Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Grade's New Netbooks

Last week we finally finished imaging the new first grade netbooks, putting them in a cart and giving the first grade teachers a quick demo of them. So the question is: What would you do with a netbook for each of your students? Every time I walked by one first grade teacher's room, he had come up with really authentic, engaging activities for his students to do with the new netbooks. Afterward, I asked him how we can get the rest of our teachers to do these kind of activities. His first answer was to share with them what he has done and how. So I am now sharing these ideas!

The very first activity the students worked on was to do their daily journal entry in Word. This was an activity they were completely comfortable doing independently (having done journaling every day in their class and having used Word in computer class a few times.) This allowed the teacher to help them with the logistics of using the new netbooks. When I walked in, every student was deeply engrossed in their writing.

The second activity spawned off the first and they wrote letters to the superintendent thanking him for the new netbooks. They have done letter writing before, so after a quick review they were off working. What an authentic task that involved language arts and communication skills!

Branching into more authentic communication skills, another activity was to send emails to their classmates, teacher and parents. Letter writing skills were reinforced again and when I came in the room, they were so eager to show me what they were doing! We had a few problems with correcting some inaccurate email addresses and navigating some message boxes that popped up, but they were thrilled to be doing this activity! They learned how to respond to their classmates emails and they also received responses from their parents. What positive reinforcement! Think of all the language arts and communication skills they were developing during this. Yes, they used kid spelling but that in no way inhibited their ability to communicate with each other through a written medium.

An activity I didn't get to see was when the teacher had them use Smart Notebook software (again something they were familiar with using) to create math review worksheets. They were given the choice of topics and the worksheets were completed by classmates. Math curriculum and creativity were definitely reinforced!

This particular first grade teacher is pretty technologically savvy, but he is also willing to take risks. He had no idea how it would work sending out emails, but he was willing to try. He is also very supportive of student choice and allowing for movement in his classroom (as the students help each other and show off their work to each other.) Not all teachers are willing to take such risks, but as he said, once an activity is successfully accomplished, share the experience!


  1. Great post,

    Ive been using netbooks in grade 1 for over 1 year now and would love to collaborate with your grade 1 teacher if possible.

    We use Moodle a bit too, does your school? Next year each class will have a class set- aiming for 10 as a class set. How do you store them (Im assuming they are in each class)? What kind of netbooks are they (weve got Acer Inspire).

    And 1 more sorry...how does the grade 1 teacher 'teach' basic skills of how to handle te netbooks, what to do with the netbooks when instructions are being given etc (like lower your lid, do they log off or log out...)

  2. Hi Jason,
    We would love to collaborate with you next year! We use Moodle, although not as much in the lower grades so it would be great to see how you use it, along with other good ideas you have done!

    Right now for first grade, we have one rolling cart of 24 HP mini netbooks that six classes share, but next year we will only have 4 classes so they should have more access. The cart has a pullout shelf for each netbook and yes, we do teach the basic skills of how to handle them. When we first got them, we spent the first day going over how to wait in line, open the drawer, unplug the netbook, set it on top of the cart and then close the drawer, then use two hands to walk to your desk. One method I taught the teachers was to have them log in and then come sit in front of the Smartboard for instructions while the machines start up. Some teachers use this, others don't mind the chatter that goes on while the students wait. Some give instructions before they even pull the netbooks out - it really varies. If they are using the netbooks again during their time period, the students log out. But if they are done with their time period, they shut down to save power until the next teacher uses them.

    Thanks for the comment and I will keep in touch.

  3. Great thanks for information. With our moodle we have student blogs and use messaging, which is a good way to explore authentic social media skills, we use blogs for alot of reflection and kids embed animotos and glogsters and stuff like that.

    I have this Ask 3 before me rule, that now most of the ES teachers use with IT its pretty simple- before hands go up when they are in front of the netbook, iof they have a problem they need to: click 3 things, ask 3 people (or class 'techicians') then they can ask the assistant teacher then me. It works well. I cant take credit for it I heard it at a conference 2 years ago- wish I remembered who! Id like to thank them. Problem solving skills is a huge part of their learning I think.

    Moodle we also use to access course materials, which has had varying degrees of success.

    Anyhow that'd be great to be in contact with Craig.

  4. where is this taking place? I'm doing research for a project about the effectiveness of netbooks in the school system, and I would LOVE to use this; however, my research is confined to Canada. Either way, I'd love to know. Thanks!

    1. Hi, we are in Merton, Wisconsin, so unfortunately we would not be able to be part of your study.