Devices in the Classroom

I had to think about this post from two perspectives: an integrationist and a classroom teacher.

As a classroom teacher I loved having technology accessible in my classroom. Last year, my class of 18 students had access to 10 MacBooks. They were almost always in our room and we often would bug other teachers to let us take theirs from the carts too. But if you walked in the room, it was not always the case that the kids were glued to their computer.

Often the computers were just another tool – something at the ready should the student need it or just an integral part of the learning that was taking place in the same way the highlighters or post-it notes feature in our classroom.

We discussed what it meant to be responsible, approaching from a responsible user perspective (embedded in our class agreement to “Use Good Judgement At All Times” – thanks, Nordstroms). This didn’t eliminate foul play but it made it easier to deal with.

Most importantly, I tried to show my students how the use of technology was helping me as a teacher.  I would conference with them about math using the Khan Academy coach interface and show them the incredible data I was collecting on their time on that site. I would set written assignments using Google Drive and comment in real time while they were still drafting ideas. I would create collaborative Wikis for the publishing of poetry. I would share blog post comments from their parents as soon as they came in to our blog.  Technology was not an add-on, not an extra, not a time-filler.  Technology was an integral part of how we learned.

In terms of breaks, multi-tasking, and balance, I think I did ok. My classroom was a pretty dynamic place and rarely would I be at the front talking. I am more of a set out the plan and step back kind of teacher. I know some kids in my fourth grade class quickly figured out how to chat with each other via Google and while I looked into policing this I preferred to let our class agreement and natural consequences take the lead. “You didn’t finish because you were on chat? So sad….extra work for you.” I was definitely conscious of not having the computer dominate the math class and built in lots of time for discussion, group challenges, individual conferences, and the use of manipulatives.  Some days we didn’t use the computers. Some days we used them a lot.

As a tech integrationist, I think about this topic from a different perspective. When I think of managing devices I am thinking about the practical management of devices across an entire Junior School. What do I want the kids to know? To do? We set up so many routines at the beginning of the year for other things – why not tech?

As I kept thinking, I realized these ideas of balance, rest, and multi-tasking were universal. The same principals apply to most things – we don’t just have one friend, watch one show, eat one food item.  The kids I work with have a lot of access to tech and view it primarily as a game or a toy.  I see my role as one in which I challenge that perception by helping teachers embed it in their classroom learning.

I think that some teachers are scared we are going to end up as a version of this family:

Talk More Tech Less Vl.2 from Talk More. Tech Less. on Vimeo.


But I challenge that. And I think we have to stop and ask ourselves why the kids are begging for their game, wanting to disappear inside their iPad. What are we doing as teachers to tap into their passions, their ideas? I think finding a Tech/Talk balance is key, as is providing students with options for expressing themselves that they can relate to.

4 Replies to “Devices in the Classroom”

  1. Hi Sonya,

    First of all its reassuring to see someone else completing course 4 on a similar timeline as myself! LOL!

    I agree wholeheartedly that we need established routines, and even more importantly define the purpose of device use in the classroom.

    Teachers have all sorts of fears about digital technology coming into their rooms. They are intimidated, worried they will fail, and often cannot fathom how such a device can be used. I like the idea of a tech/talk balance. The key for me is, it makes me really think about how important that conversation about how learners interact with their device is , and making sure that as an integrator I have that conversation at a teacher level, and at the school level.

    1. Course 4 really got away from me – but it is done now! I am finding that the more I listen and then slip the technology into/on top of what the teacher is already comfortable with, the more success I am having. For example, one teacher was doing plays. We ended up filming these so the kids could watch themselves perform and evaluate their performance from the video. We then went on to film on a green screen and add photos of artwork created by the students as a background. Baby steps and lots of support seem to work really well (surprise!). Good luck with the rest of C4 and I’ll see you back after the summer for Project Time!

  2. Hi Sonya
    Really enjoyed reading your two-sided reflection. I found myself nodding my head at many of your thoughts having first been a classroom teacher and then a technology coach in the ES. I don’t think that my classroom could have functioned seemlessly with tech unless the students and I had routines. My students were often involved in the discussion and establishment of the routines especially if we found something wasn’t working for us (taking too much time, awkward). The suggestions and solutions they would come up with would often blow me away! Love that student thinking! As a Coach I tried to suggest and model those routines to the students/teachers I worked with. I really loved it when teachers would build on those routines and make them even better than the originals!

    I would really love to watch the video you embedded but unfortunately it’s privacy settings don’t allow me to.

  3. Hey Chrissy….thanks for your comment. It seems the owner of the video has set the privacy so it can not be embedded on all sites. I have messaged and asked permission to embed. In the meantime, you can view it if you click on the “Watch on Vimeo” button (hopefully!). It is an interesting perspective.

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