Computers in the Classroom.
They Are Here to Stay!!

Computers in the classroom, are they essential, you decide?

Like it or not computers and technology are and will continue to have a major impact on our lives and the way we teach and will be teaching our students in the future.

Some of you may even have a love/hate relationship with computers.

More and more schools are beginning to install computers not only in the school computer lab but also in many classrooms.

Laptops are becoming very popular for classroom use - their easy to transport. A wonderful reason for fund raising in the school!

Grade Expectations

Teaching students to use computers is now starting at a very early age (kindergarten classes). Teachers must understand what level of computer knowledge is appropriate and expected at each grade level. Many boards of education and school districts have grade expectations to follow for computers.

In the earlier years (primary division, K-3), students need to be taught how to type and use the keyboard properly, and accurately, and learn the know-how of simple computer applications and tools such as:

* Word processing (e.g. Microsoft Word)
* Basic Drawing Tools (e.g. Microsoft Paint)
* Simple Presentations using Powerpoint
* Story Board Organizers (a visual plan of your story)

In the older grades (junior division, Grades 4-6), students move towards a more project oriented type of learning that for example, relies on students to do research on the Internet, use spreadsheets in their work assignments and Powerpoint in their presentations. In addition students are taught to:

* Develop skills with different types of technology such as camcorders, VCRs, to collect and edit material for presentations.
* Use video and computer applications to organize, sort and visually display data and draw conclusions.
* Add drawn, scanned or digital pictures to documents.
* Develop presentation software skills such as creating stacks for a slide show.

Computers in the Classroom - The PROs

These types of learning approaches that bring a real world aspect to your students will greatly enhance the work they produce, and improve their participation and motivation in the classroom immensely!

Being familiar and being able to use the many computer applications available today and those of the future will ensure that students have the necessary skills needed for them to advance professionally and personally.

Teachers need to bring computer technology into the classroom to enhance the learning experience of their students. Remember that different students learn in different ways (visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.

Computers offer one more option for learning. For example, Dragon - Naturally Speaking, speech recognition software, is being used in DH (Developmentally Handicapped) classes and for particular students who need an individual programme in a regular classroom setting.

Several of my student teachers used Powerpoint presentations as part of their lesson. All 3 types of learners benefited greatly from this type of teaching method. One of my student teachers even used YouTube to demonstrate how the heart operates during a science lesson. You can imagine how captivating and effective that was!

Computers in the Classroom - The CONs

But along with the PROs for having computers in the classroom some teachers will bring up some of the CONs. For example:

* Teachers need to be aware that using some computer tools to enhance their lessons also may have the negative effect of reducing teacher student interaction in the classroom.

Don't let things like Powerpoint presentations reduce your students into becoming strictly observers. Computers can't replace learning communication skills so necessary in today's society.

Teachers should not lose their perspective on the whole situation. Computers are only machines and students will always need the human element, which is YOU!

* There is a greater expectation from students in their assignments and projects. This is fine for students who have access to a computer at home but those that do not may find it difficult to keep up with their classmates.

Teachers need to take that into consideration and allow those students extra time on the school computers or make alternate arrangements.

* Teachers should also be aware that computers do fail sometimes and may therefore disrupt your lesson plans. Be sure to have a "Plan B" - always.

Professional Development

As I mentioned above, many of the new young teachers who are replacing the large number of retiring "baby boom era" teachers may already be very knowledgeable in using computers.

For those of you that are not, you can't be afraid of learning and using this new technology. Many of your students will be happy and very proud to show you all the "stuff" they can do on the computer.

Consider taking computer training classes either provided by your School Board or on your own.

For teachers it's not only important to start incorporating computers in the classroom as part of your lessons but also to network with other teachers finding and sharing teaching materials and teaching strategies.

So, my vote is YES, computers in the classroom have a tremendous upside, a necessity in our evolving technology oriented world, but I'll let you decide for yourself!

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