When adopting technology in the classroom, one of the key concerns for educators is classroom management. Often, they believe that with devices come three options:
- Ban devices outright (Good luck!)
- Lock them down
- Open your classroom up to the Wild Wild West!
However, I have found that many traditional methods of classroom management readily translate to a technologically rich curriculum – with some modification.
Restructure the Classroom
Most of us teach in “traditionally” structured classrooms – the teacher is in front and the students sit in rows looking at the teacher. However, this is a poor setup when students are using devices. With screens faced away, it’s easy for students to give into temptation and get off task. After all, the teacher can’t see what they are doing.
Moving away from a teacher-centered learning space and building on a student-centered learning environment is an important shift that often involves switching up your physical classroom setup. Having students work in pods or other creative, flexible learning spaces helps you to keep a more effective eye on the class. Don Orth shows how to Hack Your Classroom in this video about the Hillbrook School’s iLab.
At Eanes ISD in Texas, Carl Hooker addresses the power of a flexible learning environment in his post “The Obituary of the Student Desk.” After deploying devices, he quickly realized that the physical learning space needed to adapt to the new technologies.
A more student-centered learning space then lends itself to a more student-centric teaching style. Instead of lecturing at the front of the room, move around the classroom while students collaborate and create. If you notice that students quickly close a window or switch an app, then you can have a quick conversation with that child. Matt Scully from Providence Day School also suggests that you keep an eye out for “iPad eyes;” that look students get when they are off track or zone out and need to be brought back into the lesson/activity. These behaviors and corrections are similar to what teachers have done throughout time when students are passing notes, whispering, or doing other work during class.
Cell phones are a popular tool in the classroom today. At the same time, they are used for 21st century note passing and can become a concern for academic dishonesty. In my classes, if we are using cell phones for quick reference look ups or a buzzer activity (using Socrative or Kahoot!), my policy is that cell phones stay in front of the student, face down on the desk, unless they are actively being used. Students are then less likely to give into that Pavlovian response to the text message buzz when the device is in front of them. Also, having to reach for it ensures that you, the teacher, notice their actions and confirm that they are on task.
Sometimes, it’s not appropriate to use a device at all! During quizzes and tests, I collect cell phones and put them in a basket. I don’t want good judgment to give way to temptation. Additionally, we sometimes put tech away because it has become a distraction or even an deterrent to the learning activity. I believe that class culture is the most important aspect of the school community. If technology is interfering with our community, it goes away. Since I know my classes and their unique dynamic, I can adapt based on the circumstances.
How you approach technology use in your classroom should not be “one-size fits all.” You know your classes, their personalities, and your culture. Shift your policies on a case-by-case basis; choose a solution that works for your individual class and activity
Change your View of Devices
If you want to effectively employ laptops, tablets, and smartphones, you must shift your view of the device. We often see these tools as extensions of long established technology: they are word processors and communication tools. However, today’s devices are far more robust and significant! View them as portable creation, consumption, collaboration, reference, and organizational tools.
Too often, we see these tools only as consumption devices – nothing more than glorified eReaders or Internet research tools. However, they can also be used as powerful creation devices that allow students to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of different ways. Instead of having students do traditional tasks (that are limited in their ability to collaborate and share) such as type out a response or make PowerPoints to give in-class presentations, a student can capture video and images on their phone, edit them using an app like iMovie or MovieMaker, and share it to the world via YouTube.
I love to use phones in my class as a buzzer system for bell ringers or review games. Using PollEverywhere, I can create moderated back channels or use flexible questions to check for understanding. Kahoot! is another popular platform because students compete against one another for points, and if they exit the app (to check a text message for example), they are locked out.
By shifting your learning space, adjusting your observation methods, and tweaking your lessons, you will not only limit distractions created by devices, but also build a more robust, 21st century classroom. The great thing about the internet is that it can help you with building these type of lessons. For more ideas, check out the resources on Edutopia and EdTechTeacher.
Looking to learn more integrating technology into your classrooms? Join EdTechTeacher this February 9-11 for their 2nd annual iPad Summit in San Diego. They will also offer Summer Workshops in cities across the US beginning in June.