Thursday, April 11, 2013

Classroom Management in the 21st Century

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Often, when I work with educators in using technology, I let them get their concerns out in the open and out of the way very early in the process.  Once that is done, I find people are more willing to try new things and generally feel better about using technology in the classroom.  One thing that often comes up in this part of the conversation is classroom management.  So the questions is: What is classroom management in the 21st century?  I'd like to explore this topic in this post.

How is classroom management stayed the same?

Over the years we have learned that some classroom management techniques are more effective than others.  Walking around the room while students are working on something is much more effective than sitting at your desk.  Looking at a student who is doing something they shouldn't is often more effective than calling out to them in class.  A classroom with set routines is more likely to have fewer behavioral issues than a class where things constantly change.  Below are a list of classroom management techniques that are not unique to the 21st century, but are still relevant.

  • Be Consistent
  • Make parents your allies
  • Keep students actively engaged in learning
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Use a class timer during activities
  • Model the behavior you want to see in your students
  • Using "I" statements when dealing with behavior issues
  • Using proximity to avoid issues (teacher walks around the room and interacts with students instead of staying at a single location).
With the addition of tablets, laptops, phones and myriad other devices that come to school, there are techniques educators can use to help ensure students spend more time engaged in learning than in "other" activities.  I will offer some explanations and suggestions to this list.
  • Room arrangement - The days of students sitting in rows is long gone (hopefully).  However, if students work areas are a variety of formats, there are things to consider.  As the educator moves around the room, he/she should be able to see many student device screens from a single vantage point.  No student should have a digital device while sitting with their back to a wall.  Try to arrange the room with as many students facing the same way as possible without compromising social learning.
  • Educator Proximity - I know this is listed above, but in my experience this has changed a little over the years.  Students know when the educator is coming close to them and prior to technology this was a great way to ensure they were on task.  Now, students can just hide what they are doing until the teacher has passed.  If you suspect a student is off task, stand where you can see their screen from a distance.  They may notice you have moved into position, but will quickly forget since you are not physically close.  Please note: I see this is a later action.  If you suspect a student is off task, it is beneficial to give them other cues such as quietly checkin on their status or quietly asking them if they are managing the task well.  This is often enough to redirect student behavior.  Educators can also wirelessly share their device to the class screen, allowing you to walk around during direct instruction instead of being stuck at the front of the room.
  • Work sharing - One of the great new methods of social learning and student interaction is the ability of students (and teachers) to share the information on their screen with the class through the classroom projector.  Allowing students to wirelessly send their screen to the projector is a great way to keep them interested in the assignment.  Many students can share information through this method faster than it used to take just a few students to go to the front of the room to share.  (Although I've only done this with the iPad, there are wireless gateways that can allow other devices to do the same kind of thing.)
  • The Physical Touch - While working with a group of educators, one brought up the concern about student cheating while taking online tests. (she is talking about taking an online test while in the classroom, not outside of school)  Some testing sites (on laptops) can lock the laptop down to only using that particular browser window and nothing else.  I haven't seen way to do this on the iPad that is fairly simple for the educator to do, so this is what we came up with.  If an educator is giving an online test they do the following:
    • Tell the testing program to randomize the questions and answers (when possible)
    • Have students go to the testing site and quit all other apps.
    • Students double click the home button (if all apps are closed and only the browser is running, no apps should show underneath the screen) and the teacher will walk around the room and do a quick check.  As the educator walks around he/she taps the student on the shoulder as the cue to begin the test.  This takes less than 2 minutes and combined with the other techniques listed above makes online cheating during a digital test much more difficult.
  • The QR code - QR codes are extremely simple to create and share.  If there are online resources you want to share with students, QR codes are a great way to go.  It saves time and avoids students typing in web addresses.  For example, if you want students to use a specific website, project the QR code on the classroom screen.  If you are the kind of educator who makes multiple versions of a quiz or test, make a QR code that goes to each test and pass them out randomly (on little pieces of paper) to students.  If you want to randomly group students, you can create a QR code for each (tied to their email address) and pass them out randomly.  (this is better than pulling names from a hat).  Below are links to some QR code ideas for educators.
  • Timer - Using a timer is mentioned above, but I wanted to mention it here as well.  Projecting a timer onto the class screen during projects is a great way to help students stay focused and motivated.  They can always see how much time is left and having a visual indicator of the time available is good for student pacing and mental organization.
Other sites discussing this topic can be found below.  You can also find information about modern teaching techniques and activities on my website (

Sources for classroom management in the 21st century:
21st Century Principal
Bright Hub Education
Mister Peters
OLE Community

QR codes in the classroom:
Swamp Frog

QR code creators:

1 comment:

  1. This is a timely, and helpful post Randy. I like that you included QR codes in the conversation. Here's my post on this topic: