Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Distractions - Managing Devices in the Classroom

It takes one frustrating class period with students to cause the idea of using devices in the classroom to go to the back burner.  They were distracted! They wanted to play games, take pictures of themselves, text their buddies.....  
Here are some ways to make the experience easier on the teacher and at the same time teach students how to be better users of the devices they have in their pockets.  
Establish Clear Expectations
As with any new activity of course!   When can they use them, how to handle them, what accounts to use, etc...  With older students, especially classrooms using BYOD or iPod touch labs, require that the devices stay on top of the desk (no in the lap texting/game playing), and when not in use “turtle” them or “apples up” meaning the screen is asleep and facedown.  Post your expectations and have consequences for not following them.  The more you use the devices, the easier establishing a routine will become.
Finding Your Workflow
I know what app, I know what I want them to do, but they know more than me!  Please remember, you don’t have to be an expert.  Allow the students to explore the app before using it for an assignment or let them figure it out on the way.  We had a post last fall from a classroom teacher on this very topic: Let Them Explore.   
If it is a creation app, make sure to do a quick sample and figure out the workflow to turn in the assignment.  Will you view it on their device, can it save to their photo album, will they email it to me? Everyones workflow may be a little different, but make sure you decided on that before hand.  

How to Use the Device for Learning
Students need to be exposed to the tools loaded on the devices.  If its BYOD, have them download tools on to their own devices that will teach them to use their device beyond games and their social networks.   
What about how to search for good sites for references or teaching them about copyright issues?  Common Sense Media is a great place to look for lessons pertaining to researching, copyrights, as well as how to be a responsible digital citizen for grades K - 12.  
But They are Still Distracted!
There have been discussions on the distractibility of all the new technologies we use in our everyday life.  It’s not just our students, we too are more distracted than ever (look around at the next staff meeting!)  With iPads there are settings options, like Guided Access, to lock a student in an app, but with high schoolers with their own devices, it’s not that easy.  
In the blog post “Teaching a Distracted Generation to Focus” on Technapex the author discusses the findings of a study on just how distracted we all are.  A great suggestion in the post on taking “Tech Breaks” caught my attention.  It’s the opposite of what it sounds, when teaching class, stop and take a couple minutes to allow students to check their devices, then put them back on the desk and get back to work at the task at hand.   Rather than fighting students throughout the lesson, set a “tech break” in the middle of a lesson, then focus back to the lesson... turn it off/asleep and turtle on the desk. 
Remember, there will always be and always have been distractions in classrooms....note passing, comic books inside the textbook, even the cool mechanical pencil! Do you have any tips and tricks for helping deal with the "distractions" with students? Please feel free to share what has worked for you!

photo credit: blakespot via photopin cc
photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

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