Friday, October 5, 2012

Introducing Grade Twos to Netbooks

I used netbooks for the first time last week. I thought I’d share the steps I go for that first lesson. This is based on using netbooks but can be applied to using most technology for the first time in a division one setting.

There are many things you need to do BEFORE you teach that first lesson. Check out last year’s post Help! How do I get my class logged on to the computer for the very first time? for some ideas.  

I always give the instructions orally as I demonstrate what I want them to do. Then I review them and write a simplified version of the steps on the board. I’ve included pictures of what I write on the board for each step.

Step One- Solicit Adult Help

Using technology for the first time in a division one class can be an extremely challenging experience for many teachers, but it does not have to be! Having as many adult hands as possible to help students type their usernames for the first few times and do some basic problem solving is invaluable. This is especially true if you are using technology that is new for many or all of your students. I usually send home a note in students’ agendas asking for help.

Once you have used the netbooks a few times, you will discover you have some technology leaders among your students who can help their peers log on in subsequent lessons. You may want to encourage students helpers to "not to do it for them" but show their peers how to do it.

Step Two-  Handing Out the Netbooks

I like having my students be responsible for taking out and replacing their own technology. I also like to reduce the spread of germs by using hand washing. Some classes clean the keyboards with disinfectant cloths.

So for my first step I have students wash their hands and get their headphones onto their desks. Then they use two hands to pull out and carry their netbooks to their desks. I stand by the cart to monitor proper carrying. I ask students to wait at the end of each step until everyone is ready.

I mainly have students get their headphones out during my first lesson because I want to find out who still needs them. I also find it motivates those students who do not have any to bring them in the next day (I also usually write a quick reminder in agendas). If you know all your students have them,  you may want to consider not introducing headphones until later.

Step Three - Computer Code Cards

To make logging in time quick for the whole class it is useful to plan for a way for students to be independent. In the past I have solely used a Computer Code Card (template available). I provide each student with two copies - one to go home and be kept there and one to be kept at school (I laminate this one). I keep a master copy of all cards for supply teachers and myself.

I put on this code card all the usernames/passwords that I anticipate that my students will need in the year. It also includes my website address, which I use as a portal for almost everything they will do on the Internet.  

This year I have decided to try something new to support my students’ independence and to support their ability to help their peers. I have put their usernames on their nametags. I also made learning their username a part of their first spelling test. 

I do not believe it is in the best interest of modeling Internet safety by putting their passwords in a visible location. While at this age I do not believe it is a security issue I think it is important to model the idea that a password is private.

As they are waiting for the machine to power up, I remind them which username and password on their card will be needed to log in on the netbook.

Step Four - Logging In and the 45 Degree Angle

I recommend that you check each netbooks to see if the children are really logged on. You are looking for the icon that looks like steps in the bottom right hand corner. It should not have a gold star if they logged in successfully.

After I have given the demonstration of how to log in, I ask students to put their screens at a 45 degree angle to indicate that they are ready for the next step. This is a strategy that I use throughout the year. I stole this idea from another teacher after I observed how well it worked in one of her lessons.

Step Five-  Simple Task

Sometimes we try to pack too much into a first lesson on the netbooks. Plan your lesson around the technology itself. I usually have students go to my website where I have links to some sort of fun and simple math or spelling game.

Alternatively, having students go to Starfall is another great option. It is a simple word to type and the activities are great for division one. If students simply type “starfall” in the address locator bar*, the first link they will be provided is for  For grade three students, you may want to direct them to log into SchoolZone and have a few links there for them to follow.

The teaching goal of the first lesson should be solely getting students onto the netbooks and having them learn the steps and the expectations of netbook use.

*if you students have had no or very little experience with technology, this step may be challenging for some of them.

Step Six -  Time to Work

Make sure you leave enough time for all students to work on whatever the assigned task is for at least 10 minutes. This will allow them to feel successful. 

Step Seven - Plan a Follow Up Sooner Than Later

Many young students will need practice time to be confident and capable of typing in their username and password. Try to plan 2 or 3 follow up lessons on the netbooks that are close together so that students are more likely to remember the steps. You may want to do the next few lessons on keyboarding skills. For more ideas check out our post Direct Teaching of Technology Skills.