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:
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.
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!