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7 Effortless Dos and Don'ts For Students That Break "Technology Rules"

Make your classroom a safe zone rather than a danger zone!

Make your classroom a safe zone rather than a danger zone!

 Odds are, you have that one student who abuses their technology privileges.

Here are some suggestions that I have used and that I have seen other teachers use. Keep in mind that every classroom is different and your students are the most important factor in deciding how you deal with "technology abuse" (i.e. if you know your student might go on a rampage if you take their phone, try something different). You should also consider checking out any school or district policies before trying any of these. 

DO: Have them place their phone in a "fun" box right in front of them.

In my class, students place their phones or tablets in "the chokey" (if you've seen Matilda, you'll know), which is simply an empty pencil basket that I put on their desk. If you have cool science lab tables you can even draw a box on the table with chalk. Use a piece of paper if you'd like!

Point is: they place their phone in it so you don't touch it or confiscate it, and therefore you are not liable for any damage to it. Let them know that they are restricted from reaching in the box for however long is decided. If they do, for whatever reason, they get an automatic detention or call home. You can obviously alter that consequence however you'd like.

Get creative with your box! If your students like Harry Potter, call it the Forbidden Forest.  

It could be as simple as a notebook! Students just need to put their phone on top of it and be instructed of the consequences of reaching into the area without permission.

It could be as simple as a notebook! Students just need to put their phone on top of it and be instructed of the consequences of reaching into the area without permission.

DONT: Give them extra work.

Think of the psychology behind this one. If work is given as a punishment, how will students begin to view regular classwork in your class? This is especially important in environments where classwork is already considered the devil for some students. You will be giving classwork at some point so don't kill the spark that's already having a hard time igniting.

DO: Involve parents when necessary.

There are some things that go too far. Example: I had students looking up yeast for a lab and one student took it upon himself to pursue research into yeast infections and distract his peers with inappropriate images. Mom was not thrilled about that one. 

But, I will say that contacting parents should be constructive. Don't call to say "Alex would not stop searching for Monica Lewinsky photos when we learned about Bill Clinton today." Instead ask what you can both do as a team to make sure Alex is on task and is using his technology wisely.

DONT: Ban them from technology in your class forever.

In some EXTREME cases, you may not have a choice. If Sally purposely throws an iPhone and shatters the screen, Sally won't be using one in my class again. 

Most likely, students will be doing minor things that get them into trouble. If it becomes habitual, talk to parents. If it continues after talking to parents, figure out the root of the problem (maybe they have some personal things going on that are distracting them) and talk to the student about it. Banning a student from technology says, "you get to sit and watch everyone play with the fun stuff," and where's the learning in that? At the end of the day, don't rob a student of the opportunity to learn.

DO: Give them excess explore time...on your terms.

So they want to go on other apps they're not supposed to? Or they want to play games on their device? Perfect, have them do just that. Let them get it out of their system. 

Yes, there's a catch...

Make sure it is on their time, not yours. Typically this is something I have them do in detention or once they finish their classwork. Instead of letting them roam freely through their device, I give them a list of apps I need them to go on (typically a about five or six) and I have them write down 2-3 sentences to describe what the app does and when it can be used best in our classroom. I do not tell them what to do on the app or how to use them, I let them explore. 

Usually I keep their papers and whenever we use the app in the class, I allow the "expert student" to describe the app to the rest of the students. It gives them purpose.

DONT: Punish them for something you would do.

The first time I used Geddit, I virtually raised my hand multiple times just because it was fun. Whenever I play Kahoot I use a funny name. You shouldn't be hard on your kids for silly things any curious person would do. 

DO: Reward positive behavior!

We have a Kahoot Spotlight that students get featured on for winning Kahoot for the week. They LOVE bragging about being on the board and quite frankly it motivates even the most distracted players into paying attention.

On apps where you can share things that students have submitted to you (Nearpod, Geddit, etc.) I share work that exceeds my expectations and it encourages students to put in even more effort.

What are some things you do in your classroom that promote appropriate use of technology? What are some of the consequences for abusing technology privileges in your classroom?

Share your thoughts, comments and questions below!