Today's Tech Tuesday post is brought to you by TJ, a 7th grade math teacher from Rialto, CA. TJ was featured in Snarky's Teacher Feature earlier this year and is back with more invaluable advice for managing your tech. Follow TJ's blog for more educational insights.
If you have the opportunity to have technology available to you in your classroom, consider yourself blessed! It’s even better if you have a class set of devices so that each student has individual access during your class time together.
But the class set of devices means that your students are working with something significantly more expensive than (and not as easily replaceable as) a pencil or a book. For me, this made me nervous at first. However, as the years have gone by, there are a few things I’ve learned about managing a class set of devices in my classroom — some through hearing the experiences of others, and some through trial and error. People have different systems in place in their classrooms, but in general, these systems incorporate three main qualities. If you want students to use their time and equipment wisely, make sure three things are in place: clear expectations, focused accessibility, and accountability.
Students need to know how to treat the devices. For some of them, your classroom will be the first time they have used that type of technology. Your classroom might be the only time they get to practice using that technology. You need to be clear on how they should interact with it.
Before I let the students use the devices for the first time, we take some time to go over our technology expectations. I have displayed the expectations as a poster on the classroom wall. I have also had students sign a contract regarding technology use, and they kept a copy in their classroom folder. If you would like, you could give a quiz on the most important parts of the expectations to make sure kids know what they are doing before they get their hands on the technology.
As students came in the door, they went to the charging cart and picked up their Chromebook before sitting down. Most had their Chromebooks and were logging in before the bell rang to start the period. I stopped our work about 4-7 minutes before the end of the period (depending on the behavior of the period) so students could return the Chromebooks to the cart. Sometimes I would let them line up as soon as they had logged off. Sometimes I would dismiss them by table group to line up. In the future, I would probably pick one or the other and be consistent with it.
For returning Chromebooks, I also tried putting a timer up and writing on the board how long each period took to put away their Chromebooks. I also wrote down their best time. This made a number of students move faster to clean up and encourage their classmates to do the same, which was great.
Later, I changed the seating chart and assigned students their seats based on their Chromebook number. For example, the number 8 student in each period sat in the same seat. With this method, I was able to have first period take their Chromebook to their desks, and the Chromebook could stay there all day long. This makes more class time possible, since students don’t have to use up time to return the Chromebooks (except for the last period… and sometimes I would just have them stack the Chromebooks so that either I or a student volunteer could put them away after school).
Technology has the advantage of making tons of programs, apps, and resources available to students at any time. It is not like a video or book where the teacher has everyone working on the same thing. Students can now work on different assignments at their different paces. It will be impossible for you to help everyone at the same time with their different needs. Distractions are everywhere!
If you want them to stay focused on what you need them to do, it is important that students know what to do without your help when it comes to independent work time.
For the password issue, I made a sheet of paper with the student contract on computer use on the front. On the back was a list of all the passwords the student needed for various programs we were using. I gave one copy to each student. I took another copy and stapled it inside a manila folder with their name and number on it. On the wall, I had pocket folders for each number, and students put their folder in there. This made for easy student access to their login information when they forgot it. (I originally had a single folder of just the Chromebook logins, but if multiple people forgot their login info, the wait time just gave them an opportunity to start messing around.) There is the issue of privacy, but my kids did not ever log into others’ accounts. I did have a couple of people who forgot and took their folder home, or they hid someone else’s folder. It does take up a lot of wall space, though. Overall, though, I liked this system because students could get their information independently.
An online learning management system like Google Classroom allows you to assign work and provide many resources so that students can work at their pace. Students can also turn their work in online.
Besides a post on Google Classroom, I would also put a slide up of what students should be doing/turning in, in order, and I would verbally go over it. The slide included the behavior expectations for that activity.
To get students’ attention after they have started using their computer, I modified a procedure I learned at a conference. When I tell students to put the computer into “courtesy mode,” the students close the computer halfway (if they close it all the way, it will go to sleep and they will have to log in again) and rotate it 180 degrees (so the screen is facing away from them and they can’t peek at the screen and try to type). This helps reduce the distraction when you are trying to talk to them. I wouldn’t start talking until all the kids had their computer in courtesy mode, and I would stop talking when they would try to sneak a peek back at their screen/keyboard. If a number of them were pushing the limit, then I made them close the lid completely. They did pretty well with courtesy mode overall.
We all tend to hold ourselves to higher standards when we know that someone is watching us. With the students, accountability is crucial in taking care of your devices.
In my classroom, I used a permanent marker to number all the Chromebooks and the chargers/shelves in the charging cart. Then I assigned each student in each period a number. That was the Chromebook they had to use everyday. I did the same for the headphones they could borrow.
Having a computer monitoring system so that you can see each student’s individual screens on your computer is very helpful. My district has NetSupport, and I can see a small picture of students’ screens or an icon/list with the websites the students are on. I can block certain websites or only allow certain websites. I can lock specific students’ screens and send them a message on their screens. It was pretty awesome when it worked!
If students were not following directions and had already been given warnings, they lost the privilege of using the Chromebook for a day or two. Make sure to follow through on your consequences you have set in place so that students understand you mean business.
it's all about systems
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are clear with your directions and procedures. Designing effective systems is crucial for maximizing time in any classroom, but with the expense of technology, it makes systems even more valuable in a tech-integrated classroom. You don’t want students to have any down time to get off track and start misusing their time or the device.
It will take time and work to get your systems in place before you start using the devices, but don’t let that discourage you. The technology is worth the extra work it takes to prepare to manage it. When you’ve got systems that work, your students will get to experience their education in ways that weren’t possible before, and you prepare them to become citizens of a global society. I wish you the best as you prep your students to become 21st century thinkers!
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