Independent study in a computer lab (my steep learning curve starts here!)

I started teaching in a computer lab for the first time this semester. It’s been a bit traumatic so far, as the classroom dynamic changes a lot, but I’m enjoying the challenge so far.

Yesterday we had our first proper class, and I decided to run it as an independent study session to allow students to familiarize themselves with some useful online tools. There were 35 2nd-year non-English majors in the class, and their English ability and familiarity with computers varied wildly. You can see my lesson briefing on my teaching blog here.

The lesson was partly successful, but I can see how to make it better and was very excited by the potential of using a blog or website to communicate with students. Here are my major impressions of the class:

  1. I tried to do far too much. None of the students had enough time to finish, and that was very harmful to the classroom atmosphere and their feelings towards the course. This is the #1 thing I would change about the lesson
  2. Only a couple of students asked questions/for help. Need to spend more time getting the class comfortable with calling me over to help with problems
  3. Unforeseen technical problems reared their ugly heads: the NY Times website does not allow popjisyo to load individual articles (something I only noticed when a student pointed it out) and the edublogs comment feature is a bit too aggressive in its attempts to deter spambots. Both of these caused a lot of frustration to my students
Basically I ruined this first class through inexperience and lack of preparation. It’s going to take a while to regain the students’ trust and get them comfortable again. This really shows how important it is to go through everything thoroughly before the class and make sure there are no technical surprises.
Still, for a first time using a new medium, it could have been worse. I’m looking forward to the next class already!


19 Apr 2012, 8:27am
by Ryan Hagglund


When I did my student teaching for my MAT in an Oregon high school in 2007 the Geography class I taught was in a computer lab. There weren’t any other classrooms available and I had the lowest seniority. It turned out to blessing in disguise, as the textbook was so old it still included the USSR and East Germany. I set up lessons on Moodle, which the students worked through while I moved around the classroom checking on and conversing with them. Many of the technical problems I encountered were annoying, but I also appreciated the freedom it gave me leave the lecture podium and increase my one-on-one interaction time. I’d love to hear more about how things progress for you, Ben!

Hey Ryan

Here it’s the opposite. The computer labs are reserved for the senior teaching staff, so us lowly lecturers rarely get to use them (it’s my first time in five years teaching here). So far so good, and definitely a very different vibe to my usual classes…

I will probably be updating things as they progress (or detailing each subsequent train wreck of a lesson) 😉

It may seem like a disaster in certain regards, but these lessons teach you so much and make your next lessons THAT much better.

You’re essentially teaching two languages; 1. English, obviously and 2. Computers. These can be two daunting tasks for anyone! I’m sure that the next lesson will be better.

I’m a huge proponent of Multimedia in the classroom. Even class in the Multimedia room (corny, I know)

Thanks Andrew

Actually, despite my critical tone above, I loved the lesson. Can’t wait to do it properly next year 😉

[…] this semester I have started teaching a class in a computer lab (you can read about the disastrous second lesson here). Today was a very different […]


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