Imminent disk failure….dead batteries….spiders living on motherboards. These are the daily struggles I encounter in trying to keep my 29 computers up and running. Most days only about 25 are functioning for whatever reason. I just hope as many are up as possible on Wednesdays when I have my two classes of 36 students come in.
The theme song of my lab is Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” as I have a growing cemetery of dead monitors, motherboards, keyboards, CD drives, everything. Luckily since I’m working for free and we received so many donations for the Institute’s computer lab, Madre Clara was able to scrape some money together from my salary and the donations to buy six new computers. Those computers are a god-send but even still sometimes I have problems with them.
Since I’ve discovered that one of my most valuable skills here is my computer knowledge, I attempt to provide my own tech support in the lab, although I lean heavily on Tom. Interestingly, this is my first time ever using Windows 98 (as I switched from Macs to Windows with Windows XP) and I’m stretching my brain trying to remember what to do with floppy disks and their ridiculous formatting issues.
As far as the teaching, I have rapidly improved in that area. Kindergartners like to repeat things and like receiving incentives to participate. My main lesson plans have been: name the four parts of the computer, which finger do we click with, and no food in the computer lab. If they remember these things from one week to the next, they receive stickers for giving the right answers in class. I’m also trying to teach a little English as well. All I’ve tried so far is “Hello Miss Laura” and “My name is.” They don’t remember it from week to week though. Once a week is just not enough for a new language. Interestingly, since they do only see me once a week, I could practically do the same lesson plan for four weeks in a row and they might not really notice. For my own sake, I mix it up though.
With the pre-kinder students I’m still working on basic mouse skills but some of my Kinder students already can double-click and move the mouse well. For them, I’m moving on to the dragging with the mouse this week but every week is a review of how to hold the mouse and how to click. In retrospect I should have spent more time on holding the mouse and moving it but I forgot that that was something learned! It feels so second nature to me I forgot there was a time when I didn’t know how to do it.
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I start class projecting things on the front board (also a god-send to have a teacher’s computer and a projector) and reviewing vocabulary and then I show them how to play a game and give them the chance to do it on their own. The first part of the class I’m constantly fighting with them to pay attention to me and not be pounding on buttons on their computers. The second part of the class I can’t keep them in their seats and there’s constantly a group following me around asking for help “Profesora Laura no puedo, Profesora Laura no puedo.” Usually it takes me 20-30 minutes just to get around to each child and remind them how to click and then the period’s over. Any time that students aren’t in the lab, I’m installing new games or trying to trouble-shoot whichever computer wouldn’t turn on that day. And that’s a little window into my life from 2-6 pm every Monday-Thursday until November!