In the new millennium, one of the most important reasons for teachers to have a personal computer is the ability it gives them to create both customized instructional presentations and personalized learning materials for their students. Using successful principles of learning, both the novice and the experienced teacher can make a significant contribution to student achievement by creating materials that can be used for instruction or remediation, either at school or at home. By augmenting their computers with inexpensive peripherals such as a color printer or scanner-both available for under $100-teachers are able to create professional looking media that are proving to be effective in helping students learn how to learn. Moreover, by adding an inexpensive computer peripheral such as an RF converter to a television monitor, teachers are able to use their computers as instructional displays or as presentational tools.
Developing Instructional Materials
Among the significant developments associated with instructional technology, the personal computer has blurred the line between professionally developed media and "home grown" products that are being used in schools across the USA. The ability to use pictures and photos with applications such as word processors and graphics programs makes the production of high quality materials a relatively simple task for the inexperienced beginner or expert user who can print their documents with a laser printer or in color with an ink jet printer.
Not surprisingly, a recent search of the ERIC database turned up over 1000 entries about creating materials with computers, a majority of them focusing on various aspects of language arts including reading, writing, spelling and skill development.
It is also interesting to note that the advent of the Internet has increased the options and opportunities for teachers to develop their own high quality customizable materials with sites such as worksheets.com and others that are easily reached with the click of a mouse. In fact, teachers need not have their own personal computers to utilize the Internet because on-line connectivity is almost routinely available in schools and libraries across the country.
This article will focus upon different kinds of learning materials that classroom teachers can create using a computer and related technologies, guided by their own experiences and a first-hand knowledge of instructional pedagogy. Because purchasing a computer is a significant financial commitment, we believe that teachers should get the most from their investment by utilizing these machines to the fullest. Teachers without a home computer may still be able to use their school's equipment to create the most of the materials we profile herein.
Spelling is a constant challenge to many students and sometimes, rightly or wrongly, a cause of concern for their parents as well. If children use English as a second language there may be additional problems in learning to deal with the well-chronicled peculiarities of this polyglot language.
One successful method that we have used in teaching children how to learn to spell is a modified version of the tried and true Look, Say, Name, Cover, Write, Check Strategy (Snowball & Bolton, 1999). It involves using a word processor to generate special lists of spelling words that helps to enhance students' memorization efforts. The capacity of the computer to print words in color and in different rows and columns makes this activity an easy one with which to start.
Using a word processor such as Microsoft Word with a blank word processing document, you create a table with four columns and perhaps thirty empty rows. At the top of each column a spelling word is written with particular attention given to the middle portion by highlighting the most difficult or unusual part in red (see emboldened letters). This is important because children tend to remember the beginning and endings of words but have trouble with what comes between. …