When a classroom full of students gets their hands on tech, whether it’s laptops or tablet computers, this can either creative productive harmony or chaos. It all depends on how you manage it.
So, how do you keep kids who have the Internet at their fingertips on task? How can you ensure they use the tech appropriately and take proper care of it as they’re learning computer skills?
With a lot of personal experience and some great feedback from our followers, we came up with this concise checklist to help you maintain order and focus in your classroom during computer activities.
Set computer rules together
Before breaking out any new technology, have a class discussion about rules and best practices to follow. Reinforce that the computers are there to reinforce learning, not distract from it. Then, create a poster with the rules and display it prominently. Click here for 10 classroom rules for using computers that we recommend in any classroom.
Set up classroom seating for a better view
Consider arranging seating in a circle with the kids facing outward. This way you can stand in the middle and see every student’s screen. If that’s not practical, be sure to regularly circle the room so you can keep an eye on each student’s screens.
From my own experience, one of the most distracting things was a student clicking their mouse when I was trying to give instructions. Distracting for them and for me. So, to stop them from playing around while I spoke, I would say “mice up!” and all the students had to turn their computer mice over. I would have them turn their monitors off as well to help eliminate the visual distractions.
Use triggers to help them listen to instructions
One teacher I know had a tactic using red cups. Each student had a red cup, and when she was giving instructions they were to put their cup behind them. Then, when it was time for them to work on their computers they would put the cup in front of them. This simple trigger did wonders for keeping students focused on the task at hand.
Consider allowing concentration music
Concentration music is a fantastic way to help students focus on their computer tasks, and it also helps to reduce talking and other noise as the students work.
Mrs. Matheny from Alma Intermediate school reports:
We like to listen to concentration music from youtube and we use a 15 minute timer. I also use Symbaloo to embed the music from youtube so students do not just have “access” to any song and do not have ads.
Mrs. Wood, of Trending Tech in TN shares:
I play instrumental jazz via class speakers for [students] w/o earbuds & for [students] that parents didn’t give consent.
Teach kids to troubleshoot
Explain what to do if they encounter certain problems, such as their device running out of battery power or headphones not working. Post a “troubleshooting tips” chart within easy view. For younger kids, work through the solution with them. For older students, implement the “ask 3 before me” procedure, encouraging them to independently find their own solutions.
Set daily goals
Simply telling students “go work on this” isn’t sufficient. Students should have specific goals to accomplish. Have students write them down at the beginning of class. At the end of class, they can check off what they actually completed and turn the form into you.
Have a procedure for when they’re done with an assignment
When they’re finished with an assignment, have the students close the laptop lid or turn the tablet face down. This not only helps you to quickly assess how many of the students are finished, it also keeps students from wandering around on the Internet. As students may work at very different paces, we recommend that you always have something for students to do when they finish early.
One great way to reward early finishers is to allow them to play one of our typing games. This enables them to have fun and be productive at the same time. Check out our teachers’ guide to typing games to help you choose the right game for your class.
Post a wall chart or keep a logbook where students can indicate when they’ve reached a goal or mastered specific computer skills. Utilize reward programs you have in place for other activities for computer work too. This will give students something to work toward, and thus keep them more focused during the activities.
Teach respect for devices
Have students use the same device each time so they know they are responsible for it. Have a procedure for properly wrapping up and putting away accessories like headphones and power cords. Explain proper handling and along with the impact a broken computer can have on the entire class.
Give students responsibility for maintenance
Instead of handing out the computers yourself, have two students do it. Rather than taking on the chore of making sure everything’s charged up, assign a tech monitor to that job. This frees you up for other things and gives kids a sense of ownership in the process.
Kids plus tech is a powerful learning combination, but it does come with challenges. By following these tips, you can make the most of tech in your classroom – and keep that door to distraction closed.