Setting up a class website
Your first order of business is to decide where and how to set up your lessons. As a technology teacher you're going to ask you students to go to a lot of websites, and typing them in can be such a hassle. Having a class website that houses all of the lesson links and activities will make your life easier and save time for your students to complete the actual lessons.
There are some great website building platforms out there and you can use any one you like. I build mine in Weebly because I like the ease of the click and drag interface. Each lesson I build has some basic components that are the same, so using the features in weebly I am able to copy a page and then just change out a few elements for each lesson. Click here to see an example website I have set up.
Formatting technology lessons
I have two formats that I like to use for the different levels of learners. The lesson for students K-2 is going to look different than 3-5.
Kindergarten through second grade generally has a "must do" activity and then learning games for early finishers. When I first started teaching technology I got some push-back from the kindergarten team because they thought their students were just "playing" on the computers. I had to show them the standards and explain how important knowing how to use a computer mouse is to the ability to do more complicated lessons in the future. I take the whole first quarter to build this skill (along with logging in to their accounts and navigating to the class website). The websites I choose for mouse practice nearly always have an educational component to them that will help in the classroom. Whether it is number sense or letter sounds, my students are developing multiple skills at one time. I'm sharing this tidbit with you so that you can plan how to address the issue if it is brought up for you!
To decide what to include in my lessons, I use the ISTE Standards for Students. At the beginning of creating all of my lessons, I laid out a plan for including each standard enough times for students to master it. I guess you could call it a pacing guide, but I didn't complicate it with time limits at this point. It was basically just a spreadsheet of the standards on top and the grade levels on the side with Xs for which standards I wanted to teach in each grade level. By the end of 5th grade everything was covered to mastery. I made myself a whole binder of forms to organize it. Click here to check out a blog post I wrote about it.
3rd through 5th grade has three components to each lesson. I love to start with a warm up activity like keyboarding for the first 10 minutes of class. On my class website I set up a page with keyboarding practice options and taught my students to go directly there once they logged in. After keyboarding comes the directions and the bulk of the lesson. I love making screencasts of the directions so that students can watch as many times as they need to and refer back when necessary during their lesson. It means more prep time for me, but it makes class run so smoothly! So the lesson page includes the objectives, a video of directions, and the links to the lesson activities. At the bottom there are directions for what to do if they finish early and usually a link to direct them to the early finisher activities. See what I mean here.
In addition to early finisher activities online, I also keep a classroom library that they can use if they finish early. I leave that option up to each student. Here are some of my favorite technology themed books:
Organizing your Computer Lab
When I first walked into the classroom that would be mine (the computer lab) I was so excited! It had been an old science lab but now it was 5 rows of computers and I was ready to get started. As I worked on organizing it, I realized it was lacking. I had no open wall space for displays because there was one whole wall of windows, two whole walls of upper and lower cabinets, and then the SmartBoard and a small whiteboard area. I had to find a way to project the lessons onto the SmartBoard, I needed a space for a teacher desk, and where in the world would I put the technology vocabulary terms?
It wasn't until about 6 months in that I was finally happy with the setup. I chose to completely deconstruct the first row of computers to make room for a projector cart and carpet space. Luckily the computers in the front row were those awesome all-in-one Lenovos. They didn't need to be hardwired to the internet so I was able to move them to another part of the classroom. This made space for a desk for me, too! Well, a table not a desk, but at least I had a place to sit when I was planning.
I used the upper cabinets for my word wall. I laminated technology vocabulary terms and taped them to colored construction paper, which I taped to the cabinets. It brought color to my room, which I didn't even realize was missing until it wasn't. So now I had solved almost all of my organization problems- except displaying the I Can Statements, which my Admin requires.
Since I never write much on the whiteboard, I decided to use this space for the I Can Statements. Yay for magnets because that is exactly what I used for this purpose! Each week I would choose the corresponding I Can Statements for each grade level K-5 and post them on the board. Occasionally if a group was off by a week I would have to change it out for them, but it was manageable because I had all of my I Can Statements in a binder, laminated and ready to go.
Managing Your Computer Lab Classroom
Ok this one I didn't figure out until my 3rd year. It was a group effort between myself and the other specialists at my school.
The first thing that I did that completely changed my technology teacher life was laminate and velcro a "hand" and a "name tag" for each computer station. It blew my mind that students would put their hand in the air for a questions and then wait and wait and wait without getting any more work done until I could go help them. And the question was usually something like "I can't find the q key." It was maddening. So in comes the laminated hand to save the day. Students could "raise their hand" by moving their "hand" from the side of their processor to the corner of their monitor. They could KEEP WORKING while waiting for me. Aha!
It was also really difficult for me to learn 600 names. I remedied this by having them always put their name on their dry-erase name tag while they are logging in. Yes I would have to replace the dry erase markers every few months, but it was totally worth being able to call a student by name.
The specialist team at my school also did a scoring system as a way to motivate students to behave. They started with 5 points every class and only lost points if their voice level was too loud. At the end of the quarter the class (from each grade level) with the most remaining points would get a fun reward. It worked really well for us and we had great classroom teacher buy-in because they wanted their classes to keep all 5 points. Read more about this system in THIS blog post if you want the full scoop.
What you can expect as a technology teacher
1. To LOVE teaching
2. To go home on time
3. NO parent phone calls (like ever)
4. Parent teacher conferences aren't for you, but I promise your school will find something else for you to do during that time. Register volunteers, help with the refreshments, the point is you don't get to go home ;-)
5. To play an active role in every single students' education in your school
6. To each lunch by yourself every day
7. To freeze and/or sweat for carpool or bus duty
8. To fix everyone's computer problems
9. To have your classroom phone ring twice as often as a classroom teacher's phone because computers break like all day long every day
10. To be misunderstood and totally on your own when it comes to planning and PD
I think you'll really enjoy it!
Still nervous? Join my Facebook Group, the Technology Teacher Tribe.