Engaging the Students
Developing the student’s autonomy is both a learning objective and a way to engage the student and help the teacher to focus on teaching. It liberates the teacher’s time and enhances the student’s learning skills. Autonomy is not innate and doesn’t grow magically therefore here are some ways to teach autonomy:
By delegating certain responsibilities to students, teachers can focus their attention on supporting student learning in the classroom rather than responding to technical inquiries related to the use of computers. Thus, each week or each month, you can give the following responsibilities to your students:
- Starting / turning off computers
- Emailing the class on a daily or weekly base
- Storing the material (guides, sheets for the printer, CD, headphones, microphones, etc.)
Encouraging Collaborative Learning
Research and practice tend to prove to us that collaborative learning is more efficient when using computers. Often students working in pairs resolve difficulties they are having more effectively than when they are working individually. Many studies show that collaboration reduces minor error and facilitates the achievement of high level activities.
To support the learning needs of all students, including those with disabilities, paired work is an excellent strategy that enables students to participate further in the daily activities of the classroom. Pairs can have a lot of roles such as: helping a classmate carry the equipment, support learning by assisting fellow classmates to complete assigned tasks, etc.
Older students can also help younger ones. In preschool, for example, students have different recess periods than students in other classes. If this is the case in your school, they will be happy to assist younger schoolmates.
To facilitate group work, set rules of collaboration between the students that define clearly each of their roles. This will give each student equal chances to participate in the task at hand. . For example, determine what tasks are required for group work and have students volunteer for these positions as most students know what skills they are best suited to achieve.
This strategy consists in constituting a team of students who have high level of experience in technology use. To do so, first, take the time to know the strengths of your students and put them into action to know what they can really make using the computer. Then make a list of resource persons responding to each application (word processor, scanner, email, Internet, etc.). Make one or two information sessions with each team sponsor and, if necessary, train new experts. Instead of spending the day at the computer, you will spend a few minutes to prepare 2 or 3 students and they will assist other students in need. By displaying the list of students on a poster with particular technological experience, students who require additional support to learn or who have questions will be better able to consult this list and contact one of these students. To avoid a work overload among experts’ students, establish clear guidelines regarding the request for assistance.
Whether in the lab or classroom, there should always be a space reserved for:
- Reference guides on the functions of software tool.
- A reference guide on the use of computers (troubleshooting tips)
- Operating Procedures (saving a file, connection to the server or creating an email account)
- A list of expert students (Link to the expert students list on this page.
- A file of the activity statements (mandatory or personal challenges)
- A file of samples of corrected outputs of the exercises
The activities planning table provides an overview of the activities taking place within the course during the same week. This allows students to manage their time, be informed of the mandatory activities, choose their optional activities and enrol in mini-clinics if necessary.
Here is an example of a planning table.
Description: This illustration shows a table that clarifies for the student the tasks he/she has to do within the classroom sessions during a week/or a month. It lists the activities to be done by priority order: what should be done first. It describes the activity, its due date and the mode of work that applies to it (individual task, collaborative task or classroom task)
Are you submerged or overwhelmed by questions asked by students? Approach this by organizing the help request procedure to encourage students’ independence. For example, you can prepare a poster. On this poster, you list the steps that students must pass before asking for the teacher’s assistance:
1. I looked for the answer to my question in the reference tools.
2. I asked other students to help me in class.
3. I put my name on the list of people who need help (depending on the method used in class)
4. I looked at the activities planning table to find another task I can do while waiting for help.
5. I checked the list of mini-clinics to enrol in a mini-clinic that may help me.
You should be firm by no longer responding to requests from students who have not provided the previous efforts.