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November 14, 2014

Simple Management Tips for Your C.O.W. (Computers on Wheels)

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Affectionately known in computer jargon as C.O.W., the term translates to Computers on Wheels. I must admit when I first heard the term in conversations, I did not have the foggiest idea what was being talked about. There were not any cows to be seen in our building, and there wasn’t a traveling farm on our school playground. I remember one of my colleagues whispering to me that this was just an acronym for the computer cart. Cute and catchy name, but management of the C.O.W. can be anything but cute and catchy. It can be a logistical nightmare. 

    Currently, I share a C.O.W. containing 30 laptops with two other literacy teachers. This C.O.W. is located in a colleagues' classroom. Normally when you need to borrow the C.O.W., you check the schedule and sign off for it. This year, one of the initiatives in our building is for students to have more time using the laptops in all curriculum areas. This has prompted the teachers that I work with to create management systems that are equitable for all. I would like to share some tips that are working for us.

     

    Simple Management Tips for Using Computers on Wheels

     

    1. Communicate with your colleagues — I cannot stress this enough. Here is a situation that I just lived through that is probably all too common: teachers needing to use the laptops during the same teaching periods. The literacy teachers were publishing personal narratives and the social studies teacher on our team was working on a project. We all needed the laptops and there were deadlines to meet. We were able to adjust our schedules to accommodate everyone, but the big take-away from the near disaster was that we needed to revisit how to get the best bang for our buck. How could we, as a team of teachers, work together so that everyone would have access to the C.O.W when they needed it? An idea that surfaced was to have students work in groups where they could share a device to free up more laptops for more classes.

    2. Create a schedule — Post a schedule so that everyone knows where the laptops are, and which class is using them.

    3. Keep your C.O.W. in a "barn" — No searching required when you know the location of the C.O.W. Every teacher and technology assistant (more on the technology assistant below) should know the location and religiously return the C.O.W. when the class is finished.

     
     

    4. Label the laptops — This makes life so much easier, especially when you need to recover a student’s document. Each student is assigned a number and works on that laptop only. Exceptions do occur as when a laptop is broken, or out for repair. 

     

     

     

    5. Involve your students — One of the positions that students can hold in my literacy class is the technology assistant. The technology assistant is responsible for bringing the C.O.W. to the classroom and assisting with handing out the laptops, as well as helping their classmates with any tech questions. For example, if a student is wondering how to save a document to the desktop or to a flash drive, the tech assistant can also come to the aid of a classmate. Students will not have to rely on, or wait for the teacher to help them. Ryan, pictured below, is the current technology assistant. When his assignment is up, he will train the next technology assistant. It is great having an extra set of hands.

     

    Pearls of Wisdom — Be flexible when creating the schedule for shared laptop use. Be open to ideas on how to get the technology into the hands of your students.

    It is wonderful to have access to technology that my students can use. There are still some slight wrinkles that are being ironed out as this posting goes live; it's a work in progress. My colleagues and I are determined to make the process work. Wish us luck!

    Do you have a computer on wheels system that works? As always, please share! I enjoy sharing ideas that make all of our lives easier!

     

    Affectionately known in computer jargon as C.O.W., the term translates to Computers on Wheels. I must admit when I first heard the term in conversations, I did not have the foggiest idea what was being talked about. There were not any cows to be seen in our building, and there wasn’t a traveling farm on our school playground. I remember one of my colleagues whispering to me that this was just an acronym for the computer cart. Cute and catchy name, but management of the C.O.W. can be anything but cute and catchy. It can be a logistical nightmare. 

    Currently, I share a C.O.W. containing 30 laptops with two other literacy teachers. This C.O.W. is located in a colleagues' classroom. Normally when you need to borrow the C.O.W., you check the schedule and sign off for it. This year, one of the initiatives in our building is for students to have more time using the laptops in all curriculum areas. This has prompted the teachers that I work with to create management systems that are equitable for all. I would like to share some tips that are working for us.

     

    Simple Management Tips for Using Computers on Wheels

     

    1. Communicate with your colleagues — I cannot stress this enough. Here is a situation that I just lived through that is probably all too common: teachers needing to use the laptops during the same teaching periods. The literacy teachers were publishing personal narratives and the social studies teacher on our team was working on a project. We all needed the laptops and there were deadlines to meet. We were able to adjust our schedules to accommodate everyone, but the big take-away from the near disaster was that we needed to revisit how to get the best bang for our buck. How could we, as a team of teachers, work together so that everyone would have access to the C.O.W when they needed it? An idea that surfaced was to have students work in groups where they could share a device to free up more laptops for more classes.

    2. Create a schedule — Post a schedule so that everyone knows where the laptops are, and which class is using them.

    3. Keep your C.O.W. in a "barn" — No searching required when you know the location of the C.O.W. Every teacher and technology assistant (more on the technology assistant below) should know the location and religiously return the C.O.W. when the class is finished.

     
     

    4. Label the laptops — This makes life so much easier, especially when you need to recover a student’s document. Each student is assigned a number and works on that laptop only. Exceptions do occur as when a laptop is broken, or out for repair. 

     

     

     

    5. Involve your students — One of the positions that students can hold in my literacy class is the technology assistant. The technology assistant is responsible for bringing the C.O.W. to the classroom and assisting with handing out the laptops, as well as helping their classmates with any tech questions. For example, if a student is wondering how to save a document to the desktop or to a flash drive, the tech assistant can also come to the aid of a classmate. Students will not have to rely on, or wait for the teacher to help them. Ryan, pictured below, is the current technology assistant. When his assignment is up, he will train the next technology assistant. It is great having an extra set of hands.

     

    Pearls of Wisdom — Be flexible when creating the schedule for shared laptop use. Be open to ideas on how to get the technology into the hands of your students.

    It is wonderful to have access to technology that my students can use. There are still some slight wrinkles that are being ironed out as this posting goes live; it's a work in progress. My colleagues and I are determined to make the process work. Wish us luck!

    Do you have a computer on wheels system that works? As always, please share! I enjoy sharing ideas that make all of our lives easier!

     

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