Construct a Laptop Project

Last school year I had Kindergarten and first grade students still asking me what the password was for their computer accounts, despite it being the end of the school year and their passwords being "k" or "1," respectively. Inspired by Amy Tiemann's Laptop Club for elementary students, I conceived a lesson that I worked on with the Kindergarten and first grade students the first two computer lessons of the school year. I hoped this lesson would encourage more independence during computer time.

I started with photos of a MacBook keyboard from Apple's web site and took screenshots of the class and individual folders where the students save their work and inserted them into a photo of the MacBook's screen bezel.

For the first lesson I used the SmartBoard and a NoteBook file that also had a picture of the keyboard. Students took turns dragging the appropriate label (power button, Return key, volume buttons, K) to the proper place on the keyboard. Then I had the students return to their desks. I gave them each a copy of the MacBook keyboard photo. I then asked them to use a different color crayon for each key, and as I colored them in on the SmartBoard the students also colored in the important keys that they needed to know to operate the computer.

The next lesson concentrated on the important folders these students needed to know. The grade level folder is automounted for the students when they login. We colored in the folder, which lives in the Dock next to the Trash can. Then the students found their class folder and colored it, too. Finally, they found the folder with their name on it and colored it in.

With a colored keyboard and screen, I provided each student with a manila folder. They used their glue sticks to paste the two pieces of paper into the folder, like the example from a Kindergarten student pictured above.

As a group we decided we would call these laptops our "maps." They will help the students remember the location of the important keys. I bring these laptops along to the Kindergarten and first grade classes, along with a cart of real MacBooks. Before every lesson I hand out the laptop maps and we review the important keys we will be using: the "K" or "1" key for their password, the Return key, the volume keys. I have them put their finger on the appropriate key or item in the Dock. As we encounter new important keys we can highlight them on our paper laptop keyboards. For example, when quitting Childsplay, which I use with the Kindergarten students, one must press the "Y" key to confirm that one wants to quit the program. In this week's lesson we drew an outline around the "Y" key on their keyboards to remind them of the location of that key and the importance of the key.

Already this map laptop had proven very valuable in my efforts to increase the independence of the students during computer lessons. When students shout out, "What's my password?" I can direct them to their map laptops to find the answer to their question. The flexibility of being able to "update" the images as we encounter new important keys makes this a powerful teaching tool.