I have Technology-Rich Classroom – Now What?

I have Technology-Rich Classroom – Now What?

Simple, clear procedures have always worked for me for any kind of classroom management. Whether it be a technology-rich classroom filled with laptops (or whatever other devices you may have) or a classroom with hardly any technology. A classroom with access to many devices might feel overwhelming especially when that kind of environment is new for you. Below I share five simple tips that have worked for me over the years.

However, it’s like anything. These take time. They need to be modelled and revisited during the year to ensure the smooth operation of learning continues in the classroom whether the devices are in use or not!

5 Simple Tips for Managing a Technology-Rich Classroom

Set Clear Expectations

Our Classroom Expectations that we make together at the start of the year and agree to as a class, work just as well online as offline. We’re respectful. We listen and take turns. We try new things and we have fun and so on. The expectation is that these apply even when we use technology (it’s just another tool right?) There’s some slight tweaks on those expectations that are needed every now and again.

For example, when I need everyone’s full attention. Lids are at 45 if we’re on the laptops. When we take turns sharing a laptop or ipad, one person is the “driver” (the driving the mouse/trackpad or touching the screen) and the other is the “navigator” (keeping an eye on the time, managing what needs to be done next). Then we swap because we share and take turns.

In a high school class I watched a colleague use the “phone stack” expectation. She wanted her students to be able to use smart phones in class. Her expectation was that when they weren’t needed,  they were stacked at the edge of the grouped tables, face-down. In addition to that expectation, she had 2 minute “tech-breaks” on the hour in place. Not a break from tech, but “a break to check your tech”. Her students knew that they’d get a chance to check their phones and/or social media etc. This had a huge impact on her students. They stayed focused and on task simply because they knew they would get the chance to “look at their phones” without having to take sneak peaks!

And Establish Consequences

In addition to establishing expectations, you may also want to ensure that you lay out consequences for violating any expectations. This can be loss of technology privilege, a note home, confiscation of the device, or a meeting with the principal. Or it can be whatever else you decide is necessary in order to ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them and the natural consequences of not complying with them.

Do consider designing those consequences together with your students. It’s much more powerful. Students are more likely to avoid the consequences when they’ve been a part of deciding what those consequences are! Plus I find they are usually way more harsher than me so we are able to find a happy medium!

Engage the Learners

We all know that our lessons should be engaging and need to have students to staying on task at a steady pace in order to complete them.  Helping students to stay engaged can include playing to their passions, setting firm due dates for a task, differentiating and/or scaling the task for students who finish slower and/or faster. I know that my students become bored when the tasks aren’t authentic, meaningful, engaging or challenging. Differentiation, motivation and engagement are all made easier thanks to the technology devices we have access to.

I like using the Socrative app with my students to help keep them focused on a particular task. At the same time it provides me with meaningful assessment that helps guide me in moving their learning forward. Exit-tickets (something they must complete before leaving) is a great way to do this. You don’t have to use Socrative. You could use Google Forms or ThatQuiz (math). When I’m looking at various tech tools to use in the classroom, one of my criteria for evaluation of that tool is whether it has the ability to differentiate. (See Right Tool for the Task below).

Silly First, Serious Second

Even 6th graders (or older) can benefit from this! Whenever a new tool, app, piece of software, or device is introduced we have a “sandpit” time. I let kids have a play, figure out what it does and do the silly stuff with it. I do have a time limit (adjustable for various age levels and based on “knowing” your class).  Another tip is to explicitly state when the “Silly First” time is over. When we first started using the commenting feature of google docs, I gave my students 3 minutes to say hello and type random letters (which 3rd graders have a tendency to do). If we are learning to use a new app on the iPad like DoodleCast Pro (a fav of mine!) or Educreations Interactive Whiteboard App I will actively encourage my students to make one silly recording before they delve into the task. I believe this helps “get the silly-ness out” and creates a fun learning time.  It doesn’t always stop it from occurring – but that’s usually a deeper issue!

Most of the problems of using new technology arise from the novelty or newness of the device and/or app/program. If we let students get past the initial excitement they are more likely to be focused on the “serious” learning task.

Go “Walk-About”

Something I’m always asked about is what I do about the inappropriate use of technology (phones, tablets, and/or laptops) in my classroom. Go walk-about is an aboriginal term meaning “highly mobile” and it immediately spring to mind when I’m asked about this topic. Sometimes people don’t like what I reply. In my own personal experience, the best way to ensure that students stay on task is to walk around the room. Look at the work they are doing. Discuss and engage with them about their progress. The more active and mobile you are in the classroom, the easier it is to ensure that your students are on working on what they should be.

If you notice that children are quickly closing browsers windows when you come near or “double tapping” the home button on their iPad (that’s a clear sign that they’re switching apps) then you need take some time to investigate what the student is doing and have a discussion with them if necessary. (Refer to Expectations at the top.)  I wrote How Do You Manage IT? a few years ago. If you’ve got time, you might like to check out my 10 top tips for managing technology in your classroom.

Right Tool for the Task

Even though I’m considered to be the “techie teacher with the techie classroom”, we don’t use technology ALL the time! If pen and paper is the “right” tool for the task, then that’s what you’ll find us using. Sometimes it is not appropriate to use technology for a task or activity. We try to avoid using the technology for the sake of using the technology unless the purpose is either to motive or engage. This blog post (from Beth Holland & Shawn McCusker) When to Put the Tech Away in a 1:1 Classroom is a worthwhile read. I found myself nodding in agreement with these particular words …

The trick is to never let technology erode the relationships in your classroom.

Bonus Tip! Build Good Relationships

Nothing takes the place of having good relationships with your students. I’ve always run into issues when I haven’t managed to build a relationship with a student. However classroom management is definitely an ever-changing process because what works one year, might not work the following year. (I have a story to share about that, but I’ll save it for another post later!)

My Advice

Find what works for you and with what students. I have had classes that were easier to keep on task than others; students that have been more easily distracted than their peers; and even a class that really wasn’t into using technology and devices like previous classes (that’s also another post to share later!). I’ll also freely admit that there’s been those lessons that have totally bombed with technology. [Insert throwing hands up in the air and shouting Wahoo F.A.I.L! – First Attempt In Learning]. But that’s ok – it’s all about the learning (mine in those cases!)

Please Share!

What are your go-to strategies for managing a classroom with many devices? Favourite tips? I’d love to hear from you!


Image Attribution: I tried really hard to find out who owns this image so if anyone knows can you please let me know so I can give them credit!

Preparing For Learning – Part I

Preparing For Learning – Part I

As I focus on documenting for learning I’m thinking about how I prepare for learning.  In particular, preparation for professional development sessions with educators. I’m looking forward to working with MS and HS teachers in Malaysia for two days next week on blogging in the classroom. Preparation and planning began over 3 months ago and the hours involved have steadily increased as the session dates draw near.

The 3 questions – Why? How? and What? have been a three-pronged approach to planning these two days so I thought I’d share my learning process with you.

The Why

Blogging is something that I’ve always been passionate about. Using technology to enhance learning took a hold of me and “lit my fire” so I began to blog.  It was always important to me to share my passion of the authentic use of technology in the classroom with others.

Fast-forward to today. As I head down the Independent Consultant road it’s important for me to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Hence the reason for this particular post. It’s my documenting and reflecting on the learning process.

Idea plan action prepare for learning

The How


In order to understand the purpose behind the professional development being requested, a meeting with the stakeholder is important. First emails establish a connection. Skype allows us to connect and talk about expectations and needs surrounding the two days of PD.

This is a fact-finding mission to gather as much information as possible. I need to discover where a school and it’s staff is and where they want to go. Together we decided how they want to move forward.  It is always inspiring to be a part of a school that wants to move forward. Not quite sure how to move forward doesn’t deter them and they are willing to bring a stranger in help them achieve their goals.

To help with the planning stage I like to use Google Docs. It’s a brilliant way to keep track of conversations, planning, resources, ideas, schedules, observations in order to bring everything together. A document was shared with the school stakeholders and became the eventual planning document for how the two professional development days would pan out. All stakeholders had editing rights.

Consulting Experts

I’m very fortunate to have made some life-long friendships with very clever and knowledgable people.  There are people in my personal learning network that I would have never connected with if it weren’t for being a blogger.  I didn’t get to meet these people in person until a long time after connecting with them online. Now, I have been fortunate to have met (and worked with some) my “expert” friends. For this particular PD planning, I turned to them for advice, thoughts, ideas and opinions.

I think I was really seeking confirmation that my thinking and planning was on the right track. More specifically that the planning made sense and that it flowed.

Silvia and I at the floating market
Silvia & I at the Floating Market during her 2009 visit to Bangkok.

Through skype I had a lovely conversation (and much needed catch up) with my dear friend Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. Silvia is a walking plethora of blogging expertise (you must check out her resources that she shares via creative commons with educators all over the world). It was reassuring to share my ideas and thoughts with Silvia and hear her reassurance that my thinking was on-track. A bonus was that I was able to garner some more ideas for working with teachers on a topic that is so vast!

Again, thanks to skype and a spare “hour” in his very busy schedule, was a chat with Andrew Churches. I sought out Andrew’s expertise on working with large groups of people, his experience with IB and his amazing work with Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Andrew suggested some brilliant ways to help facilitate the learning beyond “keynote / lecture”.

The use of a google document meant that I was able to share my planning ideas with other consultant experts. In particular, two very good colleagues (and brilliant friends) Kim Cofino & Dana Watts.  These two amazing ladies have a wealth of experience working with educators in a consultancy context so their feedback on the planning of sessions was invaluable.

In documenting the process that I’m going through to prepare for this PD, I realise that I know some incredibly talented and generous educators. I am extremely grateful that I have these kinds of people in my own personal learning network.

In reflection I am struck by the notion that when you’re globally connected with others you have the ability to pass on authentic learning to fellow educators and it multiplies exponentially.

Stay tuned for Part II where I’ll share The What.

Self-Reflection; A Realisation or Four

Self-Reflection; A Realisation or Four

As I look at my growing list of draft posts (aka: best intentions upon self-reflection) I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve been talking the talk but not walking the walk lately!

It’s not that I haven’t been learning, discovering, teaching and learning some more over the past few years. It’s that I haven’t been reflecting – or should I say, I haven’t been documenting my learning and self-reflection.  A recent conversation with my very good friend (and amazing educator -aka Langwitches) Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano made me reach down deep and really think about what’s been hindering my lack of documenting and self-reflection. I made a list:

1. Confidence Crisis

It’s not that I’m not confident doing/sharing something. It’s does anybody want to hear about it?

2. Backwards Writer’s Block

It’s not that I don’t know what to write about. It’s there’s so much to write about that I don’t know where to start!

3. Repetition

When you transition from being the classroom teacher to being the coach who’s helping teachers you are often doing things that you’ve already written about before. It feels like you’re not doing anything innovative therefore it’s not worth sharing again.

4. Repetition Amplified

There’s so many great bloggers out there. They are doing the same things as me and writing so much better than I ever could.

Here’s where my a-ha moment kicked in! I began to question and challenge my thinking (self-reflection) on those three things.


Everything keeps coming back to purpose.

Why should it matter if nobody wants to hear what I have to say?  Of course, I’d love to engage in conversation, be inspiring, and share my knowledge and understanding with others. At the end of the day though, what’s my purpose for writing down and reflecting on what I’m doing or learning?  It’s ultimately for me. To document my ongoing learning and professional development journey.

What’s the purpose of all those drafts? They’re obviously things I thought were important enough to write down. Again, what’s the purpose of my blog – to document learning, experiences, and resources.  As my friend Sheena would say, JFDI!  Just flippin’ do it!

Does it really matter if it’s been done before?  I’m often telling CoETaIL participants what might be old for you, may not be old for others – so share what you’re doing.  Why am I not following that advice? What’s the purpose of my blog again? It’s a matter of perspective. Although I may have written about something from a classroom teacher perspective I should document it again from a coaches’ perspective. There will be subtle differences, I’m sure.

What’s the purpose of my blog again?  To document learning – my learning. It’s a place for self-reflection. As I critically engage with media (reading, commenting, writing on blogs) my writing process can only improve.  Does it really matter if someone else is writing about the same things?  That’s not my learning is it?  It might be part of my learning – as I may be inspired to share my own experiences with something. And my own experience might be different or I may have done something slightly different, or I may have even added to (amplified) someone else’s learning and re-shared. It’s all part of the blogging process and the part of the journey of blogging that has the potential to transform learning and teaching.


I know I am guilty of not doing the one thing that really helps makes your blog grow. Being consistent.

Silvia explains this really well in her blog post about consistency

Blogging is a process, not an event that happens as a culminating activity of a lesson or unit.

The realization and acceptance of blogging as a platform for learning AND as a process, brings in the component of CONSISTENCY.

Silvia goes on to explain that consistency helps establish trust. It builds a relationship with your readers and it helps build a loyal readership. Consistency also helps you experience the cognitive process of learning over a period of time.

What Now?

Well, it’s time to make some changes to my routines. Time to become part of the conversation again and get on with a process that I whole-heartedly believe in.  It is time to remember the purpose behind my blog and the reasons why it’s important to document learning.  If I make it back into your RSS reader – that’s a bonus!

Video Release for 10th Anniversary Tribute to “The Dot”

Thank you so much to the teachers and students who participated in the special 10th Anniversary “Dots Around the World” project.  The Dot by Peter Reynolds is such an inspirational story (as are many of his stories!)but The Dot is one of my all time favourites.

I’m only sorry that this video didn’t get published on the official 10th anniversary of the dot. The best laid plans can often go awry in technology and everything that could go wrong, went wrong! Perseverance, patience and faith in some very clever technicians has, at last, paid off.
Thank you all for being so very, very patient with the unforeseen technical difficulties that arose trying to complete this final video. The completed video is finally embedded below.

The Dot – Special 10th Anniversary Collaborative Project Tribute!

Update:  Thank you to the teachers and students who participated in the special 10th Anniversary “Dots Around the World” project.  Please be patient – some unforeseen technical difficulties have arisen – your dots have been received and the video is ready to upload – I just didn’t imagine that I would move and be without enough internet access to upload the video to YouTube. I’m working on it – and hopefully the video will be accessible very, very shortly!

Remember this last year?

Collaborating and creating dots with teachers and students around the world was a blast last year and I want to do it again – but with a twist!

This year is the 10th Anniversary of Peter Reynold’s book “The Dot” and I’d like to incorporate that into this year’s Dots Around the World Collaborative Project! There is an official dot day – September 15th – so I’d like to release the completed video on this date. That means that there has to be a submission deadline: Friday, September 13th.

Important Difference (from last year)
This year’s video will have a theme:  Ten
Please, please make sure that your dots have something to do with 10 – otherwise I can’t include them in this special tribute to Peter Reynold’s 10th Anniversary of “The Dot”
Possible ideas (and any others that you can think of!!) include:

  • Create the number 10 in dots (could be a whole class/group effort or individual)
  • Create a picture only using 10 dots
  • Spell out the word “ten” in dots
  • Select your ten best dots from the class


What do you need?
An iPad (or more if you have them) and time (time for your students to create their dot pictures using any ipad app you wish – I’m thinking the more different apps we use the more versatile we can show the iPads art capabilities).  I was also thinking that iTouches or even the teacher’s iPhone would be ok to use as well if you don’t have iPads.

Possible iPad apps to Use (but you are certainly not limited to these ones!)
Doodle Buddy (free)  Inkflow (free)  Drawing Box (free) Draw (free)
Procreate (4.99)  MyBrushes (1.99) Drawing Pad (1.99)

Tech Spectacular Extra – I’d really love more of these this year! (It’s easier than it sounds)
Educreations,(free) ShowMe,(free) ScreenChomp, (free) Explain Everything (2.99). These iPad apps would be cool to use if you are willing to choose ten students to record the actual drawing of their dots – I’d speed it up for the final Video)  Please let me know directly if you would like to do this piece as well. Last year we used DoodleCast Pro (it costs, but it’s brilliant and definitely worth it and I used it all the time for our Grade 3 Student ePortfolios!)
MyBrushes (1.99) also records as you are drawing and saves to your camera roll – then you can email it to me.

Very Important:
Please include student name (first name only) and the app used to create the dot on the image.  See link below for an example : http://www.flickr.com/photos/teachingsagittarian/7920592790/in/pool-2114863@N22

How do we get the Dot drawings to you?
There are several different ways to get your dots to me before the 13 September deadline:

Dropbox / Box net
If you’re a dropbox/box net user – simply let me know in the table below and I will share you in on a special folder for dropping your images in.  This really is the BEST way to get your video/image files to me.

I’ve set up a flickr group called 10th Anniversary “The Dot” Collaboration Project 2013.  If you join our project simply upload your photos to this group if you are a flickr member already. (it’s a public group – no need to join, just add your photos).  Short videos can also be posted here as well.

Or you can just email your dots to me (or better still have your kids email their finished dot straight from the iPad if you have it set up)

Ah, the all important time frame!  All dots to be included in the video need to be in dropbox, box net, flickr or sent via email by Friday 13 September – so that the video can be ready for release on Sunday 15th September.
This deadline will be strictly adhered to!

Can anyone think of anything I’ve forgotten?

Still interested?
Please click this link to the 10th Anniversary: Dots Around the World Spreadsheet to help me keep track of who’s taking part and how you’re going to get your images to me!

Please feel free to invite anyone you think might like to join in!
Can’t wait to see what happens this year.  Get creating!!

Cloud Storage

dropboxI’ve been storing my documents, files and photos online for a while now.  My number one option is Dropbox.  Just recently I signed up for 100MB of storage (at $US9.99 a month) to help me transfer my work laptop files to my home laptop files before having to hand in my work laptop.  I figured it would take less time (yes) and be more advantageous (aka: really make me think about whether I needed those files/documents/pdfs/photos or not!).  – (Yes!!).

When I get settled, I’ll probably forgo the paid option of Dropbox and transfer files back to my home laptop as the amount of free Dropbox storage I’ve been able to accumulate thanks to a generous referral scheme will be suffice for my storage needs. If you’re not a dropbox user – click here to get your starting 2GB (& grow my space a little bit more) with the potential to earn up to 18GB more when referring your friends!

boxThere are other cloud storage options out there, I also use Box which now gives away 5GB free storage when you join.  When they started up, they were giving away a very generous 50GB – so I took advantage of that! Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a referral scheme to earn more storage space, by hey, 5GB for free – that’s still pretty generous!  It’s the same amount that icloud gives you free.

I use icloud storage simply to backup files on my iphone/ipad that I don’t have anywhere else.  I do that so that if something happens to either one of my personal devices, I can easily restore everything!

copyNow there’s a new kid on the block!  It’s called Copy and they are giving away a massive 15GB storage FREE – yes, that’s right – FREE!  Now, you know me, typical kiwi – I love free things and this offer is no exception!

I really like the fact I know have 3 options for storage and I don’t have to rely on just one or two sources.  You can join Copy via this referral link to get your free 15GB of cloud storage and help my storage increase a little (because Copy has a referral scheme that allows you to earn up to 5GB more!)