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What's Wrong With This Computer?
A lesson by Tom Guy

Materials Needed: Computer(s), an imagination, and some students

Objective: This activity is meant to be ongoing and can be adapted to be a sponge. Students will improve problem-solving skills as they fix a "sabotaged" computer in an authentic activity.

Instructional Strategy: Students will break into groups consisting of these roles:

Steps in Lesson:

  1. Sabotage a computer before class in a variety of ways, or pose situations for groups of students to solve.

    Hint: Whenever I install an important program (Photoshop, Netscape), I change the year (Not the date!) of the computer to something bizarre, 1957, 1932, etc. I note this in the manual that comes with the program. This comes in handy in a variety of ways. If you have to remove the program, find files, free up hard drive space. The only drawback-your drivers always appear out of date.

  2. Break students into groups. (Be sure that the composition of the groups changes each time.) Allow students to assign roles and start investigating.

  3. Remind students to be discreet in their discussions. They don't want to clue in the other groups. Make sure they know what each role is expected to do.

  4. Give groups the appropriate amount of time for the problem, and then choose groups randomly to report how they figured out what was wrong and how they chose to fix it.

  5. Repeat the same lesson at another time by itself or in conjunction with another problem later in the year.

Closure: Encourage students by "including them in the club." Laugh about how simple the problems are sometimes and how challenging they can be-and satisfying!

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