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Having worked in education for the last couple of decades, I've observed many different teacher's solutions for managing classroom computer use and I've compiled them here to help other teachers. I consider these tips to be best practice as many teachers do these aspects already as part of their daily routine. Below are the tips that appear to work well for all age levels and environments.
Bridging Devices The best option for students and teachers in schools today is a device that is portable enough yet, powerful and functional in terms of getting work done. Today there are few devices that fit the bill, such as convertible laptops, traditional laptops, and to a lesser extent Chromebooks. The beauty of a bridge device is that they incorporate multiple methods of input such as a touch interface, stylus, and a keyboard / trackpad. Typically, they are also lightweight. Having to carry around, or have available a few devices such as a table and a laptop or desktop, defeats the purpose of being mobile. Bridge devices have cameras, and can detach easily from their combo keyboard battery. In addition, they are powerful enough to take on any task or demanding video. Soon we should all have a good selection of device to choose from that will free students to work anywhere anytime. By purchasing bridge devices schools can also save a good deal of funds by not having to buy multiple devices, allowing for funds to be allocated towards other needed devices for the classroom. Finally, both students and teachers can choose devices that fit their teaching and learning styles allowing for differentiated instruction in both directions. Choosing a Multifunctional Bridging Device As the famous television, Chef Alton Brown advocates concerning the purchase of cooking utensils, they must be multifunctional. As so must be computing devices. Their function and input methods should be flexible and multifunctional since not every teacher or student works the same way. When initiating a device agnostic school environment, it is crucial that the teachers and students have access to device that add functionality. The goal is to teach content and skills, not to learn a specific device or operating system. Exposure to different software and devices helps students learn the intuitiveness across all systems. By implementing an agnostic school where students and teachers can use the devices they are already familiar with, there is less training needed, and the user will be comfortable and motivated to use their devices. By using a variety of devices, students can extend their learning to outside school creating opportunity for real world connections with what they are learning as students can use web based programs across all devices which may be different in their homes. We are doing a disservice to student and teachers by only using one type of device or platform. Technology rapidly changes and students should be learning on all devices and comparing and contrasting what they can do on their system with what their peers can do. Freedom of Choice & BYOD One of the main arguments for the use of BYOD in schools is that all students get to use devices that they are comfortable using. This saves a great deal of time and effort, as faculty don’t have to teach the minutia of device use, which is a colossal waste of time. One major benefit to a device agnostic BYOD program is that schools don't have to pay for upkeep of devices that are bought and owned by the students. The argument against BYOD that I hear in most schools is that students all need to use the same device. These same people argue it's hard to train students in the basic use of their devices if they all are different. This is a false argument, as teachers still must teach to different versions of software even if students all have the same device. Oftentimes if not always, software versions differ even on same devices due to minor device variations or outright user interface upgrades. How often students update their software determines whether all the devices are in sync. This almost never happens thereby forcing teachers to teach to different versions regardless. Schools could force updates to maintain uniform operating systems and programs using specialized software, but that is a costly solution. Schools would balk if teachers requested new text books every year so why should electronic devices be any different? Devices typically needed upgrading every couple to few years depending on the upgrade cycle and forced upgrade path. The only company that guarantees backward compatibility is Microsoft. Allowing students to choose their own devices and to maintain them saves an incredible amount of resources. All major apps and software are platform agnostic, meaning they work on all systems. In addition, most functions today that are needed in schools have a web variant that will work on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Funds can be better spent on teacher training and other aspects of the school environment that won't need replacing every few years and require our needing to purchase support services and follow expensive upgrade cycles placed upon us at the whim of companies whose sole purpose is to sell us more devices! Benefits for Agnostic Approach • Wide exposure to new innovations in Hardware & Software • No OS platform training needed for converts • All systems need patching regularly; No expensive MDM needed! • Virus infection is "dead", Symantec has given up on making virus software; Biggest threat is mal/spyware which affects all operating systems • Most computer functions can be done online; even tablet apps are having web based interface • Good for content creation Chromebook Invasion In the United States Chromebooks, have surpassed both Apple and Microsoft as the first choice for student use. Chromebooks are very in-expensive. They are essentially a tablet without the touch screen, but without the high cost. They use Google's Chrome browser as their operating system. They are light, have a keyboard, camera, and have a long battery life. They are ideal for students in a school that uses Google Apps environment, or primarily use online tools. They can only do what can be done in a web browser. So, movie making is out, unless a subscription to a movie making online site is purchased. Conclusion Limiting a student or a teacher’s choice to a one brand or device in today’s web centric world only limits the ability to use different teaching and learning styles and methods. By mandating only, the use of one particular device, essentially is tying the hands of both teachers and students by limiting them which is the exact opposite of differentiated instruction. By allowing a more open system environment in schools, the learning community will be able to adapt more quickly and easily to changes in the ever-changing world of technology innovations. Using the students as a source of potential new programs and devices will only help create a more dynamic learning environment. By encouraging a device agnostic environment is the best option for schools when looking to create an effective learning environment.
Finding useful applications to enhance student learning can oftentimes be a time consuming endeavor. There are many details that a teacher needs to take into consideration before choosing a program to use in the classroom ranging from cost, platform, age appropriateness, and its usefulness rating. Finding a one stop place to search for learning applications is now a much easier task now that Google has a well established web application store that allows teachers to confidently find applications. The Web Store is accessible to all devices regardless to platform, which allows teachers to extend the learning environment outside the classroom. The majority of applications are free, and many integrate Google Drive for easy access to school services such as storage and sharing. Using the built in search filter is easy enough to use by selecting “education” category. Finally by using the user rating system teachers can find applications that are tried and true. Taking a few minutes to explore the Web Store is sure to be an enlightening experience and will give an idea of what is possible using web applications for learning in the classroom.
Keyboarding is an important skill (Wetzel, 1985) that is taught using one of many readily available programs for any situation. For Kinder through 2nd grade, use the program Tux Typing if your school uses PC's, as Tux Typing is easy for younger students to use. Also, it allows for custom word lists, to help with homeroom collaboration. If your school uses Macs or PC's, and you have good Internet connectivity, use the web based Dance Mat Typing from the BBC web site. The goal for K-2 is familiarization and basic techniques (Nieman, 1996). For 3rd through 5th we use a more comprehensive typing program such as All the Right Type, which is a client server based program for the PC. Non-web based typing programs often allow for tracking of student progress, unlike most of the online typing programs. For the Mac Mavis Beacon has a program that can be loaded on your school network. The goal is to have students learn basic typing skills using programs, then to incorporate the skills learned into existing projects where they can practice what they have learned. Web based applications are also a great choice,e specially since they can work on all devices. There are many browser based apps that are free and track progress such as the Chrome Browser app Typing Club, found in the Chrome Browser Store. "After students achieve grade level WPM level, they should continue keyboarding familiarization using leveled word lists" Three Areas of Importance for Typing Posture - Students need to learn good poster while typing to decrease fatigue Nieman (1996) Homerow - Insuring that students keep their fingers on the homerow will help them become efficient Nieman (1996) No looking - Taking the time to look for keys demonstrates that more practice is needed. Nieman (1996) WPM - 3rd grade aims for 15wpm, 4th grade aims for 20wpm, and 5th grade will aim for 30wpm Sormunen (1988, 1991, 1993) Keyboarding Teaching Tip When students are typing, they will tend to pick-up their hands in order to reach key certain keys such as Backspace. Allowing them to do so will hobble their ability to achieve a high typing rate. Show students that they can reach far-away keys, but have them keep their pointing finger on the initial home row keys J and F. This will allow them to quickly place their other fingers back on the home row keys. To help students learn to type without looking at the keyboard, have them use the on-screen visual keyboard common with most typing programs. If the program you are using doesn't have an on-screen prompt, you should think about getting or using a different program. Also, once students are taught Home Row, use a piece of felt or folded paper to cover their hands. This in conjunction with the online screen visual can really help them quickly learn proper finger placement. Systems and Education Department website: http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/ate/keyboarding/Articles/EKcase.htm References Nieman, P. (1996). Introducing early keyboard skills: Who, what, where, and how?. Business Education Forum, 51(1), 27-30. Sormunen, C. (1988). A comparison of speed achievement of students in grades 3-6 who learn keyboarding on the microcomputer. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 30(2), 47-57. Sormunen, C. (1991). Elementary school keyboarding: A case for skill development. Business Education Forum, 45(6), 28-30. Retrieved January 30, 2005 from Utah State University, Business Information Sormunen, C. (1993). Learning style: An analysis of factors affecting keyboarding achievement of elementary school students. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 35(1), 26-38.
Which tablet is the best?