Friday, October 3, 2003
Portable computer lab a hit at Carlisle School
"If you are a Blue Jay, you are doing literature," instructed Carlisle third-grade teacher Liz Gray. "If you are a Red Sox, you are doing writing." The third-graders scurried, some retrieving their writing folders, while others split into small reading groups. Quiet descended as the readers read, and the writers worked on their acrostic poems. "If you are ready to publish, you can work on the computer with Ms. McCann," continued Gray. A small group formed on one side of the room by the portable computer lab, and quickly logged into the small white laptops that Cyd McCann, the new Carlisle Technology Integration specialist, handed them.
The portable computer lab, funded by the grants given to the school as a result of the successful CEF/CSA auction, has already become the most popular addition to the school. About the size of a large dining table, it holds thirty Macintosh laptops. McCann is running introductory lessons for each grade and anticipates finishing the preliminary workshops by the end of September. Third and fifth grade have begun to integrate the laptops into their curriculum, and she expects other grades to follow as the students (and teachers) become more familiar with using the computers. "I meet with the teachers first to determine what the lesson/project objectives are," McCann said, "and how the technology will fit in with the lesson. I also provide planning assistance if the teacher is exploring a new project." She then provides the necessary technical instructions, while the teacher provides the academic instruction.
Lab supports curriculum
"Which letter is the 'I'?" asked third-grader Zachary Rubenstein, leaning over and staring at his keyboard. Third-grader Jasmine Khayami, sitting next to him, pointed out the letter on his keyboard, and he slowly pecked his way into his acrostic poem. They had just watched McCann demonstrate how to format the poem using text boxes, and how to change the font size of the text. Amazingly, the students quickly picked up the essence of what was being done, and at least half were able to start their poems independently, though some needed help using the touch pad on the laptop (which is more sensitive than a mouse). "This is the first time we're doing this," Gray explained as she helped two more students get a laptop and get started on their poems. She said she hopes eventually the students will independently get a laptop from the lab when they are ready to type, and get started on their writing.
McCann said the biggest challenge right now is dealing with saving the students' work. "We do not have a file server, so students must save to individual computers. This means they need to go back to the same computer and it also leaves their work vulnerable to others using that particular computer. So far, students have been very respectful of other people's work, but accidents do happen."
"Be sure to save your work," reminded Gray as she walked around assisting the students. It was clear Gray was comfortable with computers, but are the other teachers feeling confident about their abilities to incorporate the lab into their curricula? McCann explained later that all the teachers are receiving the same instruction as the students, and she is planning on offering two Carlisle College classes this year to support the teachers. She will also offer one-on-one training as needed, as well as smaller workshops throughout the year. "I hope to be in classrooms during most of the school day," said McCann. "So far, that has been happening."
© 2003 The