There’s no doubt that in all my years integrating technology and teaching professional development to teachers, one topic always arises…student distraction. The fact is, some students will get off task when using technology (these are usually the same students who get off task in other educational settings) and you need to have strategies in place to retain focus.
With that in mind, you do not have to be overly strict and lose sight of your lesson. There will be a level of distraction no matter what. As a matter of fact, this happens with adults as well…just think about your last faculty meeting.
What can you do to keep students on task and less focused on email, YouTube, etc.? Let’s take a look at a few tips to keep your lesson on track.
Does this sound ridiculously simple? It is! However, the most effective strategy I have ever used (and I have taught in several 1 to 1 laptop schools) is to wander around the room…a lot! This is similar to the management technique in the business world…MBWA, management by wandering around. Seriously, this will solve most of the off-task behavior.
Develop a Routine
Give the use of technology a fighting chance by developing routines for its use. I recommend writing down your routine. For example:
When the iPads are being used, table leaders get the iPads and distribute. The iPads lie face down on the table until you receive instructions. Then…
This is especially true for school with 1 to 1 or BYOD programs. Develop a routine and consider posting the it at the front of your classroom.
Practice the Routine
When you have your routine, practice it with the students many times until they have it down. I am personally very strict with this. If laptops are supposed to be closed when then are brought out, and a student opens theirs, we start over. Although this takes class time, in the long run this sort of practice with make technology rich lessons go more smoothly.
To encourage on-task use of technology, consider setting a time limit to complete the task. Obviously this depends on what you are doing but a timer can keep things moving along. I like to put an online timer on the projector so the countdown is huge and obvious.
Effective use of technology takes planning. Before the on buttons are pushed, clearly define the outcomes of the day. Instead of “go online and research World War I”, try “go online and research causes for the start of World War I. Find one major cause and two secondary causes. In your own words, explain all three causes you discovered.”
Sorry, history teachers! That is probably a dreadful example! But, you get the idea…develop and clearly communicate the outcomes for the lesson.
Avoid Group Punishment
I am definitely guilty of this myself but I really don’t like group punishment. Therefore, I don’t recommend removing technology from the entire class if a few students misuse the tools. So, I just quietly take students aside and give them a similar assignment to complete without technology. Students notice when another student is looking up information with library books and writing notes on notecards. The message gets out very quickly.
Okay teachers…give these strategies a try and I know you will have more success keeping students on task while using technology.
What strategies do you use?