Thursday, March 22, 2012

HELP! How do I get my class logged onto the computer for the very first time?

Teacher Preparation
The first thing I did this year, when preparing for the technology part of my year, was to change my student’s passwords. Our district required six alphanumeric items (it now requires eight) and it assigns them random and often difficult passwords. While we cannot change their usernames, we do have control over changing their passwords.

What I did was take a real four letter word and one number that repeated, for example work44 (now work4444).  This was a successful strategy for my class this year.

  • A suggestion from another teacher was to have the students choose their password and then you change it. This would allow for them to pick something that is more meaningful and therefore easier to remember.
  • Another idea is to have students choose a word from the word wall.   
  • For our district, the username is their first initial and their last name, sometimes with a numeral. Not only having them memorize their password but their username as well is useful. Making sure their last name is visible on their desk is also a supportive technique for some students.

While all of these strategies take time, as the year goes on using them will save you and your students both time and frustration.

Computer Code Cards
A few years ago I started using a computer code card system in my class. This system has saved me many headaches. Like everything in teaching, spending more time planning ahead  pays off in the long run. Before I print out the computer card template, I decide on three or four websites that require logins that we use throughout the year. I try to standardize their usernames and passwords as much as possible. I also include any school and district wide usernames and passwords.

Once I have created a master document, I photocopy it onto cardstock and laminate them. One stays in the class and one gets sent home. I let my students keep them in their desks (which does mean some may get lost). For students who regularly have difficulty storing their computer code card in an easy to find place, I write their username and password on the back of their mailboxes which are stored in class.

  • One modification is to have students store their computer cards in a baggie with their headphones.
  • Some teachers choose to hold onto the cards and hand them out and collect them as needed.

One issue that may concern some people is that usernames and passwords are not very secure in this model. The reality is, in division one especially, that password security is non-existent and unrealistic to expect. That is not to say that it should not be encourage, modeled and discussed, especially at the end of grade two and in grade three.

Computer code card template.

Colette Mondor

Going to the lab for the very first time...

I know the feeling of dread I experience in September when I have to bring a new class to the computer lab for the very first time. My mind begins to spin through all the things that have gone wrong in the past. Will they lose their log in card? Will they know how to turn the monitor on? Will the computers even be turned on? I can hear the cacophony of cries “My computer doesn’t work!” “I can’t find my log in card!” “He took my computer!” Here are a few simple tricks that have helped teachers at my school when they introduce a new class to logging onto a computer or laptop for the first time.

1. When you plan to go to the lab or book the laptops, make sure you book 2 or 3 sessions the first week so the students have an opportunity to practice and achieve mastery at this new skill. The extra time you spend this first week will save you countless hours over the course of the year. Having one regular computer time a week also ensures that your students maintain their computer skills. If you don’t use them, you lose them!

2. If you have access to a SMARTBoard, model for the students how to log in using your computer before you take them to the lab. If you don’t have a SMARTBoard, you can call small groups of students up to gather around a computer to see the demonstration. Another simple  simple trick for demonstrations is to actually have a child log on to your computer so the desktop and icons that appear will look exactly the same as the other students in the class (often our teacher profiles look very different from the student profiles). Having the students all watch the process without the temptation of touching their very own computer makes the demonstration much easier. While you are demonstrating, make a list of the steps the students need to complete. Post this chart in the lab, or bring it with you to the lab until the students are competent following the steps.

3. Determine computer assignments ahead of time! One easy trick for assigning computers is to assign computer numbers by class list number. I post the class list on my wall and on the wall of the lab so that substitute teachers have easy access to the computer assignments. Another way to store the assignment numbers is to write the number on each student’s desk name tag. A good way to get the kids to practice remembering their computer number is to line them up by calling out the numbers. This way your students with great memories know every child’s computer assignment and will help the students who struggle to remember their own. When we use the laptops, I have 2 students in charge of monitoring the class as they unplug their laptop as well as when they return it. The assigned student helps to plug in the laptop, check that it has been shut down properly and ensures that the laptop is returned to the correct shelf according to the laptop number. Some of our classes also post their laptop assignment list on the laptop cart to avoid confusion.

4. When you go to the lab for the first time, call attention to those kids who are able to follow steps quickly. I call them my “experts” and I tell  the class who the experts are for each step. We have “Monitor Experts” “Power Experts” and any other kind of expert we happen to stumble upon along the way! One teacher at our school writes the experts names on a piece of chart paper so the students can go “find an expert” when they need help without having to ask anyone. I also ask my experts to circulate around the room offering help until the whole class is caught up on a step.

I hope these tips help. Please leave us comments with tips and tricks that work for you and your class.

Kelly Flasha