Going into a school with a BYOD or one to one device program can give teachers a moment of pause and even create a little trepidation or anxiety. There are usually a lot of questions about where to start and how to use these devices which are now so powerful.
One thing to remember is that these devices are tools. A friend of mine told a group of teachers that it should enhance your classroom-not dominate it. So starting with how to manage these devices is a logical place to start. Something to take note of is that I’m not going to be revealing any sacred teaching secrets here. A lot of what I’m going to write about is just good old classroom management techniques. This doesn’t make them any less effect but having dealt with technology in my classroom for the past seven years I know these work and work well.
One teacher told me that his students walk in his room, open up their computers and then he spends the next ten minutes trying to get them off Facebook and on task and focused.
An easy solution here is to make two signs. One that says when it is OK to use computers and one to let the students know that computers need to be put away and focus needs to be elsewhere. So when your students walk in, see the sign, they know what to do. You can have the sign outside the room, on the board, just as long as it is very conspicuous. This is best introduced very early in the year and of course consistency is the key here. Be sure to use this method all year long and every now and again remind them that it’s always in place.
Here are some fun images (everyone loves cats right?)
No computers allowed.
Feel free to use these free royalty free images. I found them at morgueFile.
Another technique is to use a sound that allows students to know that they cannot use their computers. I made one in Garageband and it works quite well. I just took a few of their loops and threw them together. You can do it and easily make it as long as you want.
You can listen to mine here:
You can download it here:
Expectations walking through the door
Another easy one is to teach your kids what your expectations of them are when they enter your class. Maybe make it a policy that there are no computers for the first thirty minutes of class (or whatever suits your needs).
That way when students walk in, they know to keep that device away an put down.
Another alternative would be to have them complete a task using their device. They walk in, see the task on the board and get to work. The task could be to read an article that you’ve shared with them (Google Drive, Edmodo, Schoology, there are lots of ways to share documents or links), completing a short quiz on last night’s homework – basically anything you want. Just make sure that it is meaningful and not just something to kill a few minutes. If students think it’s useless, they won’t do it and how can you argue with them about that. They’re right.
Again, consistency is the key here. You don’t have to do it every day, but if you do it every Wednesday, then make sure you do it every Wednesday for the whole year. Just doing it willy-nilly will send the message that this is not very important and thus making things much more difficult for you to pull off.
A number of students like to take notes using their computer. They may use Evernote, Simplenote, Google Keep or even an online word processor (Google Docs, Zoho or Microsoft Live or 365). If you want to give them a choice – that’s fine but make sure you discuss how to take notes effectively and how to make the most the program and its features.
There are a lot of people out there who discourage note taking on a computer and they have some research to back it up. This doesn’t mean that the programs mentioned above can’t be utilized. What I like to do with notes, is to take them by hand and then refine them in Evernote. This is not a new practice I know a university professor who said he would take notes, rewrite them again and then (with a small study group) type them out. That way he was looking over the material often, not just once and not alone. Computer programs can be great for this.
It is all up to you though but make sure you think it through and convey your expectations to your students. Don’t just let them decide for you. If you believe it will hurt them and the class in the long run then do something about it early on.
Close the lid/Shut off the screen
A quick one that I learned very early on is that you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT compete with a glowing screen. It offers for more entertainment than you could ever hope to provide and it is far more accessible for your audience.
A quick way to kill this distraction was to have the kids shut their laptop lids or just put their devices to sleep and place it on their desk. I would even walk over and carefully shut laptop lids if students didn’t react quick enough (not angrily though). Other times I would wait until everyone had complied. Long silences can be a lot louder than a raised voice.
Don’t let them kinda close the lid – make sure it is completely closed. If it is kind of closed they will most certainly try to sneak a peek which is a distraction. Remember you aren’t hurting their machine closing the lid – your just putting it to sleep. It’ll wake up and be just fine-all their work will be there. I’ve done this with students and adults and let me tell you the result is the same – you gain the attention of your audience.
If it is a tablet or mobile I tell them to keep it on their desk and keep their hands off of it. If they “put it” in their bag or in their lap it is far too easy for them to take a quick look or fire off a quick text to their buddy. If it’s on their desk it’s harder for them to accomplish that discreetly. If you catch them using it and you’re fed up with it just walk over, ask them to power it down and then take it until the class is over. Trust me, they’ll remember to pick it back up before they leave the room.
I know this sounds kind of silly but make sure that you plan on how your students will use their computers in class. If you just let them walk in, open their computers and keep them open the whole time you are begging for them to be off task.
If you want them to use their computer give them direction and purpose. Maybe, they are in a group and are refining notes from early in the class. Maybe they are peer editing other student works. Maybe they are using a specific program to gather or organize specific type of data.
Either way, you decide when they can use it and what they are doing when they are using it.
Don’t use them
Just because your students have a device, it doesn’t mean you have to use it every day. If you want a class discussion and see no benefit to using devices, tell them the class before they won’t need them. If they do bring them, just remind them they won’t need it and to have them put it away.
Remember it is a tool. It is a a very powerful, flexible tool, but it’s not always the best tool for the job. You wouldn’t dig a hole with a screwdriver. As a teacher you need to make this decision and communicate that with your students.
If you’re still with me – thanks for that. This is longer than I intended. Just remember you’re in charge of your classroom. If you let the students be in charge and you don’t like how things are going blame yourself. You let that happen. This doesn’t mean you are powerless to do anything about it. You can make positive changes happen but you have to remember any good classroom management comes down to consistency and following through. Also, that if you don’t clearly set up these routines and expectations at the beginning of the year it’ll be harder to implement later on.
Once these are set up I think you can pull off some incredible lessons and learning opportunities for your students. Have fun with that and know that it can be fun – not a chore.
If you have some good techniques you use be sure to share them in the comments below.