Strategies to Manage the 21st Century Classroom

We all have seen the black-and-white images of the one room schoolhouse. The chalkboard teacher is writing on the chalkboard while students sit in rows. Our classrooms haven’t changed much from the 100-year-old images. It is a wonderful time to live and teach in an age of rapid educational changes. Many students have electronic tablets instead of using personal chalkboards. Smartboards are now available to many teachers. The limitless amount of information available online has made the central textbook obsolete.

These changes are exciting but can be overwhelming when there are multiple goals to meet each day and thirty to 35 students involved simultaneously. How can we manage the 21st century classroom environment? These are eight strategies that can be used in real life to defeat the technology-challenging classroom dragon.

1. Get your classroom setup started

Setup is crucial, just like in a well-managed classroom. Set up the desks so that you are able to see all screens. Students can place their desks in circular orientations so that they face the outside walls of the classroom. If rows or pairs are more appealing to your class, you might consider placing your desk in the back of the room. It will be possible to see all screens and students from a distance.

When using technology, it is important to clearly define, present, teach, and then repeat the classroom rules and procedures. It is important that students are clear about their expectations and how they will handle technology-related issues. This structure can be created by numbering each device. The numbering helps with technology support communications and gives students a sense ownership.

Finally, make sure you have a system to allow students to log in. Every teacher who has worked with computers knows how frustrating it is to log in. Create login cards to help students be more independent. A personalized login card should contain the device login and a few of the most popular websites or apps. Keep a master list with all logins. Logging in should be the responsibility for the student, although this will depend on the age of your students and any special needs.

2. Digital citizenship should be a top priority

Once you have each student’s devices, they are ready to learn. This is your opportunity to teach responsible use of technology (also known as digital citizenship) which is one of the most important skills in 21st century classrooms. Students cannot navigate the internet in safety, communicate with others respectfully and effectively, or handle digital problems. These skills must be learned.

It doesn’t matter what grade you teach, use the chance to help students become digital citizens. Although this may seem daunting, you can find a wealth of materials and complete curriculums online. Common Sense Education is, which offers curriculum for each grade level, teacher tutorials, materials and engaging lessons for every classroom. It’s my favorite resource for teaching digital citizenship.

3. Teach mini-lessons before using devices

My number one mistake in classrooms that use devices is the order of their process. Imagine students in a room that vibrates with excitement when the teacher rolls the C.O.W. Computers on wheels are brought into the classroom. The teacher gives the students the numbered devices and they each punch in their logins. The teacher is relieved that all devices are working and he begins to give instructions for today’s lesson. This picture is a mess. Is this a picture that you believe is representative of the percentage of students who are actually listening to the instructions or learning the concepts?

Mini-lessons are essential for student access. Because they are aware that they can use devices, students won’t be distracted. You can also use mini-lessons to ensure that students understand what you expect and how the assignment involves technology. Even though the lesson is inquiry-based students must still understand what they are expected before they log in.

4. Make the choice that is right for you

Traditionally, the teacher was the center of instruction. Instructional technology gives students the ability to choose their learning path in a 21st-century classroom. Students have the power to make choices and take control of what they learn. There are three types of instructional technology activities: practice, creativity and discovery. Students have the ability to make choices.

Khan Academy is an application that allows students to practice and improve their skills. Students can choose which project to work on, or which game to play while practicing. Students can choose from many options to demonstrate their ability to use the concept, evaluate their work and take complete ownership of the final product in a creativity assignment. Students can use their natural curiosity to navigate through a discovery assignment.

Remember to give your students the opportunity to choose an instructional technology lesson that interests them. Check out this research by Universal Design for Learning to learn more about the importance and benefits of offering choice.

5. Remember, sharing is caring

Students should be allowed to share what they have discovered or created. This will encourage students to focus. Students will find inspiration from their peers and find value through their own work. You don’t need to share at the end.

While you’re moving around the room, find a student doing well and tell the class. Students who struggle in traditional classroom settings are often not given much praise. Technology can change that environment and offer opportunities for students to shine. This includes English learners, introverts, as well as those with limited proficiency in certain subjects.

6. Check-in with teachers

Conducting regular teacher check-ins is one of my favorite ways to manage a complex classroom. Our students have the opportunity to learn at their own pace using instructional technologies. They can also use tools that match their learning style and learn about topics that are of interest to them.

This can help create a learning environment that is conducive to student learning. But how can one teacher manage all students’ learning? Schedule time for teacher check ins so that students can be consulted once per week. You can also conduct these check ins online using Google Forms. You can also include questions about achievements and challenges in your online survey. You can quickly get feedback and use it to make a plan to help and intervene when needed.

7. Make sure you have breaks for devices

Students can find technology motivating by itself. Students can lose their focus when they work online, just like adults. Give students a few minutes to switch off their devices, and then have them engage face-to-face with another classmate. This will help them get back on track. Students should avoid their devices and use management software like Veyon for three to five minutes to lock and view their devices.

8. Software tools can be your friend

Five years ago, the one-to-1 (one device per student) initiative was launched. This marked a major shift in educational technology from being teacher-centered to student-centered. These educational technology tools have enabled many students to take control of their learning and are now able to do so on their own. To help manage this new environment, different types of software have been developed. To assist with behavior management, tools for classroom management were created such as Class Dojo and Class Craft. To assist with course design, assignment submissions and file organization, open-source learning management software systems like Canvas and Moodle and Schoology were created.

Software tools are being used to monitor students’ devices. GoGuardian is a device management software that allows teachers to see, control and even freeze student devices using one teacher control panel.

Your classrooms are evolving with the world around them. These eight strategies will help you create a learning environment that is innovative and productive for your tech-savvy students. For a complete program to help you become a 21st century teacher, take a look at our MEd In Educational Technology Leadership.