Monday, May 8, 2017

The Big Picture- Classroom Management in the Digital Age

Two things sent me searching for a great resource on classroom management in a 1:1 environment:

First, we went 1:1 Chromebooks in all of our junior highs this past January. In preparation, Instructional Technology met with administration on each campus to discuss their plans for roll-out, implementation, and management of all the devices. Part of this was looking at how classroom management would be affected school-wide now that every student would have his/her own Chromebook. Not surprising, the first line of defense if a student used the device for off task behavior in class was to take away the Chromebook. Yikes!

Then, I was asked to present on the 1:1 initiative at a junior high during a PTA meeting. New audience: parents. Many of them shared concerns that no real learning could possibly happen if students had a Chromebook in their faces every day in every class. They saw how their students acted with smartphones and tablets. It would be a distraction. It would be a lazy way for teachers to teach. It was also dangerous. Online predators are everywhere! Yikes again!

Both of these shined a light on the real concern here: have we properly prepared our teachers to strengthen and/or adjust their classroom management to integrate technology and these devices smoothly into their lessons and classrooms?

All great educators know that adding a device does not mean a complete collapse of the current discipline system. We work with it. We adjust. We are flexible. The next question becomes: how do we encourage and support teachers who currently struggle with classroom management? The challenges will continue and possibly be heightened with 1:1 devices.

I needed something I could recommend to administrators, instructional coaches, and/or teachers that would help with this.

I am a big believer in signs. How timely was it that this Tweet happened across my feed at just the right moment?

Let’s start with the fact it is a thin book. Perfect. I have a lot of things I would love to read but not the time to spend on tomes of information. Next, there are only four chapters. Each one addresses a key component of classroom management including actual strategies and how to connect with parents. These are important factors when suggesting it to others. We know how busy we stay in education. Classroom Management for the Digital Age by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green is compact and to the point! So far, total win!

Cosmetics aside, I was hooked from the Introduction where it is explicitly stated, “Don’t Take Away the Digital Tool” and followed with a perfect comparison to the days of yore when students would pass notes instead of paying attention in class. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As mentioned earlier, each chapter has a focus that reminds and reinforces what strong teachers already know to be true about classroom management. The book simply adds a tech twist. In Classroom Procedures, the idea that “good teaching practices before devices were in classrooms are still good practices today” is emphasized by the idea that students should always know the day’s learning objectives and how those can be posted and accessed digitally. This also enables parents to see what students are focusing on day-to-day.

One of my favorite updates to solid strategies is the “Ask 3 Before Me” idea highlighted in Classroom Rules and Expectations. Instead of asking three classmates before asking the teacher, as it was done in the past, the new “3” include: peers, Google, and YouTube. You can download a poster of this for your classroom. It is time we empowered students, with necessary support, to find and filter information for themselves!

This method appears again in Teaching Tips and Strategies where educators are encouraged to “give students the opportunity and responsibility to solve authentic problems.” This chapter helps with that by giving, well, tips and strategies. The best thing about everything suggested in this chapter? They are not new ways that teachers have to learn from scratch. Everything in here is what smart educators already know and do! It is just a matter of finding where technology/devices fit.

Before I speak about the last chapter, I want to revisit my first “Yikes” moment. The book calls it “techno panic” when administrators and educators have knee-jerk reactions to behavior going awry with devices in the room. I like this term because it describes exactly what happens when taking away the device is the immediate consequence the first time a student is either off-task or using it inappropriately. Just because a kid is disengaged in one class, doesn’t mean he behaves the same in all classes. If that device is confiscated, both the student and his teachers are basically punished in every other class period. Not cool.

One of my co-workers pointed out that if a student was cutting her hair instead of the paper with scissors, then the teacher should take away the scissors. I agree. However, that is a different level of infraction. A kid checking her e-mail periodically in a new tab is different than one who is misusing the device to bully or spam or access inappropriate content throughout the day. It comes down to behavior not the device.

The last chapter, Partnering With Parents, wonderfully addresses the “Yikes” I express when I hear the fears and misunderstandings that parents have when it comes to going 1:1. The important point is that parents are “[engaged] in conversations around the value of 1:1” in the classroom. Once they see why, then it becomes a matter of continuously communicating and inviting them to be part of the learning process. I am starting to realize that parents are our forgotten audience. We spend a lot of time educating teachers on the importance of student inquiry and creation with technology. How often do we really reach out to our community of parents to answer their questions and ease their concerns? This book steps us in the right direction for this.

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better resource. I recommend this book every chance I get especially since we are currently planning with our high school administrative teams to go 1:1 in August. Classroom Management in the Digital Age is an informative, timely, and quick read. Get a copy. Have a book study. Spread the word!

Lydia Croupe
iTeam Lead-Instructional Technology
Richardson Independent School District
Google Certified Educator
Seesaw Ambassador
Remind Connected Educator
Flipgrid Ambassador
Richardson, TX

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