Implementing the Plan
I didn’t get started on the project as soon as I had anticipated due to state testing tying up the computer lab for four weeks. However, I was able to complete a lot of the background work that needed to happen before my students could even begin their work in the lab. The Technology Integrator (TI) assisted me in setting up folders for each of my students as well as setting up handout and drop box folders for me. I set up a template for the September timeline in Impress and saved it in my handout file. In the classroom, I feared it might be difficult to entice young students into such a lengthy project as their world revolves around immediacy, but I quickly hooked them by connecting this to their current passion: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Many children had seen the movie over the summer and several were reading the books. I bought the books for the classroom library and they were the first books to go off the shelf! I also had two children writing their own “Diary of a…” during writing workshop. As soon as I told them we’d be creating our own digital diaries, a yearlong one, they were eager to begin!
I learned a lot the first month implementing the project. The end of September, during writing workshop, I asked my students to think about their timeline, what they liked the best about September and what they learned from it. I told them their sentence starter and had them turn to a partner and talk about their plan. No one was talking! I began checking in with students and the first group I sat with said, “I just can’t remember what we did. The whole table agreed. We all gathered back on the rug and discussed September as I made a bulleted list on the easel. After this, they were ready to talk again and all decided on a topic they would write about. Since I wanted to try out different strategies each month to see which created the best writing, I did not have them write on paper prior to computer lab. We went to the lab with their writing in their head. That first session was a disaster. The day began with an email warning from the librarian alerting us that the computers were experiencing extreme difficulties (again). I decided to take my class regardless as I was sticking to my plan! I had previously modeled the whole process in the classroom and thought it seemed easy enough. I repeated the same lesson in the computer lab using the digital projector so everyone could see the computer screen as they would see it. I modeled with a student account and even typed an entry. While doing it in front of them, it seemed like a lot of directions and perhaps I should have made a tutorial sheet for them to take back to their computer. Back at their stations, students logged onto their computer with their username and password, then worked through the necessary steps they would have to master before they could begin composing each month:
- Locate home box and double click (I found many are not able to double click)
- Go to my handout box and double click
- Double click on September (or current month) timeline
- Go to file-save as
- Click in front of timeline and type name
- Save in student folder
- Begin typing on timeline template
Many students were successful in completing all the steps in order to begin their typing and got right to work. While I was helping students double click, others didn’t follow directions and went ahead and began calling out, “What do we do now?” I had to stop everyone and have them put their hands in their lap if they had logged on and opened up their templates. I had to go back through the process step by step with the digital projector. Once everyone was ready to type, we had 5 minutes left in our 50-minute lab time! I then showed them all how to save their work and drag it to my drop box. As promised, the computers did work extremely slowly, but I don’t think it mattered because my students worked slow, too! The slowness would be an issue later in the year as they get more proficient. The TI was not in the lab with me that day and it was difficult working with 17 students who all needed my constant help, but I learned to create an instruction sheet for them to have at their computer spot, to have them follow along with me the first few times we work with any new technology program, and realize it will take twice as long as you think it will to implement something new. I was hopeful that as they got more proficient with the technical aspects of the project, I could teach them more about word processing, special features of the program and I could be available for conferencing with them while they type. On that first day, not one student was able to type a complete sentence and I was wondering if this project was too much to expect from a second grade student.
The next week, students were able to do all the necessary steps in order to get back to their September template. Several had not saved the previous week so they had to start at the beginning, but they have not forgotten to save again! Everyone was successful finishing their work and after two lab sessions they all completed their September entries. I still saw the need for helping those that were having difficulty double clicking and logging in and getting to the template. Before the next lab time, I had them practice those skills in the classroom as we have three computers available.