Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Technology/Computers

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Should students have the ability to use computers in the classroom?

Should students have the ability to use computers in the classroom? Should computer use in the classroom be a part of the educational day? How should computers be used in the classroom? These are all questions that are bounced around among teachers, staff and parents. Let’s look into the use of computers in the classroom by students.

Students Should Be Allowed To Use Computers in the Classroom[edit]

Teachers allowing students to use the computers in the classroom often becomes a big issue in schools. Younger, newer teachers want to expose students to computers as much as possible because that is what awaits them after graduation. Kathryn Tighe, a third grade teacher at Surry Elementary School states that, “Computers are a good thing for students to use in the classroom.” Older teachers often feel that students’ minds are being drained of potential knowledge if they sit in front of a computer. This way of thinking is due to the lack of staff development in the area of technology.

When should students be allowed to use the computers in the classroom? Different views are given to when and why students should use the classroom computer. The technology director will want the students using the computers so the department will continue to receive funding for more technology. Teachers want the computers to be used for reasons ranging from a babysitter to preparation for the real world. Administrators want the computers being used because they often feel that technology helps boost these wonderful Standards of Learning Test (SOL) scores. Students want to use the computers because it is fun as well as educational.

Why should students be allowed to use the computers in the classroom? All reasons stated previously are valid reasons to allow students to use classroom computers except for as a babysitter. The computers in the classroom are wonderful tools to enhance a lesson and the students’ knowledge of the computer world. There are many reasons for using computers in the classroom. Computer use can “increase basic skills in math, reading and writing” (Sadker) as well as other content areas. Sadker list other useful purposes of computer use in the classroom to include student motivation, the promotion of higher order thinking, increasing the use of academic resources, reaching different learning styles, and preparing students for the workplace. Computer use in the classroom by students enhances the ability to teach problem based learning. The computer can help a teacher “guide students in real-world problem solving” (Sadker) and still cover the curriculum for No Child Left Behind.

Computer Use: Part of the Educational Day[edit]

Many teachers love implementing computer usage into their lesson plans and then there are teachers who dread the thought of the students needing to get on the computer. Computer use can be a very vital part of the educational day for the teacher and students. Computers can help engage students in the lesson that is being taught. Computers can often be incorporated into any lesson and students like the change of pace (Tighe). Using computers as part of their educational day, students can become engaged in “problem solving” (McKenzie). Cooperative learning can also become a productive outcome by use of the computer when working on a class project. Children like to use computers in groups which encourages cooperative learning.

Middle school and high school students across Virginia are now taking their Standards of Learning Tests on computers. Preparing students to use the computer is an important part of their education since it is now becoming an increasing part of their vital testing sessions. Students like taking the VA SOLs online versus pencil and paper. “I don’t get so confused with a bubble sheet when I take my SOL online,” claims a fifth grader at Luther Porter Jackson Middle School. The student also likes the highlighting marker and calculator that can be used on the computer during the SOL tests. “I really like it when we get to use the laptops instead of the computer lab,” the student states.

How Computers Should Be Used In the Classroom[edit]

Many teachers use computers in the classroom in many different ways. What is the most beneficial use of computers for the students? Using computers as a babysitter is not helping students prepare themselves for the technological world that they will one day enter. The younger the students are when they begin to properly use the computer to benefit their education the better off they will be when they no longer have their teacher’s hand to hold.

The kindergarten students in an elementary school in Surry County have started a new program this year that requires the students to use the computer on a daily basis. The program is designed to help students begin to read. Before the students can use the program they must learn the different parts of the computer and how to use it properly. Some people my claim that this age is too young to understand how to use a computer, but there are preschool systems that start children at a much younger age. This program also helps the teacher work with twenty or more children that are all working at different paces. The teacher is able to give more attention to those who need more help without holding back those that can move on.

Ways To Use The Computer In The Classroom[edit]

The computer can be used for many different things in a classroom. It can be used for educational and learning purposes or it can be used to play games and explore the World Wide Web. The computer is not just a teaching tool for the teacher, but it is a learning tool that students can use as well. The most common applications used on a computer are usually a word processing program or the internet. Some teachers may even teach by presenting a PowerPoint presentation. The Florida Center for Instructional Technology lists the following ways in which computers can be used in your classroom: presentation tools, learning centers, development stations, or a combination of configurations. The Center also says that computers with internet access allow students and teachers to search for answers to questions immediately. Computers can be used in project-based activities if there are not enough computers for individual projects. Teachers can also schedule times when students can do individual work on the computers. Teachers should explore the different ways to incorporate computers into their daily lessons.

Rules for Caring for Your Computer

  • No food or drinks near a computer
  • Press, don't pound on keys or mouse buttons
  • Keep fingers away from monitor (Keep screen clean)
  • Unplug modem and computer during thunderstorm
  • Use computer only with clean hands
  • Do not install new programs without proper training or approval from network administrator
  • Do not delete files without permission
  • Do not plug or unplug cables without approval or proper training
  • Do not attempt to move a computer without adult assistance
  • Comply with copyright legislation
  • Follow acceptable use rules of your school
  • Load floppies and CDs in the proper manner
  • Do not touch media surface of CDs and floppies
  • Do not turn a computer on or off without permission [1]

Students Should Be Taught How To Use The Computer[edit]

If a teacher chooses to allow her students to use a computer in the classroom, there are some basic rules students should be taught when using the computer and the internet. First, the teacher should go over the school’s computer use policy as it relates to students. The teacher should also explain the proper care of a computer. The sidebar titled “Rules for Caring for Your Computer” lists some typical rules to present to students about the care of a computer. They must know that a computer is not something to play with or a toy. Before any type of activity is started, the teacher should give a brief lesson on how to use the computer and the appropriate applications that will be used in the activity or lesson. A study conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics titled “Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003” showed that 91% of children surveyed between the ages of 5 and 17 used computers in 2003 and only 62% of the same children used the internet. This shows that although most children have been around a computer at some point, they may not know how to use the computer or the applications on the computer, especially the internet. Teachers should make sure all students are at the same level when using a particular program or feature that some may not be familiar with. One important feature to instruct students on how to use properly is the internet. Students must comply with the school policy on using the internet as well as viewing age appropriate and content related material. The best way to use the internet is for students to only view websites that has prior approval from the teacher. Since teachers cannot be at several computers at the same time, students should be taught ways to evaluate websites independently. Kathy Schrock provides many evaluation surveys and resources on ways to evaluate a website at Critical Evaluation Information.


There will always be teachers that do not like technology but there is a growing number of teachers entering education who embrace technology and what it has to offer their students. Computer use in the classroom by students can not be based on personal preference. Teachers should not keep their students from working with computers just because they do not like them and do not want to learn more about them. The teachers and the school system must put the education of the students first and realize that it is a necessary part of the curriculum. Technology will only increase and students need to be prepared for it. The younger the supervised use in the classroom is started the better adapted the students will become as technology is an ever changing world of its own.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

You have a third grade class ready to do a graphing project. You are undecided about using the computer or pencil and graph paper. How would you justify using the computer to work on this project?
A. It's fun.
B. It will go quicker.
C. It will enhance their computer knowledge with spreadsheets.
D. The students hate to write.

C. Excel is an excellent program to learn and the computer use will help them hone in on their skills.

Your class has free time and it is too wet to go outside. What could you do in the classroom that could be fun and educational?
A. Play board games.
B. Play cards.
C. Play SOL To Go on the computer.
D. Read from the textbook.

C. SOL To Go gives them time on the computer, which is fun and they are studying their SOLs.

You are new to teaching and want to use the computer as much as possible. You realize that the teacher most of the students had the year before did not like the computer and therefore the students did not really get to use it. How would you start your students off on their first lesson using the computer?
A. Decide it is easier not to use the computer.
B. Give them a game and tell them have at it.
C. Log them on the computer yourself and get them to where you want them.
D. Teach them the different parts of the computer.

D. You need to start from the beginning; they are never going to learn the right way if no one teaches them. They want to learn.

Your students were given a writing assignment. You read over their work and decide that they have done a wonderful job. They like going to the computer lab and they want their papers typed and displayed for everyone to read. What do you tell your students?
A. They have to do it at home themselves.
B. You don’t have time to teach them how to use Word.
C. You have to fit it into your lesson plans.
D. You will take them to the lab during free time.

D. You need to not only tell them that you are proud of their work but you need to show them. This can be a reward and a learning experience. Computer generated papers are the only kind accepted in college. Give them a jump start on the process.

You want your class to make a PowerPoint on simple machines as a class project to tackle this particular SOL. You are rather unfamiliar with PowerPoint. What do you decide to do?
A. Decide it is not worth your time.
B. Have someone else teach this lesson.
C. Learn about PowerPoint so your class can do this project.
D. Wing it and learn from your mistakes.

C. Staff development is the key to students learning the computer the correct way.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

How would you use your classroom computers in your students' daily activities?

I would use my classroom computers in different ways for my students during daily activities. In the morning and during Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R) I would encourage my students to read a book and take Accelerated Reading (AR) tests on the computer. Depending of the lesson of the day the computer might be incorporated into the lesson plan. The students need to know how to use the computer in all its varying ways and I want to be the one to help. Hopefully their curiosity about the many wonders of the computer will encourage them to explore it in more depth during their free time. Supervised games would be allowed only during free time and as a reward for a productive day.

Computers are of extreme importance to today’s generation. Most people use computers every day for work, school, and/or play. It is important for children to learn how to use computers so that they will be prepared for their future. Almost any job a student will consider uses a computer of some sort. The learning should begin at a young age. I feel it is important to integrate computers into the education of students. There are many computer programs that can enhance the learning of students.

I would like to provide time at least once a week where students are able to do a computer activity. These activities would enhance what I have been teaching this week. There are many important skills that can be learned using a computer. I believe one of the most important things I would like to teach my students is how to evaluate online sources. I think it is important for teachers to teach their student’s these skills and then give them a project evaluating sources that they find online.

I also believe that children should be given free time on computers as a privilege. There are many educational games that children enjoy playing that can help them with math, science, reading, etc. I would like to provide time to my students to be able to play these games. There are many ways that computers can be integrated into a child’s learning. It is important to use technology as it’s role in our every day life continues to grow. —Britney Kirby

There are numerous ways to use the computers in daily activities for students. As a current high school Spanish teacher, I have thought of several ways that it would be beneficial for my students to use the computers while practicing Spanish.

One of the most effective activities that I have found on the Internet for my students is the self-paced quizzes. These quizzes give my students the chance to work at their own pace and see immediately their mistakes. My classroom only has about five or six computers; therefore making it difficult for all students to use the computers at once. I try to plan two or three separate activities for my students to do and we rotate them. I assign one group the computer self-pace quizzes, another a written assignment, and another an oral assignment. All three activities are covering the same material but in a different way. This is how I keep my students interested because they rotate from group to group and have a chance to experience all activities.

Another effective way for students to use the computers is to have them complete group projects that require the use of the computer. Normally, I assign my students to groups and then assign them a project to complete together. I always allow room for the students to be creative; most students will get involved in a project especially on the computer if they know they can add there own personal touch to it. As for all my projects there are certain activities that they must complete on the computer so that I know their basic computer skills.

Finally, I let my students use the computers to practice their listening skills. I believe that in order for them to understand Spanish they need to hear it from someone besides myself. I assign each student to a specific day of the week and that day they are allowed to get on the computer and search for a website or go to a site that I have assigned and complete a listening activity.

In conclusion, there are various ways that you as a teacher can use the computers in your daily activities. A lot of what you do and allow the students to do depends on their grade level and the subject. In teaching Spanish, I have found that I have to be creative in order to plan activities that will be beneficial and interesting for my students. —Amanda Esparza


  • Brewer, Jo Ann. Early Childhood Education: Preschool through Primary Grades. 5th ed. New York: Pearson, 2004.
  • Chapman, Chris & Debell, Matthew. “Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003”. September 2006. National Center for Educational Statistics. 19 June 2007.
  • Howell, Sixth Grade Student, Luther Porter Jackson Middle School, personal interview, June 4, 2007.
  • McKenzie, "Creating Technology Enhanced Student-Centered Learning Environments." From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal Vol. 7, 6Mar 1998 June 4, 2007
  • “Multimedia in the Classroom”. 2007. Florida Center for Instructional Technology. 20 June 2007.
  • Sadker, Myra, and David Sadker. Teachers, Schools, and Society. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
  • Schrock, Kathy. “Critical Evaluation Information”. 1995-2007. Discovery School. 19 June 2007.
  • “Taking Care of a Computer”. 19 June 2007.
  • Tighe, Kathryn, Third Grade Surry County Elementary Teacher of the Year, personal interview, June 4, 2007.