Although this is my 7th year teaching with my current school, this year has mirrored by “freshmen” teaching year in many ways. This year I’ve started teaching a brand new course, we’ve switched to completely new social studies curriculum, and every student now has a lap top with them for every class. It’s been enjoyable, and time consuming, to revamp my teaching techniques and I appreciate the opportunities the 1-2-1 programs gives me to diversify student learning. Every week, I’m learning something new about managing laptops in the classroom. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. Remote Desktop: Our school has invested in Remote Desktop so teachers can view student screens as an accountability feature. While in theory this is an excellent program, I hardly use it unless I am sitting at my desk while students are working. Even then, students can join other networks to avoid screen detection. I feel the best way to monitor student behavior is to circulate the room and give students direct tasks that will fill up the allotted time.
2. Lectures: My social studies presentations are heavy in content. Even though I’m trimming down the information I actually put on the slide, the students still need to process a lot of information. Now that every student has a laptop, I upload my presentations to my website so students can have their own copy of the presentation. Usually, I cut out key words off of my slides so students have to fill in the blanks, thus paying attention to the lecture. I also encourage students to use the “notes” section of the Powerpoint program to write down additional information. Also, remember to circulate the room while lecturing.
3. Online Activities: On my website, I have pages for each course I teach which are dedicated to online activity instructions. I call them “Making History”. On these posts, my students find instructions, rubrics, and links to help them complete the day’s activity. Usually, students would have been assigned a reading the night before, then these activities would serve as a reinforcement activity. One issue I have had is creating activities that balance learning information vs. mastering a program. Plus, since students work at different paces, it often hard to gauge how long an activity will take. This is still a work in progress.
4. Sharing Work: I am a big fan of Google docs, and I love my students to share their thought and reflections on the information we are studying–most of the time. I have had issues where my students have been too sharing, and have been communicating via Google chat to share answers to homework that would be counted as a quiz grade. When students are working on assignments outside of class, it is hard to monitor how much they are working together. I guess it was the same way before online assignments came into the picture. The best deterrent I have found to avoid this situation is to be explicit with my instructions. I have to clearly tell the students what I expect, how they are to do the assignment, and the consequences for not following the instructions.
5. Rubrics: Students like to know what the teacher expects out of assignments, so adding a rubric to an activity instructions helps keep students in check. If student have to hit certain check points or cover specific material, it helps to spell everything out clearly. This helps keep students on task, plus it helps for easy grading later.
6. “Lap Top Free Days”: Just because laptops are available, doesn’t mean they have to be used. In fact, my students sometimes prefer when we have activities away from technology, allowing them to create something by hand and recall information they have learned.