So, at last you've been able to book the computer suite. You may have been waiting since January, and it doesn't quite fit into your scheme of work, but it's too good a chance to miss. How are you going to make best use of it?
Begin by making friends with the IT technician - at some point you will need their help. Arrange to spend some time with them in the suite, and get them to take you through the procedures. Find out (and remember) how to:
* log on, and what to do if there are difficulties
* save work - pupils will have their own workspace or drive letter
* put paper in the printer
* print work
* un-jam the printer
* email work to another address - pupils often send work home to continue it on their home computers
* check pupils' memory sticks and floppies for viruses
* log off.
Also investigate the available software - you need to know what's there for you to use.
PLAN LESSONS CAREFULLY
Begin by asking yourself what pupils will learn during the lesson - but ask the second question: "How will using ICT make that learning better, more effective, more motivating, or more interesting?" If there isn't a decent answer to that question, should you be using ICT?
Is your lesson designed for individuals, pairs, or groups? (The number of working computers may dictate your decision.) Are there good opportunities for collaborative talk? What about differentiation? It's doubly difficult with ICT as the range of confidence and ability with computers in any given class is probably much wider than in the main subject that you're teaching.
What will your most able ICT pupils be doing when they've finished their task? Could they support and mentor those who have more to learn?
How will you assess the results? You'll know how to do that in terms of your own subject, but how does your lesson relate to the teaching objectives in the ICT national curriculum?
Do you have a back-up in case some or all of the computers don't work? Networks go down with depressing frequency.
STARTING THE LESSON
Having a whole class trying to log on simultaneously can take a very long time. Try to stagger the process by having pupils log on as they come in, but no more than half a dozen at a time. Use the same principle when asking them to open the software that they will be using.
Make sure that you have everyone's attention when you're giving your first instructions - make pupils turn away from their screens and give you eye contact.
Once pupils are on task, you will feel like a spare part. Resist the temptation to interrupt your pupils when they're at work. Respond if they need help, but otherwise just keep an eye on them. Encourage them to save work frequently -losing five minutes' work is bearable; losing more than that is disheartening.
Be ready to learn. If you don't know how to do something, ask a pupil. Tap into their knowledge.
Discourage pupils from printing everything as it is expensive. Print final versions only.
Some networks have software that lets you take over pupils' screens, either all at once or selectively. This is a powerful tool for communication, but use it sparingly.
Give them plenty of time to save and log off, and make sure they've done it properly.
Check that everything is in order before you dismiss the class - work saved, pupils logged off. Mouse balls can be a problem - Year 7 pupils, in particular, value them as trophies. Ask them to turn their mice upside down and don't let pupils go until you've checked that their mouse is still intact.