Welcome to the third in the weekly series of top-IT-tips, filled to the brim with sarcasm galore, in an effort to get everyone using technology to enhance teaching and learning.
A big hello to Mr. Wilson this week, who used last week’s tips with some of his students, and he promises me that their PowerPoints improved!
This week I’ll be tackling something most people are either unaware of, or take for granted.
Classroom Management for Computers
You’ve been there too, students are trying to use a computer but, lo and behold, it’s not working. This can be easily fixed by improving some simple, non technical, classroom management skills.
Most people are really, really poor at managing the computers in their classroom, even though they can manage 30 teenagers with ease. You may have one, ten or a hundred computers, but making sure that the equipment in your room is ready to be used is something that everyone can benefit from.
The most common causes for down-time of Computers in the classroom is caused by teachers simply not applying the same rules and routines to the computers as they would any of the other materials in their classroom, so, for the sake of the children and our put-upon techies, let’s stop getting this wrong!
Letting your students fiddle with the computers, and not making them put it back the way it was at the end of the lesson.
This can be as simple as a student moving the machine to be closer to a friend, or even taking cables out all over the shop to get the computer they want working again, and leaving it in that place before they leave.
You may not log an IT problem because you’re busy, or you don’t need the machines that lesson, or perhaps you teach in their once a week so surely someone else will report it?
Even simply leaving the keyboard and mouse out and strewn across the desk cause problems. It’s basically just sloppy use of the equipment, but not dealing with it is the issue here.
Why might any of this be an issue? Well, whatever a student tells you they do not understand how to fix the machines better than our techies. In fact, most of their so-called ‘fixes’ might make the machines work for a lesson or two, but end up causing cascading errors and problems through our entire IT infrastructure.
The sloppy use of the equipment, moving it about, swapping cables, changing mice because they ‘don’t like that one’, means that cables and connections are being pulled and damaged, leading to the machine seemingly breaking on a regular basis.
I’ve let little Johnny in, and he’s sat at a computer. Problem is his friend, little Jimmy, is sat a little bit further away from him than he’d like. He shifts his computer close to Jimmy so that they can talk and work at the same time.
I don’t intervene in this because this seems like a pointless battle, why should I get Johnny all riled up over moving a stupid computer? He’ll do some work at least.
It get’s to the end of the lesson, and I’m busy getting students to put books away, organising homework and trying to run a plenary. I dismiss students who have sorted my equipment out for me. That’s fine, but Johnny and Jimmy have left their machines in that classic Mary Celeste way, keyboards are absentmindedly left about, mice are stretched to breaking point and the computers aren’t back where they came from.
But that’s fine. It’s a computer. They’re robust. Right?
- When you show concern over your resources, but not the computers, then students are more likely to treat them badly
- Damage can accumulate bit-by-bit, meaning that things like buttons falling off computer screens, or mice that don’t work are not noticed
- The students develop the attitude that, “these computers are pants” and treat them worse still, making them the excuses for not doing work
- Computers end up breaking and being out of action more often
- Your teaching starts to ignore the computers because you can’t rely on them actually working, you and your students lose out on interesting learning opportunities
- Faults are not picked up and reported, meaning that you’re waiting around with a broken piece of kit long term
- Students attempt fixes themselves, swapping cables, changing hardware, etc. that causes bigger problems on the network. Don’t forget, this is a big system being maintained by professionals, a couple of kids who are ‘good with computers’ can’t match that
- Computers start being health and safety nightmares, what with all the cables hanging out of them all over the place
Simple. Intervene. In this case I’d warn them about moving the computers and sanction appropriately if need be. I’d keep my eye on them throughout the lesson, looking not just at them but the computers to check that they are being used appropriately.
At the end of the lesson I would ask them to make their workstations presentable and wait to be dismissed quietly by their chairs, before dismissal I would make a quick visual check of the computer, get the student to correct any obvious problems, then send them on their way.
Think of the computers, and treat them, like any textbook, like any other piece of equipment you want to use.
When students sit down at a computer, intervene and sanction them for moving or fiddling with the equipment. If it’s broke, then log it with IT support and carry on with your lesson. Wait for an expert to come along and fix your problem.
At the end of a lesson make it part of your routine to not dismiss anyone sat by a computer unless it has been put back to the state it was in at the start of the lesson, being: Screen off, mouse tucked back in, keyboard pushed back or stowed away (depending on computer) and finally do a quick visual check to make sure everything looks right.
You might not be a computer genius, but you can easily tell if things look a bit wrong, and get the student to sort out what they’ve done wrong or at least log a call with the techies to come take a look.
Log any problems as and when they become apparent, no matter how trivial. If the techies don’t know it’s broken then it’ll never get fixed.
Log problems in any room you happen to be in, even if just for a single period a week. If no one’s logging problems then they’ll never get fixed and your ability to use the technology will diminish.
Take ownership of the tech in your room as if they were chairs, books or tables. We need to get involved in teaching the students to respect the equipment so that we can rely on it from day-to-day.
So next lesson, make them sort out the equipment before they leave.
Next time, intervene if students are trying some do-it-yourself repairs.
Or you’re doing IT wrong, and if you are, maybe you need my book…