coetail unit 4

The magic button is effective integration!!!


The Irving Independent school district quite rightly state:

“The key to good classroom management in a one to one school is acknowledging that there is no “magic button” technology solution that will ensure laptops are used appropriately.  Traditional discipline is only one part of the puzzle.  Effective instruction is even more important. 



Now I have been teaching in one-to-one classrooms for at least 4 years now and proceeding that I had the options of carts containing banks of computers at all my previous schools.  For this reason managing such a classroom was embedded in my initial teaching experiences.  If I think about it I do have some tricks

1) Lesson Structure: My lesson structure is designed for the initial entering of the room and turning on the computers whilst simultaneous engaging with a displayed starter activity.

2) Classroom structure: My classroom is set up so students work in collaborative groups with their computers facing out.

3) Class exploration: I rotate around my class and get my class used to me looking over their shoulder watching and supporting their progression (I am not even sure if this is related to one-to-one laptop use but just best teaching practice).

4) Classroom expectation:  When I say computers down and look to the front I have a clear expectation that this will happen from the start of the year onward.

5) Considered response: If I see the computer being used in an off task manner I will again just quietly point out the issue and expect the student to move back on task and also note the incidence in my grade book.

6) Consistent response: The students also know that a computer related issue will always be jotted down in my grade book and two comments in a trimester will result in one week without computer access in my class and an e-mail home explaining the issue.  Such an issue rarely does occur but it does include the students having to run upstairs to collect printed worksheets or in some case passively supporting another student who does have computer access.

Yet these are just a list of useful points.  If you want more then I really recommend you checking out Dean Groom’s blog post “23 things about classroom laptops” or Tim Bray’s blog post “5 Tips for Classroom Management within 1:1 Environments“.

However, if I had to find the magic button to success it is simply embedding effective laptop use into the student activities.  So sending a clear message that using the laptop provides the student with the tools to be better and that my teacher wants that from me and I should not waste that opportunity.


Dyknow Monitor Screen


That would have been a great concluding but I feel that I should be prepared to offer full disclosure.  I also use a tool call DyKnow which is a piece of software which allows me to monitor remotely the screens of my students.  Now I mention this only because it might have an impact on the student body’s acceptance of methods.  Yet I now really only turn this on at the start of class out of some strange habit.  I find it more useful, but actually to show the class a students work (although this is more often than not too slow for practicality) or to quickly share a document (this tool us useful).  Yes, occasionally this may reveal a student not on task but wandering around the class appears to be far more effective and I still do not see it as a crucial part of one-to-one classroom management but could see why some people would appreciate the resource.

Everyone is already connected (and education is playing catch up)


Three events occurred over the last week which got me thinking that education is falling actually behind the interconnected curve which is our digital society.


1)      My own wife’s thoughts about how our son takes on problems, in her blog post “On tippy toes”.  Here I appreciate the determination to succeed independently shown but I am also reassured by his continued reliance on the people around him.

Getting the cookies

2)      My own year 11 science class just completed an in-class essay where they were required to bring in notes reflecting the unit question – How do we know what is a good fuel?.  Then once they arrive in class they are presented with the specific essay question.  During my wandering around class and looking at the pre-prepared research I found an e-mail from a senior student explaining how to get the best marks in this particular assignment with regards to how it has been previously set.

3)      My reading of George Siemens excellent introduction to the learning theory of connectivism – “Connectivism:  A Learning Theory for a Digital age”.  In this article he states “When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”

Each of these examples captures the importance of being connected.  To me these experiences show 1) we are a social being 2) we can be motivated to use society for our benefit 3) this social learning is already being studied (and has been for almost 10 years).

Yet considering these absolutes I don’t feel that the assessment tasks in education presently reflect the ideals of connectivism.  This statement repeated in the Edutopia article – How should we measure student learning?  For example my own tests still take place in test conditions with no communication with anyone else – so not providing the opportunity to use their connectivity to their benefit.  My essays are on topics undoubtedly (although I work hard for this not to be the case) done by someone before and here I take a, hear no evil and see no evil attitude and provide marks oblivious of the increased benefits of connectivity each cohort of students has.  The for classic science laboratory reports the previous problem is undoubtedly amplified even further.

So now I need to develop assessment which both acknowledges and encourages connectivity.  Yet here I am constrained by an assessment rubric which does not provide the opportunity for a truly challenging open book test.  I believe project based assessment tasks provide better opportunities which I will try to develop.  In fact I would like to integrate such ideals into the energy transfer unit which I am presently revising.

So in conclusion I return to a quote from George Siemens’ article – “The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.”

Evaluating and integrating technology


The classes I would quite happily allow someone into to evaluate the technology integration in my classroom are those that I have had a key role in designing the related unit.  In these my classroom displays effective technology integration due to the fact the technology is seamlessly embedded in my expectations of the actions and outcomes of the students and me.  For example my “flipped” year 12 physics class which both provides the students with a new approach to their own learning and also allowed for the further use range of online simulations and mastery questioning.

There are also lessons, sometimes in units I have designed and sometimes not,   where I am taking a risk and trying out something new.  I recognise that it is not yet happily embedded but I am being informed by the experience which makes it invaluable for future technology integration

However, there are also lessons where prefer that no administrator is going to visit whilst brandishing Lisa Nielsen’s (The Innovative Educator) interesting technology integration classroom visit rubric.  These lessons are more often than not units which I did not have a role in developing.  Yet as they do comprehensively teach the required scientific content I do not feel the right to criticize.

I have been thinking about the best way to encourage technology integration throughout the department I am a member off.  Here I feel that the way forward is by modelling best practice.  This means by placing it at the core of my own unit planning and therefore exposing others.  Yet for this to be successful I cannot just drop it into the unit planner and expect people to follow I know that I will also have to support those how find technology challenging and accept that it is not always for everyone and offer other pathways if necessary.

With all this in mind I am about to start creating a new energy transfer unit for year 11.  My present idea is centred on a project based unit where students create and analyse the energy transfers within their own Rube-Goldberg Machine.

How to tee up a golf ball without bending over

Now what is interesting here, and I recognise in myself, is that I have become very lost in a quite a non-technology focused idea here.  So I intend to ask my school’s own technology support team in on this planning to provide their own perspective and help me see beyond my out of character blinkers.  So I will keep you informed on how this all progresses as we move forward.

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