyper link to other pages, and login to our online classroom learning shell. They have learned how to manipulate our classroom shell, which is created using Blackboard, a common program used in online college classes. Their computer skills and confidence has skyrocketed – and it is just the beginning!
Through the use of my private online classroom shell, students can connect to games and activities that work on their areas of need. I have my online classroom shell setup like a video game where students unlock new levels when they are ready for them. This kid friendly video game approach makes a lot of sense to my students and motivates them to practice in order to move to the next level. For example, right now in reading some students are working on letter identification and matching games, while others are working on letter sounds, rhyming words, or even reading comprehension activities. I even have a subscription (donated by a parent) where my students read guided reading level texts, record themselves reading, and then answer questions about their story (www.razkids.com). This direct access to games and activities, geared to students level of need, helps provide individualized instructional practice.
Students are not on the laptops all day. We do use it as part of reading and math independent goal work during the day. They are still involved in guided reading, word study, and other classroom reading related activities. My students rotate through three activities during this part of my reading instruction. While I meet with guided reading groups, some students work on word study sorts and others work on their literacy goals on their computers.
Student management of the computers has been made easy by purchasing the SMART Sync program. While meeting with my guided reading groups, I use my laptop to keep an eye on what students are doing on their computers. I can observe, control or send messages and websites to their computers, without ever leaving my small group. I love this program!
So far, I do see positive results. Besides students being completely engaged and focused on their work, they are learning to follow the directions to play games. This is a skill that my students really need work on. I have one little girl that has learned all her letters and almost all of her letter sounds because she had the exposure and constant support through the visual and auditory aspects of the letter games. Another little boy actually stays on task and focused when playing his letter games – something difficult for him during other class activities. Another student who is reading, now realizes that she has some difficulty answering questions about her stories and is working on this skill. It is amazing to see the excitement in my students and the positive results. Although this is just the beginning, I anticipate far more exciting results from this journey.
Using laptops to work on skills through our online classroom shell is just one way we will use our laptops this year. I plan on having students write, create movies, as well as research and participate in more project based learning activities. I am looking forward to sharing our progress with this program throughout the year. If you have a 1:1 in your class I would love to hear from you. Other questions or thoughts about this are always welcomed. I think this type of learning tool will become more widely used in schools throughout the country in the next few years and I am lucky and excited to be one of the people blazing the trail towards the future – helping iron out all the wrinkles!