A big challenge I’m finding and am continually working to get the knack of is how much time to allot to many of the in class exercises. This is particularly a challenge when it coincides with the many needs to differentiate with lots of the classes wherein I assist. How to pace the block period is an adjustment to continually make as many of the technology tools are new and I try to gauge if the work given is to easy or to hard for each student.
On his blog Dean Groom writes in 23 things about laptops in the classroom stated in point #2 “work avoidance just went digital” so true. In this regard some habits or excuses of students will perpetually be the same regardless of the medium. I’ve learned from experience to head this one off at the pass and state clearly at the beginning of the unit that concerning assignments students are responsible for their technology to work. “My computer crashed” or “my file from home is not transferring to my computer here” are for the most part not acceptable excuses. Students are responsible for their technology to work. Dean also mentioned something akin to what one of the teachers also echoed at the Irving Independent School, it a given that it’s best to continue to move around the class to be able to see what students are doing and to ensure they are staying on task.
A preamble to my final point of laptop classroom management——- There is a lesson I learned, almost a method of survival from when beginning substitute teaching on Liberty St. in my hometown Cincinnati in 1991. It came upon entering a period of a 1 hour block and being given little preparation time with the lesson. I had to go in that classroom with confidence otherwise the kids would “eat me for breakfast”. Confident classroom management there was imperative otherwise the situation could run rampant. All teachers learn to project a confidence. The lives of the young students at St. Francis Serpah were in numerous ways very different from where I am now, yet certain dynamics are the same. As the teacher/ classroom manager I still have to enter with confidence, not just as an act, but to truly believe I am in charge and have many tools to help the students. Otherwise, they’ll sense a lack of self-assurance, smell blood and attempt to show the teacher up.
This all comes into play as technology as enters the scene. After a brief intro to a lesson, perhaps a short lecture or class discussion—–I sense a profound change in the energy of the room once we open our laptops—almost as if the energy or a certain presence goes out of the room as young learners connect and relate to something in the cloud. Once this energy dissipates from our group presence I’ve found it hard to bring it back during the same period. I keep all the laptop activities until the end of the class period. Save the discussions or presentations for the beginning of class.