Sharing computers: An example of effective problem solving

We have 3 computers in the quiet classroom, two of which have internet access.  As expected, there was competition over who would get to use this scare resource.  The teachers made only one stipulation, based on the guideline we established initially, that academics get priority.  As you can imagine, email or other entertaining web sites, not academics, were requested. (Note:  even in this circumstance all computer use must still be consistent with the school’s Acceptable Use Policy.)

Well, that was a problem.  At the community meeting, initial suggestions involved the usual teacher-type mechanisms for allocating scare resources such as sign up sheets, keeping track of who had used it when, and so on.  Then one student suggested solving this with rock-paper-scissors.  Bingo–problem solved!

So now the procedure is simple and quick.  The teacher in charge during planning time asks who is interested in using the computer during each learning block.  Academic uses get first choice.  No one can have 2 blocks if others are waiting for a chance.  And if there are more requests than computers, a quick game of rock-paper-scissors decides–with no grumbling, complaining, or exclamations of “that’s not fair” directed toward the teacher.

Another evolution is occuring.  Students know that academic uses get priority.  We have gone from no academic requests, to many.  Students can work on science or social studies on a website called Study Island. They can claim the computer to research a topic for a writing project.  They can get first dibs by using a computer to type up a project.  I expect they will become quite creative in thinking up ways to get computer time for things that can qualify as academic use.  We have not yet had to choose among academic requests with rock-paper-scissors, but that may be in the cards for next week!

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