Using Computers

Personal desktop computers can be divided into two broad categories: Computers manufactured by Apple, Inc., which are commonly called Macs, and computers manufactured by most other computer companies, which are commonly called PCs. Most schools throughout the U.S. use Macs, because of Apple's wide-ranging program of donating computers to educational institutions.

One of the most fantastic uses for your classroom computer is to figure your students' grades, using lightning-swift grade-calculating software. Various brands of grade-calculating software include eGrader by Skye Publications, GradeLog Deluxe by GradeLog, Inc., Making the Grade by Jay Klein Productions, Engrade Online Gradebook by Engrade, Inc., Grade Machine by Misty City Software, and many others.

The world's first personal computer was almost certainly the LINC, or Laboratory Instrument Computer. The LINC was created in 1962 by computer scientist Wesley Clark and graduate student Charles Molnar at the Lincoln Laboratory, a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LINCs were later sold commercially by the Digital Equipment Corporation and Spear, Inc. for $50,000 each.

Once you use grade-calculating software you'll never want to go back to calculating grades by hand. Today, even the least powerful software is millions of light years ahead of the ancient paper grade books. Whether the software is on a CD for installation into your classroom computer or installed from your school's server (a powerful multitasking computer utilized by all the school's terminals or online, accessible over the web via your password), you must have it and you must use it.

Most grade-calculating software asks you to proceed through a setup protocol where you enter your name, your student's names, your preferred grading scales, and other information. Once the setup is complete, you can enter individual assignments and the kids' numeric or alphabetical grades. Then, click “Save Class Data” or a similar command, and pow! — the calculations that used to take long, boring hours are completed in a second. Make sure to do every ethical thing you can think of to get your principal or your department to shell out the money for grade-calculating software, or buy it yourself if absolutely necessary. It is as essential to your classroom management and to maintaining your status as a master teacher as your computer.

If you use an online grade book accessed directly over the web, understand that if your school's server crashes, as it may do occasionally, you won't be able to access your grade book or input new grades from your classroom computer. That's why you may prefer to use software that's installed directly into your computer from your school's server.

Another powerful use for your computer is for in-class word processing; that is, typing and printing professional-looking documents. The types of documents you can create are limited only by your imagination and energy and may include any of the following and more:

  • Tests and quizzes

  • Information sheets

  • Classwork assignments and homework assignments

  • Abridged or full-text short stories, poems, novel chapters, etc.

  • Reading logs

  • Various listings of students

  • Various inventories of supplies and equipment

  • Form letters for the class as well as personal letters for individual parents, teachers, etc.

  • Classroom-management forms

  • Most word-processing programs even employ a graphical user interface so you can import graphic elements such as clip art, pictures from the Internet, pictures from your computer, etc., into your documents. Some of the most popular word-processing programs include Word by Microsoft, WordPerfect by Corel Corporation, and Google Docs, a free online service offered by Google that not only allows you to generate documents, but to revise them in collaboration with other online coworkers.

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