Thursday, April 5, 2018

Podcast Episode 011: Great Tech-spectations: Managing the Digital Classroom

Great Tech-spectations: Managing the Digital Classroom

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Download Ep. 011: Great Tech-spectations: Managing the Digital Classroom

Intro Segment

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I am a huge fan the work of Dr. Harry and Rosemary Wong. The Wongs’ books and videos on the importance of strong classroom management procedures are the foundation of mentoring and orientation programs for teachers in schools across the nation. His premise is simple: Be clear about your expectations for student activity & behavior in your classroom - take the time to demonstrate it, rehearse it, reinforce  & reteach it when necessary. Only then will you be able to effectively teach whatever subject matter you’re assigned.

It is very true that, in a technology-infused classroom, kids have even more opportunities for distraction. It seems that almost every student has a smartphone in their pocket, so even if a school did not provide devices for kids to use, the likelihood that teachers are going to have to deal with a tech behavior is nearly unavoidable. But, because smartphones are so ubiquitous these days, teachers may either forget to include them or they might think that kids will automatically know how to appropriately use them at school. Either assumption is a recipe for a very difficult classroom. So, it is vitally important that teachers infuse tech expectations into their classroom management plans.

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I am currently reading a book entitled, Classroom Management in the Digital Age: Effective Practices for Technology-Rich Learning Spaces, by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green. They concur with Dr. Wong: Teach the Procedure; Practice it; Monitor, Correct, & Reinforce the Expectation; and, Review as needed. What elements are needed in a tech-enabled classroom?

Turns out, most teachers probably already have the basics for developing a positive digital learning environment already woven into their existing classroom management plans. Here are a few things to consider:

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First: Walk yourself through the day as a student and look at your classroom from their perspective. Do you have something for them to do as soon as they walk through the door? If you establish the expectation that they leave their social lives in the hallway and focus on preparing for the work at hand even before the bell rings to start class, you will have set the stage for a great class. Where is the opening activity or bell-ringer posted? Is it on the whiteboard or the classroom display? Will your expectation be to log in to Google Classroom and find the announcement or assignment that you already have posted? How will you handle devices that need to be plugged in to complete your class today?  Develop the expectation, teach it as a procedure, rehearse it and reinforce it.

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Next: How will you gain kids’ attention? Audible cues are good, but the most effective plans will add a physical response as well. A call-and-respond cue that also includes a rhythmic hand-clap will disengage the student’s brain from the screen and get their fingers off the keyboard at the same time.  Maybe something as simple as calling, “Ready - Sharks!” and having kids partly close their screens at a 30- to 45-degree angle - like a shark’s dorsal fin, as they respond, “Let’s go!” or something along those lines, will help kids break from their gadgets and focus on the teacher. You may also want to figure out a way to incorporate removing headphones or earbuds, too.

Once kids have engaged with your lesson, how will students communicate their knowledge or products to you? Will it be an exit ticket in a Google Form? Will kids turn in a Google Doc or Slides file through Google Classroom, or will they email it to you or drop it in a shared folder instead?

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What happens if students get done with your learning activities early? Please, please, please: Avoid letting kids just play online games to kill time until the bell rings. The Chromebook is a tool for learning, and your class time is much too valuable to waste like that. Let them play games on their own devices on their own time. Time in your classroom should be devoted to learning. Have a list of sites they can visit or a shared folder of activities that will help kids practice or extend their learning about the day’s topics. Use an app like Overdrive that will allow kids to check out a book from the public library to read online. If it’s the end of a unit, have kids take a pre-test over the next unit of instruction so you can assess their knowledge before starting something new. Just don’t make it “busy work.” Please make sure that the activity or assessment you choose is relevant and provides value to the educational process.

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That’s all we have time for today. Please check the show notes for links to the books mentioned in this episode. Later I’ll share more ideas to help you strengthen your digital classroom management skills  and help kids exceed your Great Tech-spectations!

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Resources: - Home of Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.
The First Days of School (4th ed.), by Harry K. & Rosemary T. Wong (Amazon)

OverDrive for Chrome, in the Chrome Web Store (also available on other platforms)

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