need to make a case for computers in the classrooms

talley_sue_nycFebruary 1, 2002

My PTO is trying to raise money through a matching-fund program (I'm the president). Since I felt we needed to have a specific goal for this money, we picked "a computer in every classroom." (This is a small Lutheran elementary and middle school; 12 classrooms total.)

One of the things we'll need to do is make the case for a computer in every classroom (sometimes I wish we'd picked library improvement; who can argue with that?). We'll need to persuade the parents that this is worth their $50 to $100 donation.

Personally I'm not in love with computer-science instruction in elementary school (though actually we have a computer lab that all grades use for this), but I can see that having a computer in her/his classroom might be useful for a teacher in their efforts to teach math, reading, writing, geography, etc. (this idea, actually, came from a list of their suggestions).

Can anyone steer me to articles about this, or share their personal experiences?

I'm sure there are negatives (there are to anything), but frankly I don't want to hear them, unless it's to be forewarned so I can create an argument against them. The decision of what to earmark the money for is made; I don't have time, energy, or desire to revisit that.


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Talley Sue--good for you. I do think you chose the right goal. I happen to live in Washington State and we have the most wired schools in the country (thanks in great part to generous donations our very own resident, Bill Gates). I don't think there are any more classrooms in the state that don't have at least one computer. Even in my daughter's 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade combination classroom there are three. No one child uses them very much, but they are all there and the kids are absorbing so much information from and about them. Here are some examples of ways they are used--keep in mind that there is a system in place so a the children are taking turns on them:

1. online almanac to check and report on local weather, "today in history", word of the day, etc
2. practice keyboarding skills--at our school kids all know how to keyboard by the end of 3rd grade
3. play educational games during indoor recess--some of the favorites are "The Oregon Trail" (I highly recommend this for all kids--it's amazing) and "The Amazon Trail" as well as the Carmen SanDiego games
4. Online dictionaries that have MANY words that the childrens dictionaries would never have
5.Putting together Powerpoint presentations--yep, even the 1st graders and they LOVE it
6.emailing classroom penpals all over the world
7.internet research that compliments the kids' library research
8. creating artwork with some of the kid-pix type programs

I know there are more that I can't think of right now. I am there alot, and I would say that no one child uses the computer more than maybe 10-15 minutes per day. The computers have not usurped traditional teaching in any way--they have just provided another educational resource. In my opinion, not having a computer available would be akin to not having any encyclopedias available. Probably even worse since they provide so much more information. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2002 at 12:22PM
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I'm a third grade teacher and I'm so lucky to have 2 computers in my classroom. I often wish I had several more since someone always has to wait. Students use both the computers each and every day of the school year.

My students use the computers for word processing. They type and print (publish) all of their writing work after it has been self-edited, peer-edited and the student has conferenced with the teacher about it. They are able to choose from many fonts and design their text in any shape. This is so much neater looking than writing it in a school-made book. Their work looks terrific when it's finished and mounted on construction paper. They are really proud that they did it all themselves.

We have many CD-ROMS to practice basic skills and new skills. I just ordered a CD for a world atlas. We haven't had much luck finding the names of some landforms on our globe or in a published atlas.

We use the internet to look at up to the minute weather maps, up to the minute daylight/nighttime maps, on-line dictionaries and on-line, teacher approved games. We are also e-mail pen pals with a class in Florida. Both classes are learning so much. We're knee deep in snow in Wisconsin and they are right on the ocean. Students use the internet to research authors, find books in the library (we can do that from our classroom) and find pictures of just about anything at all that they are interested in.

I use the computers to create activities, type sub plans, type lesson plans, type and store parent letters, type and store spelling units and to type and store newsletters. It's SO much quicker than writing things out by hand. The computer can also hold a lot more information than my filing cabinet and it's much easier to find and modify for each year's class.

I use the internet to find resources, lesson plans and to supplement our curriculum by utilizing websites that go along with materials. I also check the status of book orders and browse professional and non-professional teaching forums. I find the neatest games and puzzles to share with the class. There are so many wonderful sites that are absolutely free. I can e-mail anyone else in the district or anywhere else and receive e-mails from anyone. I just finished setting up an entire field trip via e-mail for 4 classes and it took less than 10 minutes. I couldn't have done it that quickly and easily by phone. Besides, I can't dial long distance from my classroom, so I would have needed to call from home or try to set it up in the busy and loud school office.

Computers are essential in my classroom and in my opinion, every classroom. Computers were not a part of my life growing up, although I did have a little Atari I could program in BASIC, but they are a part of my students' lives, both now and in their future. More than half of my students don't have a computer at home. School may the only place they have the opportunity to get practical experience.

Hope this helps. I think that every classroom should have two!

Good luck,

    Bookmark   February 1, 2002 at 5:48PM
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Talley Sue--I had another thought I wanted to share. Being able to use computers is now another form of literacy in this world. Not as important as reading, obviously, but anyone who can not use them is at a tremendous academic, personal and vocational disadvantage. When the middle-schoolers go on to high school, or if any of the students move to another school, they will have alot of catching up to do. Around here there are alot of programs that donate refurbished 2-3 year old computers to schools--you might be able to find a way to get some donated also. Again, good luck.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2002 at 2:09AM
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Our district talks about making our students trilingual--English, a foreign language of their choice or sign language, and technology.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2002 at 4:03PM
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Talley Sue:

I think Sadiesmom is on the right track. Learning to use a computer IS a form of literacy that todays students need to learn. The instruction in the classroom does not have to be computer science instruction. It can come in the form of adding resources to the classroom in ALL subjects. We have used many "regular" web sites in our homework and my son is in 2nd grade. One of his homeworks was to find a picture of a mammal, fish, bird, reptile, amphibian and cut them out. Well-we went to the Animal Planet website, found all our pics in one spot and printed. I am sure a teacher can find many ways to use a computer in the classroom.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2002 at 4:02PM
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I'm wondering where you live, that you would have to justify ONE computer per classroom! They are just in the last century without computer learning. If you have a class of twenty, you need a minimum of three computers per room. What happens when the one breaks down? Who is objecting to this?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2002 at 12:53AM
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It's not that they're objecting to this; it's that they have to foot the bill for it. And they're sort of testy about being asked for anything extra, since they're paying $4,500 per year in tuition.

And we're gonna be in trouble, because I don't know for sure how we'd get them access to the Internet, either logistically or financially. I have no idea how much it would cost.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2002 at 12:08PM
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Wow! the national average for public schools is one computer for every 4.9 students - and it is HIGHER for the very poorest schools. I just had to do a project (for grad school) designing a program for teaching elementary school teachers how to use technology more effectively in the classroom. We were working off of what we though was a universally accepted premise that kids need to learn computer and internet skills in elementary school. Here are a few online sources I used for preliminary research:

This site has a ton of information: Here is an article specifically about using technology in elementary classrooms:

Here is some NEA testimony:

Here is a great site: Here is a specific article from that site about what skills kids need to be information literate:

Here is a really good article, not specific exactly to your problem, but one that speaks to the importance of really good technology education:

The ideas that are emerging seem to be, um... think about how YOU use computers. You don't use them for the sake of using them. You don't go to a lab for an hour a day and use the computer. You use the computer to communicate, gather information, and do your work. You didn't learn most of what you know about how to use a computer by taking classes and doing tutorials. You learned by doing your work on a computer. It's the same for kids. They don't learn to use a computer well by being taught specific skills - they learn by using computers to do their history, math, english and science work. And conversely, they learn their other subjects better by really using computers effectively - just like you do your job better because of the technological tools you have.

Education is not my field but I have lots of resources available through one of my instructors if you would like me to look for something specific.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2002 at 5:01PM
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Anita9, I'd love to see the end result of your grad-school project, if you'd be willing to share. We're going to be entering a situation in which none of the teachers is used to using technology to teach; they haven't had it available to them.

Thanks for all the links!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2002 at 12:09PM
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