There’s more to a blended learning classroom than meets the eye. Having spent the last decade working with primary classrooms, I have shared the transition to a technology-infused classroom with many teachers. The master teachers taught me that you should leave nothing to chance. I was surprised to discover that the same classroom management techniques that worked so well in the early grades are helpful in a high school classroom as well.
If your school is moving to blended learning classrooms, take a few minutes to consider the following:
1. Plan the layout and procedures of your blended learning classroom before day one
Some challenges of the blended learning classroom you can anticipate. Others will surprise you. So plan what you can and adjust as you go. Consider where you keep your mobile cart, if you have one. Does it provide easy access? Can students easily plug in items? What procedure will you have students follow as they collect and return their devices? Are you ensuring that wires are out of the way? Will students lose time finding and untangling headphones? Be sure to think through the classroom layout and procedure and train students on it day one.
2. Create a sense of value for the devices in your blended learning classroom
One of the best ways to keep devices in good condition is by creating a sense of value around them. My son’s first grade teacher received a few iPads for her classroom. Every student in her class knew what a privilege it was to use an iPad in one of her learning stations. They knew that they didn’t want to lose this privilege, too. My son actually corrected my sloppy handling of our iPad at home, showing me how to carry, handle, and put the iPad away.
I met with another technology director who kept a laptop with a broken screen to show students. She would walk through the exact scenario of how the screen broke and have the students practice the correct procedures to ensure that their laptops did not meet a similar fate.
3. Assign devices to students in your blended learning classroom
Another simple technique to keep your devices in great working order is to assign a number to each device and make sure that the same student uses that device every day. I visited one high school civics classroom where the assignments were posted on a large sign above the mobile cart. All of the students could hold each other accountable that way.
4. Allow students to earn responsibility in your blended learning classroom
In my son’s first grade classroom, students were not allowed to pick up the iPads until they demonstrated that they were ready for that responsibility. She waited at least two weeks. In other schools, students earn the responsibility of taking the devices home by demonstrating that they can care for them successfully during the school day. Perhaps, in your classroom, students can earn the opportunity to be a technology monitor as described in number 5 below.
5. Put students in charge of your blended learning classroom procedures
Collecting and returning devices while keeping them charged throughout the day can be a daunting task for teachers. Valuable instructional time can be lost all along the way. One teacher advised me that this changed the day that he put two students in charge of the entire distributing and collecting routine. He also assigned a technology monitor to make sure that everything was plugged in correctly at the end of the day. Consider assigning students important roles in your blended-classroom routine, so that you can spend your time on instruction.
6. Teach the tech terms YOU use in your blended learning classroom
Okay, so this is the secret of the master teacher, or at least the teacher who has been doing this for a while. How many of us lose time simply because students misinterpret instructions? There’s a difference between “close” and “shut down” and “sign out.” Make sure your students know the difference. Think about the terms that you will use, and share your vocabulary with students before they get started. Perhaps they’ll even teach you a few new terms for your list.
7. Wander your blended learning classroom
At first, students may be tempted to stray from the task at hand. Keep an eye on their screens. You might try a tool like Hapara to monitor students’ screens. Remind them of their privilege and responsibility in your blended learning classroom. One teacher observed to me that it took a couple of months to completely establish the expectations. After that, it was so easy to have kids working independently on laptops.
Hopefully, I’ve sparked a few ideas to smooth the path for your blended learning classroom. I’d love to hear your thoughts!