Journal: Tech-Teaching Improvements

The computer-based lessons went much, much more smoothly yesterday and today. 

I talked with students after computer time both days, and they like it.  We decided together that we’ll do 30 minutes of computer time everyday.  I plan to keep checking in about it at least once a week, so it might change.

Now, a bit more about the journey that has been computer time:

First “Lesson:” Oops

In my first computer “lesson” I made a lot of mistakes.  They stemmed from my own experience (I’m in many ways a “digital native“) and from my lack of experience (my training is in running a communicative classroom, not in preparing a computer-based activity). 

I would like to add that the surprise technical difficulties I had were not in any way helpful. 

It was a painful hour of my life, but the learning curve was quick and eye-opening.

What I Improved:

  • I decided to log everyone into the computers myself during the break.  Typing in the nonsense logins and passwords with 100% accuracy was really too much for many students the first day.
  • Most students already had email addresses after the first day – phew!
  • I created a simple website, Teacher Emily’s Computer Class.  Students go to it (bit.ly/EmilyComp) and select their activities. 
  • I quick talked to individual students about their computer skills.  “Are you good with computers?”  Everyone was able to catch my meaning and tell me bood, bad, or so-so.  It was enough to figure out who I had to watch like a hawk, and was therefore super helpful.
  • Thanks to my website, I could quickly send students who struggle to even use a mouse over to a mouse practice program.

How I Want to Keep Improving:

  • seat all of the beginning computer users together (obvious, but hard to remember at the time!)
  • methodically help everyone be more self-sufficient on computers.  A maybe-logical sequence off the top of my head:
    1. learn to mouse
    2. learn to open the internet browser (Internet Explorer- gr…)
    3. learn to type in the address to my website
    4. learn to select an activity from the website and maximize the window
    5. learn to log in to the computer
    6. learn to type quickly
  • tweak my website in two ways:
    1. improve the organization and clarity, particularly for lower-level English readers
    2. add more resources, particularly for higher-level computer users

Why It’s Worth the Headache

It’s multilevel.  That’s my first and final answer.  The most important priority I have is to help students move forward from wherever they’re at with their learning. 

My multilevel class includes students at many, many levels.  Here are quick sketches of five actual students in my class today:

Student A: low-intermediate English skills and zero computer skills. 
Student B: beginning English skills and zero computer skills. 
Student C: high-beginning English skills and near-expert computer skills. 
Student D: high-beginning English skills, wants to learn how to type faster.  
Student E: new; will certainly test into Level 3 and leave our class by next week.  

There were also ten other individuals I didn’t mention.  All of them can learn at their level simultaneously during computer time. It’s amazing.

In my opinion, the resources we’re using during computer time are not adequate substitutes for classroom interactions.  They are, however, awesome suplements that let students take the lead in their education and function at exactly their own level.  A solid way to spend 30 minutes.

Journal: Thrice Blasted Internets

Internet learning is officially rolling in my classroom!

And by rolling, I mean kind of dragging along the ground.  Uphill. 

Things that would’ve helped:

  1. A second instructor.
  2. Any kind of pre-test in technology skills.
  3. For hotmail to not have disallowed us from signing up for more than 5 email addresses.
  4. For my college email’s search function to function.

Many students did not have email addresses.  This didn’t really surprise me.

Some students had trouble locating the url bar.  When they did find it, some had trouble with troubleshooting, i.e., noticing that they’d spelled the url incorrectly.  This was only vaguely surprising. 

Some students could not find the “-” key.  Some could not use the mouse.  This should not have surprised me, but it did.

Even for just getting set up, we were so multi-level in terms of computer skills (let alone English skills) that I had to ask one of the students to help the others make email addresses.  I had to ask all of the students to wait many, many times.  And I had to not swear at the machines. 

So I guess this class period was the pre-test.  It has certainly informed instruction.  It will be hard for tomorrow to not be smoother or more productive in comparison.