Teaching With Laptops for Every Child

By Megan Power on October 22, 2009

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.

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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!


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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!


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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!

Comments

Yes, CAN ANYONE PLEASE HELP.....We are trying to use Dell Latitude 2110's with the Scholastic iRead program.... We have an ISSUE with the whole screen not showing...Students CANNOT see the Toolbar or Blue Arrow at bottom of screen in order to Answer or Go On?

What have you done to Correct this Issue?

THANKS SO MUCH!!! :)

Elementary Students Waiting To Have Fun On Mini Laptops with iRead.... :)

Megan, I went to razkids.com but was unsure about the specific program your students were using with leveled reading texts. I also teach kindergarten and would love more information about this subscription. Thanks!

Sorry. The website is www.raz-kids.com. It's a great site and my students loved reading online. As a teacher it was another way for me to hear, assess, and teach reading skills. Enjoy! Smiles, Megan

I too have a 1:1 netbook ratio in my classroom. I am currently the only elementary classroom in the district piloting this. I got them in the spring of last year. It has been a big learning process, but I am really getting to the point that it is integrated almost 50% of our day. Students are still participating in guided reading and other traditional classroom activities. Programs I use to support my students include a ning (class landing page), epals, Google docs, Moodle, and now Kid Biz 3000. It is amazing the impact this is having on my students. As students enter the work force in the future, technology will be integrated into almost every aspect of their career. We might as well get them started now!

Thank you so much for sharing! It is great to hear from others doing a 1:1. What grade level are you? I completely agree that technology is our world and we need to get them started now! Thanks again for your comment and I hope we hear from you again soon! Smiles, Megan

This all sounds so wonderful. I am a kindergarten teacher and I take my kids to our computer lab each week. My kids love using computers. However, at my school we a computer lab but no computer lab teacher so it is all left up to me. I have 22 students with no aid so I send more time walking to the lab turning on all the computers and signing everyone in. It would be so awesome to have laptops in our classroom. My favorite website to use with my class is starfall.com .

Thanks for your comment. With budget cuts those types of extra teaching positions are going away all over. Have you tried having your students sign in? I have cards for all of my kids with their username and passwrod on it. The first time we go into the lab or used our laptops we practiced this. Now most of my students don't even need their card anymore. It really helps. Starfall.com is a favorite of mine too. Take a look at Scholastic.com for some games s well as my favorite site: http://www.internet4classrooms.com/month2month.htm Thanks again for your comment! Smiles, Megan

Megan, My name is Stella Erondu. I am the principal of a 1st year school in a low income area of north St. Louis community, serving Kg to 1st grade only this year. Our school is North Side Community School.

I have envisioned one-on-one laptop classrooms. Our classroom ration is 15:1 and it will be so easy to implement this program in each classroom. I need to know how to go about bringing a program such as what you described above to NSCS. If you can give us any pointer as to how to find a sponsor, or a company that will wish to run a test pilot program with us, please provide me with that information as you respond as soon as possible. Thanks, Stella Erondu

Stella, I am loving having a 1:1 so far. We are partnering with Intel. They gave us some free laptops to pilot and then our school bought some more. I have the set of computers that our school bought. Intel also gave us some training although we are helping each other mostly. Maybe contacting them to see if they are interested might help. If you have the money or find a grant start with a few classrooms where teachers are already using a lot of technology. Then you can fade it into the rest of your school and assist teachers that might need more help. This is what we are doing in my school and district.

My school is a Title 1 school. I have already found it beneficial for these students to help bridge the gap in their early learning. I am sure these laptops will help even more throughout the year.

I am so excited to hear a K-1 school interested in 1:1. Most of what I am finding is high schools or middle schools with 1:1. If any elementary- it is upper grades. If you do get this up and running at your school please stay in contact. I would love to assist your school!Let me know if you have any other questions! Smiles, Megan

This is UNREAL! I am totally impressed! I would love to find a program that will help my kids learn. I love getting programs at the library, but to be honest, I don't think they are learning too much. They are very outdated. I am going to check out the site you mentioned. I am looking forward to future posts on this subject!

Thanks! It really is so much fun to watch and be a part of. Here is a great site I always recomend to teachers. You can find a variety of games for different skills and levels- http://www.internet4classrooms.com/grade_level_help.htm Smiles, Megan

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