The Dilemma

In a previous post, I touched on classroom management in a 1:1 classroom.  As I gear up for the coming school year, I keep coming back to this topic in my head and in conversations with some of my colleagues.  I am struggling a bit to determine what exactly I believe my role as a teacher is in terms of management in a 1:1 classroom.  I know as I experience 1:1 a lot of this will become more crystallized in my brain, but I imagine others might be struggling with this as well, so I thought I’d put together a brief post about some of my past and current thoughts.*  I would love for others to join in this conversation, providing other insights that I’ve missed.  Please feel free to write in the comments section below.

What I Used to Think (and Sometimes Still Do):

  • Students can be off task whether it’s a paper and pencil OR a computer on their desk.  Unless the teacher checked the students’ paper notes on a daily basis, the teacher would never know if the students were attending or not. So really, there’s no fundamental difference between a traditional classroom and a 1:1 classroom.
  • Upper school students need to take responsibility for their own learning. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.  The teacher provides the opportunity to learn, but it’s ultimately up to the student to take advantage of the opportunity.
  • Treating students with trust and respect (and not hovering over them constantly and nailing them for every misstep) will result in more responsible behavior on their part.
  • If a student is not attending, it will be reflected in his or her grades.  The student will either accept lower grades or change his or her behavior.

What I’m Starting to Think (But Still Struggling With):

  • Paper and pencil is NOT the same thing as a computer.  In a traditional classroom, it is true that a student might not be taking notes but instead doodling or writing something else or perhaps doing nothing at all.  But in a traditional classroom, the only distractions available to students were those in their own heads.  In a 1:1 classroom, with a computer sitting in front of them, the distractions are both external and endless – games, websites, email, chatting, taking photos, etc.
  • Having access to a computer all day long is new to ALL students regardless of their grade level.  Therefore, saying upper school students need to learn to manage themselves without giving them some boundaries and guidance to start with doesn’t completely make sense.  Loosening those boundaries over time and providing less guidance over time does make sense, and I would argue is imperative to prepare students for college.
  • “It is unwise to presume independence before it has been verified.”  Treating students with trust and respect is important and can result in more responsible behavior, but the reality is some students will comply with the rules only when those rules are enforced rather than because they have some personal commitment to the rules.
  • Sometimes unintended messages are the loudest.  If I don’t monitor my students, and I allow them to remain inattentive on a daily basis by surfing the web and playing games, am I not sending the message that what I have to teach is unimportant?  Am I not sending the message that I don’t care whether they learn or not?  And if that’s the case, why am I there, and why should they be forced to be there in turn?  It’s not an intentional message. Most teachers, including myself in the past, believe they are teaching students to be independent learners and responsible for their own behavior.  But I’m wondering if that’s the message that students are actually receiving or if it’s something quite different.
  • No teacher can monitor all students all the time in a 1:1 environment or a traditional classroom, nor do I think they should.  Teaching students to be independent, lifelong learners is the most important task of a teacher. Doing that means placing the burden for learning on the students.  So how does this mesh with the points above?  This is the dilemma.

*Keep in mind that I teach upper school students, specifically Advanced Placement students and seniors.  If I was teaching a different group of students, my thinking might be different.

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