computers

Is ICT useful to teach all subjects?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 | education | 1 Comment

A learner using a computer to hone her mathematics skills by doing repetative exercises

Can ICT can be used as a teaching tool – and more importantly, as a learning tool – in all subjects?  Yes, it can!  It simply calls for a teacher who understands technology tools to think up ways in which ICT can enrich the classroom.

Here are a few of the ways in which technology can be used in your classroom:

Start a history lesson by using a data projector to display a picture of a historical person or a video clip of a historical event to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

Computers are useful in teaching mathematics – drill and practice exercises help develop skills through repetition.

When teaching geography, nothing beats having Google Earth on tap in the classroom.

Science experiments can be simulated repeatedly in a normal classroom environment through the application of ICT.

Blogging and the use of email are excellent ways to develop writing and communication skills of learners in any language.

In what subjects have you found technology to be useful?

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What is wrong with eating, drinking and smoking in the computer room?

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 | Computer Usage | 1 Comment

A sign telling you that eating, drinking or smoking are not allowed is found in most computer rooms.

 

This rule is there for good reasons.

Drinking is discouraged because liquid spills can damage the equipment.  Liquid may cause your keyboard to cease functioning.  If you’re using a laptop, the liquid may trickle to the inside and damage your entire machine.

When you’re eating, crumbs will fall on the keyboard and it’s nearly impossible to get them out.  These crumbs may not cause problems immediately, but they all add up.  Sticky fingers cause dirt to accumulate wherever you touch the computer.

Eating or drinking may also cause discomfort to others in the room.  Imagine how irritating crunching of potato crisps can be when you’re trying to concentrate, or what the effect of the smell of spicy, garlicky food will have on you.

As far as smoking is concerned … well, you know how much damage it does to your lungs (and to the lungs of those around you).  The smoke and ash particles are likewise damaging to computer equipment. 

These rules are not for learners only.  They also apply to teachers, even when they are in the computer room after hours, preparing lessons or catching up on admin work.

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Who maintains the computers in your school?

Friday, February 25th, 2011 | Maintenance | 2 Comments

All computer installations require regular maintenance; a gradual degradation of the system is to be expected unless such maintenance occurs.  The following types of maintenance are relevant in technology facilities in our schools. 

Adaptive maintenance, where improvements to the system are necessary to adapt to changing working procedures, such as when earphones, peripherals, or additional workstations must be installed to cater for changing educational needs, or when new software products are introduced. 

Corrective maintenance, where ongoing improvements are made (bug fixing) to ensure the system still meets the original user requirements.  Fixing is required when a person makes a mistake (for example unintentionally deleting an essential piece of software, or changing a system parameter), when a hardware component malfunctions, when the system has to be restored from a backup after a crash, when the system has to be restored after a virus attack and in other such scenarios.

Perfective maintenance, where the system is made safer to operate, refined and made easier for teachers to use.  Perfective maintenance aims at making the system as effective as possible for teachers, so that the use of the technology does not put the emphasis on the technology but on teaching and learning.

Upgrades – these are required when the entire system – or parts of the system – has become too old to be useful and must be replaced.

Preventive maintenance (also called predictive maintenance), where steps are taken to avert potential disasters.  This includes making regular backups and updating anti-virus software.

Warranty checkingthis has been found to be a cost effective maintenance technique.  Just before the warranty on hardware expires each piece of equipment is thoroughly inspected and all defective components referred to the vendor for replacement.

Clearly, maintenance is a complex matter and its importance can never be over-emphasized.  It forms an essential part of protecting the investment made in technology and it provides continuity of access in the schools.

Who maintains the computers in your school?

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How to avoid eye strain when using a computer

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 | Computer Usage | 1 Comment

While encouraging teachers and learners to use computers, we must be conscious of the fact that their excessive use can lead to eye strain.  We must have a sensible approach to computer use in order to protect our eyes.

You can do a number of things to prevent eye strain, such as buying a bigger screen, or replacing your old monitor with a flat LCD screen, or buying an anti-glare screen.  All of these come at a cost, which you or your school may not be able to afford.

The best thing you can do for your eyes won’t cost you anything: just take short breaks during computer sessions.  Sometimes you look so intently at the screen that you hardly blink – and blinking is important since it keeps the eyes moist.  You can compensate for this by looking away from the screen from time to time – or even better, get up and walk around in the room, since this is good for your muscles and skeleton too.

It may be necessary to remind learners in a computer room to tear themselves away from the computer screen this from time to time – and don’t forget that you must also do so!

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Can technology ease a teacher’s admin burden?

Monday, December 20th, 2010 | technology | 3 Comments

No job is finished until the paperwork is done.  Unfortunately this is also true of a teacher’s work.  Administration work – admin for short – takes much of a teacher’s time and anything that can lighten that burden is welcome.

When you bring technology into the classroom to assist you with teaching you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it has the additional benefit of helping you with admin tasks.

The computer in your classroom has many uses.  If the computer is a laptop, it is even better, since you will be able to carry it with you so that you can catch up with your admin work in the staff room or at home.

Here are a few ways in which technology can help to cut your admin load: 

Use your computer to create documents such as examination papers, worksheets and lesson plans.  The preparation of these documents may be time consuming but once created, they are yours forever.  Just imagine the amount of time you’ll be saving in the future.

Maintain learner score sheets on your computer –tools that calculate automatically and update records as figures are changed, are available to you.  This is a great time-saver and ensures accuracy.

A computer makes a great filing cabinet!  All your lesson plans, notes, lists, reports and other documents can be filed and stored in one place.  This results in an orderly system and saves searching time.  It also saves a lot of space – with all your documents safely stored on your computer, you can ditch all those bulky paper files.

Instead of going through the process of filling in an attendance register, you can display an electronic version of the register on an interactive whiteboard, and then invite learners to come up to the board to click their presence.  An added advantage of this approach is that the personal responsibility of being present in class is impressed on the minds of learners.

If you take your laptop along to a meeting you will be able to take and type the minutes while the meeting is in progress.  Think how much time you could save if you prepare and issue the minutes on the spot!

When you start using your classroom technology you’ll discover more ways in which it can help you with admin tasks – time saved in these ways will allow you to focus on the more enjoyable and rewarding aspects of teaching.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Why is a computer room in your school not enough?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 | Computer Usage | 1 Comment

In Africa a school with a computer room, holding twenty or thirty computers, is indeed fortunate.  Only a small percentage of schools have such facilities.

If you are teaching in a school with a computer room and you have the opportunity to take your learners there, you are indeed privileged.  You are the envy of most of the teachers on the continent.

Computer rooms have many uses, such as allowing learners to gain computer skills, doing drill and practice exercises, doing research and project work, and performing assessment tasks.  You may even be able to use the facility to teach and reinforce what you’ve done in the classroom.

In spite of the good things that can happen in a computer room, you must still try to move technology into your classroom as soon as you can.  Why?  Think about a few of the limitations of the computer room.

Let’s take the example of a school with one thousand learners with a computer room of twenty-five computers.  That means one computer is shared by forty learners.  The learners will have to visit the room on a rotational basis in groups of twenty-five at a time.  When you keep in mind the number of school hours per week, as well as the amount of time required for groups of learners to move between classes, you’ll see that learners in this school will only be able to work on the computers for about half an hour a week.  Clearly not enough for significant curriculum work!

The situation is worse where class groups are of varying sizes.  What does a teacher do with a class group of forty learners?  Fifteen will not have a machine on which to work – they will either have to sit out, or share a computer with another learner.

Careful planning is necessary to ensure that the work you’ll be doing in the computer room is integrated with work you’ve just done in the classroom, or are about to do, otherwise the time spent with technology is wasted.

The solution to the problem is simple: have technology in your classroom at all times.  You don’t need one to one computing.  You can do a lot with a single laptop and a data projector.  Innovative teachers are performing miracles with cell phones.

If you have a computer room, use it as a launch pad: it can propel you and your learners into the universe of technology.  But don’t just orbit the computer room – bring the technology into your classroom.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What is the down-side of one to one computing in the classroom?

Monday, November 1st, 2010 | Computer Usage | 3 Comments

Attractive as one to one computing in the classroom may appear to you, don’t be fooled into thinking that there are no pitfalls.  Let’s think about a few of them:

The greatest barrier to one to one computing in schools is the high cost.  Most schools can hardly afford to establish and maintain a single computer room, let alone providing a computer for each learner.

Security is another problem.  The value of one to one computing is seen in the fact that learners can take their computing devices with them so that they may work outside of school – in the mall, with their friends and at their homes.  This poses a security risk.  Parents must be involved – in some communities it is a challenge to convince parents to share the responsibility for the equipment carried by their children.

A critical factor for the success of one to one computing is teacher training.  When you give each child a computer, you assume that they will quickly learn how to use them.  In general, this happens; but it does not necessarily hold true for the teacher.  The teaching style of teachers has to change, and this is not as easy as you may think!

Class discipline in a one to one environment is sometimes a challenge.  A teacher who is used to learners sitting at desks, all facing the teacher, discovers that the attention of learners is now directed towards the computers in front of them.  How can you make sure that they focus on learning material, rather than playing games, sending text messages to each other, engaging in social network activities or aimlessly surfing the web?

The greatest danger of one to one computing is that too much emphasis is placed on the technology, at the expense of education.  A computer can be a valuable teaching and learning tool, but it is just that: a tool.  When each learner has access to a computer all the time, you need a sound understanding of how to use this tool for its intended purpose, so that the technology tail does not wag the education dog in the classroom.

Cell phones are becoming as powerful as computers, and since mobile technology is approaching saturation point among children in some schools, one to one computing may be realized sooner than you think.  With this looming possibility, wise teachers are coming to grips with technology now in preparation for the realities of an uber-connected world.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What are the advantages of one-to-one computing in the classroom?

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 | Computer Usage | 4 Comments

It is not easy to prove that one to one computing increases learner achievement.  Much of the research pointing to positive results has been conducted by computer manufacturers – nay-sayers claim that these studies are biased.

Teachers who have experienced positive outcomes offer anecdotal evidence of an improved classroom experience when each child is given a computing device.  Let’s look at a few examples:

In schools troubled by absenteeism and disinterested learners, a present and engaged learner is the type of learner to have.  Many teachers report that one to one computing grabs the interest of learners, leading to improved class attendance and involvement.

Unexpected teaching moments arise when a learner asks an intriguing question, or something eventful happens in the world around us.  When each learner in the class has access to a computer, as well as the internet, a teacher can lead the class in the search for information sources, investigate the facts and help learners to reach conclusions.  In the process learners learn the valuable skill of finding and evaluating information.

Learners with a restricted world view are helped to expand the borders of their experience.  They can observe world news on the other side of the globe as it happens; they can also discover the wonders of faraway places and ancient worlds.

When learners engage with written material and interact with it, their ability to read and write must improve.  One to one computing does not only have a beneficial impact on basic literacy – being able to read and write – but also on the new literacies demanded by the twenty-first century.  Since much of the material learners access is in the form of images, they will develop visual literacy and media literacy skills; and since they’re using computers on a daily basis you can imagine what one to one computing will do for their digital literacy skills!

With one to one computing, never will a child be able to say: “The dog ate my homework.”

None of these positive results happens by itself – the success of one to one computing depends on the ability of the teacher to harness ubiquitous technology as a tool for teaching and learning.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What is one to one computing?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | Computer Usage | 9 Comments

In the field of education, one to one computing means that every learner and teacher has access to a computer at all times – one computer, available to one person.  The computer could be a personal computer (PC), but is more often a laptop, a netbook, or a handheld computing device.  It is also assumed that each person has access to a printer and the internet.

A one to one computing classroom situation is different from that of a computer room visited by learners on a rotational basis.  In the latter case learners have limited access to technology and can engage with it only at fixed times.  The whole idea behind one to one computing is that learners can use the computer anytime, anywhere.

Computer manufacturers are the main promoters of one to one computing.  It is a no-brainer: if every learner were to be given a computer, sales will sky-rocket. 

School management and parent bodies may also support the concept in the belief that a computer in the hands of a child at all times leads to superior education.  It is for this reason that they are willing to invest large sums of money to make this possible.

Education authorities in the developing world must yet be convinced that one to one computing yields a substantial return on the investment.  In most cases they will only support a one to one initiative if the equipment is funded by parents or other donors.

One of the disadvantages of a computer room is that learner entry is limited – this makes it unlikely for learners to develop the level of computer proficiency required by most careers.  One to one computing allows learners to work with computers all the time, leading to sound digital skills and confidence in the use of technology.

It is difficult to justify one to one computing in poor countries where millions of learners have no access to technology at all.  Don’t fret if your learners do not have this level of exposure to computers – do what you can with what is available.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What technologies are suitable for teachers?

Friday, October 29th, 2010 | education, technology | 4 Comments

Teaching is one of the most complex professions on the planet.  The spread of learning areas demanded by a good education requires a teacher to teach a wide variety of topics.  This is particularly true of primary school teachers who often must teach all learning areas.  Secondary school teachers specializing in specific learning areas also know that their subject can not be taught in absolute isolation.

Adding to the difficult task of teaching is the fact that learners are all so different!

Any tool with the potential of easing the complicated task of teachers can’t be ignored.  Technology offers teaching tools, which can make the teacher’s task much, much easier.

What are the most appropriate technologies for teachers?

At the heart of technology tools stands the computer – this can be a personal computer (PC), a laptop or a smaller portable device with the same functionality as a bigger computer.  A computer allows you to create information, obtain it from elsewhere, store it, and use it whenever you want.  This information can be in the form of text, pictures and even video.

One computer by itself may not do much in the classroom.  But it is the starting point for you to learn to use technology.  Once you can use a computer, you can link it to other devices to display prepared information to learners; some technologies even allow learners some interaction.

Here are a few examples of technology tools for the classroom:

A data projector allows you to display information on your computer to a class or even a larger group in a bigger venue.

An interactive whiteboard is useful when you require learners to interact with the teaching material.

A scanner can be used to copy documents, such as work of learners, pictures or newspaper clippings, and display them to the class.

A digital camera is used by many teachers to take pictures, which may then be used for teaching.

A voting system (also called clickers) is an excellent assessment tool, which allows learners to respond to your questions, making the results instantly available to you.

These are just a few tools that may be useful to you.  Look around and see what other teachers are using and decide which ones you would like to use.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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