Using Technology as a Tool to Manage Your Classroom

 The end of a semester is the perfect time to reflect on classroom routines and procedures.  My husband, a retired military officer, would call this an AAR – after action review.  This time of reflection and evaluation can serve as a great way to refocus our efforts and re-energize us for the coming term.

As a classroom teacher, I made a regular practice of assessing  the routines and procedures I put in place for my students.  Sometimes they worked; sometimes they didn’t.  One constant, however, was that no matter what grade level  I  was teaching that year or what state we were stationed in at the time, I could guarantee that those kids would eat me alive if I didn’t have certain things in place!

Now that I am a technology specialist, I like to think about how I can integrate the technology we use everyday into making those procedures and routines more manageable for both the teachers and their students.  Here are 5 suggestions on how to infuse technology into your everyday routines.

  1. Use a PowerPoint slide to introduce the lesson.  I always started each of my classes with an introduction to the lesson – the essential question, standards to be covered, a take away message, and the activity for that lesson.  However, this can get confusing when you teach 4 different grade levels in one room and are trying to post all of this on one dry erase board. (Yes, I actually did that!)  I found that it was helpful for me to create a slide for each grade level and/or subject, something that I could project on demand without erasing everything else from the board.  It also came in handy when I had a substitute, because all they had to do was display the appropriate slide for my students in my absence.  Easy peezy!
  2. Use a PowerPoint timer slide for transitions.  One of the most difficult things for me when I taught elementary was transitions – from the room to the hall, from the hall to the restroom, even from one activity to the next.  I learned later that the need for a transition procedure still existed, even in the upper grades.  Microsoft.com has tons of free countdown timer slides in increments from 1 to 15 minutes that you can insert right into your presentation.  You can even make your own countdown slides.  Visit http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/does-your-presentation-need-a-break-HA001188063.aspx to learn more.
  3. Use iTunes or Pandora to set the tone of your classroom.  They say music soothes the savage beast.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that it works wonders on a bunch of rowdy kids entering your classroom!  Pandora allows you to create radio stations based on music genre – classical, rock, pop – you choose.  Or, purchase a serene track from iTunes.  Select a quiet, tranquil song (instrumental works well)  and let it play through your computer’s speaker.  Or, if the firewall at your school blocks these, just  insert the green audio cord from the back of your PC into the headphone jack of your cell phone or mobile device as the students enter the room.  Turn off your lights to enhance the effect.  You would be amazed at the results, regardless of the age level!
  4. Put the technology in the students’ hands.  An engaged student is a focused student.  Allowing the students to “drive” during your lesson can help channel
    their energies in a more positive direction.  I typically select the one student that “sets off” the rest of the class and train them to do some of the tech tasks in my room.  Since this kid commands attention, the rest of the class will follow suit.  This also frees me up to circulate around the room and use proximity control to minimize a lot of the other off-task behaviors.

Try a few of these, or share some of your own, and let me know how they work for you.

Happy Teaching!

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