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Why and How to Use Computers in the Classroom

written by: Laurie Patsalides • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 5/1/2013

Students today are already tech-savvy. Some may even know more about computers than you do! It benefits both you and your students to begin using this technology in the classroom more and more.

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    Using Computers in the Classroom Most schools will require teachers to incorporate computer use into the grade level curriculum. The new teacher may need assistance deciding how to do this on a daily basis. Some teachers are hesitant to introduce computer time into the classroom because they view this as a form of "free time" or they may not be confident in their own computing skills. However, when governed and lead properly, integrating computer time into the classroom will have several benefits.

    • Students gain word processing skills when learning to type: skills they will need in college and the workplace.
    • Working on computers fosters collaboration between students and between the student and teacher as they work together on projects.
    • Often leaders emerge who really enjoy computers and can help others, which is useful to classmates and the teacher.
    • Computer time promotes using higher order thinking skills and is a natural form of discovery through trial and error.
    • Computer time increases responsibility, independence and a sense of accomplishment.
    • Computers can reinforce instruction or are an assistive tool in the instruction through podcasts, video and multimedia.
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    So, How Do I Do It Right?

    In order for computer time to work for you, decide what your approach for each computer session will be. Will you facilitate, guide or instruct? This may vary by computer activity. For example, you may want to have an instructional session where you are showing them some websites or new software. On the other hand you may want the students to get some independent practice, in which you would facilitate, but not instruct.Photo of a Computer from Wikimedia 

    Know the program or website that the students will be using well before letting them use it. This may sound simple, but it is so important. You will be able to help to navigate the students through the program or site and instruct them. There is usually a teacher guide that accompanies the software program and is available to use from the school's computer teacher.

    Planning is important. Create a section in your lesson plans where computer time can be integrated. Research the topic well yourself so you know the sites with the best information. Plan it into your small group instruction time with the teacher assistant. In your plans be sure to include the curricula area you are covering as it might differ for each lesson and will show administrators that you thought it through. This way you and the teacher assistant can work together on facilitating.

    Briefly instruct students on the program or website at their desks before they are sitting in front of the computer and then let them go to the computer immediately after your instruction. Students will be very enthusiastic to get started once they are in front of the computer and it will be difficult for them to focus on your instructions otherwise. For older students, the instructions can also be posted near the computer for them to read.

    When applicable (depending on the purpose), confer with students while they are on the computer. Ask questions about their learning and progress. Take observational notes, so you know the direction you want to go in the next session. It is a bit like guided reading. You need to keep assessing and challenging them.

    Provide consistent feedback, which may be praise or correction. For example, say to the small group, "Today I noticed that ...", and give feedback about their session.

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    In this day and age, it is the teachers who are lagging behind in computer skills. Whether your school requires the students to have computer time in the classroom, or if you just desire to integrate it yourself, the benefits are great.

    In our next article we will cover specifics about setting up the computer time. These are shared from personal experience and this teacher's need to learn it for herself.

    Photo from Wikimedia- no author listed; retrieved 5/2011.

Computers for Primary Classrooms

In this series we look at the benefits of using computers to students, managing computer time, using the computer in the morning message, and share some good computer websites for primary students.
  1. Why and How to Use Computers in the Classroom
  2. Getting Started with Computer Centers in the Classroom
  3. Teaching Kindergarteners Computer Skills
  4. Get Typing with Keyboarding Practice for Kids
  5. Using E-Learning with Children: A Great Resource for Stimulated Learning