Classroom Management in a 1:1 World
Managing students with devices in your classroom is a tricky endeavor. On the one hand, the device can be a powerful tool to enable and enhance learning. On the other hand, the vast majority of humans aged 3-110 are incapable of self-regulating their YouTube usage.
Below are 5 tips for helping manage devices in your classroom.
Set clear expectations for classroom culture
I’ve had many conversations with teachers who feel like technology and 1:1 devices are expected to be at the center of the classroom culture and have become so integral to school that they are a student’s right. Students pick up on this, and they realize teachers are afraid to take away their devices. Or, if not afraid, too busy to be inconvenienced by having to adjust on the fly to a digital discipline issue. Setting an expectation for your room that the device is a tool, and that if all the laptops disintegrated tomorrow, school and teaching and learning would still go on, goes a long way towards creating a culture where technology is a tool and not the goal. The device is a tool to enable and enhance learning. If it is an obstacle to learning, it needs to go away.
Physical design and room layout
If you’ve always designed your classroom with your primary position at the front of the room facing students, shake things up. Plan time teaching from behind the students where you can see screens, if not all at once at least in a pass. If you absolutely refuse to move from the podium at the front, mirrors in the back of the room that can give you a glimpse at student screens could help serve as a deterrent. Remember, though, even if you’re at the back of the room and can see all the screens at once, know that the students are professional tab switchers and can move from gaming mode to study mode in the blink of an eye. Even so, don’t make it easy. Stay mobile. Be unpredictable in the paths you take across the room. Keep ‘em guessing and having to switch tabs.
If your district is in the planning stages for a 1:1 deployment, take into account your standard room layout and consider involving IT as necessary when it comes to the need to move teacher workstations or moving where hookups to projectors or other technology are, or for help in mirroring content from a laptop at the back of the room to the screen at the front. The easiest, lowest cost solution for this is a $10 wireless mouse. Plug it into the computer hooked up to the projector, and you can manage the computer from anywhere in the room.
Procedures for quick transitions
Come up with consistent routines for device usage and how to switch between using a device and not using a device, including rapid transitions from whole class instruction to device usage back to whole class. I was a big fan of the “clamshell” command in my classroom - if I said “clamshell,” everyone knew to bring their lid down to about a 30 degree angle, just enough that they couldn’t see their screen or type on the keyboard, but the device didn’t go to sleep. If you’re giving instructions and the students have their screens up, they’re not hearing your instructions.
Plan for screen-free time
If every teacher uses the laptop for the majority of their class period each day, students’ brains are fried by lunch. Intentionally plan for chunks of time each day that are screen free. When doing group projects, have some group roles that require technology and others that don’t. More than that, be bold and plan entire periods each week that don’t involve a device. In my last year teaching in an 8th grade ELA classroom, each week was a rotation between 9 activity centers that took 3 days to complete, and there were never back-to-back centers that required a device.
Use professional tools
As much as classroom management can help with device management, it can’t see everything all the time. A classroom management tool (like Dyknow, LanSchool, Securly Device Console, Apple Classroom, etc.) is vital. I wouldn’t do 1:1 without it. With a tool like this, however, the danger is spending the class as Big Brother watching your students through all of every task, and that’s not a pedagogically sound side of the fence to be on. Instead, leverage the tools judiciously. In the least, you can run a monitoring session for the class period and just look at the activity reports afterward. Were kids on task? Off task? Was there a specific site or activity they were doing to be off task? Can you specifically target those areas? If you need stronger interventions, most of these tools offer an allow-list/deny-list option where you can explicitly allow your students to ONLY access your LMS, or a specific site for research, or only Office to write an essay, or you can allow everything, but explicitly deny that one really annoying site they always waste time on (cough cough YouTube). I wouldn’t suggest investing in a 1:1 deployment without a tool like this in place.