Sunday, May 6, 2018

Don't Panic

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So, it happens in almost any classroom. Kids get distracted. Kids stumble across something that draws their attention away. Or maybe, who knows why, a kid might not be actually all that interested in the subject or the topic or the way it was being presented. Kids just get distracted.

Or sometimes you’ve planned the best lesson on the planet and the tech goes all wonky. For whatever the reason, something goes wrong and it messes with your lesson. It happens.

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Now, in a digital classroom, we’d like to think that the technology can keep kids focused. There has to be an app for that, right? Sadly, no. There’s not always a technology solution for a human behavior. The Tech Department can’t block every possible distraction or click-bait ad, or game site, or whatever. Now, it’s okay to ask because sometimes there’s a new and dangerous - or at least dangerous to educational pursuits - site that kids learn about before the adults do. But just understand that sometimes the answer will have to be “no.” It’s nothing personal.

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So, when the inevitable distraction happens in a digital environment, how do we respond to it? First, don’t panic. It is going to happen. It’s not a reflection on you. Sometimes it’s not even the kids’ fault. Placing blame doesn’t really help anything, unless of course it happens repeatedly and purposefully. If we overreact to the situation, kids might be afraid of potential consequences. We need kids to be comfortable reporting issues without fear of retribution or blame. So try to stay calm, accept it, and assess the situation.

First of all, Tell kids that it is okay if they stumble into something accidentally. Tell them that, if they stick to the sites and activities that you have developed, they should be just fine. Tell them that you understand that accidents may happen, and that if something happens accidentally they’ll be  just fine. But, remind kids that you have a series of consequences in place that will be activated if they willfully go off course. You do have that list of expectations, incentives, and consequences that was discussed in Episode 29, right? Refer to that and reteach all three.

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Next, if the student has stumbled across something obscene or inappropriate, try to fight the urge to instinctively close the Chromebook lid.  In some cases, this action will log the students off and clear the browser history.  That will remove the evidence of any potential mischief. Instead, get a sheet of notebook paper or a notebook or magazine and simply cover the screen, then contact an administrator. Document the time and the student’s name. From time to time, lightly run a finger across the trackpad - don’t press hard enough to click on anything, just enough to keep the device from going to sleep.  If needed, find a colleague down the hall who can either get the administrator for you or who is willing to take possession of the device while you tend to your class activities. When appropriate, you or the colleague should document the student’s name and write down the entire URL, or at least as much of it as possible. the URL. Whatever you do, though, do not interact with it in any way. Let the administrator take it from there.

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If it is a student’s own device, that’s going to be a bit different. If a student is misusing a personal mobile device and you need to confiscate it, the best way to handle this situation is to have the student leave the device on and place it in a clear plastic bag, then notify an administrator. Document the behavior, the student’s name and the date & time on a piece of paper and place it in the bag. Leave the device powered on and place it on your desk and in plain sight of the students present. Leave the device powered on in case the administrator can respond before the device locks and goes to sleep. Under no circumstances should a teacher ever conduct a search of a student’s personal property. Why? Worst case scenario: if there are inappropriate images on that device and you stumble across one, you may have just viewed pornography while supervising students, and that is not good for your professional career.

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What happens when the tech you wanted to use with a lesson goes sideways? First of all, every good teacher makes a back-up plan. Always have either an alternate non-tech method of teaching the same content or have a back up lesson or extension activity to do instead.

When something does go wrong, take a few steps to document what is going on. Are there dialogue boxes or error messages on screen? Write them down. Is there a URL or web address? Remember to write it down. Document what you can see. If you have a cell phone and can take a picture of the screen that’s fine - but ONLY if it is NOT a secure testing situation like PARCC or something.

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The point is - panic is our worst enemy when it comes to tech-related issues. Have a non-tech backup ready for those times. If something inappropriate happens, document it and get help from an administrator. WHatever you do, though, just don’t panic.

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