Teaching with technology can be very rewarding. Having the students collaborate and utilize technology to deepen and expand their knowledge is at the very epicenter of education philosophy these days. Unfortunately, it also requires a heightened level of classroom management. Not so much the behavior kind, although there certainly are a different set of expectations for what is acceptable behavior when students collaborate- it is more the materials management that must be worked out carefully.
Today was a typical day in my alternative music class- students working on independent and collaborative projects with myself as their “host and guide” for the process. It is my policy that all electronics are signed out at the beginning of class. After the initial wave of handing out PocketPods, hooking up electronic drums to the keyboard lab, etc. I gave the “last call” for anyone else who needed materials. Hearing none (going once…going twice…) I began working with groups on their projects. Then it happened. The “stragglers”. The slow, random procession of students who didn’t pay attention the first time and now realize that they need something!
As educators, we need to ensure that the short time we have with our students is concentrated on instruction. In my case, I tie a portion of their grade to their ability to handle materials wisely and efficiently. Anything that has to be done as far as distribution of equipment, assembly or connections, etc. should be handled before class if at all possible- or at the very least it should occur very early in the class period utilizing a set procedure each and every time (it becomes part of the class expectations). If this is not done, in short order the class will come to a grinding halt while you “put out fires”.
Back to my student “stragglers”. After asking them to repeat what the classroom procedure is regarding equipment, I asked “where were you when I asked if anyone needed anything else?” The response? The classic shrug of the shoulders and an almost unintelligible “I dunno”. Nevertheless, the expectation was that I drop what I was doing and take care of their needs. Rather than halt all learning and switch to “caretaker mode” I had that student join in what we were doing until I was finished, then had him follow me around the room as I made my way to the equipment cabinet (helping several other groups along the way). The bottom line is: Plan, organize, explain, demonstrate, practice procedures. Then be prepared for “I dunno”.