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

Technology Foundations, Part 1
Carl Sannito

Late last winter, I was offered a job as a technology coordinator at a new school in Chicago. Since the building had just been built a few months earlier, and all the technology was going to brand new, I envisioned great things for my computer lab. Of course there was one problem: I had to build it all myself.

Now you may not ever have to build your own computer lab, but some of you are lucky enough to be able to build you classrooms up with technology. Maybe you inherited a computer or two from a teacher who is retiring. Perhaps you already have an overhead projector or a set of calculators. You have to start somewhere, right?

Let’s take a few moments to discuss things that can help you set up your own “computer lab”, whether it’s in a classroom or in an actual computer lab.

First of all, I know that not everyone is blessed with new computer equipment. But if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to bring computers to your school, try the organization called “Computers for Schools.” They are a non-profit organization that assists schools in their efforts to acquire technology into schools. Basically, they accept donated computers from corporations across the country, refurbish them, clean them up and then sell them at a low price to schools. Computers for Schools will install a Windows based operating system on each computer and a few basic applications (word-processing, spreadsheet, etc). Each computer comes with a mouse, keyboard, and a monitor. Sometimes there are offers that allow you to purchase a printer as part of the package deal. It’s worth checking their website out for all the details.

For those of you with a bit more money to spend, brand new technology equipment maybe the way to go. People continually ask me what is the best brand to buy. That’s a tough question to answer because everyone’s needs are different. Do some research. Purchase computer magazines like PC Magazine, PC World or Consumer Reports. Each have regular reviews on computers. Note: You will have to pay a nominal fee to get the Consumer Reports content.

Although doing your homework is important, it can be intimidating and time consuming. Worse comes to worse, if you have no other choice, then simply stick with a name brand. If you know that a company is going to be around tomorrow, you’ll at least have someone to call if the computer breaks down.

What if you already have some computers in your room or in your lab but you don’t know what to do next? Well, in addition to purchasing some educational software (I’ll get to that in coming months), you should look into acquiring some type of security software to protect the computer from the kids. Students love to move icons around, delete programs, and change settings; security software can protect your computers. Fortres 101 is a great program which I have used. Once installed, it “locks” the computer up and prevents changes from being made on the computer by students. Deep Freeze is a program that works a little differently. Once installed, it allows students to make any changes they want to the computer. Once the computer is restarted, the computer goes back to the way it was at the time of installation. If you use Deep Freeze, you must remember to save all your work to a floppy disk or a network drive because the hard drive reverts back once the computer is restarted.

Setting up technology in your classroom (or in a lab) can be hard because there are so many little details to consider. It’s never as easy as it should be. But as I work through the process of setting up my own lab, I’m going to make some notes and share the trials and tribulations in future articles. And if you have tips or suggestions you want to share, e-mail them to me and I’ll post them on these pages.

Look for it here!

Do you have a comment or suggestion? You can e-mail Carl at carlsannito@yahoo.com.


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