Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why do students destroy the computer labs?

I am sickened by the lack of stewardship in the common areas of our building in particular the computer labs. “The lab” was designed poorly; the screens hide the faces of the users making anonymity a rampant cover for all distracted behavior. I myself have resolved to limit any use of the room to allowing no more than four kids at a time enter the room with clear intent and time limit.

The concept of a computer lab is outdated. Technology needs to seamlessly flow uninterrupted lest its use becomes the distraction. Teachers creating lessons saying, “ I want the kids to use computers,” ought to rethink their motives. Imagine how silly a teacher would sound stating, “I want them to use paper.” Of course students will incorporate technology but only when its necessar, not mandated.

Why the destruction?

Maybe it’s because of a Marxism class I took in Grad School at St. John’s University that I feel this way, but it seems students feel alienated from the technology in our building. The computers are not theirs. It is not their world. The network does not allow personalization. (Changing the background) The printers in “the labs” do not work. Students cannot receive or send email without using an filter avoiding proxy website.

Students realize the computers are not theirs, they see them as a tool teachers use to waste their time. There is a dichotomy setup from the get go…there is “class time” and “computer lab time.” Setting up this barrier, which is reinforced by inexperienced (or over experienced) teachers unable to successfully blend technology into their lessons is a reciepe for disaster.

How do we avoid the destruction?

Teachers need to facilitate the lessons. Sending students into the labs to “do their projects” is not enough guidance. A teacher that asks the students, “What are you looking for? How are you going to find it on the web? What keywords do you need to type?” and then follows up with a question like, “Did you find what you are looking for? What are you going to do with that information now?” Teachers that cannot master the technology themselves should not bring students into the computer lab. I feel that I have a grasp on the computer technology available to us in the school, but I feel uncomfortable taking and entire class into “the lab”. I am aware of my limitations, and know that I would be unable to monitor the room the way it needs to be, especially the absurd design of the lab the way it currently is currently laid out.

YES students need to respect the property, but to the same extent teachers too must respect the students enough to acknowledge that the students are going to know when the teachers are just taking up time in the lab with them.


debra said...

Computers are an amazing tool for the classroom. They can be used for videoconferencing, webquests and amazing lessons. Computers are necessary to meet our NY state standards- (example taken from ELA Commencement Reading and writing Standard 2) 2. Written communication for social interaction
requires using written messages to establish,
maintain, and enhance personal relationships with
• use a variety of print and electronic forms for social
communication with peers and adults
- http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/ela/pub/elalearn.pdf

Teachers need to understand how to use computers in instruction, but it is difficult. In order for students to complete any learning activity, teachers have to be able to show the students that do not know the programs. Sometimes teachers spend a day or two teaching the program before content is adressed (powerpoint, excel, etc.) When classes meet three times a week, this cuts into a large portion of instruction time.
With all of the glitches and uncertainty, technology is terribly frustrating, but the benefits outweigh the complications. There are exceptional websites out there- readwritethink, marcopolo NY, flash demos for all subjects and so many more. If you create a webpage with bookmarks before you teach a certain lesson, Differentiated instruction is a breeze. Students will be directed as to which sites to go on. Can they override the bookmarks?- absolutely, but if you circulate the room and make sure everyone is on task, it should be easier.

My ideal classroom- one working computer for each student.

Why can't we have one laptop per child? Such an amazing project I'm disappointed we will not benefit from- http://laptop.media.mit.edu/

Cleopatra Returns said...

I agree with studnets not being respectful of equipment. My school has a rolling lap top cart and wireless so that we the teachers can check out the computers for a day or so and allow the kids to use them. WIth 30+ kids in a class and only one of me, it is hard to make sure they are all using the computers correctly. Any sugeestions on how to make the kids appreciate them more?

Demi said...

Perhaps the students' actions are a passive agressive reaction to the prohibition of the use of their personal technology in the building.
That and a common lack of respect for property that is used but not owned. I know I took much better care of the first car that I owned versus the one that I shared with my sisters !

Eddelson said...

Okay, here's the deal. I completely agree with the idea of breaking down the dysfunctional computer labs and utilizing our wireless network with rolling labs. HOWEVER, how functional can these labs actually be when our network itself runs on molasses and even more disheartening - our students searches are being fire walled with everything from the "Patriot Act" to even "Roe v. Wade" (because it talks about shhhhhh...sex and rape)

As a history teacher who desperately needs access to controversial issues that connect students to the past that links them to today's topics I find myself time and time again handcuffed.

As stated and asked on a previous blog - why all the fear? It is clear students have access to ANYTHING they want to see or hear after school hours. When has censorship ever worked? See: RENO vs. ACLU. Besides, whose determining what constitutes "decent?" Yet again the masses are being denied the freedoms they deserve by a minority of paranoid, yet powerful, conservatives. Like I said before, we should be embracing Youtube, etc. and modeling how this powerful tool can be used to LEARN! Sure there will be some who might abuse this privilege but those few are the same people who would abuse any thing that is offered to them even if it was during chalk and talk. It saddens me that we have to replay this battle over and over again when in the end we all know that liberty will prevail. The question is "when?" will it end and "who?" will lose out? Right now EVERY student in QHST, and I am afraid NYC, is losing out. When will this madness end?

The Freire student body last year brought this up with the administration and they were promised that this would be remedied, yet it has not. I was told that the Freire newsletter will also be addressing this problem in this month's upcoming issue. But perhaps parents also need to put pressure on the DOE? I don't know what the answer is but one thing's for sure, a portion of our students are not learning as much as they could in a 21st century classroom, whether it is with research, communication, etc.

I would just hate that to see that on the surface QHST "looks" high-tech but in "reality" we are only a school with top of line computers while inside a little gerbil is running in a wheel powering the damn things.