By Teachers, For Teachers
The introduction of mobile devices into the classroom has radically redefined how teachers can organize instruction and, for some, has redefined their classroom management. Students have a device on hand that can connect them to nearly anything at any moment, giving them the freedom to seek out relevant classroom information or communicate their ideas from the comfort of their desk.
But like every story, there are also some equal and opposite downfalls—the gadgetry has also ushered in an era of unprecedented distraction. These same liberties also mean that if students wanted to play games or find other distractions, they could quickly do so without the teacher knowing.
In response to this classroom management dilemma, many districts banned iPods, cell phones, and iPads initially. Quickly, however, it became apparent that their advantages should at the very least be explored, leaving us to answer the all-important question—how can we maximize the use of mobile devices while minimizing their potential for distraction?
Here are six straightforward tips for managing mobile devices in your classroom:
There’s nothing new about supervision software for teachers, as computer labs have been equipped with programs like Vision for some time. Software (i.e. Casper Focus) has been developed for iPads and other tablets that allow teachers to monitor and even control the screens of their students. In most cases, though, the decision to use this tech is made and managed at the district level.
The simplest way of managing your student tablet use is simply using what some call the “Two Feet, Two Eyes” app—which means that you walk around your classroom and monitor activity the old-fashioned way. Thankfully enough, proximity control works just as well for tablet use as it does for controlling other student behaviors.
In addition to walking around, you could reconsider how the desks are arranged to make supervision easier.
Set Expectations and Consequences in Advance
This advice is classroom management 101, but when you bring in mobile devices, you have to seriously rethink both your expectations and repercussions. What will you do when a device constantly distracts a student? What will you do if a child forgets their device or it runs out of battery? What will be considered acceptable or unacceptable use at any given moment?
On a local level, you can create a “Device Prison” box where naughty devices have to spend the period. But if you have a bigger issue, you can ask your tech department to revoke access to distracting channels. Try to avoid consequences that involve the student losing complete access to the device for long periods of time, but if extended restrictions are warranted, it may be best to work with your administration to determine which are worthy first.
When students tilt their devices up or have them squished into their laps, they are hiding the screen from you. This doesn’t automatically mean they are doing something they shouldn’t, but it is often a telltale sign. To fix this, require your students to place their devices flat on the desk while in use—it makes them more accountable for their actions and allows you to monitor their usage more readily.
iPads are a tool, and just like anything else in your toolkit, there are times when they aren’t the right ones for the job. Take the time to assess when it’s most appropriate to use their devices and be consistent with how they are used. This will help students understand when the tools are helpful and or detrimental.
What other tips do you have for managing the use of electronic devices in your classroom? What techniques help students best use these devices and keep from being distracted? Tell us all about your experiences in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.