Habits of Highly Effective Computers
for Getting the Most Out of Your Computers in the Classroom
Lightstone, November 2002
If at all possible, computers should be placed around the perimeter of a
classroom, as opposed to the middle of the room. A computer that is situated so
that it is between the student and the teacher will always present a potential
distraction for the students. This configuration should be avoided in any room
other than an actual computer studies classroom.
Thinking versus Grunt-work:
The computer should never be assigned a task that would see it doing the
thinking for the student. For example, a spreadsheet shouldnít be used to
teach a grade four student basic mathematical functions. However, if it is used
to calculate figures within a financial statement for a Grade Eleven student,
then a spreadsheet is perfectly appropriate. In such a case, the spreadsheet
isnít doing any thinking beyond what the student is capable of doing for him /
herself. Rather, it is just serving to save the student time. (Especially if
that student needs to correct a mistake!) In general, computers should be used
to perform grunt work. Computers assigned the task of crunching numbers or
searching the web for relevant resources will enable students to accomplish more
sophisticated tasks than would be practical without the use of computers. Yet,
such applications will not interfere with the studentís cognitive development.
Computers Donít Teach:
Although there are a variety of instructional programs on the market these days,
a teacher shouldnít be tempted to pass the student off to such programs.
Although these programs have their place within a courseís reference material
or within a remediation program, they should not be used as the primary mode of
instruction. The computerís greatest shortcoming is its limited ability to
answer questions. It is difficult enough for a teacher to interpret a
studentís question so that he/she fully understands the studentís point of
confusion. A program, at this point in time, cannot do this. We are still years
away from computers that are capable of this level of fuzzy logic.
Make it Real:
The computer, coupled with the effective use off the Internet, is a gateway to
the real world, and it should be used as such. If the computer is not bringing
information into the classroom that is current, relevant, and meaningful to the
students, then it is a waste of resources.
The teacher should be as familiar with the computer as the students are when it
comes to the applications required for a given course. If we accept that
teachers should be facilitating the effective use of computers in the classroom,
then teachers must accept a duty of care that didnít necessarily exist ten
years ago. Just as we wouldnít expect to see students required to complete
calculator applications that are beyond the capability of the math teacher,
computers shouldnít be used in a class where the teacher isnít capable of
performing the required tasks. Yes, young people certainly seem to be immersed
in computer culture, and yes, they seem to learn faster than adults; but that is
no excuse for adults to play dead when it comes to learning computer
applications. The teacher should have a pretty good idea of where the computer
is going to take the students before they get there.
Donít Rely on Computers to Excite the Kids:
Teachers should never assume that material, presented via a computer, will be
any more exciting than the same material presented by a human being. Computers
are new and exciting to children for about a week. After that, they are about as
exciting as a nightlight. In the long run students would much rather listen to a
dynamic teacher than gawk at a computer screen. In general, a computer should
not be used to replace the teaching portion of a class. Rather, they should be
used to augment the active portion of a class wherein students perform research,
complete labs, produce a product, or perform a task.