As workstations, laptops and handheld devices such as iPads and iTouch devices become available to use in the classroom, teachers need to be aware of best practices for managing student use of these devices. Many of these techniques apply to workstations as well.
Using seating charts and asset assignment lists are critically important. Students must be aware they are responsible for the care and use of the device, and that they will be held to account for any damage. There is no way to track back casual vandalism of keyboards and screens if you don’t know who was using the device. Develop ways to engage the students so they take a personal interest in the continuing function of the device. If that means labeling the equipment with numbers or names, that is fine, as long as each device can be connected to a set number of users.
Practice distributing, moving and returning the devices to the cart. Do not allow the students to rush this process, and make sure you give them enough time at the end of the activity so they do it correctly. Make sure each device is plugged in to charge, and make sure any damage is noted and reported immediately. Do not let students leave the classroom until each device has been accounted for and its physical state noted.
If you allow workstation, laptop or handheld use, you MUST monitor the students’ activities. Walk around, keep looking around, and check any activity that is off task. You are responsible for the students’ conduct in class and online. Look for screens turned away from your direct line of sight, watch for sudden window changes and rapid shortcut key use, and sudden movement in your peripheral vision. Students get very good at the task switch command (CMD-Tab or CTRL-Tab) and the minimize command (CTRL-M or CMD-M). Check any suspicious web browsing history, and know that a blank browser history is the sign of off task behavior that is being hidden from you. Also, watch for signs of background applications and windows in the Dock or Start menu. Circulate around the room and keep your head on a swivel.
* Don’t use the computer as a reward system. If a student finishes early, have an enrichment activity ready. Do not allow them to have unstructured “play” time. Unless yours is a study hall class or after school program, have a “No Outside Work in Class” policy.
* Workstations, laptops and handhelds can be searched at any time. Do not be afraid to collect the device and direct the student to a manual method of continuing the activity if you feel they are off task and being irresponsible.
Be aware of camera use. Students frequently turn on the cameras and turn the device into an expensive mirror, and spend time off task primping or taking selfies. Cameras can also be used to record students without their permission, and other students may attempt to do so and post the images to social media.
Hands on desk, device in the center of the desk, no food or drink, no exceptions. Do not allow students to keep the devices in their lap, nor allow them to slide them around the desk.
Close the screen or cover when the teacher is speaking, or anytime the teacher deems necessary. The laptop is not the instructor, so it should be quiet and pay attention when you speak as well as the students. Also, laptop use is NOT required, you are using it to enrich enhancement. Students do not have to use them if they are not needed in your classroom.
Sound off unless it is needed for the assignment. This means no “study” music or headphones unless you as the teacher are providing it.
Watch for instant messaging or chats. While Google Talk is blocked, the collaboration tools within Google Drive are not, and the chat tool can quickly go off the rails.
Create and publish a list of “classroom rules” that dictate how computers are to be used in your classroom. Your rules should include the following:
1. Carry one device at a time, with both hands.
2. Hands on your own device, do not touch another student’s device without teacher permission. This cuts down or “helping” where one tech savvy student does the work of another under the guise of “showing how to do it.”
3. Screens closed and eyes on teacher when teacher is speaking. (as noted above)
4. No food, no drink, hands on desk, etc. (as noted above)
This should be either a school wide agreement or different by classroom, as long as the students follow the rules and preserve the equipment.
Report and note any damage immediately. If a device has been damaged during your class, identify the responsible parties and involve administration immediately. If a device has been noticed as damaged prior to use in your class, make sure the damage is documented and the tech coordinator has been notified. Do not tolerate any abuse or carelessness from students or staff.
Group work is often more effective than 1:1. Even if you have a computer for each student, design activities that encourage collaboration, discovery and discussion. Have students design and create meaningful learning artifacts that provoke thought, interaction, critical thinking and problem solving.