I was fortunate to teach in a 1:1 laptop classroom for seven years. In my classes, students took daily notes on computers, did research, wrote essays, created various multimedia publications, and worked on collaborative projects.
Yet I knew that if I wasn’t watching their screens, my students would at some point be doing something they were not supposed to be doing. So, while I was thrilled with the tremendous educational content available to my students, I was concerned with the less-than-desirable elements pervasive on the Internet. Today, I stroll through many schools that are using technology extensively, and invariably I see students using computers for Facebook, IM, playing games, checking sports scores, and all manner of other “evil” things. (BTW, this is as true in middle school classrooms as it is in graduate schools.)
Many teachers I encounter have decided that they need to crack down on — if not entirely eradicate — screen distractions in their classrooms. (A minority of teachers accept it as a form of 21st century doodling.) So, I regularly get questions from teachers asking if they can lock students into apps (yes, that’s possible) or watch student laptop screens remotely (yes, that’s possible, too).
Yet, I rarely indulge in discussions of “Big Brother” tools and strategies. Instead, I ask teachers to consider the most important truism regarding screen distractions: