Managing Laptop Use

As I mentioned in a previous post this fall, managing my newly 1-to-1 classroom has actually been quite a bit easier than I thought it would be.  A quick rundown of some reasons and suggestions:

  • Ubiquity… In previous years, we had two carts of 25 laptops each shared between 3 grades (9 classes.) Occasionally, teachers in younger grades would want to sign them out as well.  Of course, scheduling was difficult, especially when one grade level was working on a technology-focused project all at the same time.  I’m not complaining about our access: we worked with it and, in fact, I was usually able to use them when I needed to.  Because they weren’t always available, though, it was always a bit of a novelty to have them in the room.  This year, the laptops are easy to access at any point during the day, and the focus has really moved to seeing them as tools for learning rather than something used for “special activities.”
  • Routines…Proper management of technology in the classroom, like proper management of ANYTHING in the classroom, requires clearly-defined routines and procedures.  At the beginning of the year, before the students even brought their laptops in, we practiced packing,unpacking, carrying, and storing routines with textbooks. I’ve incorporated use of the laptops into some of our regular tasks (such as Daily Edit,) so my students have become adept at efficiently getting them out and putting them away.  Establishing, practicing, enforcing, and revisiting routines with the students is essential.

    Laptop Storage... obviously we need to do a bit of tidying up, but it works!

  • Expectations about behavior/Meaningful tasks…These two go together.  My students know that they are expected to be using only programs and/or sites related to what we are doing in class.  I’m always walking around the room during laptop use; providing support for students, questioning them to prompt deeper thinking, monitoring their use, etc.  As long as the task they’ve been assigned is meaningful, the students are typically engaged and have no trouble staying on task.  If it isn’t, well, things can go downhill pretty quickly

    Collaborating on a math project


  • Troubleshooting… Our 1-to-1 program is dual-platform and, while certain models of laptops were recommended to students, there is quite a variety in what we actually got.  Currently, I am teaching a class where about 2/3 of my students use Mac, the rest PC.  There are a total of 9 different models of laptops in my classroom, two of which have an operating system in a different language.  I could easily spend all of my time troubleshooting with students!  One of the first things we did this year, however, was show the students some simple things to try before asking for help.  They have all had to get to know their personal machine and how it works.  Most of our problems can be solved by toggling the wireless off and on or simply restarting the machine.  They also know how to both ask for and give help from/to peers, and how to use online resources for assistance.  Giving the students the power and knowledge to do that has really helped the class run more smoothly.


With appropriate management, I have found that teaching in a 1-to-1 environment has significantly expanded my instructional style.  I’m changing the way I think about the purpose of education, and can’t wait to keep learning!

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