Here’s my secret for better classroom management

An elementary SmartLab facilitator and longtime tech educator shares how she keeps students on track and on task

If they’ve become distracted or are doing something they shouldn’t, I can correct them by sending them an instant message that only they can see, rather than calling them out in front of the rest of the class. This is critical to avoid shaming students for mistakes and building trust between the teachers and the kids. When I’m speaking or I wish to minimize distractions, I can instantly blank all of their screens so their attention is directed to me, not their computers, without ever raising my voice.

I’ve found that private, one-on-one communications can also help shy children break out of their shells and encourage them to interact with their teachers more frequently. They know the rest of the class is not listening, so may be more likely to volunteer their thoughts.

While this type of solution lets me direct and manage my class with just a few clicks, it also allows me to create more in-depth lessons and easily share them with each of my students. For example, whereas I may have once had to set up 30 different MAP tests on each student’s device, I am now able to plug a single test into the program and it will automatically be accessible by all students. More effective classroom management becomes more impactful education management.

Factors for consideration
Since I have used classroom management technology extensively for many years, I wanted to share my thoughts on a few key features teachers should look for.

1. The ability to easily share information. I recommend solutions that allow teachers to send out links or share information with the entire class. Everyone can get the same lessons on their screens simultaneously. This can help save an enormous amount of time and greatly enhance a teacher’s ability to provide students with relevant insights or facts.

2. Management of a variety of operating systems. Although many schools have gone Google only, many still use a combination of operating systems on various devices. Seek out tools that allow teachers to manage and control all the devices in the classroom.

3. Integrate the best of the offline and online tools. There are many great offline tools like CHAMPs that are integral to managing a classroom effectively. Don’t feel like you have to throw those out to go completely digital. Look for tools that give you flexibility to use what works in classroom management.

Reflecting and improving
Perhaps the most important lesson I can impart is this: Have a plan and be prepared for it to fail. While we can create lesson plans and use the various tools at our disposal to help our students learn, we cannot control our students’ behaviors. Inevitably, things will not go correctly, at least the first time around.

At the end of every day I write down a single sentence outlining what worked and what did not. This allows me to reflect on what happened in my classroom, and it’s helped me grow my classroom-management abilities throughout the years. Technology can help with those management skills, but ultimately, it’s up to us to strive for continuous improvement for the sake of our students.

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