Friday, July 28, 2017

Dealing with Digital Distraction Episode 1: How Technology Amplifies Student Engagement, Accountability, and On-Task Behavior with Heather Chvojka

This is the first installment in Barrington 220's Dealing with Digital Distraction series. The series will highlight how Barrington 220 teachers and students continue to learn and use strategies to manage digital distraction.

Digital Distraction Strategies

Heather Chvojka is a math teacher at Barrington Middle School—Station Campus. Her math lessons focus on on-demand, individualized learning experiences that offer student choice. Like many middle school classes, this class includes students who sometimes veer off task and feel attraction to apps, games, and notifications that could easily cause distractions and affect engagement during the entire class period.

How does Heather deal with potential digital distractions? She highlights three key strategies for managing digital distraction:
  • Set device expectations in advance
  • Engage students by engaging with students
  • Create a learning environment of freedom and mutual trust

Classroom Highlights

During the final full week of school during the 2016–2017 school year, I visited Heather Chvojka's math class of Grade 8 students at BMS Station Campus during the final period of the day. This class was similar to other classes in late May—students entered the room with lots of energy and at a high volume.

Within minutes the students engaged in the lesson and remained engaged until the final bell signifying the end of the school day. This short video clip demonstrates that Heather's math class certainly didn't resemble the math classes I remember that were characterized by direct instruction; straight rows of seated students; and a methodical, algorithm-based, step-by-step delivery.

A couple of strategies stood out. After Heather explains the lesson objective and gives the options for how students can choose to demonstrate learning, students select where they wish to sit and with whom they will work independently. Students chose to work with friends, classmates of a similar achievement level, or independently.

Students work to solve problems using multiple modes of media including personal or wall-mounted whiteboards with dry erase markers, calculators, iPad devices, and paper/pencil.

IXL and Classroom help Heather's students students engaged, accountable, and on task. Using these two tools, she can monitor student progress and catch opportunities to provide just-in-time guidance for her students.

Heather uses proximity to guide students toward on-task behavior while simultaneously providing specific, timely feedback and instruction to other students using Apple Classroom.

With Apple Classroom teachers can see all student iPad devices in the classroom and zero in onto specific screens to monitor progress in real-time. When a student raised his hand for help, Heather used Apple Classroom to look at that student's iPad screen so she could respond with the exact instruction needed at that moment, based upon the work she saw on the screen.

Using the online math subscription service IXL, Heather can monitor the live progress of each student; she may also choose to connect the IXL Classroom Dashboard (the "teacher view") to the projector display. The IXL Classroom Dashboard is organized on the screen by Common Core math standards and by the number of questions each student has answered during the time period—all updated and displayed in real-time.

In general, Heather chooses to give students some choice and control, allows them to be engaged, and then supports them when they need on-demand feedback to continue learning.

I would like to convey a special "thank you" to Heather for taking the courageous leap to allow us a glimpse into her classroom, and for sharing her time and insights through her reflections.

The Apple Classroom app is free and built into the iOS 10 operating system installed on our iPad devices. Check out this post about Classroom. The tools described and shown within the IXL program are also available to teachers using other online subscription math programs.

Please see your LTA, Teacher Librarian, or Instructional Digital Age Learning (iDAL) coach for more information.

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