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.
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.