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Great Tips for Building a Highly Tech Interactive Classroom

Hopefully you are all enjoying your well-deserved summer break:). That being said, this may be the ideal time to take a look at adjusting classroom management routines just a bit to address the use of technology in the classroom (especially cell phone usage). After all, no one wants to spend wasted minutes telling kids to put the phones away. Instead, this is the time to make technology a teacher's friend because it has the potential to build student enthusiasm for learning. It could be a win-win scenario for all concerned in this new learning environment of common core.

Let me share my own experiences (i.e. lessons learned) with cell phones. Though there were ups and downs as I started allowing their use, I have arrived at a point where I feel fairly comfortable with their use in my class and plan to do even more with them when I start teaching English (with long term English language learners mostly) in the new school year.

1. Have clear cell phone policy contract needing parent's signature---This will be part of the course syllabus from the first day this year. Students will need to submit them with 5 days. For students who fail to do so, their parents will be called. Without parent's agreement, students will not be allowed to use the phones when activities occur within class demanding their use (ex. EDMODO, SOCRATIVE, POLL EVERYWHERE, REMIND 101, research, blogging entries, etc.). Classwork not completed in class will need to be completed during lunch with me or at home (where they may use their computers or cell phones).

2. Follow through on consequences for NOT respecting the rules---FIRST WARNING is a gentle reminder to put phone away. SECOND WARNING is firm ("If I have to revisit this situation again, I will take your phone for the rest of the period."). THIRD OCCURANCE, I take the phone and return it at the end of the period. If the same problem surfaces the next day, I call home FROM the student's phone to explain what I am going through and secure their support for them to hold the phone at home for a given period of time (1 day, a week, etc.). I have never gotten to this stage though because I keep the pace lively to maintain their attention throughout the period.

3. Have a variety of assignments ready to deliver so that students have no reason to stray. Programs like EDMODO have worked well for me because I have a variety of approved sites along with differentiated academic tasks on the same theme ready to go. I also set them up so that students can earn credit so they don't feel that they are wasting time.

4. Quick checks for understanding can also be conducted through SOCRATIVE. This program does some of the things EDMODO does and comes in quite handy for spot checks on student progress. Like EDMODO, it offers several quiz formats. Students take the quiz and results are sent to the teacher almost immediately. Teacher may then share results via charts or graphs. I think of this as another tool to hold on to student interest as I proceed through a lesson. Again, students will need to be trained in its use as well as any other tech tool to be used during the year.

5. Along with my teacher class blog (BLOGSPOT through GOOGLE) that I will create next month when I know what my actual assignment is, I will have students sign up for a GMAIL account so that they can use BLOGSPOT for group projects as well as individual ones (in lieu of composition books which can be lost). For benefits of blogging, see this article on from EDUTOPIA. For fun, I will let students create their own caricatures using SOUTH PARK THEMES or their own fun photos taken in class.

6. With GMAIL ACCOUNTS, students will also have GOOGLE DRIVE access-a virtual filing system for all assignments. Students will meet deadlines for English by submitting their work to my GOOGLE drive. PAPERLESS CLASSROOM offers many suggestions on how to do this effectively. I will be taking a slow approach since I first have to be an "expert" in its use before I teach students how to use it.

Cell phone use and respect for the rules in its use will make all of this possible.

Final thought here: our students love technology. Weaving it into class instruction seems a natural next step as we address educating our students in the 21st century for careers that are probably not even in existence yet:)

Denise, Marnie, and Cheryl

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