Thursday, April 24, 2014

Managing Classroom Technology: Level Two

Annie Murphy Paul, author of Freedom, digital distraction and control published in Digital/Edu, divides teacher control of classroom technology into three areas.  Control by authority, control through technology, and self control of students are her categories.

I self assess myself to fall into the category of control by technology.  Students are given identities and passwords for the class moodle and a class assessment website on the first day of school. They create a symbaloo and Mendeley to help organize their research.

Students type classwork into Microsoft Word and print poetry or writing to turn in on a daily basis.  They have a routine schedule to follow with vocabulary video quizzes on Prism (moodle) to be completed every Friday.  They pace themselves and may access the moodle or the class assessment website on their phones, if necessary.

Shoals Jr./Sr. High School does not have an official 1:1 set up yet.  Students lose computer access depending on the infraction or the number of times they are written up for the misuse of resources (video games, cell phone texting, etc.).  I loved Paul's example of the "procrastination shame spiral" which all of us have fallen to at some point in time.  It is difficult for teenagers to stop minimizing the word processing screen if they think they can better their score on a video game, but it is imperative to their grade point average that they maintain self-control.

Control by technology works well for my students who love to learn.  It is great for the students who live to write and who can't wait to see what the new assignment challenge is.  These students would sign up for English even if it was not a required course.

But what about the student who hates English?  Those who would rather be outside changing the oil in the truck?  What about the unmotivated student who is there because his/her probation officer mandates it?  Not all students want to learn educational technology!  Not all want to do internet research or writing assignments!

Self control will only work under the most perfect circumstances.  If a scientist thinks he/she is about to make a breakthrough discovery that will have a profound effect on mankind, he/she may not be distracted.  If an author is finishing the last chapter revision on a book, he/she wants no interruptions. If a software developer is about to fix a glitch in a new program, he/she wants no questions.

But, most of the time people are doing mundane work tasks that may become tedious or boring.  A quick check of e-mail, a short stop at Twitter, ordering a book in Amazon, or a routine scan of Facebook can break the monotony and no one ever plans to stay off task for more than five minutes.  So, if there is a deadline tomorrow and he/she has been exploring the net off-task for four hours, where is the self-control?

I do not expect to see a day when each and every one of my students in each of my classes has mastered self control on the internet.  I would be a hypocrite if I said I do it myself.  It's 10 p.m. and I've been grading English essays for three hours, what can a quick five minute check of Pinterest do except lift my sprits?  Anyone who says they are never diverted from their primary task online is "stretching the truth", as Mark Twain used to say.  Self control is something to place on a bucket list, but it may take a lifetime to reach.

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