Responsible Classroom Management

Categories: Philosophy, The Classroom
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Published on: November 16, 2015

Classroom management is evolving with the introduction of 1:1 and BYOT programs and, understandably, some teachers find it intimidating. When students have easily-concealable smartphones or screens that are not immediately visible to a teacher, they find it difficult to tell which students are on task and which are focused on other things.

Fortunately there are several products that make this easier. Districts can choose from several different products to monitor student activity to ensure they are being productive during class. Teachers can see what a student is working on, and in many cases, teachers can see what tabs a student has open in a browser, close some of those tabs remotely, or even lock students’ screens completely.

Many teachers regard these abilities as the savior of their classroom. However, these tools are also incredibly easy to abuse by teachers, and can quickly turn students against them.

When a teacher goes in remotely and closes students’ tabs or simply locks out devices for the entirety of the hour, it creates two different perceptions.

The teacher expects something like this:

To the students, however, it feels something like this:

Clockwork Orange

While the temptation is great to zap every browser tab a student opens that isn’t related to their class work, doing so is going to create resentment in the student. The student is going to seek out a way around being monitored. Everyone deserves a brain break now and again, and sometimes a brief diversion helps develop a thought. It’s not uncommon for adults to multitask, so why should we not expect students to do the same?

For example, I have yet to attend a meeting or conference where most of the attendees (myself included) were not also checking email, visiting Facebook, playing Solitaire, surfing the Web, working on other projects, or otherwise not being 100% focused on the speaker. Can you imagine the outcry if someone sat at the back of the room, managing those adults’ screens?

Digital classroom management should focus more on developing behaviors and habits than micromanaging a student’s time. Teachers should focus more on what is not getting done with class time than what a student is doing at a particular moment. If they’ve been wracking their brains for several minutes, why shouldn’t they clear their head wth a short game? If they’re sweating something that happened during the day or at home and they need to communicate something to someone, is preventing them from doing so really going to solve their problem, or make them any less distracted?

For the students getting their work done, we should not worry about how they spend their time. For the students who cannot or will not manage their time effectively, however, we may need to rethink how we address their behavior.

Take the chronic YouTube watcher, for example. He insists he only watched a video “for a minute or two,” but that minute rapidly expanded into the whole hour. These are the students who get lost in digital time and honestly do not realize how much time has passed. Closing their tabs can be effective in the short term, but doing so over and over only makes them agitated and does little to solve the problem in the long term.

These are the students who need to be taught how to manage their time. Track and show them the time spent on task versus off. Show them how long videos negatively affect their productivity. Teach them the use of time-management tools like Moosti. Work with them on recognizing procrastination. In extreme cases, have the student research study time management techniques and see what they feel will work for them.

This is one example, and experienced teachers or school psychologists will have many more. However, my point remains that a teacher must use these digital classroom management tools responsibly. If teachers uses a digital classroom management package like a weapon, their students are going to respond in kind.

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