Embracing New Technology ... or How a Computer Program Changed My Life

Article excerpt

Never seems to fail: the new semester has started and on the third day, you get a new student. Followed by another on the fourth day and two more on the fifth. After a thorough introduction to the first assignment on day two, the class is underway--except, of course, for new students. You find yourself redoing the introduction on day three and day four time taken away from the other students in the class.

I teach junior-high photography and the problem of "catching students up" was a challenge for me, as it is for any visual arts teacher. Specific instructions of complicated processes are essential for these adolescents. Invariably, at least one student is absent for each new introduction. Stacy was gone the day I demonstrated using the enlarger, Tom and Bill left early for a football game when film-developing was covered, and one thorough introduction on anything is seldom enough for special-needs students.

That first year, I was engulfed in repetition as I desperately tried to bring everyone up to speed. Things are easier now I've discovered a straightforward way to cover all the bases, and I would like to share with you my solution.

During my second junior high, I reached the saturation point and finally figured out a good solution. Now, all my basic instructions are documented on a computer as PowerPoint presentations. These presentations are stored in a student-accessible file on our school server.

Students can use any computer in the school to view the presentation. Each presentation is self-directed and includes animated arrows or pictures to clarify important points. An introductory page tells students how to use the tutorial. These presentations serve as an introduction for students who were absent and as a refresher for students needing additional exposure to the information.

Now, when a student misses an important introduction day, I don't have to neglect the rest of my class while I cater to the needs of a single student. Using the PowerPoint tutorial, a student can sit at a computer and get caught up while I help the rest of the class get settled and on task. By the time the class is focused and working, the errant student has watched the tutorial and is ready to go. Most students are able to jump right into the assignment. Sometimes a student will need additional one-on-one support from me, but invariably that student would have needed extra help even if he or she had seen the original introduction.

Although my original intent for the PowerPoint presentations was to catch-up absent students, they have proved useful for my special-needs students as well. Each instructional step includes pictures that help students follow along. These tutorials are an easy review for tests. Since students can access them from any computer, they can use these tutorials in the resource classroom to study for a test. …