Often the big barrier to effective use of computers is an unsureness with how to manage computers and still keep the focus on working with your reading groups etc because of a lack of independence in the kids. Here I will outline some of the solutions that will assist you to become more confident about making those computers work all day while you work free of interruption with literacy, numeracy and inquiry. It may take me a few days to add all the ideas discussed in workshops so keep checking back.

  • Children are so slow typing because they don't recognise the upper case letters on the keyboard
See this as another opportunity for them to learn. Check out the the keyboard resources and related games to increase their awareness of where the letters are located on the keyboard, and to recognise and match both upper and lower case forms. Print off multiple copies of the keyboard, laminate them and keep them in a box in the reading area for use as part of reading activities, early work completion extras etc. Within days the speed of keyboard use will start to increase. Get your kids to use two hands at the keyboard but don't worry about how many fingers they use or where on the keyboard they place them. They will gradually start using more fingers and get more efficient. Do not have them copy stories from their books - this is difficult eye hand coordination. If they start with the pencil, finish with the pencil. If they start on computer finish on computer - see notes on this to follow.

  • Use the coaching model to teach new skills and don't be available to help when you are working elsewhere with a group or the whole class. If kids can't cope then they wait until you are free and get on with some of their other work in the meantime. The flexible rotation with the chart included in the resource below means that the rotation can stop and start as necessary - much better than a set time allocation or timetable. I don't set a time limit but I expect on task behaviour and only one reminder will be given that they have a task to do. If they need a second reminder they also need to be removed from the computer and miss their turn until later in the rotation. If you are firm and transparent about this kids will quickly learn that you mean what you say and will settle to the task. I also tell them that they can only disturb me when working with a group if the room is on fire or someone is dying - if they come up to ask something - I ask them if the room is on fire or someone dying. When they say no I tell them to go away "because I'm dangerous" :->> They get the idea really well LOL.
  • Access to printers - having everything print to a photocopier somewhere else int he school does not work for juniors!!! They need to be able to print and see instantly. When they have "written" on the computer they need to save and print to then edit etc. There should, at very least, be one black printer between two junior rooms set as the default printer. Good stuff and colour prints can then be set specifically by the teacher when needed. Printers are so cheap these days that they probably cost less than your year's supply of whiteboard markers, so tell your principal that they need to budget for this.
    Have the rule that they can only hit print once - if magic doesn't happen the first time it should isn't going to happen on the next ten unless something different is done. One mistake is allowable, after that kids lose the right to print until they have shown they understand.
    If you have ongoing print problems, get someone to outline the basic troubleshooting steps so that you can overcome the problem as soon as you have finished working with that group.
  • Equipment failures - all good teachers have plan B. We've always had to - nothing has changed in that area. Kids can get on with their other work if they have a problem while you are working with a group. However, some simple things to make life easier:
  1. Get rid of all that stuff that has been loading on to the computer for however many years - you don't need the last three year's work and it just slows things down - poor computer gets into overload mode. Do a search of the student folder for files created 2005-7, check to see if there is anything you need and then dump them - remember to empty the trash.
  2. Create a 2008 folder in the highest level of your room folder on the network and put sunfolders you want into there. At the end of the year, check it, create a 2009 folder and move stuff across or burn to CD, and dump the 2008 folder. If everyone did that every year it would make cleaning out old files a very simple and quick task.
  3. Have a simple troubleshooting session for staff so that everyone can do the basic stuff. Use a good techie to do the more difficult stuff and ask that person to let you know if the problem was a simple thing that you could then be taught. Don't get into knowing about the complicated stuff - you're a teacher not a techie. If the techie does teach you something, ensure you are the doer in the learning and that the techie guides you through at your pace!!!
  4. If computers stay on all the time, remember to do a restart every few days. This allows the computer to spring clean and put things where they belong - saves lots of problems later - I know cos I'm a baddie for leaving my computer on for weeks on end LOL.

More ideas to follow but I need to get on with some other work just now.