Technology and classroom management

I am working with a colleague on integrating technology into his teaching. He is a seasoned band director who has been teaching for longer than I have been alive! He is very interested in the emerging technology side of our profession, and I of course am encouraging it.

As I am watching him teach his lesson (I’m blogging this as he is doing his lesson) he is experiencing resistance from the class that I don’t normally get. Here is the problem in a nutshell: He is using a laptop to project the lesson on a screen and having the students use wireless laptops to follow along. While this seems to be a logical way to implement the lesson, you must consider how our student’s brains are now wired. One of the students called me over and whispered “why did he give us laptops if he is going to project it on the screen?”. A valid point! We must remember that the single most important factor in a successful technology lesson is scaffolding.

We must allow the students to be able to move at their own pace. Trying to keep everyone on a laptop “right with you” as you are presenting is counterproductive. The students who “get it” need to move on so as not to get frustrated. The students that need extra time should be allowed to review at their own pace.

Therefore, a technology lesson in the bandroom looks very different from a traditional lesson or rehearsal. To the untrained eye, it will look like the students are playing on the computer- seemingly going in every direction at once. By putting them in cooperative groups (Kagan) and allowing them to collaborate, they will be able to learn the material all by themselves, and our role becomes more of a “guide”.

We are inviting classroom management problems when we try to keep everyone at the same pace using computers! I urge you all to really think about what the lesson will look like and to partner with a technology person as you plan. Another suggestion would be to videotape the lesson and review. The seasoned teacher will immediately see the problem.

I’m about 30 minutes away from debriefing my colleague and I am nervous. He is many times my senior and has had a brilliant career already as a band director. I will choose my words very carefully and respectfully.

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2 Responses to Technology and classroom management

  1. a teacher at large says:

    In past experiences I have found that it is not always easy to keep kids (third graders) on the same page when using computers but is certainly a good idea when doing certian activities. One of those is entering data in Excel. If I were to let the kids just have at it when when using so many steps, it would really make them crazy. Once they have seen that they can make a graph, they soon understand how important it is to listen and follow directions. When we do this activity I let them know we have a time crunch and that it will ruin things for everybody else if they choose not to follow directions. I feel like a Nazi but it has to be this way or I will end up helping each kid individually and we will not get anything done as it can be. However, with PowerPoint presentations, I find it best to sort of have small workshops so that kids get the basics and can show others how to do it. The fact of the matter is some are able to get it faster than others. Just like every other subject area.

  2. J. Pisano says:

    Owen,

    As a fellow technology and music teacher, I am, personally, not convinced that everyone and or every class needs to implement some form of electronic technology for their classes to be a success.

    I have observed many a teacher/student teacher, over the years, perform outstanding lessons both with and without electronic technology used in their class. I say “electronic technology” because a “pencil” is an advancement in technology as well… though, usually, not as cool!

    I have seen expert marching band director’s perform miracles with their light boards and/or penciled field plots all without touching a computer… and… on the other side of the coin, I have seen students who DO NOT grasp the concept of marching band routings (or marching band for that matter) at all, come up with some rather impressive drills using Pyware and Drill Quest. What does that say about their levels of understanding within Bloom’s taxonomy?… Does the end justify the means?… Are the outcomes the same?… Is another vehicle of learning created, one that allows you to produce something without a great understanding of what is being produced yourself?…. Something to think about, if nothing else.

    I have been contemplating a lot, lately, about using electronic technology in classes and how it affects the true learning of a subject, or better yet- the teaching and learning of a subject. There can be no doubt, that the “overhead” was a great technological adjunct to the chalk board and that the projector, coupled with power point, was another great leap forward. Programs and software developments such as DyKnow are now adding instant collaborative features as well, taking us to the next level. But do we need these types of technologies in every class situation or for every subject?

    I encourage my students to use the various types of electronic technologies with their teaching efforts,as they have understanding and can effectively use them. They can, and do, many times, make things easier, but should not do so at the expense of the actual teaching and learning components of the class.

    I make sure they know that “teaching the technologies in the classroom” or “using the technologies in the classroom” must not make “teaching the subject matter to be presented” come second.

    I have seen people spend an awful lot of time tangling with the technologies in the classroom (many times due to a lack of understanding themselves) only to have their class time dissipated and the actual teaching of the subject matter completely glossed over; Not a good day for their lesson plans!

    It will be a challenge for colleges and universities, as well as schools, in the very, near future, to determine a way to incorporate technologies into their curriculums in a near-transparent way. A way that is cross-curriculum, immersive in nature and allows the subject matter be the central focus, not the presenting technology. I believe that, not unlike a liberal arts core in the programs, there may very well be the need to have a technological adeptness core. Having a computer and electronic technologies available and knowing how to use them seamlessly are two, completely, different matters.

    Perhaps a subject for my next blog…. 🙂 Anyway, I enjoy your blog and encourage you to keep it up! It’s needed!

    J. Pisano

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