Help, classroom management strageties needed, Not enough computers for the students in Computer class, students must share

I only have 12 laptops to work with. We are getting another 4 in a few months. The problem is that my 1-4 grades have 20-24 kids. The older grades have from 14-16. So I do not have enough computers. I didn't know this going in, I know it seems silly that I didn't ask that question!
The first week I had the kids share, 2nd did it pretty well, 1st not so good. 3rd and 4th did OK, the problem going forward is how I am going to present lessons.
I don't want to break the class up into two session because that would give me only 20 min each, plus the teachers don't want to do that. I thought of giving the students not using the computer a worksheet to do, then halfway switch but again that cuts into instruction time.
That leaves having the students share the computer while they learn what I am teaching. I am struggling with how I do this effectively.

I find this a real challenge and I am not sure how to tackle this. I am working with the principal and teachers, right now I have asked to pair the students for me and I will have them share. I tried taking turns with tasks. Student one works, then student two does the next task.
Right now trial and error seems how I am going to proceed, not a great plan.

Any thoughts or experiences you might have had with this would be greatly appreciated.

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It all boils down to the same thing--if 1/2 the kiddos are doing a "different activty" for 20 minutes it's the same as if they are sitting while their buddy works on computer, but at least both groups would be working and learning for the whole 40 minutes. What could the "different activty" kids do that would be real, relevant and authentic work, not busy work? Is the classroom teacher or librarian in the class with you? You could teach research skills to the "different activity" group. The "different activity" group could read articles you have printed from the Internet and be ready to discuss them or share the info with the other 1/2. Could you get a tech savvy parent to do one groups, if there is no staff to help you?

I think, just my opinion, that the buddy system is fraught with hassles and 1/2 the kids are sitting (even if only in 1-2 minute intervals--it adds up). I'll check back if I think of anything....N
It would depend on the project/lesson how you might be able to break this up but is it possible to have a collaborative lesson, where students take pieces of something and then use different resources, including the laptop, to do the work? So you would start the class getting everyone on track with the project and then when it's time to work they are paired up together, with one laptop, but with other materials at the ready - books, encyclopedias, paper, pencils, maybe materials specific to the lesson. Then you'd be spending the time walking around and coaching. Another idea is to stagger what you're doing - you mentioned a worksheet - but perhaps there could be something else that's done instead - a mind map or a concept map on paper. It would depend on your content, of course.

This also might be a way to accomplish some differentiated learning. Put your students into various groups based on, say, learning style, and then the groups would be working at different stages and paces and wouldn't need the laptops all the time.

Again, it all depends on the content, but some project-based learning and collaborative activities could be possibilities.
As a veteran gifted ed teacher I should have thought of the differientation angle!! Pam has some great ideas...has the time passed where Tech teachers are teaching applications? If that is the case, having the laptops as just another tool is a great idea.
When I work with elementary schools implementing technology integration as a classroom tool to improve learning, we intentionally work with a two to one ratio of students to computers. But we don't teach many computer 'skills' as stand-alone skills. Obviously, there are skills you want all students to have skills like keyboarding, and that has to be practiced. But when we teach, say, how to use the word processing software we use writing lessons. We teach research skills using the Internet inside of a research project; using spreadsheets inside of math; how to do powerpoint as a presentation about something they have researched, and so on. Because this approach lends itself to differentiated learning, project based learning and cooperative work, it goes pretty smoothly. Takes planning, meaning planning with the classroom teachers so that what is going on with the laptops supports the learning across the curriculum. We take the laptops to the classrooms, not the students to the laptops, and work with the classroom teachers and their students all together. Probably not something you can jump right into, but it would be worth the discussions you could generate as to why the technologies are important to student learning, and how what the students do when learning in 'computer class' can support what they are learning the rest of the day. You could have a real impact on student learning across the curriculum with how you end up structuring what is done in your classes.
In our district (30,000 kids) we don't have "computer teachers" in the elementary buildings. Probably a financial issue but the party line is that if you have "computer teachers", the classroom teachers will "drop" their kids off in the lab and that's the last you'd see of them. Classroom integration won't happen because "the computer teacher will 'teach' technology". Linda, I was glad to hear you recommend collaboration with the classroom teacher, but how much does that happen? Do "computer teachers" and classroom teachers have time to collaborate? In my buildings teachers hardly have time to collaborate with grade-level and special education teachers.
You're right; it does have to be intentional. In my dreams, we all have the time built into schedules, and in some schools the administration, teachers, board, community see that and do it and do it very well. I have also seen schools where the collaborative time is there but the will to be learners together isn't, and the leadership doesn't step up, and so the 'collaborative times' turn into paper grading sessions. But I digress...
I advocate for time, and I also advocate for making the time you have work. If a teacher can't or won't collaborate with me, the students usually will. The 21st century skills can be targeted at every grade level in a variety of ways, and the more our students know about being collaborative learners and working together to solve problems, the better chance they will have at being successful as students and as working adults. A webquest can be found that aligns with what they are studying in social studies, for example; a sample math problem can be used for the spreadsheets, and the sample can be found on the state website on the practice tests for the state assessment, and so on... In learning word processing, students can write about what happens that day or what they are reading. Maybe even learn about blogging while writing about the books they read?
The more we try to hit the same benchmarks in as many ways as we can, the more connections the students will make. We all have access to knowing what the state benchmarks are for the students at each grade and we all have the opportunity to target them no matter what the subject is we are teaching. It's not about my 'time slot' or my 'specialty', it's about the learning.
I teach in a technology rich classroom. 2-1 ratio. The old idea of no logs and no hogs works well. Have one computer, have each taking notes, for the research portion. Then when you are working on projects. Spilit the tasks so that each is responisble for certain tasks. Time limit them. I know it is difficult with younger kids. If you have a projector in the room that you can hook up to your computer you can do 1 to many to aid in the instruction time, and then go to the lesson independently for them.
From the hardware side, it pains me to hear these kind of descriptions. There is absolutely no reason for a school to not have more ubiquitous computing, if it is wanted.

1. There is a decent (not great, but decent) network of non-profit refurbishers that are authorized to reload Windows on computers, and as a country (the US) we discard over 100,000 computers a day. For most businesses, a P3 computer is a throw-a-way, but is still a very capable machine.

2. Using good versions of Linux, like Ubuntu, that P3 seems even faster. And comes with the benefit of Open Source software programs that don't have licensing costs--many good programs. Most school districts won't even consider Linux because their security policies are wrapped around MS, but a modest PC running Linux, with Firefox, OpenOffice.org, and a slew of educational titles is certainly better than no PC. And for those of us who like Linux, is arguably an even better solution.

3. There are companies, like Olympus Systems' K12Computers.com (full disclosure: I advertise for them!) who re-sell refurbished computers at some good savings over new.

My sense is that it is very hard for computers to make a difference in education when there isn't a leadership mandate to make it possible. My personal belief is that any school that really wanted to have enough computers to truly make a difference could do it if they wanted to because of the above. They just must not believe it's important enough.

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