My kids are using the school’s laptops for the first time, typing their Sc!ence Ex?o projects. I’m doing things a little differently, having them start typing very early in the process, which is great because it doesn’t feel so much like a last-minute crunch, and it gives everyone something to do regardless of whether or not they’ve completed their experiment or not.
I started them off with very strict, line-by-line typing instructions, which turned out to work brilliantly because they are all learning tons of little tricks to type more professionally. I taught them to use the centering button instead of dozens of spaces or tabs, how to use bullets and numbers, how to insert a page break, how to make a table, and any number of other better ways to use Word. I sell it to them as more grown-up ways of typing, and they are absorbing it like the little sponges kids tend to be around computers. It’s really helping them, most of whom started out by turning capslock on and then off again to do basic capitalization at the start of a sentence. Good grief. When I think about what my upper-middle-class (or just upper class) Turkish students could do with computers at the same age, I know the tech gap is real and significant. But that school had several computer labs and a couple hours of computer instruction integrated into the school week, and all those kids had computers at home. Makes a difference. Doesn’t hurt to have adults at home who are expert computer users, too.
Talking about this with teachers in the hall afterschool, I said something about Table Autoformat and another teacher was like, What’s that? And I’m learning a thing or two, as well: today, some kids needed to split columns within a table to make a data table appropriate to their project. I suspected it was possible – after all, merging cells is possible – but had never tried it before. Voila! There it is, in the Table menu.
It’s all going remarkably smoothly, though we have only one – ONE – outlet in my classroom. One computer’s screen cracked in half when it was being used by some kids with another teacher, so we got it back this morning totally unusable, but I managed to retrieve the students’ work by attaching it to the LCD projector. But like I said, it’s all going remarkably well. I’m a big fan of small groups of kids working with a laptop per group; it’s so much more manageable than every kid having his or her own computer, and given the limited resource reality in my school (i.e, no IT person, limited electricity, etc.), it makes the thought of teaching with laptops appealing rather than nightmare-ish.