Classroom Management in the Digital Age
For our last summer guest blog post, Mason Middle School Spanish Teacher Lauren Richardson shares her experience of reading Classroom Management in the Digital Age by Heather Dowd. Lauren’s reflection was originally posted to her own blog, which can be found here. –editors
Nothing scares a teacher more than change. For me, this looked like our entire middle school going 1:1 with Chromebooks. I was nervous. I have always been what I consider tech-savvy and aware of trends in the educational technology world. What I was not confident in, however, was how I would manage 28 student devices in an 8th-grade Spanish classroom. To gather as much advice as I could on the 1:1 environment prior to implementation, I consulted Classroom Management in the Digital Age written by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green.
I was worried that I needed to have the Chromebooks out every class, not because the district said we had to, but because of the expectations I had for myself. If I have Chromebooks in my classroom, I am going to use them daily, because that is what a tech-savvy teacher does, right? Wrong. You must first start with purpose. Do you need immediate data on student comprehension? Great use of the Chromebooks. Are you putting a worksheet into electronic form to save copies and to “use” technology? Stick with the copies. As a Spanish teacher, I found certain staples I would utilize in my classroom to use technology meaningfully (Quizlet, Quia, Flipgrid, YouTube). If students were given an opportunity to receive authentic exposure to language and culture, it was a no-brainer to open the Chromebooks. The ability I now have to break down the classroom walls and give students access to an endless list of experts in the field is invaluable. If you are transitioning to a 1:1 environment and are concerned about how much you have to use the device, don’t worry. One week you may use the device two days, another week you may use them every day. The quantity of time that students use the device is irrelevant. The quality of enhanced experiences the technology provides students is what matters. Think first about purpose.
Next came the question of managing 28 devices in one room. Classroom Management in the Digital Age offered some eye-opening thoughts on how to successfully manage all of the Chromebooks entering my classroom. First, if your lesson is engaging, you are incorporating student interests’ and giving students choice and opportunity to explore, management will be minimal. If students are engaged in the lesson, they will not find a need to go elsewhere for entertainment. This challenged me as an educator even more than the past to create lessons that were exciting, relevant, and required higher order thinking skills. Sometimes, however, the lessons that seem best in our minds can fail and we need to call in the management reinforcements. Dowd and Green offered some quick sayings in order to gain student attention and minimize screen distractions. Here are some of my favorites for quick transitions while using devices:
- “45 your screens.” (Students dip screens to a 45-degree angle)
- “Tip the top.”
- “Dock it.” (Students put their devices in the upper right-hand corner of their desk.)
Like most teachers I know, I try to be organized and always have routines in my class. How would I signal to kids that we were using Chromebooks for the day? Would I teach them a routine at the beginning of the year when discussing rules? What would be the consequences for inappropriate use? These were all questions I asked myself; in the end, the procedure of when to take out devices developed naturally.
At the beginning of the year, I simply asked students to be responsible and respectful in their use of their devices. I have found a lot of “management” is avoided by having positive relationships with your students. If you show respect for them and your interest in making class engaging is evident, they will not want to show disrespect by playing games or surfing the internet. They will want to engage as much as they can with you during your class period because you are making it an experience, not just another part of their schedule. Sometimes, I may not know the answer about a vocabulary word when WordReference.com does. It’s okay for my students to log on and look without asking my permission. Sometimes students want to know more of the “why” than I have time to explain. They might need a visual representation instead of the verbal explanation I am offering. Maybe they want to add the Spanish song I am playing to their Spotify playlist. I do not want my students to feel as though they need to ask permission every time they take out their computer.
There is so much more beyond what Spanish language and culture is offered in room 414 and I want them to feel my support in exploring their curiosities. They need to know I trust them. Other educators I know have found success in implementing various procedures in device management such as a Slidedeck (Daily slide indicating agenda and whether students will need devices) or Whiteboard signs (Green side means Chromebooks used, Red side means no devices needed for the day) if classes need a bit more direction. Dowd and Green call these procedures “activators” as they allow teachers to get class started without giving explicit instructions.
The past year going 1:1 at our middle school was more enjoyable that I had imagined it would be. Once the school year began, I no longer worried about how much I was using the Chromebooks and focused on utilizing them as a tool to increase engagement and allow student choice in pacing and activities. Trust me, your students will not question how much you use the devices and parents will not be disappointed if their child does not receive homework electronically on a daily basis. You know what is best for your students; continue to trust that intuition. Keep teaching to ignite student passion for learning and be excited that each child has a portal to explore beyond the curriculum. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Dowd and Green said it best, “Having the right attitude is the single most important trait for navigating, processing and learning in a connected classroom.” Now, get ready to create and experience a learning environment that you wish you had when you were a kid.
Do you have any tips for someone that is entering a 1:1 classroom? Please share not only to me, but to your networks as well. Together we are stronger.