About Negative Behaviour

I got a little pushback today when I shared this article via Twitter.  “How To Address Negative Student Behavior in 1:1 Classrooms“.

In the article, the author Keith Sorensen did a nice job of identifying and describing potential areas for behaviour issues.

  1. Technology becomes the distraction;
  2. Distracting other students;
  3. Difficulty evaluating information;
  4. Less interest in the class;
  5. Loss of sleep;
  6. Increased incidences of bullying.

All of these are serious areas of concern, to be sure.

The pushback I got was that the readers didn’t feel that there were enough solutions offered.  So, I’d like to take a few moments here to try and share my thoughts about it.

Turn back the clock to the days when the only technology in your school was the computer lab.  At 10:30 on Wednesday mornings, it might have been your class’ “turn” in the lab.  So, you’d line up and head to the lab to do computer stuff.  It’s been my observation that it really was seldom that something curricularly relevant was ready to be done on computer at 10:30 on Wednesday.  Hence, it became a “computer class” that focused on learning some skill that was probably totally unrelated to anything else that might be happening in the class.  Or, even worse, a chance to play some sort of mindless computer game.

Fortunately, as educators, we matured in our use of the technology that was available and made those excursions to a computer lab somewhat more meaningful.  It got much better with the one or two computers located permanently in the classroom.  Even better, when laptop technology came along and you could use the technology when it was important, not when you were scheduled – and, at your desk.  A superintendent that I worked with had a wonderful phrase that has hung with me – it was called the “technology at the point of instruction”.  Even that became more descriptive when we really understood what was happening when we changed it to “technology at the point of learning”.

We’ve come a long way, getting better and maturing with each iteration.

But the 1:1 or BYOD classroom is a whole different thing.  We’ve got to refine our learning again.

As long as the technology is imported to the classroom or a student has to physically move to a computer, there is an element of control over the whole process.  But, 1:1 or BYOD takes all of that away.

I’m a firm believer that a total rethink of things needs to be done when you move to 1:1 or BYOD.  In fact, I would suggest that the issues outlined in the original article are the result of putting 1:1 or BYOD in the classroom and, at the same time, not really changing what’s happening there.  If students are bored and unmotivated before, you’ve just given them another outlet to demonstrate this boredom.

When I look at successful 1:1 or BYOD implementations, the environment changes.  Students take control of the learning with the use of the technology.  It is no longer an add-on that tries to make the same old, same old appealing.  When that happens, and it’s not easy – nobody is saying this is easy – the behaviours get minimized.

Successful teachers have a way to make this happen.  And yet, there are times when the 1:1 or BYOD is not appropriate.  Just like the old fashioned instruction – put your pencils down and listen, the successful teacher finds a way to make it happen.  One unique way of making this happen was to create a penalty box on the desktop with strips of masking tape.  When technology is not to be used, it goes into the penalty box and alternative class activity takes place.  A quick teacher glance over the room ensures that the technology is where it is supposed to be.

My mantra for these times is “don’t do things differently, do different things”.

Done properly, I think that the issues raised in the first four points can be at least minimalized.  Honestly, I don’t think that there is any solution that solves it completely.  Anyone who claims so should be pushed for their thoughts.

As for the fifth point, now we’re getting into the realm of parenting.  There was a great article the other day.  It takes the concept of the penalty box to the home! Does every family need a tech basket?

The sixth point is probably the most serious and everyone is searching for a solution.  I often wonder if part of the problem is that the person being bullied is ashamed or embarrassed to find themselves in the situation of being bullied and consequently just doesn’t want to admit it.  We’ve got to change that mindset and make it acceptable to come forth and ask for help.  Kids Help Phone is a great step in the right direction.  That should be the first thing that a student see when she/he logs onto a school computer to serve as a reminder that she/he is not alone.

There’s my reaction to the pushback that I received.  I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

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6 thoughts on “About Negative Behaviour”

  1. Apologies to those who received the post via email. 10:30 would be in the morning and not the afternoon as originally posted. I plead guilty. I was watching the Detroit fireworks as I was proofreading last night.

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  2. The problem with social media is that it, in effect, hands a loudmouth a megaphone; a better tool than his/her own voice. The issue, as I see it, is to work on the problem at the source, not worry about the tool. Simply put there are two items in the equation: the bully and the victim. Twitter, etc. is just the means. ‘blocking’ or ‘banning’ twitter just means that the bully will find some other tool. This, as I see it, is just a cat-and-mouse waste of time. I like your ‘big picture’ approach, though. We have to rethink what we are doing with the BYOD classroom and get beyond enabling devices ‘just because’.

    We like the students’ own devices, not because they are cool but because they have the potential for providing the students with access to good content and tools. In other words we like them to the extent that they are useful in school. We need, therefore, to help develop and acquire management infrastructure that enables just that–and nothing much else. This means that we need to fix it so that BYOD in the schools get access to the network or Internet on terms that we can live with. This, in turn, means that portions of the devices’ memories need to be segmented so they can get the apps and data needed without, necessarily, using the school’s bandwidth for their own personal use. They or their parents/guardians can get data plans for that and do that from the ‘non school’ partition on their devices.

    And I hasten to add that personal use of handhelds is very much a part of our time BUT students need to learn that just as it’s not appropriate to engage socially about …”whatever”… during class time (just as you and I don’t do it when we are working; that’s what breaks are for). In this way, then, the personal stuff is just not on during class time and the management infrastructure needs to be able to help with that.

    And, yes, that implies that that management infrastructure needs to become much more complex and reflective of changing classroom needs. Fine–bring it!

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  3. Really interesting stuff here, Doug. One of my colleagues has a “tech basket” that she uses in her classroom – groovy green bucket – devices go in at the beginning of the day, and you get them as needed (even if whole class isn’t using them, you can say….”can I look this up?”, and go grab your device. When everybody needs them, everybody goes and gets them…she created it because of a trio of characters who had FOMO, and were surgically attached to their devices at all times. It’s worked surprisingly well, but when I suggest it to other colleagues who are having an issue, they are sometimes horrified at the idea. Not sure if there’s a happy medium somehow.

    My other thought is that one of the keys to successful integration of tech (BYOD or otherwise), is to build a classroom community where respect for each other is top of the list, and that helps deal with the bullying issue, tech-based or otherwise.

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  4. Thanks for this post!

    Well, low interest in students in classroom was one of the major concerns, to combat this issue I started interactive activities, group discussions on a particular topic, and quizzes in class and noticed students participation. well applying student engagement activities helped me out. I am still working on another issues.

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