Teacher Strategies in a Digital Classroom
- You are the teacher in the classroom: keep control of student use of devices and when you or anyone is addressing the class, make sure devices are not in use (on the table with screen down, knees toward me, close the lid or lids at a 45% angle). Teacher always has the discretion of when to, or when not to, use the device. Allow use when you need it…not just whenever.
- Keep your management plan in place:
- Set clear expectations and regularly remind your students of the school’s learning policies and acceptable use policies.
- Communicate your expectations about laptop-use at the beginning of every task. How would you handle the off-task or inappropriate activity if it happened with pencil and paper instead of technology?
- What were my expectations without technology (being prepared for class, turning work in on time, staying on task) and
- how do they translate to to the digital environment? There should be consistent consequences in your room for any off task behavior.
- Establish that online classroom behavior is an extension of the classroom and comes with the same rules and expectations.
- Walk around and watch screens: just like you always did before in your classroom as this helps with on-task behavior and support. Students will begin to expect that you are watching. Ask questions about what they are learning, doing, and creating. Have students teach you new things - question how they arrived at their products. Create engaging activities and constructive experiences to help students stay on task
- Teach responsibility: ultimately, we need to teach students to be responsible for their own learning. Laptops empower the students with a lot of tools that can be useful for learning, but at the end of the day, they have to make the choice of learning or not. I constantly remind my students that “I’m responsible for my own teaching, you are responsible for your own learning”. Talk to them about making choices and the consequences of these choices. If they allow themselves to get distracted, ask them to give suggestions for helping them stay on-task, so they feel they have more responsibility over the situation.
- Communicate appropriate use: if you are going to let students use devices when they are done with work, make sure you are clear on what they can do with devices, such as: read, work on other classwork, approved educational games and sites, educational podcasts or videos, update calendar, etc. Build a list of allowed activities based on some examples (adapted from Doug Johnson):
- Read a book (Project Gutenberg has 1000’s of free titles), magazine or blog post of personal (and school appropriate) interest.
- Work on another assignment or check your progress for this or another class.
- Play a pre-approved game that builds skills related to the class. (If you find a game that you feel contributes to your learning, tell me about it and why you think it should go on the approved list.)
- Have a serious discussion with a classmate about a topic in the course using an approved discussion tool (Google chat, classroom communities, etc).
- Listen to an educational podcast or view an educational video. TED talks, Khan Academy, BrainPop, or Mediacast videos are always OK. (Remember to use your headphones.)
- Organize your life by reviewing/updating your calendar, to-do list, or address book.
- Write in your personal journal.
Boredom leads to disruption. Students should expect that when you walk around and do not see one of the established items on the list they will be asked to get back on an approved task.
Classroom Set-up and Roles
- The layout of desks and tables in the room can factor into ease of monitoring screens, leading instruction, or participating in group activities. Think about changing classroom desk set up or changing it during usage of devices to match the landscape to the activity so that you can move around your classroom for conferencing with individual students and "eyeballing" technology usage. To make sure you can see what students are doing on their devices, require that they be kept flat or only slightly elevated. If students are at desks or tables, devices should not be placed in their laps.
- Create roles for students
- Tutorial Designer-Have students use Screencastomatic.com or other screencasting apps to create a tutorial for solving problems or completing processes.
- Designate student note-takers/Scribes on a Google Doc (Scribe of the day!) Then have them share with you to post on Moodle or your Google Site.
- Collaboration Coordinators to connect with others around the world studying the same topic, or with experts.
- Curriculum Review Podcast-Students could record short podcasts as study guides on a topic
- Organize an exit card: Students could create questions for the class on a Google form that then can be used as an exit card for students to complete before they leave, or when they are at home.
- Ask three before you ask me: have students support each other as you will not be able to support all devices in the room. Many students will be adept at using their devices - leverage their knowledge and skills. You do not need to know how to use each and every device, but you should know what it can do.
- Admit to your students that this is a very fluid, evolving process and new to you as a teacher but that you are willing to accept and adapt technology usage as a tool in the classroom. Also let them know that because this is new, there may be new rules and usages brought into your classroom environment as the year progresses and they have a responsibility to follow the guidelines.
- Always have a “Plan B”: sometimes tech has issues, make sure you have other ways to support the lesson or a back-up lesson. Things go wrong at times with all lessons - be ready to respond. It is technology we are working with - by nature it breaks. Be patient and flexible.