Managing Digital Technology in the Classroom

I've just been learning about some awesome tips on how to manage technology in the classroom. The first comes from a wiki on classroom management of laptops created by educators that offer a number of good tips on refocusing student attention. These are my favorites:
  1. Telling students to put screens at "half mast". This means putting the screen down, but not closing it completely hence shutting down the computer. I've always used the prompt: "Put your screens at 20 degrees" which means putting the screen down at an angle for which the screen can't be seen and thus distract students. With Ipads, to get the kids to turn over their devices, simply say "Apples up!"
  2. Consider internet logging software. This is a deterrent to students that may be using technology inappropriately. With students that are collaborating together, there may be a tendency to delete other students work. With my experience with Google apps and the tool: "revision history" I know who deleted what and can model good digital etiquette in a way that screen recording devices cannot keep up with.
  3. There is a range of digital competencies. We think of all students as digital natives, but I find on one end of the spectrum, I have kids that routinely lose and forget to log their username and passwords constantly. On the other end, I have kids that become more adept at tools than me within minutes. Allow and recognize the latter to be mentors for the former.
Image courtesy of CC
Image courtesy of CC
Another interesting read is the horizon report and a common thread within the article is that "ongoing professional development for teachers" and "resistance to change reflects the status quo" as a challenge for teachers in learning new technology tools. With all the recommendations about how these tools can innovate learning, one wonders how a teaching staff learns how to reinvent itself. Completely, or piecemeal?

At our school, we have shared and developed this in a variety of ways. For starters,we have technology resource facilitators that meet with a select group of teachers monthly, who then share tools with the grade level teams. We also have "Ipad Fridays" where a new ipad app is shared in the morning before classes to any interested people. We also have "teachers teaching teachers" which is a inter-school PD forum in the spring and also various conferences in the region. Finally, our literacy coach asks interested staff to share a three minute mini-lesson at the beginning of staff meetings on Wednesday afternoons. Over time, the fruits of these conversations achieve critical mass as one person shares their work with two teachers, those two share with four, and so on.  

Room For Improvement
Image courtesy of CCThe most interesting reads come from Jeff Utecht who makes a good rationale for having Ipads as an ES tool and having this transition into laptops in the older years, but also providing Ipad access. With a 1:1 program for laptops AND Ipads, I think something has got to give. I think that the user interface with the traditional keyboard is great for typing, and therefore more desirable. But Ipads can also play a part within a roving cart that can be rolled into any classroom when needed.

The most interesting argument Utecht makes is that I pads may not reinvent learning in ways that people actually think they do. Using the SAMR model, one must look at the learning products created and ask, are these products the result of modification and redefinition or just an expensive way of doing the old "way" only sleeker looking? If it is a "substituted" use for example, reading a PDF on an I pad rather than a textbook, does an I pad's price tag justify the means? I think not. However, being able to highlight passages and save them to Diigo or share them with other learning communities in a way that augments the traditional way of how texts have been consumed and that's where staff training comes in. When we make decisions about whether to use ipads, laptops or a hybrid model of both, these are some of the questions we must ask.    

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