OER4Schools/3.4 Group work with ICT

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OER4S |title=Group work with ICT |session=7.4

Learning intentions and objectives.
In this session you will learn about:

  • seating arrangements
  • sharing computers
  • the role of non-ICT resources

Success criteria.
To meet the learning intentions you will:

ICT components.
The ICT components you will focus on are


This is a spare session - designate it as such, and put it somewhere.

See other pages with 'To Do's.

1 Review of homework

Educator note

If you are running a professional learning programme which follows these sessions in sequence, then you should do the review of follow-up activities relating to the previous session (test). The 'review of follow-up activities' for that session is available here, and also shown below in the session text. However, if you are following selected sessions in a different order, then you should use the reflection appropriate to the previous session you did.

The review of the follow-up activities for this session (to be done at the start of the next session) is available here.

Educator note

There is no review of follow-up activities from last session available. You can go to the previous session (OER4Schools/test) and create one.


2 Groupwork with computers: Seating arrangements

Children in a computer lab working in booths
Interaction around a table
Educator note

By this stage we've reflected on and trialled group work quite a few times. We now look at how ICT fits into the picture.

Activity icon.png Whole group discussion (10 min) on computer lab layout. Read the following background text, and discuss any issues that arise.

Background reading

We now consider the role of computers in group work. Mobile computing technologies (such as netbooks or tablets) are very versatile and can be used as and when needed. By contrast, computer labs are now becoming outdated in schools as they remove technology from subject teaching and learning and from the normal classroom environment and teaching aids. Many do not even have a blackboard. Some of the issues are:

  • Moving a class into the computer room is disruptive to teaching (especially in primary)
  • Computer labs can enforce a rigid seating pattern if benches are fixed.
    • If you have a computer lab with desktop machines, can it be re-arranged to support groupwork?
    • If machines are located around the perimeter (learners have backs to each other and teacher), or in rows, this is not conducive to collaborative learning.
  • Some computer rooms even partition off machines so learners cannot interact

The seating arrangement. Sometimes labs are arranged in a certain way, because of certain concerns. For instance, if the school administration is worried about off-task behaviour, computers are arranged in rows. However, this isn’t a good solution, as it interferes with groupwork. Instead, if a teacher is worried about off-task behaviour, they can cruise around the room!

Experience shows that an island arrangement works best, ideally large hexagonal tables, but large round or square tables are fine too.

Educator note

Discuss some of the following statements and questions:

  • How would you interact with learners in these various setups? For instance, if computers are arranged in rows, what would the interaction be like? If they were sitting in groups, what would the interaction be like? For these activities, refer to the two pictures above! What is the interaction like in the picture that shows the booths in the comptuter room?
  • With mobile technologies, what are good ways to configure group seating? Refer to the picture of our lab!

Activity icon.png Individual activity (5 min): Drawing a computer lab. Draw a sketch to show how you would arrange computers among groups.

3 Groupwork with computers: Sharing resources across groups

Many students trying to use one netbook
Interaction around a tablet

Activity icon.png Reading (2 min)'. Read the following.

Background reading

Access to computers: “We need more computers." Many schools don’t have access to computers at all, but where schools do have access, it is often felt that there are not enough computers. How many computers would a school need? While some might say that one computer per child, or perhaps one computer per two children would be ideal, for many schools (and classrooms) this is unrealistic. In general, when you have access to computers, you should therefore make sure that the computers are used in the best way possible in your context. We now consider how to make best use of whatever computers are available during group work.

Activity icon.png Pair work (5 min) on sharing computers.. Spend 5 minutes as pairs, considering the following scenario: You have 60 children in your class, and 10 computers. How would you arrange the groups, how would you distribute the computers, how would you structure the lesson?

To help with this, consider the following questions:

  • In devising groupings consider how many children can see the screen and get hands-on experience.
  • If you only have a few computers, it is better to operate a carousel so everyone gets a chance?

Activity icon.png Presentation and discussion (10 min). Go round all the pairs, who very briefly present their suggestions. Discuss the various outcomes. What different proposals are there?

Educator note

Often the computers would be distributed equally (in this case one computer per group of 6), and all groups would do that same task. This distribution may well be seen a equitable. However, in practice, more than 3-4 children per computer does not work well.

Another way is to do different tasks groupwork, where some groups do computer-based work, while others do non-computer-based work. After a period of time, you can swap around the tasks, so that the groups which were not using a computer can now use one.

Refer to the two pictures above: In the picture with many children behind one netbook, do you think the children are using the netbook effectively? In the picture with the tablet, are the children interacting?

Here are two more pictures you can consider, regarding how children are sitting around a computer: In one picture, the screen us upright, and all the pupils are squeezing in behind. In the other picture, the screen is flat, allowing the children to sit around the screen.

Group-work-behind-computer.jpg Group-work-around-computer.jpg

4 Groupwork with computers: Sharing resources within groups

Having considered how computers are distributed among groups, we now consider how the computer can be shared equally within groups.

Activity icon.png Pair work (5 min).. In pairs, consider the following questions:

  • What would you do if there are some students who always control the computer, while other group members never get to use it?
  • Would you say that it is sensible to mix computer-literate pupils with novices?
  • How will you ensure they help rather than dominate their peers?

Activity icon.png Discussion (10 min). Discuss the outcomes of your reflection as a whole class.

Educator note

You should discuss strategies for access to computers within the group, i.e. rotating access to trackpad. You could also discuss the benefits of using tablets or putting computer screen flat (where this is possible).

It's important to create an environment where all pupils can participate. It's very important to make this explicit as the goal for group work: Everybody should have a go on the computer, not just the students who can type fast.

Come up with strategies for how you can achieve this. For example, in a group of 4, the students need to change over: For example, after a set period of time, access to the computer is rotated. This could be facilitated by giving each student a bottle top when they use the computer (but only on first use). At the end of the task, part of the evaluation is how many bottle tops your group got.

5 Groupwork with computers: The role of non-ICT resources

Activity icon.png Pair work (5 min). In pairs, discuss the role of mini-blackboards in groupwork with and without computers. How can mini-blackboards support interactive teaching? How can mini-blackboards support groupwork with computers? What other non-ICT resources can you think of, which can be used with computers? How?

Educator note

If you need to provide further input, remind them of Eness' lesson on vertebrates. In this lesson the pupils were using the tablets to look at pictures of animals, while they were using mini-blackboards to write down their observations.

You could also do a short brainstorm about what resources you can think of, that might support group work? E.g. books, newspapers, other technology (like radio), things found in the natural environment, etc. Get participants to think creatively about what might be available in the local environment.

Activity icon.png Discussion (10 min). Discuss the outcomes of your reflection as a whole class.

6 Planning a lesson using groupwork and ICT

Educator note

Ensure that you have plenty of time for this task to be planned!

You should allow at least half an hour to 45 min.

Activity icon.png Plan a lesson in year groups (11 min). Plan a lesson together in year groups (i.e. all grade 4 teachers plan a lesson for grade 4 together; grade 5 teachers together for grade 5; etc).

  • Discuss with your colleagues (from the same grade) which topics you have coming up next week, and whether some of these topics would work particularly well with groupwork and ICT.
  • Make active use of the computers in the lab to identify digital resources together.
  • Devise an open activity where groups have a shared goal and where outcomes may differ between groups, for a lesson you are teaching next week.
    • Consider: How will you ensure everyone participates and everyone learns? How will you stretch all learners?
    • What will you say to the groups to ensure this? (Make a note in your lesson template.)
    • Explicitly ask groups to make sure everyone understands the new concept or process; make it their responsibility to support each other and check this is happening.
  • Consider whether you can assign different roles within the group.
  • Consider how the computers will be swapped between groups, and between pupiles within a group, to ensure that there is effective access for everybody.

7 Follow-up activities

Activity icon.png Agreeing follow-up activities (5 min).

Try out your groupwork with ICT. As the week progresses, the teachers within each grade should share the experiences. That is to say, if you are the first teacher to teach this lesson, meet your colleagues afterwards, and discuss with them how it went, and what improvements could be made.

As you teach the lesson remember to think about your own role in the classroom; it is not just to monitor progress but also to interact with pupils, assess their understanding, offer support and help move their thinking forward. Sometimes a group will even need you to sit with them and offer intensive support to progress. Think about how you can identify this need?

During the lessons, remember to encourage groups to let everybody within the group have a go at using the ICT!

Video some of the groupwork if you can (ideally a colleague can do this for you so they can capture you as well as the pupils) and upload it to the server.

Educator note

In the next session, these follow-up activities will be reviewed. If you are using this session on its own, you can have a look at the review of follow-up activities here.


Educator note

At the end of each session, we provide an overview of the activities in this session, together with their suggested timings. Although this appears at the end of the session (for technical reasons), you should keep an eye on this throughout the session, to make sure that you are pacing the workshop session appropriately!

Total time: 78 (min)

Activities in this session:

  • Whole group discussion (10 min) on computer lab layout.
  • Individual activity (5 min): Drawing a computer lab.
  • Reading (2 min)'
  • Pair work (5 min) on sharing computers.
  • Presentation and discussion(10 min).
  • Pair work(5 min).
  • Discussion(10 min).
  • Pair work(5 min).
  • Discussion(10 min).
  • Plan a lesson in year groups(11 min).
  • Agreeing follow-up activities(5 min).

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