Research has consistently shown that ubiquitous computing transforms the role of a teacher from content expert and deliverer of knowledge to content wrangler and learning mentor. 1:1 students spend equal class-time interacting with their devices, each other, the content, and the teacher. As such, the teacher has to learn how to negotiate these symbiotic influences to ensure engaging curriculum and effective learning.
For many teachers, this can be daunting. They can feel ill-equipped for technology-laden interactions, free flow conversations, and, mostly, not being in complete control of the learning environment. In my experience, I found that most of these fears are overblown. After all, good teaching is good teaching and the rest comes down to interactions, preparation, and technique…
That said, here are a few techniques I have found amongst the most successful teachers I have worked with:
Establish clear guidelines for the classroom – Though the teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage,” s/he is most effective when s/he establishes a clear authority over the classroom by displaying leadership the students can rely upon. I have seen this accomplished through classroom rules, essential agreements, communication guidelines, and fair and transparent discipline practices.
Keep moving around the room – As opposed to traditional classrooms, the focal point of a laptop classroom is rarely up at the board. While teachers may spend time lecturing, all student interactions and work will take place with noses buried in laptops working in groups. As such, effective teachers need to be mobile. They spend time with groups mentoring, clarifying, or mini-lecturing. They work with individual students with the device as common tool of discussion. They bring students up to the front to highlight their work or to give individualized attention.
Teach from the back of the room – Laptop teachers can be quite effective displaying work using the projector in the front of the room while talking from the back of the room. This engages both the visual and auditory learning functions, which often deepens the learning for students. However, teachers have to be careful not to overload the students by talking and showing all at once. By teaching from the back of the room, the teacher gains a good view of students’ screens, thus getting a better feel for his/her students and reducing the risk of distraction.
Creatively use digital resources – Successful teachers in 1:1 classes use the resources at their disposal in a variety of ways: putting all handouts on a learning management system, communicating with students using digital means, stopping classroom activities to deepen content understanding through a web search, online collaborative learning spaces, etc. They often talk to peers, visit online pedagogic resources, or experiment to find new ideas. And they always reflect on their practice.
Engage in asynchronous learning – As students have access to their devices and the content 24/7 there are numerous opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. Some teachers will use the flipped classroom model to leverage face-to-face time for greater student interaction. Others will utilize learning management systems to facilitate conversations or content interaction. Whatever the method, effective laptop teachers will find a way to make learning untether from space or time.
Be ready to teach on your heals – I haven’t worked with a teacher yet who hasn’t had a significant technical issue in class. Laptop teachers need to be ready for networks to go down, students to lose all battery power, or any other best laid plans to come up short…but as I said before, good teaching is good teaching and good teachers know how to cope with the uncertainty of the classroom.