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Thursday, January 21, 2010

What about Students Who Don't Have a Computer at Home?

This is a faithful transcription of a conversation I had today. I am not making this up. And this is pretty much how these always go.

"Miss Nowak. The speakers on my computer at home broke. It is impossible for me to watch the videos without speakers. I mean...I've tried! But it's hard!"

(Color commentary: This kid is hoping and expecting I am going to say, that's ok, you poor unfortunate broken-speaker child, you don't have to do your assignments.)

"I agree that does pose a problem. Let's think of some other options you have for using a computer. Do you have a lunch period?"

"No. I don't have a lunch in my schedule."

"Do you have a study hall?"

"No. I don't have any free periods."


Walk nonchalantly over to my computer. Look up student's schedule. (Pro tip: Kids think they can get away with lying about their schedule even when everybody knows you can look it up. See, they think you would never suspect they're lying, because you know they know you can look it up. What they don't know you know, is that they are capable of some impressive psychological jujitsu.)

"It says here you have a Study Hall every day 7th period."

"Oh...well...I always go to the computer lab to...type essays! So, see, I don't think of it as a Study Hall."

(Color commentary: He goes to the computer lab to play Linerider and read the Blizzard forums.)

" go to the computer lab for 7th period every day."


"Does your typing take you 43 minutes every day? Or can you spare 10 minutes for math?"

"No...Yeah...I can do it then."

"You will need headphones. Do you usually carry headphones with you?"

Other kid who is not involved in the conversation but is obviously enjoying himself: "They have huge boxes of headphones in the computer lab to borrow! You can just take them!"

And, scene.

If you want to find excuses for why you can't possibly teach class differently than you have for the past n years, you will find excuses. If you want to find solutions, you will find solutions.

Edit, because I got called out, and fairly: Look...I'm just weary of that question I used to title my post. If what you're doing is working for you, and your kids are learning well what you think they need to be learning, great. Awesome. You should say this: "It's not broke. No reason to fix it." And I'm not trying to convince you to. If you feel overwhelmed, you should say "This is too much to take in all at once. Can you suggest something smaller in scale to try out?" If you think this is an ineffective way for kids to learn, argue with me on the merits. I want to have that conversation. But if you live in a place like where I live, where I have taken surveys of classes that indicate home computer and internet penetration approaches 100%, and while at school, kids are tripping over a computer every time they turn around, "What about students who don't have a computer?" is not the rhetorical trump card people seem to think it is.