All Together or On Their Own

This fall I had the chance to observe many different teachers' approaches to bringing their classes to the computer lab, and I have observed something that I think is important. It is really tough to have the whole class do anything on the computer in the lab all at the same time.

I must start by saying that all of the teachers that I observed are EXCELLENT teachers. They just have different ways that they approach management of a group of students.

Everyone Doing the Same Things
One of the teachers came into the lab with her first-grade class.

  • Each student was assigned a computer and they were to always sit in the same place.
  • Then she explained step-by-step how to log-in and how to start the program that they were doing.
  • After each step she waited for everyone to catch up. Many students had to wait for the slower and lost ones. Some of the impatient ones clicked ahead and then had to be brought back to where the rest of the group was.

It was exhausting and all that got done that first day was logging-in and shutting down.

Helping Each Other
This was another first-grade class, but here the teacher permitted free seating as long as they were able to work on the computers without problems. They happily came in and went to computers. The teacher:

  • gave them enough directions so that the faster kids could get started.
  • helped the slower ones by going around one-on-one helping them to log in and start the program.

It was amazing to me how much smoother and quicker this was. The students had time to work on the program and seemed to log-in much more quickly.

Demo Then on Their Own
Another variation I have seen is a teacher who comes into the lab and has the students sit on the floor so that it is easier for them to pay attention while he gives them directions. He then walks them through each of the steps that they will be doing and demonstrates and then they all go to their own computers and get going. All most of them need is that beginning instruction, but the few who need one-on-one help can get it without holding up the whole class.

Trying to have all students do things at the same time is counter-productive in a computer lab.

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