Technology enhances students’ learning experience in many ways, but if there aren’t clear classroom rules about technology, it can cause problems. If teachers allow students to use computers, iPads, laptops or personal smartphones in their classroom, then they need to create digital boundaries and make students aware of these boundaries at the beginning of the school year.
Even if a teacher abides by the school district’s technology policy, he or she should still consider creating a unique list of rules that applies specifically to his or her classroom. Creating a specific list is especially important for secondary education teachers, since students switch between different classrooms throughout the day. The students need to realize that each teacher has a different set of policies, often related to the subject area of the class, concerning how students use technology.
When drafting rules about digital boundaries, teachers should ask themselves first and foremost how they can keep children safe on the Internet. Many school systems have software that blocks inappropriate websites and/or social media sites. Even if this software is in place, teachers should still remind students to be careful about what they search for on the Internet. They should also tell students to immediately report any kind of inappropriate content they find online. When instructing younger students, Whooo’s Reading suggests that teachers post a list of approved websites that the children can use and remind students to not visit any unapproved site.
As teachers continue to work on their classroom technology rules, they should consider ways to prevent students from being distracted by technology. For example, to ensure that students hear all of the instructions for an assignment, teachers can make a rule about keeping laptops closed or iPhone screens locked until the teacher specifically tells them to begin. Rules such as this can help students pay more attention during class.
To further prevent distractions, teachers can make sure that students know their technology usage will be monitored. Whether teachers do so by walking around the classroom or through software that allows them to view students’ screens from their own computer, students must understand that they will be observed as they surf the Internet or work on a project. Teachers can also deter students from getting off task by establishing clear consequences for when students play games or look at unrelated material on their devices.
While brainstorming more ways to prevent technology from being too much of a distraction, teachers must also address how students handle their personal smartphones. Some teachers feel that smartphones too easily distract students, so they would rather students put them away for the entire class period. Other teachers emphasize how personal smartphones can enhance and improve learning, so they can create a designated time for the students to work on their smartphones. Either way, teachers must create a definite rule so that students understand how they are allowed to used their phones.
Teachers must especially consider making a rule about the presence of smartphones during tests. Students must know at the beginning of the year whether or not the teacher will take up their smartphones during tests or if students should keep them out of sight. By knowing the rules about smartphones upfront, the lack of ambiguity will help teachers enforce the rules and prevent cheating.
Depending on the age group of students, teachers may want to take Mimio Educator’s advice and poll students at the beginning of the year to see which of the technology rules they view as most important. Teachers can use the Google Forms poll to have students select which rules are the most important, or students can write in rules that the teachers have not yet considered. By doing so, teachers may learn about new aspects of the technology from students. The poll can help students feel involved in establishing classroom rules, and it can help teachers know how to revise their list of rules.
Creating a classroom set of rules about technology can appear to be an overwhelming task, but teachers can confidently begin by brainstorming ways to keep children safe, prevent distractions and protect the technology. Once they have considered these three categories, then teachers will be ready to present their digital boundaries to students as soon as the school year begins.
Words by Melissa Lawrence