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Over the past two days, I have had the opportunity to visit nearly 300 classrooms at Grafton Public Schools. As I walk through classrooms to ensure that all technology pieces are working effectively and efficiently, I notice the way classroom management is happening. The one consistent element across grades K-12 is that active learning is taking place -- I notice all students involved or engaged in an activity. Occasionally, there is technology involved as well. But the key element in classroom management, whether using technology or not, is to ensure that students are actively participating in the learning process, not simply receiving it.

What's Plan B?

When you're integrating technology and designing a classroom management strategy, it's always best to think about the kind of scene that I just described and first focus on active learning. Ask yourself:

  • How will the technology or application I'm integrating help students grow in their learning?
  • How will the technology or application help them achieve their goals?
  • What is the comfort level for integrating the technology or application?

Once you've designed a lesson or project that will include students as active creators of their learning, it's time to think about what role technology will play in this lesson. Technology should always support and reinforce the learning that is taking place, never precede it.

Beyond ensuring that your students are actively learning or creating to meet certain goals or objectives, the key with technology is making sure that your technology use is organized, and that you're ready to use it. And, as we all know too well, technology will sometimes present a minor glitch. That's why it's always important to have Plan B ready to go, possibly an analog version of your scheduled activity, in order to keep the pace of the class and keep the lesson on task. So that's one of the first steps in successfully integrating technology into your classroom: have a backup plan ready. Without a plan to seamlessly transition from a digitally-infused lesson to an analog lesson, your class will surely descend into chaos.

Keep It Smart and Simple

The next step in ensuring smooth technology integration is to keep the technology simple. There are millions of apps and programs that teachers can choose from, but you want to find a handful of apps that work best for you and your students. I've seen classrooms that tried to integrate every new app or program that came out. Think Google Classroom. In fact, someone asked me this question today:

I am not sure I want to move all the content I've built in Edmodo into Google Classroom. Edmodo is working well for me and our department.

Well, you don't have to. If you use an app like Edmodo that works for both you and your students, then stay the course. Just because Google Classroom is new and everyone (including myself) is blabbering about it on Twitter and Google+, that doesn't mean it's better than Edmodo, Schoology, Google Sites, or whatever application or program is working for you and your students. The key is to find something that meets your comfort level and the needs of your students, your curriculum standards, and your goals. If you switch apps and technology too frequently and too quickly, students will be confused, and you'll spend too much time setting them up on new systems and missing out on valuable active learning time.

Distraction and Control

The other piece is that students will inevitably be distracted by something. This could be a window, the ceiling, or an app. Depending on the grade level, these distractions will come in different durations and at different times of day. Technology doesn't have to increase or create distractions in the classroom, but if used without a purpose, it most likely will. When you're integrating technology, you want to make sure that it aligns with the learning goals and ultimately helps students reach those goals. I've always stressed that successful technology integration hinges upon a healthy balance of online time and offline time. When balanced well, students can achieve great things, stay focused, and move toward their ultimate goal.

As with anything, the key to quality classroom management is to have a plan, a Plan B, and to ensure that technology integration is consistent, clear, and supports the learning objectives and goals. Make sure that your class time includes an active learning and creating piece that will yield student engagement. Teachers will never be able to control it all, but they can put steps in place to limit the uncontrollable. If you follow the pieces listed above, managing a technologically equipped classroom should be a great experience.

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Jennifer Dooley's picture

My school district has currently purchased Surface Pro Tablets for each of their students. Teachers will have the opportunity to engage their students learning with their own tablet before full implementation occurs in the classroom with the students tablets in January.
As a teacher who has rarely used technology in the classroom I am very nervous about the use of this new technology. However, I feel that having a Plan B in place will be beneficial as an educator who is experiencing this type of new technology into the classroom. Before I begin to fully implement technology I obviously have to work on incorporating small pieces of technology into my daily lessons. I need to be prepared in case something does not go as planned. As Keith stated, I must be able to take the lesson in a different direction if necessary. In addition, I know that asking tech-savvy colleagues for assistance is also beneficial. Therefore, in order to overcome my fear with technology I have to dive right into implementing technology into my classroom immediately.

Kevin Tressler's picture

@Sticia Shubin - I agree and understand the frustration and concern. With the new wave of technology and the overload it is putting on all systems involved, both in house and at server locations, it can make for an overwhelming and discouraging experience.

Good point in blog about simplicity and using what works. Tech developers know that schools are just like the consumers they have targeted for years. Once the newest equipment comes out and everyone falls in love, school districts are chomping at the bit to be a part of the newest implementation, no matter the costs to students and teachers.

donna nash-perkins's picture

Insightful. However, where I am from we are still in the technological age of cd players, projectors. I wish the new wave of technology would hit us.

Rizalina's picture

Our school principal is a 21st century principal who would really like to see our students using technology in the classroom. In fact, he purchased Ipad for our students to use in the classroom aside from new computers in computer labs. Additionally, every teacher got an Ipad mini, and other gadgets to connect with the In Focus/LCD projector. Our students take their classroom test using the b Socrative software . If Ipads are not enough, our students can use their smart phone to take the test. One thing that I like most with this software is the students get immediate feedback and are corrected when they choose a wrong answer plus, a teacher in-charge of that class can view what areas the students are preforming high or low. Aside from this, using technology seems not threatening to most of our students compare to pencil and paper assessments and they are more focused during testing time. I have not used this software but some of our general education teachers have used this in our inclusion classes where I do co-teaching. My main concern is for my students who read below grade level and needs read aloud accommodations. I hope this software has read aloud. I'll try to explore this software when I get the chance to sit with our teacher who attended the software training.

What is our Plan B when it comes to the use of technology? To ensure that the students are using technology responsibly, we have a tech control chart in three colors: red, yellow and green. Red+ no electronics to be used, yellow, one student per group is allowed for class use and green, everyone can use electronics. Students at times are tempted to go to "other sites" and we try as much as we can to teach them to use their electronics responsibly.

Asma's picture
Asma
ICT Teacher

All my students have to use PCs individually to accomplish their tasks in every lesson! what plan B could be for my ICT class??
I need answers for that.

Jessa Joy Pedimonte's picture

As a future facilitator of learning, I may equip first the knowledge and understanding of all student the proper using of technology in their studies,
majority of students now are addict on On lining websites such us Facebook and etc.
they must be aware on using websites that are educational.

KS's picture

I am taking a class in Integrating Technology in the Classroom. Everything that you have said ties into what we are learning. I think you have stated some pretty important steps in your blog. I will try to remember these when I become a teacher.

Holemon's picture

This post goes hand in hand with my Technology in Education class as well as with the personal experience that I have accumulated as a business and information technology teacher. In my Keyboarding class, students need their individual computers to complete the assigned type to learn lessons. Therefore, if faced with technology issues, the students will be unable to be productive and complete their lessons which will lead to classroom chaos. With that being said, I agree completely with having a Plan B in place. The technical difficulties are few and far between but they do happen and it happens at unpredictable times. A lesson that I learned the hard way.

Now, every class that I teach that is centered around computer, internet or technology use, is normally backed up with an alternate lesson plan. The alternate lesson is still student centered, interactive and tailored to accomplish the same learning objective or another within the curriculum framework. I agree, that this planning can become extremely time consuming, but having alternate options is essential in maintaining classroom management.

Guest's picture

I completely agree with technology integrated in the classroom must be simple or students will find themselves taking more time out of the day trying to understand the technology instead of the actual lesson. I will use all this information in a future classroom of mine, thank you.

Sadaf Naveed's picture

I believe if the planning is done effectively keeping in mind the rationale of using particular DT/s, the lesson can go smoothly. Also, its imperative that Dts used are enough in number, the activities are engaging and level appropriate and in case of a software being used , students and teachers must have command over it's use. Also, having a plan B saves a lesson to go down the drain.

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