ETNI main page

Keep the Bytes from Biting
Classroom Management Ideas for the Computer Lab

by Gail Shuster-Bouskila

Kiriyat Hinuch Dror

Open University - School of Languages


Now that the computer has become part of the EFL classroom, many teachers are looking for ways to organize their students during their lessons in the computer lab. The computers are usually in labs and this requires adapting classroom management to fit the setting. This includes dealing with students of all levels of English and computer literacy.

The ideas I present here are from the workshop I gave at ETAI98. I tried provide some practical ideas for organizing Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) sessions. Veteran CALL teachers are invited to send me their suggestions to help us all, and e specially the "newbies" or those who have yet to take their students into the computer lab.


The first step to arranging your classes is scheduling. If there is no set time for English classes then posting a calendar in the teachers room or some other place will be essential. If the computer teacher has a schedule, get a copy and give it to any other English teacher who might be interested in using the lab. Don't wait for one to be given to you, since there is usually a scarcity of hours. If you have an English room with computers, then it means just coordinating between English teachers. Fu rthermore, if you are not going to use your scheduled hour, offer it to some other teachers, it is important to share resources that are so valuable and expensive.

Here is an example of the kind of schedule we have had at the School of Languages of the Open University in Tel Aviv. Open hours and scheduled hours were posted weekly on the bulletin board in the teachers room.

see signup.jpg


One thing that worries many teachers is the inability to keep track of who did what in the computer lab. If the English teacher is the only person accompanying the class in the lab, there can be a simple solution to any "chaos" that might resul t. The following document is a good example of an "all purpose" organizer.

see organize.htm

The number of each computer is listed in the first column to help keep track of a variety of information in the second column. First of all it can be used to keep track of where the students worked. It can be duplicated at the A3 paper size if it is to be posted on a bulletin board for a pre-assigned seating chart. If a variety of computer activities are being planned, they can be listed by the number of the computer. In case a computer breaks down during the lesson or day, list the problems on the s heet by computer and then use it to inform the technical staff.


Many of our weaker students or those not able to follow oral instructions need visual assistance when beginning to deal with a new computer system. It can be very helpful to post a copy of the instructions above or near each computer. If this is not pos sible then mount them and pass them out as needed. Some students also need the reassurance of a Hebrew translation to supplement the instructions given in English.

see ourama.jpg

From the main menu åøçáú éùàøä èéøôúäî

  • FILE ( õáå÷)
      • FOOD.DIC ìëåà ìò ÷çùî

When an activity is complicated and needs specific instructions, it is often advisable to give them out in a more visual form. I usually create such a page by creating a sample exercise on screen. The I copy the screen, usually by pressing the print scr een key p and then immediately "pasting" it into a Word document. This is very helpful to the visual learner.

see madhatter.jpg


The final challenge of computer lab classroom management comes with the advent of free Internet access. Once the students are allowed to "surf", there is the possibility that they will stray from "Poe" to "pornography". Quite a few different organizations have made an attempt to deal with this problem. They have created school wide "Acceptable Use Policy" release forms. These must be given to parents to sign and return before students are allowed to have ful l Internet access. One source calls this a type of driver's license, the student who has no regard for the rules of the road on the "information superhighway", simply cannot have access. Of course no "enforcement" policy is 100% fool proof, but it can lead to deterring the more timid students and help curtail the misuse of the net by the more "clever" culprits. This kind of policy should be adopted by the entire school and not just by the English team. Two good sources are at the following sites:

Wake County Public Schools Internet and Electronic Mail Permission Form:

Bellingham Schools Internet Permission Form



Although it is never possible to foresee what kind of problems may occur in any classroom situation, it never hurts to try to be prepared. A little bit of organization (and maybe a bit of skill) can help keep the "bytes from biting" your in the computer lab. The computer is here to stay, all we need to do is incorporate wisely and it can be an immensely powerful learning aide.

ETNI main page