Managing Middle School Students in a 1:1 Environment
By Library Media Specialist and Guest Blogger Stephanie Griffith
It’s National Library Week! In honor of school librarians, hear from Library Media Specialist Stephanie Griffith on managing middle school students in a 1:1 environment. Then, read about becoming a Future Ready Librarian.
Approximately three years ago, our school district decided to undergo a “digital conversion.” Our superintendent felt that having our students leave the classroom and walk to a computer lab didn’t make sense anymore. As schools, we are supposed to be preparing our students for the 21st century, and, in the 21st century, employees don’t leave their office and walk to a lab to a work. Employees work on their computer, iPad, or other device in their office. They have the ability to collaborate with others through Skype, Google Hangouts, and more. Yes, they may get up and go to a conference area or other common room to work with others, but they have their device with them. Our school district wanted to replicate that environment for our students. Of course, with the decision to go 1:1, our teachers and students had to undergo a major paradigm shift. We, as teachers, had to learn to engage our students in learning in different ways. While the students are digital natives, they had to learn to manage and organize their learning in a digital environment. Along with engaging them came the task of managing them as well.
As part of the digital conversion, our district provided each middle school and high school student with MacBook Airs. The middle school was the first to undergo the change with the understanding that the high school would follow the next year. Thus, Highlands Middle School moved from the PC world to the world of Apple, and we had to learn the computer as well as new textbooks, which were online textbooks. Yes, we had training from big name companies that provided us with “tech-books” on instructional strategies to use with the computers, but each teacher had to figure out what methods worked for them. The companies’ ideas were wonderful, but we weren’t ready to structure some of the activities they suggested. Teachers had too much on their plate, but still desired to use the computers in an innovative way. At first, teachers planned to have the students on their devices for the whole class period. We quickly learned that that wasn’t effective. Students grew bored; they drug their feet on work; they, at times, quickly finished so they could play games. So, the teachers changed their methodology.
What seemed to be most effective was mixing up the activities. Maybe the class period was divided up between computer time and non-computer time. For instance, many teachers might begin the class by doing some type of warm-up that is on paper or showing a short video. Students are instructed to keep their MacBook lids down. By having students keep their lids down, we, as teachers knew that we had the students’ attention. Varying the activities helps the students stay more engaged. Other ideas that have worked for us are stations, individualizing learning through BlendSpace, half the class does an activity while the other half does something else, Kahoots, Quizzizz, and Plickers work great as short formative assessments too and provide for a great deal of student engagement.
Instead of the library media center dwindling away, it has become a major hub of activity. Teachers bring their students in to use the space because students can spread out and work in our collaborative spaces in the library. They can use the collaboration stations, rolling white boards, the green screen room, or quietly work in other small spaces in the library. Teachers do review scavenger hunts with their students because they are able to spread clues out on the library shelves. Skype and Google Hangouts sessions with authors or other experts in the field occur in the library media center. Collaboration with the library media specialist has increased because teachers and students need assistance analyzing web resources for credibility and bias. In addition, gallery walks are done in the library because of the space.
Of course, there are still challenges for us. We have to constantly work on mixing up instruction, providing students opportunities that are new and fresh; we have to work on keeping them on task and off the games. We, as teachers, have to be actively involved with the students. We have to monitor them; we have to be engaged with them the entire time they are in the classroom. If we are engaged and working with them, they are going to be engaged as well. Embrace the changes that come with the technology and awaken the powerful, positive force that the technology can be in the lives of our students today.
Stephanie Griffith has been a Library Media Specialist for 19 years. She has been in her current position at Highlands Middle School for 7 years. Before earning her degree as Library Media Specialist, she taught high school English. In addition to her work, Stephanie enjoys being with her family, reading, running, doing CrossFit, and hanging with her two dogs.
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.