Classroom Use

Teachers' learning with regard to using the mobile unit in class has been analysed under the four headings below. (The mobile unit consists of the laptop, data projector, speakers, extension leads and appropriate software).

1. Using the Equipment - Physical Classroom Considerations

2. Using the Equipment - Classroom Management and Good Practice

3. Benefits in Using the Equipment

4. Frustrations in Using the Equipment

1. Using the Equipment - Physical Classroom Considerations

If a school is contemplating using the laptop and data projector as a mobile unit it would be advisable to examine the suitability of the following:

1. Buildings
Are there stairs to be negotiated?
How is equipment best carried - boxes? baskets?

2. Trolleys
Are there trolleys available?
Are they relatively neat in size?

3. Brightness of the Room
Can blinds be pulled to ensure room is dark enough?

4. Screen
Does classroom have a screen ?
Would a blank wall suffice?

5. Classroom Furniture
Is layout suitable ?
Can all pupils see screen from their desks?

6. Volume
Can volume be adjusted/switched on/off?

7. Extension Leads
Do wires present a safety hazard?

8. Adapters
How many are needed?

2. Using the Equipment - Classroom Management and Good Practice

Staff members varied in their approach when using the equipment. Some teachers found the mobile unit very useful if science lessons were taught orally, followed by simple experiments and software then used to reinforce and expand concepts. Alternatively others used the software to introduce the lesson, followed up with experiments and further work as appropriate. In general teachers found the following useful and productive to consider either before, during and after lessons taught:

1. Preview software so that section is easily located and run.

2. Practise navigating software a few times before teaching lesson.

3. Have worksheets on hand or suitable activities for pupils while equipment is being set up or in the event of a breakdown.

4. Allow adequate time for setting up.

5. Train pupils to set up equipment (initially those with basic computer skills/know how) and rotate these trainees to spread competencies in whole class.

6. Establish the aims and objectives of the lesson with pupils, for example, give pupils a purpose in listening to information on CD Rom by presetting question(s) during initial discussion or introduction to the topic.

9. Involve the pupils actively in the lesson by allowing them to:

- use the mouse
- control the volume
- read the information on the screen
- record short snippets throughout the lesson
- give opportunities to ask/answer questions
- organise group quizzes or competitions

10. Ask and encourage pupils to ask various question types. Use questions to:

- predict
- estimate
- categorise
- hypothesise
- reason
- justify

10. After the lesson, reflect and evaluate what went well and what could be improved on next time round.

3. Benefits in Using the Equipment

Benefits included the following:

1. High level of pupil participation and interaction.

2. Instant reinforcement afforded by software.

3. A wide range of task based activities offered through software games. These afford multiple opportunities in which to apply the concepts and information being taught.

4. Visual displays and games hold pupils' interest and aid learning.

5. Projector perceived as a fun way to learn.

6. Digital pictures can be used as a record and reward for pupils' work.

4. Difficulties in Using the Equipment

1. Lack of suitable software at certain levels, particularly for Science at Infants level.

2. Substantial time needed to preview the software.

3. For the first few occasions a significant amount of time is needed to set up and disconnect equipment. As one becomes more familiar with equipment, less time is needed.

4. Parts of equipment (for example speakers or leads) missing or relevant software not available when equipment arrives in the classroom.

5. Only a small number of children can 'have a go' in controlling the mouse or volume etc during any one lesson. Children need to take turns and rotate jobs to ensure that everyone gets a chance in time.

6. Seating and classroom furniture may need to be re-arranged.

7. If things do not go according to plan, lesson can be disrupted and class can become restless and noisy.

8. Some software packages do not allow a particular section to be repeated without going back to the beginning.

9. Some software packages do not allow the pace of delivery to be changed according to class needs.

10. Difficult to move around classroom when a number of leads are trailing around. This is especially so with digital cameras.

These were the main points noted in relation to our use of the equipment.

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