Some Practical Tips Computers Tips for Teachers
Notes by Jason Caldwell 

Here is a list of important computer skills that teachers require to help them incorporate computers within their classroom programmes.

(You can print and use this list as a tick sheet to encourage you on as you learn each skill...)                      
      
· Setting up & starting a computer      
· Opening & closing programmes  
· Navigating around the operating system        
· Saving & opening files or work        
· Creating directories to organise saved work and data  
· Setting up the on screen desk top     
· Setting up and installing new software        
· Full finger typing    
· Bold, underling & type setting text   
· Changing font and size        
· Creating tables and spread sheets     
· Creating series or categorical graphs from a spread sheet     
· Printing items and configure printers 
· Using CD-ROMs 
· Copying, cutting and pasting work     
· Using graphical drawing package       
· Finding information on CD-ROM encyclopedias   
· Setting up a modem & get connected    
· Using E-mail to send and receive      
· Locating information on the Internet  

Extension Skill:
· Using Digital Music software to compose music 
· Learning to programme in LOGO -visual first   
· Setting up Internet Pages using a editors and Front Page Express (free) or Nano 
· Installing software   
· Down loading information & software from the net to the hard drive    

These are some important skills that may seem difficult at first. However after a few adventures you will wonder why you found them difficult in the first place. The best way to learn is to have ago, remember computers have come a long way in the last 10 years.
Often users have trouble because they have missing links so donít forget to run yourself through the basic Windows Step by Step tutorials found in the help contents.

If you get stuck:
1.  Stay calm
2.  Try looking in the help within the programme you are having trouble with.
3.  Find someone to help you before it drives you crazy.
4.  Only resort to reading manuals as a last resort as usually they are hard to find your particular difficulty within and you end up reading large volumes of irrelevant confusing information. Manuals can also be difficult to follow compared to the on screen help.     

Time and Use Ideas.

With Windows 3.1, 95 or 98 and 2000 there are many ways in which a student is able to strip your hard drive. So I have found that it is a good idea to hide or delete any icons on the main screen that are not directly related to the programmes they need to use.

I do this by (for Windows 95 or 98):

*Setting the Task Bar at the bottom of the screen (which takes you anywhere) to "Auto Hide", "Always on top" (go to the "Start" button, "Settings" and then "task Bar"). This also gives you more screen.

*to tidy the and make the desk top safer click on a blank portion of the dest top with the right mouse button, go to "New" and then "folder" and click. This will place a new folder on your desk top. Click on your new folder with the rith mouse button and choose "rename" call the folder "Educational" or "Student Programmes" (what ever you like).
This folder will now always appear on the main screen desk top and you can drag and drop all the relevant programme icons off the "Start" button menu (in win 98) and into the folder you have created. In windows 95 you need to move the required icons from the Start button to the Envelope you have just created from within Windows explorer. Simply drag and drop the icons from inside the Start Menu Folder (that can be found in the Windows Folder) down the Directory tree down to your new desk top folderÖ

*Delete any unwanted main screen programme icons by clicking on them once and then pressing the delete key on your key board. Note that when you do this you are not deleting the programme only its icon and you can still access this programme through the Start button menu.

* Some icons can not be deleted but you can hide them under the open new folder that now contains the programmes the students are to use.    

*When students use programmes tell them to maximise the programme window so that the programme a student is using fills the entire screen. This is so that they will not keep thinking they have lost their work by accidentally clicking on other programme windows or the desk top that lie behind the programme they are using.

*Turn the monitor controls so that the contrast is near high and the brightness is as low as practical. This usually gives the clearest picture and gives years of extra life to your monitors and users eyes, remember a monitor is a proton gun shooting light into your eyes.

*Make sure users exit out of Windows correctly as often when a machine is just turned off an emergency "Temp" file is usually save to the hard drive. This is not such a problem these days with new machines with very large hard drives however with older machines it is not uncommon to find hard drives grinding to a halt due to being full of such Temp files.    

*If you want the computers in your school to be used for educational purposes get rid of the "brain dead" games. I have found that even students who have all the gears at home will still think of the opportunity to type their story, graph their results or play Maths Blaster as a reward. In my opinion giving the opportunity to have extra time on the computer doing educational activities as opposed  to games is like comparing the  reward of a drama or P.E. activity as opposed to bribing with lollies.

*Despite all the new fancy multimedia applications available I have found the most powerful use for computers within the classroom is for children to be able to use them as a tool to publish their written ideas. It is interesting to consider that outside of teaching very few professions accept hand written material for presenting proposals or ideas. Just last week I asked a student who has had great difficulty completing written work in the past what was his best computer activity. He said publishing his short stories, similes and poetry was "cool" even better than the using the multimedia programmes.

*For this student and many like him the computer acts as a motivational tool and the great equaliser because he knows that his end result will look just as sharp as the neatest student in the class.

*Once you have gained the basic skills, train up students as computer monitors. This will enable your computers to be utilised throughout the day across the curriculum without the teacher having to stop every five minutes to sort out simple computer problems.

*When buying educational software never buy something without seeing it run and critiquing it against relevant educational outcomes. I have found labelled "Educational Software" often to be no more than a very expensive flash card system, or books (pictures and text) scanned into a programme. Sadly many of the New Zealand CD ROMs titles are examples of this.
 
I have included a list of educational programmes that I have found useful and given them a one to five star rating:

The Living Books Series                   ****
Maths Blaster Series                         *****
Lion King Activity Center                 ***
Seasame Street -Get set to Learn       *****
                         -Letís Make a Word  ****
Dr. Brain Series                                 ****
Kids Pics                                            ****
Sim City                                             ****
MSW LOGO                                      ***** Outstanding free programme for teaching programming and many mathematical concepts. From this link you will find links to many sites that have lesson plans already set up for you and your students to follow...

Programmes for publishing work:

Sun Star Office 5.1 or 5.2          *****  (or 2) is a fantastic FREE Office suit
Microsoft Works                          ****           
Microsoft Paint Brush                  ****
Microsoft Note Pad                      ***** Great simple typing programme and it comes free with windows.
Front Page Express                       ****
Front Page Express is a Free cut down version of Front Page which can be used to create web sites easily. For some reason I have seen many teachers using MS Publisher I don't know where this trend started but there are definitely easier and simpler tools to use. Publisher is generally not considered Web Page Editing software.
Microsoft Animator  GIF Editor   *****
Use this free programme in conjunction with Paint Brush to create excellent GIF Animations   


The interesting thing to note is that this software is very cheap (with the exception of the Living Books). When I say cheap I mean between $5 and $50 per CD title.
I have recently started buying Educational Software through the Internet directly from the publishing companies or very large suppliers. I have found the prices to be less than half  NZ prices. Even from Canada my goods have arrived within seven days.
Also keep your eyes open at the Warehouse where fantastic programmes can be found at bargain prices.

As far as publishing programmes go donít forget that the Windows Operating System comes with itís own simple Word Processor and Paint Brush programmes. So you do not need to rush out and buy the latest Microsoft Office the power of which is rarely utilised by school secretaries let along young students.

Sun Star Office 5.1 (or 2) is a fantastic FREE Office made up of and excellent Word processor, Spreadsheet programme Web site design package and drawing programme. The fantastic thing about this programme is (other than being free) that it can read Microsoft word and works formats! It is estimated that two million.
This programme should save schools millions of dollars and allow the money to go towards more machines rather than MS Site licenses.

Microsoft Works is a little less sophisticated than the Microsoft Office and Sun Star Office but versions three and four can be legally owned for less than $20 per copy. The versions are very similar and contain a great word processor and spread sheet programme. They can be purchased on CD ROM second hand for $5 -$10. In fact often parents who have their own computers  have a copy of Works that came with their (often expensive package deals) that they are not using and are only to happy to donate it to the school.

Beware of programmes such as "Creative Writer" as it is really just a fancy stamp pad that do little to develop creativity.

*When buying a printer I have found it better to have several machines sharing a single quality 10 page per minute laser printer. The bubble and laser jet printers may seem cheaper but printing is slow and there are many more moving parts to wear out. Bubble and laser jet printers may be good for colour however consider how often users will be wanting to print in colour especially when considering the cost to do so. It can be up to $3 for a Photo Quality A4 printout.

Common Errors Students Make
When Word Processing

Many of these errors or common problems can be solved by prior instruction or demonstration. Doing so will save you heaps of time helping to correct individuals work.

Problem and possible resolving solution or instruction:

Pressing Space Bar more than once between each word.    
                 -"only press Space Bar once between each word."

Using space Bar to type set headings out into the middle of the page.   
                 -Teach them to use tab to start a word further out on a line.

Students spending all their time choosing and changing a font and font size and never getting their work published.     
                  -"Type your work first then typeset it."

No capitals or using Cap Lock for capitals.
                  -Demonstrate use of shift using pinkiesÖ

Commas and full stops floating in space.        
                  -Demonstrate pressing space bar after the full stop not before.

Students pressing enter at the end of each line instead of letting the computer start the new line for them.   
                  -Demonstrate how the computer starts a new line automatically.

Using two apostrophes for speech marks.         
                  -Demonstrate how to use the symbols at the top of the keys by pressing                     shiftÖ

Another common problem is students who think that the computer spell checker will pick up all incorrect words. Explain that the spell checker can only make suggestions and that the suggestion might not be the word they want. The spell checker will also not pick up miss-spelt words that spell another word.

Typing - Full Finger or Two.

I have found that when a child first types on the computer two fingers is all they can manage while they are focused on the new experience of it all. However after a while habits will form and as many adults have found it is harder to break a bad habit than learn from scratch.

Typing tutors are fine except that they take time and do little to help children publish their work in the short term. So I have come up with my own system.
I call it "Jasonís 5 minute typing lesson (you can call it what you like)."
I get the whole class a photo copy of a Qwerty keyboard. Then get them to hold up their index fingers and tell them that their left hand index finger is called "F" and their right is called "J". I then get them to look at the keyboard (copy or real) and find those keys. Show students how the "F" and "J" keys have a little ridge on them.
Then students place their four finger of each hand in a line with the "F" and "J" keys in position. Then advise that the thumbs do the "space bar" and that they now know their home positions.

They then can label and colour code their photo copied key boards with the home positions.

Then show students how the keys are in diagonal rows angled from left down to right. Explain that each finger does the letters in itís row except the two index fingers -"because they are the strongest fingers they have to do two rows, the "F" and "G" for the left index and the "H" and "J" for the right finger.

Finally explain that each finger is only allowed to type the letters in itís row and each finger after typing a letter that is not in the home position must return home straight away.

When Purchasing Computers
 
There are several things to think about:

* Just because a supplier has the word "Education" or some derivative there of in their company name does not mean their sole aim is to give schools the best computer deal in the world.

* Buying a computer is not like buying a car. When you buy a Toyota car the parts inside are Toyota parts. However when you buy a computer there are hundreds of different companies assembling them but the parts they contain are rarely made by these companies.  This is important when considering that the IBM or Compac Computers are a third more expensive than other brands. We are told that this is because the machine is better quality than others however most of the parts inside the computer are the same as those in other machines. Often the only difference between one machine and another is the sticker or label on the front of the box..

* It is good to support local suppliers. However if the prices they are able to offer mean the difference between getting three machines or eight from an Auckland importer whoís selling 1000 units a year you have to be loyal to your students needs first.

*Often a local supplier takes longer to fix any repairs as his guarantees are the manufacturers not his own. So when something is sent in to be fixed they turn around and have to send it off to there supplier and you find yourself waiting for everÖ A larger supplier usually will replace the parts concerned rather than sending the part off to be fixed, they can do this because they have the individual parts in stock and are dealing directly with manufacturers suppliers.

*Remember the latest greatest computer will only be the fastest machine around for one or two months before a faster machine is released. Thus I never buy "Pinnacle technology" as such a machine with a milli-second faster processor is often 500 -$1000 more expensive than a machine that has a processor that has been around for a few months.

*Still the largest problem within schools is the lack of access, thus price is important. Iím sure we have all seen situations where a class room has one computer to thirty students. Mathematically this means that each student gets to touch the thing for ten minutes per day. What can you do in ten minutes?    
 
*I have sadly seen schools that have spent large amounts of money on items of pinnacle technology and connectable toys while access has still been a problem within their school. A critical person may suspect that the new toys were brought for the computer Buffs of the school (Teacher in charge of computers). Rather than to meet the learning needs of all students within the school.

                                             

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