Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Technology

We took our first graders to the computer lab today for the first time this year.  We took them a couple of times last year but just teaching kindergartners to sign in is close to impossible.  In our county students use a 9-10 number/letter username and a 9-10 number/letter password.  Just getting youngsters to follow the sequence of the letters - and did I mention that some are uppercase and some lowercase so you have teach them to use the shift key - is a tedious task.  Now granted, once they learn the username and password at least they keep the same one for the duration of their time in Duval County.

In Kindergarten it is hardly worth the time it takes to get kids signed in, but by the time students reach first grade, there are several programs that the county has paid big money for that really can supplement the curriculum.  So... off we go to the computer lab to practice turning on the computer and signing in...

We have to sign up for the lab, but the calendar was blank today and probably will be until the lab is filled for mandatory testing.  Regardless, when we troop up the stairs  - a first for most of our students - we find another small group in the room - not using the computers, just using the room.  As sweetly as I can muster, I say that we came because we didn't see anyone on the calendar.  We even checked with the front office to be sure.  She, just as sweetly, says the room should have been signed out to her every day from 9-10 to work with her small group.  My line of first graders out the door are getting antsy as she kindly agrees to find another place to work.  Good thing too because I have promised these pint-sized learners an exciting hour!

We never really have enough computers  in the lab for every child to have their own, especially when our numbers are so swollen at the beginning of the year.  You can see the disappointment as children are asked to share... And, as always a few of the computers don't work.  While I'm sure this happens everywhere, younger students really have not developed much patience and tolerance for broken machines and again, even  a few more have to double up. 

As I am leaning over computers to help students realize that the 1 they typed is actually a lowercase l and the o is really the number zero 0 and not the letter O, the sweat rolls down my back.  It's bloody hot in this lab, but I guess no one has used the Lab this year to report that the air is not working properly.  Why is it that I seem to be the only one sweating as the children are totally engrossed with the task at hand!  Of course, there are several trying to sign in once, throwing their hands up in utter exasperation and complaining that their computer is broken.  I want to yell - IT'S USER ERROR! - but instead I smile and go the next student that has a hand raised.

Finally - and I do mean F-I-N-A-L-L-Y - we get to the site - SRA Number Worlds - and are faced with another username and password - a different one, of course. We have been working for an hour now when a few students finally reach the game stage.  Of course, now we realize that most of the computers don't have headphones.  The noise level begins to rise so... we congratulate the children for getting the computers turned on and teach them how to sign off!  Are we really going to call this Math today?

It was an exhausting lesson, but most of the children leave with smiles.  The first students sign in on our four computers when we get back to the room and we're off and running.  We've assigned a few computer "experts" to help friends get signed on so we are not disturbed every time a child wants to use the computers throughout the day. So... with all the barriers and all the bumps along the way, why do we make the effort?  Because this generation of children will be digital natives and will grow up in a world that we can't even imagine, and also because... it's part of our first grade standards!

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