Fréda M. Antoine, Malikah R. Nu-Man, and Elizabeth Reyes-Aceytuno
Classroom management has a positive impact on student learning. However, the ability to guide students through the learning process is one of the challenges that beginning teachers face as they embark on their teaching journeys (Rose & Gallup, 2006). Classroom management involves a complex system, made up of many parts. It includes the classroom environment, teacher-student relations, behavioral expectations and consequences, as well as daily routines.
In addition to it being a complex system, classroom management involves strategies that teachers use to engage students in academic tasks. Demonstrating effective approaches allows teachers to decrease the behaviors that block learning for both single students and groups of students, while increasing the behaviors that enrich learning. Effective teachers exhibit strong classroom management skills. Less effective teachers have disorganized classrooms, loaded with students who are distracted, off task, or not paying attention to the lesson.
Educational technology can assist in the development of effective classroom management systems and skills that cultivate student learning. This chapter explores the uses of online technology classroom management tools and strategies that effectively support teachers in making the most of their instructional time through use of interactive, engaging, and positive behavioral-building learning methods. In addition, a list of online tools that can be used for classroom management is provided. This is followed by a personal narrative from a Special Education teacher who has used classroom management digital tools to enhance her students’ behavior, classroom instructions, and student performance.
Importance of Classroom Management
Instruction and student learning are impacted when there is no classroom management in place. Chaos becomes the norm when classrooms do not have established behavior expectations, are disorganized, or when students are allowed to be discourteous. However, “discipline, classroom management, and engagement strategies are critical in developing a risk-free environment where students are engaged in learning” (Rischer, 2009, p. 47). Educators who posses a sound classroom management system allow for a learning environment where both teachers and students can thrive. Research conducted over 30 years indicates that classroom management is a key element in successful teaching (Marzano, 2003).
In order to have effective classroom management, it involves designing and implementing classroom rules and procedures (Marzano, 2003). Why are behavior expectations and procedures important? They help establish a learning environment in which students are engaged in the learning process. Students become aware of what is expected of them in all areas of their learning and behavior within each educational setting. Rules and procedures decrease the amount of time wasted during transitions that occur during the school day and increase on-task times. Rules – or “behavior exceptions” as they are also known should be easy to understand, stated positively without the word “no,” and should be posted in the room for students to see. Setting up your classroom management rules and procedures at the beginning of the year is essential. (Marzano, 2003). Adjustments can be made throughout the year as needed.
One of the keys to classroom management is to provide classes with plenty of productive tasks that students are too occupied working on to misbehave (Marzano, 2003). Learners flourish when they are aware of the expectations. Then, they can bank on those daily agreements being consistent. The more teachers establish daily habits into their classes, the easier it is for students to find the way through their lives. It is important to make a distinction at the beginning of the year that attention is provided to those who do the right thing while others are addressed without reaction swiftly. That is, turn your attention to the engaged students and other students will start work hoping to get your positive attentiveness, too.
How Technology Supports Classroom Management
With the ever-growing list of teacher responsibilities, the use of technology to support classroom management can help relieve some stress of having to juggle all the everyday tasks of teaching. Technology provides teachers the opportunity to track, monitor, and engage students in their learning effortlessly. Ultimately, utilizing technology makes tasks much easier as well as helps educators efficiently manage their classrooms (Colao, 2012). In addition, technology provides a better platform for teachers to celebrate student accomplishments, reward them for their positive behavior, and communicate with the parents easier. Whichever form of management tool a teacher incorporates in class, it is wise to have several tools and plans ready in case the current one is not working.
Technology enables teachers to access more of the world than ever, so modifying the lesson delivery and how these tools are approached is essential. Making lesson plans to use different applications depends on what is the objective. Technology can seem like a disrupter, or a means of driving a lesson based on how the tools are used.
Having tight transitions is a strategy which establishes transitional routines for students to learn. Students adapt quickly to repeated instances without considerable teacher direction. For example, a timer found on the Class123 Timer website tool can be projected on the wall or a screen to alert the students of the time parameters of each assignment and how much time is left to the next transition. This strategy helps to increase instructional time by decreasing the potential chaos and lag time often associated with changes between activities. It also keeps the students alert and engaged in the lesson.
Types of Tools and Strategies
There are many different tools and strategies that can be utilized through several digital tools to help with classroom management. In this section, there will be a discussion regarding the Edtech tools of Class Dojo, Group Maker, and Class123. Each of these tools can help with classroom management by structuring activities for enhancing classroom routines, sharing information with parents regarding student behavior, and providing digitally enhanced strategies to help maintain positive learning environments for all students.
Class Dojo is one of the tech tools that aid teachers in different aspects of classroom management. It helps the teacher with the collection of student data collected and creates weekly or monthly reports. As a result, it allows the teacher to set up positive reward systems. Class Dojo was developed through consultations with teachers and parents in 2011 by a former management consultant and gamer, neither of which have children. Class Dojo grants teachers the ability to share information with students and parents in real time with over 30 languages in which it can translate. It is a versatile app which is accessible by computer, tablet, and smartphone. Class Dojo has eight different tools within the toolkit, as described below.
- Direction: Direction is a tool the teacher can use to display instructions for students electronically.
- Group Maker: Group Maker randomly assigns students to pairs, or groups of threes, fours, or more.
- Music: Music can be played as background music to enhance the class environment.
- Noise Meter: A Noise Meter monitors class noise levels with visual displays to help students self-manage.
- Think Pair Share: Class Dojo allows users to create a digital display of prompts for students to turn and talk with a partner using this the Think Pair Share strategy.
- Random: Random is random student generator that helps you select a student for checking for understanding or to volunteer.
- Timer: The timer feature embedded to help with transitions, group work, independent work, etc.
- Today: The today feature functions as a display for daily messages and bulletins to students.
GroupMaker is another technology tool that has multiple features to improve classroom management and increase productive student collaboration by listing all group members. Currently, it is only available for iPhone, iPad, and iTouch. The primary focus of the app is to create and manage various student groups. GroupMaker has a feature for student pictures that could assist substitutes in identifying all students who need to be in groups. Similar to Class Dojo, other features of GroupMaker are:
- Timer: Just like utilizing a timer in the classroom, this application allows the teacher to project the timer on the whiteboard and create student groups. This allows a visual for the students while they work on the task at hand.
- Noise monitor: This feature monitors student noise level and reminds the class if their volume is appropriate and conducive to the learning environment.
Class123 is a free downloadable classroom management medium with several classroom tools and communication resources. Class123 is available on both a mobile app and on a web-based app on the desktop. This classroom management medium aids with the daily routines that teachers face while involving parents in their child’s participation in the classroom. In addition, Class123 creates the atmosphere classroom management is a more entertaining experience as teachers build their confidence in the classroom setting. The application is colorful and laid out with avatars representing your students.
It provides the teacher opportunity to give instant feedback from a mobile device or computer to students. It also has two other features: ‘Lucky Draw’ and ‘Timer.’ As mentioned before, the ‘Lucky Draw’ feature will randomly select any number of students, set by the teacher, revealed on the whiteboard (if teacher allows it). The ‘Timer’ has a handy countdown and stopwatch resource that can time sections of the lesson or tasks. The animations for these features are amusingly appealing and supplemented by a notes section at the end. Similar to other LMS, other features of Class123 are:
- Digital Chalkboard: This digital chalkboard can be used to display information and work through problems. In addition, it can be saved and reused by teachers or students.
- Bell: The bell is a feature for a teacher to use to call the class to order.
- Goal Setting: This item allows for teachers to place goals within the lesson for students to work towards to achieve.
- Feedback: Teachers can receive feedback from parents and student and send feedback to parents and students.
- Customization: Class123 allows students the ability to customize their app by allowing them to customize the interface and settings to match their specific preferences.
These technology tools, when used appropriately, can help to support a more learner-centered classroom. Features like timers, noise monitors, and digital chalkboards can provide structure and feedback to students. Next, we will explore how one of our authors has used technology tools to support her classroom management strategies.
My Experience Using Technology for Classroom Management
My use of technology as a classroom management tool has been gradual. As a teacher of students with significant cognitive and physical disabilities, I incorporated assistive technologies and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices into my lesson plans. For example, timers, calculators, a SMARTboard, picture exchange communication (PECS), or two-choice communication switches. However, these tools never occurred to me as a resource that could assist me in creating an engaging or structured learning environment for all students.
It wasn’t until I became a teacher of students with Emotional Disturbance that I learned how technology could support me in establishing a classroom that was safe, secure, and comfortable for my students and in turn allowed them a space to perform their best. I use to have a difficult time transitioning students from one activity to the next. Typically, transitions involved students being off task, engaging in horseplay, and me yelling at the top of my lungs for students to fall in line and move to their next learning station or activity.
Then, I learned about visual timers and how quickly they can be projected on a wall or projector screen in the classroom. This simple tool provided students with both visual and auditory cues in addition to a structured break time between activities. From this simple addition, my students and I created an agreement that after 15 minutes of work, they would be allotted a 5-8 minute break before transitioning to the next task. This helped save my sanity and also increase student’s ability to remain focused and engaged in content being covered in class.
I also began to incorporate “Schoology” into my classroom management system. This program allowed for me to organize my assignments and interactive learning activities in an efficient way. For example, I created a student calendar for students to access, which allowed them to track which assignments or projects were due and when. At the start of the period, I was able to assign students online videos to watch or articles to read with questions, while I took attendance or dealt with maladaptive behaviors on an individual basis. Also, I was able to assign students varying badges for their performance. For example, attendance, most improved, homework, and participation to name a few. This allowed students to assess their performance in real time and determine areas where they were doing well or needed improvements.
It is important to note I can have this level of success because I work at a Title I school and one benefit is each student is issued an iPad in every classroom. For educators working in environments where this is not the case, you may want to consider working with your administration team to incorporate a BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) to school day or policy to assist with increasing technology use within the classroom.
Teachers are often cautious and mindful at initial marking periods, but as the semester proceeds, interactions with students are moving along well and the expectations relax a bit. At times, this can result in a classroom that starts getting out of control. Having a classroom with students who are testing their boundaries causes frustration. Using these strategies regularly will work to create results in student behavior in any class. Therefore, consider the practices described in this chapter to get them back on board.
When teachers put an emphasis on punishing for every minor violation, this results in resistance, resentment, and eventually, they rebel against you. Acknowledging your students for their excellent behavior will reproduce that behavior, to react well to constructive criticism, and to value you. Learners are keen on detecting weakness, and therefore need to sense that a teacher is prepared, grasps the material, and has a level of enthusiasm that makes them want to trust every word. Students will follow your lead when you show confidence.
If students begin to test the boundaries, just remember these classroom management strategies and return to a connection based on shared respect. Students like consistency and tend to flourish in environments that they deem as stable. By providing parameters, their awareness of what is expected are measured and more likely to be fulfilled.