Yet I knew that if I wasn't watching their screens, my students would at some point be doing something they were not supposed to be doing. So, while I was thrilled with the tremendous educational content available to my students, I was concerned with the less-than-desirable elements pervasive on the Internet. Today, I stroll through many schools that are using technology extensively and invariably I see students using computers for Facebook, IM, playing games, checking sports scores, and all manner of other "evil" things. (BTW, this is as true in middle school classrooms as it is in graduate schools.)
Many teachers have decided that they need to crack down on -- if not entirely eradicate -- screen distractions in their classrooms. (A minority of teachers
Yet, I rarely indulge in discussions of "Big Brother"strategies. Instead, I prompt teachers to consider the most important truism regarding screen distractions:
The best classroom management tool is a good lesson.
If the activity is engaging and challenging, there is an authentic audience, and proscribed time limits exist, students won’t mess around.
I see the phenomenon at work regularly in my workshops. The more time I spend "teaching" teachers something the more apt they are to check email, Facebook -- or whatever. The more time they spend "doing" in a challenging and engaged environment the less they go off task. And if they know they'll have to present their product to the group, or post it online, they're focused.
More importantly, it happens in classrooms all the time. I know because when teachers relate stories of engaged students using technology, their students all ask the same question:
Can I have more time to work on it?
There's also an authentic audience. Tell students you're going to present their work at
And great teachers figure out other ways to make kids care. They personalize the content -- drawing connections to kids lives -- and help students understand why what