Investigating US History

Technical Notes:

This site is designed to work on all current browsers including Internet Explore 5 or higher, Firefox, Safari, Netscape, and Camino. You will need Flash 7 or higher [link: http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/downloads.html ] installed on your computer in order to view the opening animation, but not to use any of the teaching modules.

Some of the modules require students to listen to audio excerpts in the Quicktime format. If you do not have Quicktime installed on your computer you will need to download [link: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/win.html] and install it. Make sure the computer(s) you and your students are using have audio capability with speakers or headphones available.

Tips for Teaching in a Computer Lab:

When planning to teach with web-based materials in a computer lab, it is critical that the instructor "test-drive" the lesson in the lab before the class, with computer support staff available if possible. While testing the material you will cover in class, make sure of the following:

  • all the computers have internet access
  • web filters do not block any necessary links
  • all the students have log-on privileges (may require an IT administrator)
  • all necessary "plug-ins" are installed (may require an IT administrator)
  • the computer monitor resolution is set correctly for the materials being used
  • if using audio the computers have audio capability   as well as headphones or speakers
  • you know how to turn off/on pop-up blockers if necessary
  • you know how to turn off/on the projector for demonstrations if necessary
  • if possible bookmark relevant sites on each computer
  • if you will be asking students to print out material check how to print

It often helps to photocopy the lesson steps for each student, and for the whole class to go over the main points before the students start using the computers. While the students are engaged in the activity circulate to make sure none are lost or off-track.

When planning to use a computer lab for the first time, assess your students' computer experience or competence beforehand and if possible pair less experienced users with more experienced ones. Whenever possible, rely on more tech savvy students to help peers who are more tech-challenged.  It is not a good use of an instructor's time to trouble shoot every minor tech problem when students can do this. Having students work individually, in pairs, or in small groups can all work. It is usually best to have students work out any problems for themselves rather than to try to follow along with the instructor at a computer.

When conducting a face-to-face discussion in class, have students turn off the monitors. Computers are necessary for online tasks and interaction, but a horrible distraction when trying to facilitate in-class, synchronous discussion.

And most importantly, have a back-up plan in case the technology fails!   It is not unusual for Internet servers or school networks to be out of service. So even if you checked everything the day before and it worked, it may not work at the time of your class. So always be prepared with an alternate plan.