As we gear up to start a new year, your district may have new devices for your classrooms. Maybe you have new carts of devices, a classroom set of devices, or maybe your district went fully 1:1 with devices.
If you have carts, you have an out. You can’t use the cart all of the time. You have to share. If you have a classroom set, there are things that you can do with tech and some things that are better without tech. You can balance that. The same goes for 1:1. But realistically, your district has invested money for these devices and there is a stated or unstated expectation that you will be using them in your classroom. This potentially gives you one of the following feelings:
- Dang, it’s about time my kids got access.
- Oh no, devices are a distraction and I thought fidget spinners were bad!
- Wow! We have devices! Wow! What am I going to do!
Maybe you have some other feeling that I have not captured, but the fact remains. These devices will need to be used. You must become comfortable with them in your classroom. One way to feel more comfortable is to think of how you can manage your room with these devices. Below, you will find some strategies that can help assist you. While not one is a “silver bullet,” you can use them in conjunction with one another to ensure that management is a little easier.
Set Clear Expectations & Guidelines
Much like you would with other aspects in your classroom, it is essential to set clear expectations and guidelines for use. Brainstorm these with your students and come up with the common phrases and understanding with the students. Set expectations like “lids down,” “45 your screens,” or have a series of visual indicators that will assist students in understanding what the expectations are for the activity. This includes you, as the teacher. You must model and demonstrate that you are also following the expectations and guidelines. How far does the “No Cell Phones” sign go if you don’t ever set yours down? Model the appropriate behavior.
Don’t Force It
Honestly, there are things that still work better with paper and pencil. Don’t be afraid to allow students to use paper and pencil for some things. For example, if you are mind mapping or creating a writing web, it might be more beneficial for students to do this by hand. When I was in the classroom, it was easier to start the class each day with a paper and pencil warm up. I could have asked the students to log in, but for me to start the class off on the right foot with everyone on the same page, I choose to do it this way.
Management By Walking Around
Management by walking around is exactly as it sounds. When using this, you will walk around and use proximity to students to help keep them on task. If this is what you are choosing, do not hesitate to rearrange some of the furniture in your room to ensure that you can get to where you need to quickly. Some great examples are making it so that you can see nearly every screen in your classroom in just a few steps. This is tiring as a teacher, but it is something that helps to manage the classroom and keep your students on task.
In the photo here, you can see that with a few steps, the teacher can see each device screen in the room. While this seems like a small class, think of creative ways that you could arrange the furniture of your classroom to make it so that you can move quickly to monitor what students are doing on their screens.
Manage Students, Not Devices
Look, your district or school has invested thousands of dollars into the technology in your classroom. They are committed to having students learn with the technology. By taking away the technology or internet privileges when a student makes a mistake is counter-intuitive. For example, students misuse their writing utensils all the time. Think of the student that constantly clicks their click pen. That is annoying, distracting, and not helpful. You do not take away the writing utensil and not allow the student to write. You have a discussion with the student on what you expect. Do the same with the computers. Students should be managed, not the devices. The devices are to assist with learning.
If these are not helping to manage your classroom, I think it is time that we examine what and how we are teaching. For instance, some of our teaching practices have not evolved much over the last 100 years. Look at the way many classrooms were set up and look at how we have them set up now. Try bringing more group work, more collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication into your classroom. If you need help, find a coach or supportive community to help you out. Students will need the skills to ensure that they have a chance to be successful in their college and careers.