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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Parts of the Computer
Carl Sannito

In my last article, I wrote about how to start the year off right by labeling your room (whether it was a classroom or a computer lab) and setting the tone by going over your rules. The next thing that I typically do in the beginning of the school year is to review the parts of the computer. I believe that I can’t just plop a student in front of the computer and expect them to know how a mouse works, what a double-click is, or why they shouldn’t touch the screen. I’ve found that giving students explanations about the computer in the beginning of the year prevents many problems the rest of the year.

Reviewing the different parts of the computer can be as simplistic or as complicated as you wish, but it’s a good idea to do so in the beginning of the school year. This establishes a common terminology for both teachers and students. Not only does this build vocabulary for students, but it helps them demystify the computer and begin to look at it as a tool, and less as a “magic toy.”

This should lead to a discussion of how to take care of the computer, that is, how to treat each part. For example, I like to show and tell how to take care of CDs so they won’t become scratched, as well as explaining the proper way to input a CD into the disc drive. I’ve found that if you have headphones attached to the computer, the wires become loose very easily if students aren’t careful. By explaining how things work to the kids, they begin to understand that they have a responsibility to preserve whatever it is they have, whether it’s a library book, a desk, headphones or a computer.

Since I teach grades 1-3, I usually don’t make a big deal out of my explanation. I have a PowerPoint presentation that I tweak every year. You can see the presentation that I am currently using by clicking here. Feel free to use it as it is or use it as a template for one of your own. (Note: The file is big, 1.3MB, and may take several minutes to download if you have a dial up connection.)

To create a presentation of your own, you’ll need at the very least some type of presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote from Apple. You can also use some of the free presentation software like Impress from www.openoffice.org. You will also need a means to show the presentation. You might sit students around one computer and show it on one screen. If you’re lucky enough to have a projector, you use that. I have access to a projector, so I take pictures of everything that I want to demonstrate with the students and use the pictures in the presentation.

Even if you don’t have a projector or if you don’t have the time to be bothered with a PowerPoint presentation, you can simply model for the students the parts of a computer with a real computer. Sometimes the low-tech solution is the best one!

Regardless of the media, the message is important. If you’re going to use a computer, you need to know how to treat it with respect. And we can’t assume that every student shares our definition of respect.

As I go through the parts of the computer, I spend special attention to the keyboard. There are some keys that students need to know in order to operate certain programs. By the time the kids are in third grade, I want to make sure that they know how the shift key works, where the numbers are, how to make punctuation marks, etc. Sure, I want to make sure that they aren’t pounding on the keys as well, but there’s a lot to learn about a keyboard that adults sometimes take for granted.

The same is true for the mouse. You can’t assume a mouse that the students use in school looks the same as a mouse they may have used outside of school. (Apples typically have one depressible button, PCs two, sometimes more, and sometimes have a wheel as well.) I also make sure that students know how to click and double-click. We practice by putting our hands up in the air and making air-clicks. This allows me to spot issues of left and right-handedness quickly. I explain when we double-click and when we single-click (this can be a bit confusing). However, if students at least know the difference between the two, they're on their way.

I think the presentation is fairly self-explanatory, but if you have any questions, feel to send me an e-mail at Carl at carlsannito@yahoo.com.


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