Flexibility is the Key to Success in the Computer Lab

A standing pamphlet is a three-side brochure.
Tape the edges of the paper together to form a standing brochure.

Okay, so things didn’t go as planned! The schedule looked perfect on paper…but then reality struck, so changes had to be made to the schedule. This is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. When teaching it is essential to modify your plans to best suit student needs. As long as your students are achieving the learning objectives, it is okay to modify the activities. In this blog entry, I will explain the decision making process I used to make adjustments to the schedule.

When Making a Schedule Leave Room for Adjustments

At the beginning of teaching the TechnoEnvironment technology project in September, I made a plan. I looked at the school calendar and thoughtfully scheduled how I would fit the parts of the project into the 14 classes I had available in this school term. I considered the content knowledge the students would be required to learn as well as the technology objectives. Knowing that outcomes rarely reflect the planned schedule perfectly, I built in some space for change. I included extension activities that could be removed without compromising the integrity of the project and I left a free period at the end just in case we needed extra time.

Reality Sets In

The schedule I had planned of course didn’t happen and the reality of school life intervened with my plans. There was a Professional Development Day I hadn’t counted on, some students were away sick, special school events were planned after my schedule was formed, sports activities took a number of students away from class, and some tasks took longer for students to complete. I had to make adjustments to my timeline.

Be Flexible to Accommodate Change

Sometimes a teacher might find themselves ahead of schedule and be able to fit in extra activities, but more often we are struggling to catch up. It often feels as if there isn’t enough time in the school day! Over half way through the project, I had a close look at where the students were as compared to what I had intended in my original plan. Based on my evaluation I decided to change the final activity.

In TechnoEnvironment, the final assignment is a double sided, tri-fold brochure about a specific environmental issue. Completing all the requirements of the six sides is an advanced task which reviews all the technology skills the students have learned in the previous activities as well as some new ones. I decided to have students create a Standing Pamphlet with three sides, based on the Session 4 Skill Review in TechnoEnvironment. This required slight revisions to the steps in the technology project. However, I knew this change would best support learning.

ClassesProposed ScheduleActual Schedule
Class 1Introduction to TechnoEnvironment
Assignments 1-2
Introduction to TechnoEnvironment
Assignments 1-2
Class 2Research Continues/Gather Pictures
Assignments 2, 4
Research Continues/Gather Pictures
Assignments 2, 4
Class 3Research a Solution
Assignment 3
Research a Solution
Assignment 3
Class 4Postcards from the Edge
Assignment 6, 7
Complete Research
Class 5Environmental Map
Session 2 Extension Activity
Postcards from the Edge
Assignment 6
Class 6Help Wanted Poster
Assignment 8
Complete Postcard
Assignment 7
Class 7Pamphlet – Educate the Public
Assignment 9, 10
Help Wanted Poster
Assignment 8
Class 8Pamphlet – Problem & Solutions
Assignment 11
Complete Help Wanted Poster
Class 9Pamphlet – Examine a Solution
Assignment 12
Standing Pamphlet
Revised Assignment 9/Skill Review
Class 10Pamphlet – Design a Quiz
Assignment 13
Standing Pamphlet
Apply skills to add content.
Class 11Pamphlet – Edit/Print Publication
Assignment 14
Standing Pamphlet
Use checklist to review pamphlet.
Class 12Create a Banner
Session 4 Extension Activity
Environmental Conference
Share Work
Class 13Environmental Conference
Share Work
Class 14TechnoEnvironment
extra class if necessary

What to Cut Out?

How did I decide what to delete from the schedule?
The first thing I asked myself was, “What are my instructional goals?
From the answer, it is easy to determine the elements that could not be deleted. In the case of TechnoEnvironment I decided the importance of environmental stewardship and promoting environmental awareness about an issue were core components of the technology project and therefore must be maintained. In terms of technology skills I determined that inserting and formatting shapes, pictures, clip art, WordArt, and design elements were important skills that should be demonstrated in the final assignment. As well I also considered essential the desktop publishing skills that focus on layout and design to make a publication look professional.

Once I knew what knowledge and skills had to remain, I then needed to determine what could be cut. The criteria I used was, “Would the skill would be taught later in another term?” and “Was the skill essential?

I decided that making tables and using a pre-built form could be cut. This is because tables will be taught later in the school year and a pre-built form is a design element unique to Microsoft Publisher and although a wonderful critical thinking activity, it is not an essential technology skill.

Quality not Quantity

When adjusting the schedule I gave careful consideration to the final task. I decided I would rather have less content but better quality. If I asked the students to create a six panel brochure they would not have had the time to do their best. By adjusting the scope of the final assignment to only three panels it would allow students to focus their efforts. The Standing Pamphlet will provide students the opportunity to create a unique publication that will showcase their newfound technology skills, as well as effectively communicate their environmental awareness.

A Checklist for Compromise

Do not stick to the schedule at the detriment of student learning! Be FLEXIBLE! Here are some tips:

  • Include blank classes in the schedule. This will give you some flexibility.
  • Determine the essential learning objectives that must be included.
  • Eliminate less important details and skills that can be covered at another time.
  • Reduce the quantity of work, to allow students to focus on quality.
  • Make decisions that will maintain student motivation and interest.

TechnoEnvironment Articles:

  1. Planning to Teach an Environmental Technology Project
  2. Frozen Computers Foil Internet Research
  3. 12 Tips for Internet Research
  4. Five Issues Associated with Assigning Computer Homework
  5. Guided Discovery and Computer Education
  6. Establish an Authentic Audience for Technology Projects
  7. Direct Instruction and Computer Education
  8. The Struggle to Have Students be Their Personal Best
  9. Flexibility is the Key to Success in the Computer Lab
  10. Where is the Content? Razzle Dazzle and Computers
  11. Celebrate Success!
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