Computers and the Internet are nothing new to classrooms. However, studies now show that kids learn differently today than they did one or two decades ago because of exposure to digital media and information. Whether it be through Apple’s one-to-one learning initiative (which aims to put a laptop in the hands of every student and educator) or through ongoing support for simpler tools such as a AirPort/Wifi-enabled school campuses, Apple has made a huge commitment to developing new solutions for learning.
New solutions come with both opportunities and challenges for teachers, however. Not only do they require thinking in new ways about how to teach the same facts and skills but also being aware of the new distractions that computers in the classroom can present (especially if students have their own iBooks or MacBooks).
The following sections are a series of tips for teachers to help maximize the potential for learning using Macs—and at the same time keeping the computers used for learning (not playing online games).
Keeping the Mac as a Learning Tool
It is very important that Macs be used for learning purposes only.
Don’t Allow Continuous Mac Use
It might seem obvious that you should not allow students unlimited time with their computers during class. Special "computer time" has been used since the first Apple IIs were introduced in the 1980s. But today’s students often have their own iBooks and there is a slippery slope of when to allow their use. After all, having access to all the information on the Internet can promote class discussions in some classes. The balancing line of how much Internet use is beneficial versus how much is distracting is one that you need to determine based on your particular subject, grade level, and the environment in which you work.
Monitor What Kids Are Doing
If you have a classroom in which students routinely use computers, make certain that you keep an eye on what they are doing. Walking around a classroom to make sure students are listening or working is nothing new, but it can be even more important with computers in use because of the potential distraction.
Use Apple Remote Desktop
If your school makes Apple Remote Desktop available to you, learn how to use it. As I discussed in two previous series of articles, Remote Desktop has a lot of potential in the classroom. It can be used to easily monitor what students are doing (by listing the application each student is working with or by displaying thumbnail images of every student’s display). Even better, Remote Desktop offers you ways to display the same information on every computer screen in the classroom, and you can send text messages or chat with specific students without interrupting the rest of the class. If your school doesn’t offer Apple Remote Desktop, consider requesting it.
Educate Parents When Computers Are Brought Home
For schools that allow students to check out laptops for home use or that provide laptops to all students, educating parents about their proper use is extremely important. Make certain that parents understand how to keep kids safe online by restricting use of the laptops to common rooms of the house and engaging with kids about what they are working on. Likewise, talk with parents about setting time or other limits on how the computers can be used at home.