For five years I ran a computer lab for over 650 K-2 students at the Sahuarita Primary School in Sahuarita, Arizona, until my retirement in 2014. Thirty classes of 20-26 students came to the computer lab for a half-hour once a week. It was a busy place with all the activities we did! The information below is accurate as of May 2014. I hope it may give ideas to other teachers about what they can do with young computer users.
Many of the activities we do are on the Internet. I make a PowerPoint presentation with pictures and links to each activity. Visit my computer lab’s website to explore the activities we do. I tell the students to Google SPS Fitch to get there. They love showing their parents what they do in the computer lab and doing the activities at home.
We also explore with Bee-Bots, small robots that look like bees. They can be programmed to go forward and back, and turn left or right, just like the turtle. We have many vinyl mats that the robots move on. I made cards with destinations written on them. The students take turns picking a card and programming Bee-Bot to get there. Many of the mats connect to the curriculum (vocabulary words that they can sound out, number lines, letters of the alphabet), while others are maps of various places (a town, a treasure island, a race course, vacation spot). In addition, I have made my own maps using custom mats that have a plastic overlay. The students enjoy directing Bee-bots to pictures of dinosaurs, birds, and musical instruments. Visit our page on Terrapin’s website to learn more.
Note that Kinderlogo is now available in a bundle with Bee-Bot! What a great solution for young computer users.
I got funding from a local foundation to purchase a weather station from Davis Instruments. A console in the computer lab displays current weather conditions. A student in each second grade class writes down the temperature and wind speed on the Beaufort scale when they leave. I generate weekly graphs to show them the change in temperature and amount of rainfall. You can see current weather conditions at our school on our webpage that automatically updates.
Accelerated Reader and Galileo Tests
Each quarter, all students take the STAR Early Literacy or STAR Reading test, part of the Accelerated Reader program that the school district has adopted. Some classes also come to the computer lab to take quizzes on the books that they read. Second grade students take their Galileo tests online in the computer lab three times a year.
The lab uses NComputing technology, with five computers serving 30 workstations. Each row of six workstations connects to one computer and shares its CPU (central processing unit). However, each student can use a different program or visit a different Web site at the same time. Each workstation has its own mouse, keyboard, monitor and set of headphones.
The computers are set up for our K-2 users.
- The chairs are at a perfect height, so the students are at eye-level with the monitors.
- The mouse is designed for smaller hands and has just one mouse button. These mice prevent inadvertent right clicks, help both right- and left-handed students use the computer, and take up less space on the tables. As one Kindergartner remarked, "They’re perfect!"
- We use a mouse pointer that is slightly larger than normal. (In the Mouse Control Panel, you can set the size.)
- The Internet Explorer browser window shows just the menu bar, with all other toolbars disabled.
- The headphones are also "kid-sized." Headbands and bows often get left behind when girls take them off to wear the headphones!
- Files are set up to open with a single-click, so double-clicking is not required. This is very helpful for younger students; older students use activities that help them learn to double-click.