Managing Tech Is Not as New as You Think

Categories: The Classroom
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Published on: September 16, 2013

Whether a school is running a BYOD program or a massive 1:1 initiative, many teachers look at these devices as new challenges—or even problems—in their classrooms.

I disagree.

Tablets, laptops and smartphones should be thought of as just another classroom tool, and they should be managed the same as books, pencils, paper, and every other item on the classroom supply list.

Let’s address the most common complaints.

Distraction

By far the most common. “The students will be Facebooking while I’m trying to lecture!”

Distraction is not a new problem. Students can be unfocused in any number of ways, from reading something from another class to doodling to just staring out the window. If students are texting or emailing one another, it’s no different from passing hand-written notes in class.

I will grant that the pull of technology may seem stronger for today’s students, but distraction is distraction. If students are taking notes on devices, circulate through the class more. Look over their shoulders. If that’s not feasible, ask to see students’ notes from lectures, whether it’s by sharing them with you electronically or by handing over their device.

Forgotten/Drained Devices

“What if a student leaves a device in his locker? What if she forgot to charge it?”

There is an easy counter here: “What if a student doesn’t bring his textbook to class?” Unprepared is unprepared. Just as a student should have the responsibility to bring his pencils and notebooks to class, she should have the responsibility to ensure her device is charged at least nightly if there’s no access to power at school or in class.

In a school where devices are used all day in every class, there should be some plan by the school to get power to students in at least some classrooms or during free periods. However, as a general rule, the students should ensure their devices are ready and available when they’re needed in class.

Troubleshooting Problems

This one’s not so common in a 1:1 because teachers know what the students have and the teachers should have been trained in standard usage. In a BYOD program, the concern is students will have devices the teacher does not know how to use.

My response again is it’s the student’s problem. If a student needs to connect to the wireless network, the teacher’s responsibility ends at providing the wireless password. If the student can’t figure out the device’s email app, it’s not the teacher’s responsibility to teach them. This falls under the same general category of being unprepared for class.

That said, teachers should be aware there is a variety of devices out there. It would be okay to encourage students to use Evernote to take notes, for example. Evernote is available on all platforms. In a Google Apps school, any student who can’t figure out how to access his data on his device should be hitting Google for how-tos. However, it would be unfair to demand students use an iOS-specific app in a BYOD school because there’s a good chance many students will be using Android devices.

In the end, this isn’t so much an education and training problem, or even a professional development issue. It’s simply an issue of mindset. Technology seems like a new challenge because it’s different from many other classroom tools, but in reality, it’s the same challenges in a new form.

Every teacher has a set of classroom rules and expectations of participation. Even if a school has not fully endorsed BYOT or gone 1:1, teachers should be looking at their rules and how they apply to technology.

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