The One Computer Classroom: From Reward to Treasure

Cissy Lujan-Pincomb, Jornada Elementary

With only one or two computers in a classroom, how can a teacher utilize the computer as an instructional tool for instruction rather than a reward for completing work? There are many classroom management styles that a teacher can choose from when beginning to use the computer as a tool for instruction rather than utilizing it just for word processing or prepackaged learning games. The first thing to consider is the teacher's role as the central focus of the classroom, imparting all knowledge, directions, etc. to students and then having students rely solely on the teacher for learning, help, and corrective feedback. This "Sage on the stage" role leaves the teacher little time to do any anecdotal, portfolio or individual assessment of students. For the teacher to have the freedom to do individual or small group instruction or assessment, they must become the facilitator in the classroom, thus freeing the teacher to address individual needs.

The "Team" approach is one classroom management system that would enable the teacher to become a facilitator in the classroom. The team approach consists of 4-6 students in a team. This team can be configured in heterogeneous (various levels, different abilities ) or homogeneous (same levels, same ability) groupings that can last from 2-6 weeks depending on the theme, unit, or project of study. In the classroom, three different methods can be employed: "WOW" (Working Our Way), "Gossip Group", and "Menus".

WOW: Working Our Way

WOW time is an hour long segment where teams are heterogeneously configured and theme oriented around a unit of study, such as Space, New Mexico, Africa, etc. The following are some WOW sample activities based on study of New Mexico:

  • Mind Benders: Thematic Questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy (e.g. Explain the different theories of what happened to the Anasazi.)
  • Personal Studies: Research ideas pertaining to theme (Billy the Kid, Pancho Villa, etc.)
  • Vocabularium: Vocabulary development pertaining to theme.
  • New Mexico Jogagraphy: Where in the world is Eunice, New Mexico?
  • Writer's Workshop: Using the pottery shards, recreate the pot and write how it might have been made many years ago.
  • Spelling: Words pertaining to theme such as: llano, plains, arroyo.

This is a sample of what the schedule for WOW time might look like:

Team Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Jaguars Mind Benders Personal Studies Vocabularium Jogagraphy Writer's Workshop
Ice Writer's Workshop Mind Benders Personal Studies Vocabularium Jogagraphy
Jazz Personal Studies Vocabularium Jogagraphy Writer's Workshop Mind Benders

As all teams are working on WOW projects one team also has one day on computers (e.g. Monday -Jaguars,Tuesday is ICE, and Wednesday is Jazz, etc).

  • Students can get on one at a time throughout the day.
  • Students complete long term and short term projects that pertain to the unit of study.
  • The students work through these projects (called Cyber Check).

Each team consists of Tech-Know Pros and Tech-Know Pals.

  • A TechKnow Pro has passed all computer basics and gets a license to help or train a Techknow Pal. If a student needs help on the computer he/she can ask a Tech-Know Pro and thus free the teacher to teach!
  • While all the teams are working, the teacher is free to instruct a group of TechKnow Pros or do a Writer's workshop conference with individual stories, etc.
  • All of the students' work is held in the students' portfolios. Each day the teacher checks 4-6 portfolios. This eases the workload and it also helps keep those non-productive students in check.

Gossip Group

In Gossip Group the teams of 4-6 students are homogeneously grouped. Students are given literature books to read and respond to. Each day after reading a chapter aloud, each group selects a job from the job cards. (This has been adapted from Literature Circles by Harvey Daniels.)

The jobs include:

  • Discussion Leader- writes out 5 open-ended questions and answers.
  • Word Finder- selects 5-8 words from selection that group may not be familiar with.
  • Sum it Up Summarizer- Summarizes the chapter just read.
  • Connector- Selects two passages and connects to real life experiences.
  • Artful Artist- Selects a passage then illustrates the setting of the passage or chapter.
  • Lesson Linker - Links the teacher's mini-lesson to the chapter, such as: metaphors, similes, foreshadowing, character study, etc.
  • Cool Characters- Describes any new characters in the chapter and explains how they fit into the book thus far or describes what is happening to the character.
  • Fortune Teller- Writes three possible predictions for upcoming chapters.
  • Cyberspace Kid- Selects a computer activity from the list of activities. Some sample activities for the Cyberspace Kid are:
    • Go to the Internet and search for the book's author. Word process two facts about the author.
    • Using draw tools draw a picture of a setting in the book
    • Begin or continue the book report using Hyperstudio.
    • Using MaqQuest, CityNet or Yahoo locate where thebook is taking place.
    • Using Timeliner make a time line of the events in the book
    • Take a survey of the types of books students like: mystery, non-fiction, etc. and use a spreadsheet to make a graph representing the different types
    • Make a database of the authors and which of their books have already been read in the classroom
    • Word process a summary of the chapter and illustrate it using draw tools
    • Using draw tools make a new book jacket for the book

The team approach gives the responsibility of learning back to the student.


Another classroom management approach is through Menus.

  • A menu has a list of activities or projects related to a theme or unit of study that the students work through in 2-6 weeks.
  • The Teacher conferences with the student 2 or 3 times prior to final submissions of the menu projects. While the students are working on their menus, the teacher is free once again to work with one or more students.
  • A sample Space menu would look like this:
    • Research one planet in solar system
    • Present research using Hyperstudio, slides, expert or other graphic representation
    • Create a database on one of the following:
      • gravity
      • temperature
      • distance from the sun
      • mass/diameter
      • # of moons
      From your database, put data in a spreadsheet and create a graph of your choosing.
    • Research a space pioneer (Internet or encyclopedias)
    • Draw a constellation and write the accompanying myth, then create a new myth
    • Create a time line of the Space Age
    • Write a science fiction story
    • Read about Clyde Tombaugh and prepare a presentation

There are a myriad of ways to organize classrooms so as to give students more one-on-one attention, from the remedial student to the most academically challenged. By being the "Guide on the side", we can better facilitate learning for all students. The computer, as a tool to facilitate instruction, can then be a treasure to have in the classroom and not just a reward!