When we began preparing for our laptop program rollout, teachers were excited but a bit nervous.  One thing we’ve tried to do is give them a chance to communicate with us and with one another about the challenges they see in the year ahead.  We began a Google Doc for them to use to share their questions, fears, and frustrations as they thought about how their classroom would change after our 1:1 rollout.

One topic where lots of questions arose was how to manage a classroom in which every student had their own laptop.  What would happen, they asked, when students weren’t paying attention, were using laptops to cheat on tests, were too busy chatting online to contribute to classroom discussions?  What about students who forgot their laptop, didn’t charge them before class, or had a problem serious enough to render their laptop inoperable?

During our Digital Learning Summer Institute, teachers got a chance to think more about these questions and how their own teaching style would mesh with managing a 1:1 classroom.  Here’s how we got the conversations started…

Our institutes are known for keeping teachers engaged and interested in the content through lots of interactive and kinesthetic activities.  To begin this discussion, we placed several plastic “bugs” at each table while they were at lunch.  When the teachers returned, we began with the premise “What bugs you about teaching in a 1:1 classroom?”  and shared the responses we had received via the Google Doc:

What bugs you?

We then tried to put each concern into context.  What we wanted them to see was that the problems are nothing new – kids have been socializing, cheating, and coming to class unprepared as long as there have been classrooms.  The technology isn’t changing the problems we see – it’s just changing the tools students use to do the things that have always bugged teachers.  To bring this point home, we invited them to watch as we showed video clips from “Modern Classrooms” and used those to discuss the issues at hand…

The clips were from the Prelinger Collection at the Internet Archive.  Remember those cheesy 1950s and 60s educational videos?  Seems that many of them document the same issues our teachers are worried about in a laptop environment.  What we wanted our teachers to see was that for the most part, what worked for them before will work for them now.  The discipline structures needed to manage a classroom well don’t go out the window just because every student is sitting in front of a 13″ screen.

Here’s an example from our talk on keeping students on task – the clip is from the Young America Films entitled “The Procrastinaor


After the video we talked about what used to distract students from their work:  Comics tucked inside a binder, notes from friends, listening to music, and more.  We then talked about the new distractions that come with a laptop like playing games or surfing shopping websites.  We asked teachers, “How did you manage these distractions before and will the same strategies work now?”  For the most part, they found that most issues could be resolved using the same strategies they were already using:

After going through each of the 7 issues that teachers identified (Preparation, Socializing, Keeping on Task, Forgetting Materials, Cheating, and Bullying) we gave them a chance to talk to one another and to share strategies that had worked for them.

You can see a video version of the entire presentation here (be patient, it takes a while to download) or you can download a pdf copy of the presentation on my website under Files to Share.

To culminate, we placed “bug boxes” on each table to collect all the things that were bugging them and then asked them to continue their discussions throughout the week by writing their personal bugs on slips of paper to share with others.  By keeping the topic on the light side and making sure to give them time to talk to one another, they began to realize that they truly will be in this together when the year begins. They also realized that if they prepare lessons that are engaging while developing a management strategy that matches their own classroom philosophy, their chance of a successful rollout is much higher.

Do I think that this one activity will solve all the problems that come with managing a 1:1 classroom?  No.  But I do hope that if nothing else, it gave teachers a chance to think about what they need to do to get their own classroom ready.

How do you prepare your teachers to manage a technology-rich classroom?  I’d love to hear your ideas and strategies!

6 Responses to “Managing the Modern Classroom”
  1. The way you facilitated this discussion among your teachers was genius! Of course students are going to be off task and come to class unprepared. (I spent my entire 7th and 8th grades writing notes to my friends.) Using the old video really hit that idea home. It’s all about motivation, engagement, and lots of supervision. I know teachers who hand their kids the laptops and then sit behind their desk and grade papers. It’s really important that teachers circulate through the class. A remote desktop software that allows you to see/control the laptops is a good idea too. A short message from me that said, “Get back to work!” across their computer screen was a lot more effective and less disruptive than walking up to the student and scolding them in front of their friends. Great post!

  2. mindelei says:

    What a wonderful way to bring your teachers together and move in a positive direction toward something that was essentially a fear in the beginning. I look forward to hearing more about how the year progresses as your staff members grow in support of one another and the technology that will be bringing their classrooms to a new level of education.

  3. [...] seems to me that Milobo’s Musings on Managing the Modern Classroom could just as well be generalized to Managing the Modern Attention [...]

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  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sharon Elin and baldy7. baldy7 said: RT @sharon_elin: A classic post every educator can relate to & learn from, by @milobo: http://is.gd/3AMds [...]