Classroom Management in a 1:1

One of the biggest fears for many teachers heading into a 1:1 environment is the effect on classroom management.  The problem is that the classroom management that happened before the 1:1 is going to be very similar after the 1:1.  If you have good classroom management before, you will most likely have good classroom management after. If you think the devices are causing a problem, look at the true cause of the issue, most the time it will not be because of the computer or whatever piece of technology you are using.  

A student can be just as easily distracted by the “rubber pencil” trick as a computer, but you do not see people screaming for rules for pencil use in the classroom.  Many of the issues with laptops were the same issues many had with students using pencils.  Pencils were used to write notes and be passed around.  Pencils could be erased meaning you could not see what they had written before.  Pencils could be used to harm others.  Everyone had a pencil and you could not see what everyone was doing with their pencil at the same time.  And yet, there is no separate acceptable use policy for pencils.  (On Twitter there was a day where #pencilchat exploded and teachers were sharing similar cases where they would replace the word “laptop” with “pencil” when discussing the issues some had with computers in the classroom, funniest day ever.)

There is a lot of change that can happen when we switch to a modern learning environment that allows us to use the technology in the classroom that we have available so easily outside of the classroom.  It is 2014 and our learning environments need to reflect this as we prepare the students to live and learn in their futures, not our pasts.  The following tips are ones that I have heard/read from others or ones from my own experiences.  The key is to remember that we are constantly learning as teachers and that if we do not adapt to the new normal, we may not survive.
Top Tips
  • Set expectations and guidelines before you start.  Let students know that learning is the focus and what will happen if they are being disruptive.  Use the same consequences as before but remember that taking away a computer from a student for the day should be the last step.  You can have them put it away for your class but that computer may be a big resource and tool in another class.  If you gave detention before for a student passing notes or for being disruptive, do so now.  Have a system for when you want them to close the computers or at least close them most of the way so their focus is on you.  
  • Be visible, the best app for classroom management is still the “2 Feet” app.  If the student knows you will not be walking around to see what they are doing, then they will feel comfortable playing that game or chatting.  If you think they were on a site or somewhere they weren’t, check their history.  On a Mac, holding down “command” and then hitting “tab” will show you what programs they have open so you can easily see what they were doing last.
  • Make sure the lesson is engaging.  If a student was disengaged before and the lessons haven’t changed, they will still be disengaged from the learning.  Students have always been daydreaming or just not paying attention in class, especially if it is a lecture that goes well beyond their attention span.  The computer may just make their disengagement that much more visible than before, probably not any worse.  A good lesson, one that is student centered and engages them in the learning process, is still the best way to manage a classroom.
  • Know when technology is appropriate and when it isn’t.  Technology will not be the tool for every learning activity so it is ok to put it away.  This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of using technology just because a student may get off task, that would be like being afraid to drive because you might get a ticket.  Even in my classes we would not be using technology all the time, only when it added to the learning experience.
  • Be prepared.  Think ahead to what might happen and try to have a plan in place.  Do not try something the first time with students and expect it to work perfectly.  Do not be afraid to let the students help if the technology is not working the way you want.  Also know ahead of time the signs that a student may be off task, and instead of just punishing them you can direct them back to the learning activity and focus on how they can improve as learners. If their fingers never leave the arrow keys or the “home row” of the keyboard, they are probably playing a game.  If you are researching a grim topic and they keep smiling or laughing, they are probably watching a video. 
  • Use the disruptive moments as “teachable moments”.  Students are still learning how to learn in a digital world, they are not as native as many would think.  Some of the benefits to a student going through a 1:1 environment before college or the work place is that we can help them learn when it is appropriate and when it isn’t to be doing certain things on a computer.  We are teachers, we should be helping them learn in all aspects of the learning environment.  We are not going to ban everything or lock the devices down, that does not help them learn anything.  We are not babysitters, we are teachers.
  • Focus on the 4Cs of collaboration, creation, curation and critical thinking.  These should be key to any 21st century learning and can create a learning environment where the students are engaged and focused on their learning.  We want our students to be creators of their knowledge, not just consumers.  They need to learn how they can work together collaboratively to reach a common goal.  They need to be able to find and curate information/resources online and know how to tell if the information is good or not.  They also need to be thinking critically about what it is they are learning.  We can no longer expect students to sit in a class and be taught to for 45 minutes, they need to be active participants and directors of their learning.
  • Lastly, be patient.  Remember that it is hard for anyone to be on-task perfectly for 45 minutes.  I know many teachers who have trouble doing that in staff meetings or in their own classrooms.  Students are still learning how to learn and it is our job to help them.  Students will be living in an even more digital world than we can expect and we need to try to help them as much as we can, set them up to succeed.
Other Resources

One thought on “Classroom Management in a 1:1

  1. Great points to consider, Patrick–especially “the computer may just make their disengagement that much more visible than before”. Very true. At another school district during staff meetings or professional development gatherings, I always found it interesting to see how many staff members were surfing the net rather than engaging in the activity or listening to the guest speaker.

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