Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Classroom Management and Technology Procedures

It’s the beginning of the school year, and that means we spend the first few weeks teaching and reinforcing classroom procedures in order to make the rest of the school year run smoothly. Outlining procedures and norms for using technology devices is a critical factor in successful technology integration.

My personal goals for this year are centered around integrating technology. While there is much I want my students to experience and accomplish, I’ve learned that it’s best to slowly build up to using our Chromebooks. Rather than implementing our daily work plus blended learning environments for reading and math all at once, I plan to give my students time to practice our technology procedures and grow toward more complex uses and increased student responsibility over time. Reinforcing my rules and norms upfront will make all the difference.

Learning Mindset

In my classroom, we operate with the mindset that technology is a tool for learning, not a toy. Can using technology be fun and interesting? Absolutely! It’s my goal to create meaningful and engaging lessons and projects using technology. We use Kahoot to review our content, create beautifully illustrated stories with Storybird, and critique funny short films for their use of story elements.

That being said, we don’t “play” on our devices during school hours, and we don’t have free time in my classroom. Does that seem harsh? I guess I just want to make sure that my students have a learning mindset each time they open their Chromebooks. Our devices are always used for a specific purpose, and knowing that purpose promotes on-task behavior.

My Basic Rules

  • Stay on task
I reinforce this rule by using the same management techniques I use when I’m teaching low-tech. I walk around, check student work, and investigate if I notice something fishy, such as frantically closing tabs as I approach. Checking internet history Google Docs revision history are great ways for me to see what my students have been up to.
  • Follow safe practices
Internet safety can’t be overlooked. As fourth graders, my students must take on some responsibility to protect themselves. Google’s Be Internet Awesome resource teaches students simple rules for safe and responsible internet use. This free teaching tool allows students to play games to learn five main principles of digital citizenship including evaluating the safety of websites, personal privacy and security, and kind online interactions. It’s also paired with a free curriculum for teachers.
  • Respect others
I expect my students to show common courtesy when interacting with others virtually and face-to-face. That means we practice digital citizenship at school and at home. I also continually prompt my students to partially close their screens (I call this “screens at 45 degrees”), remove headphones or earbuds, and make eye contact when someone is speaking to them.
  • Bring your Chromebook to school fully charged every day
As we increase our use of technology on a daily basis, it’s critical for students to come prepared to school each day. With a full classroom, it is unrealistic to allow students to move seats and sit where they can plug in. There just isn’t enough space or outlets to accommodate.

Natural Consequences

In general, I try to make consequences as natural as possible, and I try to avoid taking away a student’s Chromebook because it is an essential learning tool in my class. Here are a few examples of some natural consequences I used last year.

Off task- If students are continually off task and not completing their work, they may have to sit at a desktop computer where I can more easily see their screen, share a computer with a responsible peer for a while, or finish incomplete work as homework. If the assignment we are working on isn’t completely tech dependent, then I may have students work with paper and pencil instead.

Inappropriate actions- This kind of behavior usually involves a call home. These students have to work at a desktop computer where I can see their screen or move to my front table with their Chromebook so I can more easily monitor their work. We also have a series of tutorials focused around our acceptable use policy that students may be required to complete before being allowed to use their Chromebook again.

Low battery- Our Chromebooks have great battery life, so the only reason a student’s battery would run low during the day is if they didn’t charge it the night before. For this reason, my students have to leave their chromebooks in the classroom during our specials class if it is not charged for the day. If Chromebooks are needed in specials that day, that means they have to use a desktop computer or share with a friend.

Incomplete homework- Believe it or not, some students may be tempted to use their Chromebook at home to play games rather than complete their homework. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with using devices to play at home, but not while ignoring homework. Last year I spoke with a few parents and we decided to have their students leave their Chromebooks at school overnight until they could complete their missing assignments. It didn’t take them long to pull it together!

Promoting Problem Solving

Is there anyone more impatient than someone wanting to use technology? Seriously. What was your reaction the last time your internet was slow or you couldn’t figure out how to use a new app? My least favorite part about incorporating technology in my class is providing tech support for 32 students while also teaching a lesson. It’s the worst situation. The last thing I want to do is run around my class showing students where they should click and restating directions. To manage this situation, there are a few things I do to promote independence and tech problem solving.

First, I expect my students to try to solve their problem in at least 3 ways before they ask for my help. They can refresh, logout, reboot, ask a few neighbors, or reread directions. My first question for a student asking for help is “What have you done to try to solve your problem?”  If I notice that many students are having the same problem, then I address the issue with my whole class by having a student use my computer and projector to show the problem and solution.

During my blended learning stations later in the year, students learn online independently while I teach small groups (see Implementing Blended Learning, Blended Learning Explained, or The Student Experience: Blended Learning for more info). I assign a few tech savvy students to be the designated tech support so that I can teach my reading groups without interruption. Having student tech support was a life saver for me!

Also, when I introduce a new app web tool that we will be using, I always give a general overview, demonstrate how we will use the tool, and then I give my students time to explore for a bit. This allows them to have time to try things out before having to apply the tool for a specific purpose. It also increases the expectation that students can navigate on their own, without needing my constant help.

I want to empower my students as much as possible! Persevering and problem solving are skills they will need for life, and they are motivated to practice these skills while using technology because they want it to work. Now is a great time to start! I hope this glance into my classroom helps you as you start your school year!

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