In response to my “Really Expensive Overhead Projectors” post, Dana asked:

Question: How do you handle a classful of students and three computers? Do you let them post to the boards and blogs once they’ve finished classwork and homework? Is computer time assigned to each student? Do they share in small groups?

You know, Dana, I actually don’t have a super structured plan for classroom use of my three computers.  The majority of the work that is done during the school day on computers in my classroom is either done before school—our building is open about 30 minutes before instruction starts—or during what we call a “working lunch period.”  During working lunch, students can complete assignments or extension activities in our classrooms.  Both of these time periods are supervised by classroom teachers—who have no other traditional duties.

The majority of my students are highly motivated by the online work that we are doing, getting involved even when our classroom projects are optional.  I typically take a few minutes of classtime to introduce something new that we’re working on to generate interest and then wind my students up and let them go!  Many work from home on their own time—which I love because I’m stealing online time from kids!

One practical step that I’ve taken to get students more involved in our classroom podcasting efforts was to purchase two portable MP3 voice recorders that students can use when developing an episode for our blog covering world wide current events.  Recorders range in price–starting at about $30 and ranging to about $150, varying by storage space–so they really aren’t out of reach for most schools.

This gives me a bit more flexibility because multiple groups of students can be recording at one time.  I’ve also allowed students to sign out recorders overnight to develop podcast episodes.  This has opened our efforts to students who aren’t interested in coming to my room during working lunch.  Eventually, student editors polish all of the recordings on one of our classroom computers and post the final products.

Whenever online work is required as a part of a classroom assignment, I make sure to give at least two weeks for the task to be completed.  That gives students time to arrange to use a computer at school during working lunch.  It also gives me time to build independent work opportunities into my day, where computers become a station for students without access at home.

Now, we’ve had some hiccups this year that have required flexibility and understanding on everyone’s part—sometimes one of our online services goes down for a few hours, sometimes students get grounded from the computer on the night before an assignment is due, sometimes our school network doesn’t work—but in the end, any hassle is worth it.  My kids are jazzed by using technology to demonstrate what they know.

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