In this article, Steffen Hedebrandt provides 5 ways to take back the classroom and succeed with your teaching in a way that grasps your students’ attention.
Teaching has changed a lot in the last 20 years. In the 90’s, we got access to computers. The 00’s connected us as the internet spread. These days, pen and paper are becoming pixels and keyboards.
Where the students once faced their teachers with nothing in front of them but a book and pen, they can now be fenced off behind computers, tablets and smartphones. This is a dramatically different context from how teachers, especially those from older generations, grew up.
At this point, I think we can all agree that technology is here to stay. It seems pointless to try and ban technology from the classroom. As they say in golf, you have to play it as it lies. The students are becoming more and more savvy with it and even our way of storing knowledge in our brain is changing. It’s a kind of memory outsourcing.
It’s a new game that demands a reassessment of what works and what does not. Here are five suggestions for you on how to take back the computerized classroom. Whether you agree or not, I would love to hear from you in the comments field and on social media.
1. Set Rules
First of all, let’s be honest. Kids need boundaries. They may not always know when they should be present and when it’s okay to explore the digital world. The students need rules of engagement. Not just for your sake, but also to make sure a new generation grows up using technology intelligently that empowers them like no generation before them. Consider things like tech-free-time where phones are put away on a shelf during class. If there’s no educational need for technology, it shouldn’t be allowed to disturb the class. Have you tried more restrictive rules? How have they been received?
2. Change the Physical Setup
The traditional classroom has for the longest time been structured with the teacher at the front of the classroom and students sitting in rows. Typically, the interested students tended to sit in the front rows, with those less interested sitting in the back. Add to that the fact that the students now can flip up their computer and surf on multiple Social media during class. Something must be done. No more hiding for the back row. No more being fenced off from the teacher. We need to nurture dialogue, eye contact, focus, and relations. Some have solved this with U-shaped desk setups. What classroom setup works the best in your experience?
The classroom is your stage. Do not be afraid to use the space to grasp the students’ attention. And then grasp it again. And again. If you are constantly standing in the same position, you will lose the students’ attention. Furthermore, if you just stand behind your desk, it will only be students sitting close to you with whom you are able to sense and built relationships with. Make sure to walk around the room. Make it exciting and dare to get closer to your students. How do you use your physical presence in a classroom? (And don't forget how much moving helps students learn too! – KW)
4. Empower the Student
These days, students are immensely tech savvy. They are hooked to digital devices from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. They carry around cutting edge technology all the time. They find this stuff interesting. You should utilize this. Have you asked your students to record a video of themselves explaining tough math problems? Or to Perhaps even do Snapchat “stories” of what they have learned. I know it seems radical, but I promise you, you will grasp the attention of your students. This also means asking the students to share their screen during class. What are they looking at? Which page of the book? Have they done their calculations correctly? Allow them to use their tech tools like they do all the time when they are not at school.
5. Get Technology Right
Everywhere young people go today, they are surrounded by technology and WiFi. Since the classroom doesn’t exist in a vacuum, why should the classroom be outdated? Take wireless streaming, for example. I will bet you students have screens that they stream their computer content to at home. Long, cumbersome cables are no longer an option. You should be able to walk around freely without being afraid of tripping on a cable. Likewise, the students shouldn’t need adapters and wires to plug into their computer when they want to quickly show their screen. Make sure that the classroom offers platform agnostic wireless streaming (i.e., does not favor only Mac or PC users, but instead accommodates both). Overall, the digital elements must work faster and smarter.
Those are my 5 ideas on how to take back the computerized classroom. Do you agree? Should more be added to the list? Let me know in the comments or on social media.