Friday, May 10, 2013

Addressing the negative student behaviors in a one-to-one classroom

I strongly believe that technology is going to completely revolutionize the classroom. But when are we going to start addressing the negative aspects of the one-to-one classroom? When are we going to acknowledge the fact that just because every student has a device it does not mean that they will get a 36 on the ACT? I have seen videos of babies that can play with an iPad, but that does not mean that high school students intuitively know how to use one to effectively collaborate and communicate in the classroom. Let's be honest: using technology in the classroom is harder than teaching the "old way". It takes a whole new skill set, and it requires a lot of work to get ourselves over the new barriers caused by the technology. We can overcome the obstacles, but we need to acknowledge that the obstacles are there. A hurdler does not run down the track blindfolded - he has to see the hurdles in front of him if he is going to clear them and win the race.

There are SO MANY well-documented positive results of using technology in the classroom. There are major studies that will tell you that technology improves a child's education in very specific ways. Read Project Red's study of nearly one thousand schools in Revolutionizing Education Through Technology to learn about 13 specific areas where schools will see benefits from a strong one-to-one program. The key to making progress is to implement it PROPERLY, and that is where many schools fail. They throw technology in the classroom and expect benefits to appear. But they don't always appear - some benefits do not reveal themselves right away, and some never appear at all. Not only do you have use technology the right way, but you also have to be prepared to identify and overcome the problems. 

Besides just documenting the positive aspects of using technology, schools also need to be on the lookout for the negatives. It's still early in the one-to-one era, but a surprising number of schools are simply not prepared for the question of, "What do we do when things aren't working quite right?" As classrooms change with the addition of technology, we need to celebrate the positives but also realistically deal with the distinct negatives that were not present before. So what are the negatives?

Student behaviors, actions and attitudes
  1. Technology becomes the distraction. Students can find it hard to resist the temptations of all the iPad has to offer. They are easily distracted by the games, videos, chatting, and social media sites.  They're much more fun than listening to a teacher, right? Classroom management can be very difficult when thirty students have iPads in front of them, and it's not always easy to see what they are doing. Distracted students who are  not paying attention in class is probably the number one gripe from teachers. 
  2. Distracting other students.  Many students are perfectly capable of paying attention in class and using their tablet or cell phone effectively - unless they are sitting next to another student who is not so disciplined. It's hard for other students to ignore one who is watching videos or playing games in class. When one student is distracted, he becomes a distraction to others. 
  3. Difficulty evaluating information. Students think that when they "Google" a question that they will get the right answer. They are not naturally adept at discerning the difference between "good" information and "bad" information. Students need practice to hone their skills in information literacy which is one of the six national educational technology standards for students (NETS-S).
  4. Less interest in the class. It is generally accepted that student interest and engagement increase when they are in a one-to-one classroom. But what happens when a teacher is not prepared to use technology effectively? Students will actually lose interest in the class if the teacher does not provide lessons that take advantage of the technology or use the same boring technology over and over again. Keynote presentations everyday? Boring! 
  5. Loss of sleep. When students are well-rested they are more capable of processing information, concentrating, making decisions, and interacting with others. Losing sleep can have negative consequences academically for a student. An unanticipated consequence of our one-to-one program is that our kids take their iPads to bed with them where they check Facebook, Instant Message and video chat with each other, or simply watch Harlem Shake videos for hours on end. Some students are not accustomed to having Internet access 24 hours a day, and consequently they lose sleep for the first few weeks (or months or longer) while they explore the wonders of the Internet.
  6. Increased incidences of bullying. Administrators often anticipate that there will be an increase in anonymous attacks on other students over the Internet. What we found is that many students are not afraid to use their actual names and accounts to launch attacks on each other. You can easily find students from your own school who post horrible comments and photos about other students on Twitter and Facebook by doing a simple Internet search. Bullying in person is damaging, but when bullies use technology it's amplified a hundred times over. I will not recount for you the number of incidences where online bullying resulted in suicide for the victim. Use the term "facebook bullying suicide" in a search engine and see for yourself. Online bullying is devastating. Unfortunately, only one in ten students will tell an adult that they are being bullied online.
Technology has changed the behavior of our students, but we as educators can help address those issues. In the long run, these problems will be resolved. You will find the solution to these problems much faster if you can identify them and address them. The six I listed were chosen based on my personal observation and from research I did on the subject. I am sure there are others. 

Just because students behave differently when using technology does not mean that only students have to change. Teachers and administrators also have to change their attitudes, behaviors, and professional practices if your one-to-one program is going to be successful. I will address that aspect in another article.

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