One of the biggest problems teachers have when transitioning to a 1:1 program is dealing with distractions and classroom disruptions. Often, this can feel like yet another stressful thing piled onto your full stress plate. It is important to remember you are not alone in dealing with this issue! There are Big Brother-esque solutions (where you can monitor student usage, i.e. Apple Classroom, Nearpod, Classkick, etc.) out there, and we will be exploring those as soon as they are available, but for now here are a few tips for dealing with the distractions that come along with the 1:1 environment.
4. Recognize that they WILL be distracted
Here’s the thing. Before we had iPads in our classrooms, kids were distracted. Even before every kid had a phone in their pockets, they found ways to doodle and pass notes (heck, we were probably one of those kids at one point or another). The important thing is to understand that no matter what you will never have 100% of their attention, but there are things you can look for if you aren’t sure if kids are on task:
- They are holding the iPad straight or in their laps instead of using the case rest or letting it lay flat or in a more visible position.
- They swipe their screens with three or four fingers whenever you approach.
- Constant buzzing, camera sounds or message notifications.
- They are smiling or making faces at their screens at inappropriate moments.
You can combat this by building movement into your classroom. Having kids walk around with their iPads to different stations or groups greatly minimizes this kind of distraction. You can also add peer interaction where the student is showing his or her device to a classmate for an assignment. Make sure you are moving throughout the class. We all know how much our proximity effects student behavior, so let’s use that to our advantage. Finally, you can make it a part of your expectations that devices are to be flat on desks when in use. This is a more extreme tactic, but it is effective.
3. Establish a Workflow
Workflow is basically defined as the steps or sequence of events that make up a process. For us, all workflow means is establishing a routine. What are the tasks a student must do in order to do their work in your class, and what order should they go in? Establishing a work flow whether it’s “We use these three apps, in this order, on these days, every single time” or “We use our iPads for the first twenty minutes of class every day,” helps minimize time off task because it becomes second nature to students. It also allows students to understand your expectations. In the beginning, students will need constant reminders of what their workflow is, so be clear in communicating it. You could even design visual reminders of it! I used Canva (a free and easy to use graphic design site) to make the above graphic, but there are others as well (Piktochart, an infographic site, comes to mind).
2. Set expectations/guidelines early
As good teachers, you already know the value of setting expectations and being clear about those expectations early on. Since we are 1:1, these devices are meant to support instruction, so why not build your expectations for iPad use into your class the same way you would for any other materials.
- Be clear about which devices can (iPads) and cannot (perhaps personal cell phones) be used during class.
- Let students know which apps are required, and which are prohibited in your class.
- Communicate your consequences for misuse, and be consistent with enforcing those consequences.
If kids know what you expect of them, you’ve at least eliminated the excuse of ignorance to the rules.
1. Take a tech break
Some of us might feel a bit of pressure to use iPads all the time, or maybe you fit in the group that just really wants to embrace the use of tech. Either way, we need to recognize that screen time can be limited. Paper is ok! In fact, I purposely find days when we go “old school” and use paper and pen, and on average, kids like the break from tech! So every now and then, take a tech timeout.
Finally, talk to each other. We all have a cool thing we do to engage students, so let’s share with one another. Between all of us, we can make sure that our 1:1 classrooms are engaging and safe learning environments.
For some extra reading on the subject, check out these 5 Best Practices for Managing a 1:1 Classroom