When meeting and listening to classroom teachers I sense and hear their frustration with misuse of technology being a major problem they deal with daily. I hear many teachers so frustrated with the misuse that they wish they didn't have to deal with it; to these teachers, the classroom disruption makes the positives of technology "not worth it" in their eyes.
Here are some things that need to be looked at and can be changed to help teachers have a more positive experience with technology integration. I have found these through trial and error of my own and from sitting in on other teachers' classes as they lead lessons:
- Classroom teachers that don't establish "acceptable use practice" in the classroom well from the beginning or who don't manage accountability of misuse consistently have more troubles longterm. Spending the first few days discussing and setting parameters for usage is imperative.
- Keywords are not used to help the teachers quickly transition during instruction time. For instance, using the words: "Flat, Flip, Close, Close apps" on a consistent basis allows students to quickly follow instructions without repeating what you want over and over again. For me, I start saying "This lesson is almost over, when I count down from 5 you are to have all your apps closed out and your iPads flipped and flat." My students know this is coming and what is expected because I use the same terms every time I teach them.
- Teachers are not moving around the classroom for monitoring purposes. Movement=Accountability. If a student has no idea if I might walk past them while I teach, they are less likely to be off-task. A teacher moving around not only keeps the student from a glazed over look because their focus can move, but it can also provide the shy student a voice because the proximity of the teacher to that student gives them courage to speak.
- There is nothing wrong with addressing the potential off-task moment when you are about to share something important as a teacher. If I say, "all eyes on me" and all eyes aren't immediately on me for the instructions, then I often say, "Ok then, flip or close your devices until these instructions are over." In this case, they have learned that they lost a privilege because they didn't immediately respond and that helps in the future.
- For the first couple of weeks of school, remind your students that no apps or browser windows other than the ones they should be using during THAT classroom session should be open. As a teacher if you think a student is off-task, walk by and double click their home button and look for open apps on a tablet or phone device. If they are on a laptop or Chromebook, look for open tabs. This doesn't have to slow down your teaching.
- IF you see a student off-task, just take up the device and place it on your desk. If they are using it to take notes, have some paper and a pencil immediately available to them in a place in the room that you can just point to. A disruption should always be a bigger headache to the student than to you as a teacher.
- If you have a student that seems to be prone to being off-task, ask them to turn their notifications off and give them jobs to do during a classroom discussion if they seem to be wandering. For instance, "Julie, we are discussing pine trees. Can you please go to Encyclopedia Britannica and find what pines are indigenous to our state?" This student is now an active participant in the discussion but using their ability to multitask for your benefit.
- Students are allowed to hold and access their devices however they want to. For the most part, unless students are sitting in the floor, I do not allow students to put their devices in their laps. 85% of the time I see a student trying to be off-task, they move their device either closer to them or in their laps. I require students to keep their devices at desk level.
- Desk placement can greatly effect your ability to monitor and feel confident that your students are on task. If you students are working in groups, move their desks close to each other and in small groupings so you can observe all devices easily as you move around. If you tend to be a lecturer, create an alley "stage" with two rows of desks facing you so that you can easily see each student as you teach and move along the alley. If you have a student that appears to be off-task, ask them to lay their device "flat" during the class time if they are using a tablet device. This is a little bit harder to detect and manage using a laptop device though.
- Vary the way you teach. Technology allows you to have access to the world! Rethink your lesson plans to best utilize the technology. If all your students use technology for is to read an e-book or take notes, technology will always just seem like a disrupter to you. Ask a tech coach to help you figure out ways to better use the tools for a lesson that could use a little "UMPH."
Being a strict disciplinarian regarding technology does not mean you aren't a fun or good teacher. It means that expectations are there. Be honest with your students, discuss with them why you have the rules you have. Have them dialogue with you about ways that might help them be less distracted. Remember that you have a responsibility for teaching them good digital citizenship skills. Every moment is a teachable moment, every teacher should be teaching their students how to harness and expand the power in their hands in productive ways.
Julie Davis (@chargerrific) is an instructional technologist at a K12 school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can read more of her posts at http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/
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