Saturday, 27 August 2011

My students are always off task !

One of my aims as eLearning Coordinator, is to develop systems that support teachers using laptops in their classroom. One of the frequent questions I get asked is about how teachers can stop students from being off task whilst on their laptops. Being off task, generally means that students are using their computers for something other than the educational purposes outlined by the teacher. As a school we want to force more accountability back to the students.

Here are some of my personal thoughts, and a reflection at the end.

  • Good Lesson Planning – a good lesson that keeps students involved, contains examples and is interactive will obviously increase student engagement. Lesson plans should also spell out how students will use laptops in the classroom. Not every lesson will be action packed and full of excitement, but structure and purposeful activities will improve engagement.
  • Circulating around the Classroom – try teaching from different points in the class. I use a laser pointer and clicker to teach from different parts of the room. This will let you see what the students are doing more easily. Be prepared to sit within and among the students when they are doing independent work. Sitting beside students in a casual fashion allows them to ask questions when they feel ready. Also think about the arrangement of the desks and the relative position of your desk. Manage the class by walking around.
  • Consistency of Expectations – setting expectations within a 1 to 1 classroom is very important. I don’t think a school should mandate such rules, but teachers can establish these within their classes. I prefer that students have laptops turned on and sitting on the desk, but not open to begin a lesson. When I am speaking or discussing I ask them to lower their lids with a stupid crocodile hand gesture. After a while students understand what is a appropriate in your class if you consistently reinforce these expectations. Posters around the room are a good idea or stickers and hints on the desks.
  • Pick your Battles – obviously some indiscretions are worse than others. When a student is checking out website and other students become distracted then most teachers would step in. Small warnings, and system of yellow and red cards could be appropriate. Laptops are a privilege so be prepared to remove the laptop for a period of time, from a student who has ignored warnings
  • Use timers: students work better when they are under a slight amount of pressure. Set guidelines for some activities such as short quizzes or group jigsaw activities and less guidelines for independent work.

How do you know that students are off task?

  • Body Language – head position, eyes tracking quickly over the screen and rapid clicking are all signs of off task behaviour.
  • Flicking screen – in a mac system, students use the spaces functions to quickly switch between screens and hide functions. It is also difficult to see what activities students have running in the background. It could appear that they are working on a project, whilst also arranging youTube playlists in the background.