Sunday, August 25, 2013

5 #BacktoSchool management tips for innovative educators

A version of this post originally appeared in Partners in Learning 1:1 Hot Topics

Chatting with friends, playing games, cheating, cruising YouTube. These are just some of the behaviors educators fear will become a reality in technology-rich classrooms...unless they incorporate updated classroom management practices. Innovative educators use techniques that keep students’ attention despite the irresistible draw of the Internet. Simple practices transform their devices into tools of engagement rather than distraction.



Here are five management tips that make for a successful technology-rich classroom.


1) Let students know what happens when technology is not in use
Teachers should have a procedure for technology when not in use. This should require just a few words and be very clear. For example if using laptops it may be saying something like, “Pacman,” meaning laptops should be partially closed like a Pacman mouth. If using tablet devices it may be something like “facedown” meaning devices should be placed facedown on desks.  

2) Provide time for distraction
Just like adults, students want some time during a day or period where they can take a mental break. Let them! Tell students when they can have a few minutes during a lesson to do what they want. That may be socializing, checking in with parent or friend, using the restroom, playing a game, having a snack, or continuing on with their work.


3) Partner with students for support
Have students apply to be your class tech support.  Identify a few students who enjoy technology who can help you with device distribution, collection, charging, and troubleshooting. These students can also have routines to set up your device to a projector, video tape lessons or presentations, etc.  


4) Integrate technology into the learning
Rather than seeing social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as the enemy, incorporate them into learning*. Have discussion groups in places like Facebook and Edmodo. Have students Tweet real and relevant reflections or inquiries during class lectures or learning activities. This can work effectively for both secondary (see 10 ways Facebook strengthens the teacher - student connection) and primary students (see Twitter in 2nd Grade or Facebook for 1st graders)


5) Check in
Make sure your lessons have a clear agenda with time for class check ins.  This means that students will know what is expected at a certain time and you will have a way to let them know how to show they are ready. This may mean a) you ask students to hold up devices at certain time with their work on it, b) you ask students to share their work with pairs or groups then report out c) students respond to a poll or open response, etc.  When there are regular check-ins, it is easy to ensure students are engaged.  


These are five useful tips for innovative educators to keep in mind. There are many more. What do you think? Are these ideas ones you could see incorporating into your practice? What are other tips have you found to be successful when teaching in environments where technology is accessible?  

*Note requirements for age i.e. some sites don’t allow students to have accounts until they are 13. In those cases, use a site like Edmodo or ensure student information isn’t collected by using a teacher/classroom account.
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