Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Computer Math

While I don't think that computer programs - no matter how sophisticated - will ever take the place of a good teacher, I do believe that are some computer programs that can reinforce what we are doing in the classroom can make a difference with some students. I have seven computers in my classroom and most days at least five of the computers work! Some are really slow but some were new this year and work at a medium speed. Of course in order to login on a computer a kindergarten student has to remember or copy a ridiculous string of unrelated numbers and letters as their username and password. It's hard, especially for kinders and first graders, to recognize numbers from letters. Is it the number 1 or a a lowercase letter l? Is it a number 0 or an uppercase letter O? You do have to spend some time teaching the children when to use a shift key because some of the letters are uppercase and some are lowercase. If the child can login without your help (and that's a really big IF), it takes about 10 minutes! What usually happens is that they spend 10 minutes trying to get in and then get frustrated and come get you for help anyway! The good thing is that once a child learns his login, he uses the same login for his entire school experience. Right now, however, the login system only makes sense to someone that's not in the classroom using it!

With that said, our county has invested quite a bit of money on site licenses for a few sophisticated, comprehensive computer programs. We've had the programs all year and while we've had some overview of the programs, we've had very little time to actually enroll our students in the programs and figure out how to use them. What we have needed is time! Today - finally - we used one of our Early Release days to sign up for one of the programs. I was thrilled to have the time to enroll all of my students in a math program that I think can support both my three at-risk math students and also my four students who mastered the Math Diagnostic at the mid-term. It will give me a type of differentiation that I don't presently have. The computer program can be used during class, although that time is so precious, but it can also be used at home, during Extended Day, before and after school. I can't wait to get started. I just assign all my students to first grade and the program actually gets to know the student and continues to move the students up and down in the different Math strands as the student responds. I can then print out a progress report each week to see how the students are doing. The program seems especially easy to use and does count as a RtI researched intervention!

Tomorrow I have a half day to do the same thing with Destination Success, a program that I am hoping will do the same thing for Reading that Number World is doing for Math. Will let you know how it goes!

Update: While these programs were implemented, real success was never realized mostly because of a lack of time and a lack of professional development.

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