a love and hate relationship with technology.
Hate is probably too strong a word, but there are days that technology
does not make my job easier. I am not
talking about the multiple uses for it in the classroom, I am talking about
managing technology in general.
of our students interacts with some sort of technology on a regular basis. We may like to kid ourselves about the use of
technology, but the reality is, our students are growing up in a digital
age. They have more computing power in
one cell phone than the first moon launch did. ZME
Science states that the Iphone 6’s clock is 32,600 times
faster than the fastest computer used in the Apollo era computers and could
perform instruction 120,000,000 times faster.
Used correctly, this is a powerful tool in the hands of our
students. Used incorrectly, we look at
pictures of chemistry cats and play video games.
issues with technology have less to do with the use of it and more to do with
the management. With a background in
physical and health education, I am not a fan of technology in the
classroom. However, I have used it
effectively in many ways. And yes, even
I have had students pull a cell phone out in the middle of an active game or
activity to check messages, which has given me pause.
in technology have made our lives significantly easier. I do like the appropriate use of
technology. Classroom management
software, educational software, curriculum software, and the vast array of good
programs out there allow me to more effectively present information. If used properly it can be an amazing
educational tool in your classroom.
speak from a classroom management issue, it can become an absolute nightmare for
a teacher. Students, and adults, are
addicted to technology. We get that a
hit of dopamine as we expect the reward of a social media message, text, or
other “ping” from our device and we feel good about it. We become dopamine addicted to social media and
it eats up our time as is presented by Trevor
Haynes a research technician in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard
University in a recent study.
We are in a struggle for time over technology in our classrooms.
students are masters of using technology.
They know how to do the finger swipe from screen to screen to hide what
they were seeing. They have multiple
screens open at any one time. These are
the students who think they can multi-task but really are distracted by social
media, games, music, video or any other form of programming they can
access. It is inhibiting their
relationships and there is even good research being presented that suggests
that the cell phone that is turned off and stowed is impacting the students
learning. As suggested in a recent
article on Edutopia.org,
students who split their time between learning tasks and cell phone or Facebook
performed poorly when compared to students who did not split their time. With this information in mind, what can I do
as a teacher to manage the technology use in the classroom?
is an easy answer if you have a clear technology policy in place for the
school. The school should have an agreed
upon acceptable use policy for electronic devices in the school and classroom
setting. With an acceptable use policy,
the students, teachers, and administrators can identify key behaviors, times,
and places that are acceptable within the school. In an era of cyber-bullying, online
harassment, sharing of test information, and many other nefarious uses, this is
not just prudent behavior for a school, it is necessary and even required. There are many good examples of Acceptable
Use Policies by schools, the following are some good examples as points of
These are just some
examples, found through searches on the internet, of good quality acceptable
technology usage. Are they perfect for
every school? Of course not. You must address the individual issues within
the school setting. With a clear policy
in place, the school and the teacher have a strong foundation for addressing
appropriate internet and technology usage.
As the administrator, you
must ensure that the teachers, students, and the parents are aware of the
policy and the enforcement of the policy within the school setting. You must ensure that teachers support his
policy and fairly enforce it within the context of their setting. I say fairly rather than equally because the
ultimate usage of technology is up to the teacher. Each teacher must make the decision of how
they will manage technology in the classroom within the guidelines of the school.
As the classroom teacher,
you must ultimately make the decision about how you will best utilize
technology within the classroom in relation to student learning. This includes cell phone use, laptop or
computer use, and any other technology that is available. You must also decide what is personally
acceptable to you as an educator in an era where you may find yourself being
videotaped, voice recorded, or pictures being taken of you without your
permission. Some of these are a decision
that the school policy may resolve while others are decisions you must make
Focusing on acceptable
use at the beginning of the year is the best time to resolve issues. This is where involvement and buy in with the
students is critical. There are many
methods a teacher could use to address the management of technology in the
classroom. However, the most critical is
the decision of the comfort level of the teacher with technology use in the
class setting. Some questions that you
might ask yourself before speaking with students are:
the students use technology in the classroom?
the students use their own device or a school owned device?
the school require monitoring software on all computers? What happens if a student does not have that
software on the computer?
is your comfort level with students using technology independently in the
students allowed to use social media in your classroom during instruction?
is the consequence if a student uses technology inappropriately in the
will a student know when it is acceptable to use technology for non-academic
purposes and when it is not?
As the educator, you need
to set clear expectations for the use of technology in the classroom. However, we must also recognize that students
will find ways to work around the rules and expectations we set. This is especially true if we do not include
them in the discussion and only dictate the rules to them. Worse, if you outline one set of rules, and
the teacher next door does something completely different, the students will be
upset and work to disrupt the teacher who has set stricter expectations. However, if you involve the students in this
discussion on what is acceptable use, they will support the class expectations
that are set, especially if they believe that they are responsible for its
development and the usage is fair to the class setting.
Students want to know why
they must follow a direction or rule.
Students are just like adults in that regard and knowing “why” is a fair
request. Providing the explanation as
more than “because the school policy says so” or worse “because I say so” is
critical. So is allowing flexibility
under the guidelines. Consider how we
use technology in the school as an adult.
We use it to communicate, check social media, email, set appointments,
and many other uses. If we tell students
to not do these things, then do them ourselves, we create a natural conflict. However, if we allow for appropriate use of
technology in the classroom, we must teach the students what that looks like.
In addition to creating
your own class expectation of technology and agreeing to it, one must also
teach appropriate use. Ideally, this is
a school-wide instruction on how to use technology appropriately. In this manner, consistent uses of technology
can be shared school-wide. However,
absent this expectation, the teacher must provide this instruction. Regardless, the teacher must provide at least
minimal instruction on what the expectations are, and look like, within the
classroom. Model appropriate use. Discuss it in class. Allow them time to use technology
appropriately. Reinforce appropriate
behavior. And most importantly,
respectfully address breaches of the class technology expectations.
This is not to say that
we allow students free reign within our classroom to use technology as they see
fit. We must identify that this would be
a problem. Instead, it is to provide
instruction and guidelines on technology use, especially as we technology in
class or in professional settings. The
complex issues of cyber-bullying, online harassment, and abuse need direct
instruction and clear guidelines.
However, copying information from sites or even plagiarism or using
copyrighted material are not clear. We
must instruct on these topics, so our students understand rather than assuming
what they know and finding ourselves addressing issues of academic honesty.
From a purely management standpoint, it is
recommended that the teacher uses some form of a sign, non-verbal image or
signal to alert students when they might use technology freely. Identify when students must use strict
classroom expectations, and when they may have flexibility in its use. Realize one very important point though,
unless you have the ability to fully control the electronics devices in the
classroom, you do not have full control of the management of the devices. It is a hard reality, but a reality none the
Some teachers choose to
require students to check in cell phones early in class and get them at the
end. Some teachers have a holding area
for technology where items are stored.
Some teachers choose to allow students to use devices freely in class
with minimal expectations. There is
nothing wrong with any of these options.
It depends on you, the educator or administrator, to determine
acceptable levels of use.
As my background is in
health and physical education, I can not highly stress the importance of breaks
from technology. Provide students with
options to technology use or simply times for the students to have breaks. Students do need to disengage from technology
and have discussions that do not require electronic devices. This is where a teacher can bring in Socratic
Seminars or other discussion strategies to engage students without devices.
Finally, on can not
address the issue of a technology use policy without addressing the consequences
for violation of said policy within the school and classroom. These must be reasonable, enforceable, and
appropriate for the environment. The
students will need technology for use in their classrooms or simply for communication
during the day. To simply take the
electronic devices as a consequence, while effective, results in the teacher or
administration being responsible for damage to the device. In addition, the student may have a
legitimate need to use the device during the day and loss of it would create a
hardship for the student and teachers. That
being said, there should be a consequence for the student who continues to
violate the technology use policy. That
may mean checking the device into the office in the morning, or not bringing a
laptop to school. The more creative a
school can get with this, and the more the student is responsible for the consequence
and re-education of the use of the device, the more effective the consequence
will be. However, for this to be
effective, consequences must be consistent and enforce the policy. The greatest challenge the administrator will
face is inconsistency within the school in this regard.
I would strongly urge
anyone looking at technology use policies to do their research and step into
this process with a reason for why you are doing it. Do not simply exclude technology from your
program. Nor should you allow free reign
of the use of technology with no restrictions.
Find the place where you are most comfortable and start there. Review your plans, whether they are policies
or classroom management within six months of implementation and ask “how is it
working?” Make adjustments as necessary
as issues arise until the school is comfortable with the policy and management
All schools must face the
issue of technology head on as it is not going away. Determine what is your belief about the use
of technology and form your documents and plans around that belief. It can be a difficult process but ultimately
sets your school up for success moving into the future.
Feel free to contact us
here at International School Leadership and Teamwork about the management of
technology in the classroom or other classroom management policies.