Wednesday, May 2, 2018

3 digital classroom debates

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No two classrooms operate the same way, because kids and teachers are unique individuals. Today I'll offer my opinions on 3 debates I hear often around the staff rooms and lunch rooms of the schools I visit.

  • Screens Up/Down
  • Charging Devices
  • Device Docks
Of course, these are my opinions only, and may not reflect the policies of my employer or principals who have the authority to make such decisions in their own buildings. This is just one teacher's opinions on the subjects. 

Listen to or download Episode 29, or listen on your favorite podcatcher at right.


Welcome back! Today is a follow up to yesterday’s discussion about classroom expectations. Expectations within the digital classroom are not that different from those in a traditional classroom. A few things to think through, though, that you’ll often hear discussed in lounges and lunchrooms in any school you visit:  

Screens Up and Screens Down - Some activities will require students to interact with their devices, and some will not. Train your students to close the devices when you call Screens Down. Then say what you need to say, and when it’s time to get back to work, call Screens Up. The great thing about Chromebooks: they save work automatically, and they only take 8 seconds to power back up, so very little time is lost. The debate is: Will you have a signal, like a hand-clap or a call-and-respond, to get students’ attention, or will you expect students to just know that they should stop typing & surfing when you are talking? Training kids when it is okay to use the device and when it is not is essential to any successful digital classroom.

Charging Devices - Will kids be allowed to charge devices in class, or will they miss class to go get a loaner every time they forget? That depends on how you balance the importance of your class with the importance of student responsibility. I equate this with the analog debate around students who forget to bring a pencil to class - is it worth a detention, or do you just bypass the headache and keep a stash of pencils for kids to use? Regardless of which side of that debate you choose, what is the procedure for dealing with devices having insufficient charge to get through your class? Do kids know it? Have you rehearsed that procedure with them? 

Personal Device Docks - Some people allow the use of personal devices like smartphones in their classrooms; some do not. This is a topic of much debate around the staff rooms and lunch tables at schools, and both sides make valid points. In Illinois, students have the right to have the devices in the school, for the most part, but schools have the right to limit this with “off-and-away” policies. That means that kids can have them but they must be silenced or powered down and left in lockers or pockets or purses while students are in classrooms. In schools that allow them in classrooms, an effective policy is to “Dock ‘Em,” meaning students are to place them in the upper-right or upper-left corner of their desks or tables during class so teachers can clearly see that they are not being used as a distraction during class. On the other hand I also know of schools that use a “Cell Phone Motel,” which is just a box at the door where students are required to deposit their devices as they enter a “No Phone Zone” classroom. This makes me very sad. These are powerful devices and can be very valuable when used appropriately, but kids often need to be taught explicitly what “appropriate” is in classrooms. Taking a little time at the beginning of the semester to provide that training in etiquette can pay big dividends later in school and in life.

That’s it for now - tomorrow, as promised earlier, I’ll discuss arranging the physical space in your classroom. 

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