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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Have you tried turning it on off and on again? Behaviour and the digital native.

Have you got a problem with your Blackberry? Is your Apple not working? In short, how do you use IT in the classroom to affect behaviour? Or rather, how does IT use you to affect classroom behaviour? For the non-specialist (read: most anyone who isn’t an IT teacher) the possibilities and problems offered by the use of IT can be baffling. I would argue that, in the few short years that computers have been available as a near-universal provison, and their physical accessories (such as the ubiquitious Interactive Whiteboard, the Visualiser, tablets and pads) have become familiar parts of the classroom, many teachers still struggle to come to grips with their appropriate place in the learning space. Here are some suggestions to make sure that you aren’t lost in the Matrix.

  1. IT can pacify. Do you want that? The first thing about the didactic, linear way that many teachers use, for example Powerpoint lessons, means that children can treat the IWB as an enormous Telly. In fact, if you really want to push this effect as far as it can go, try dimming the lights and lowering a few curtains. Then play a video text (or ‘clip’ in old money) for longer than ten minutes. Then get them to answer ten questions on the clip. It is the digital equivalent of charming a snake out of a basket. The only way you’ll get them to wake up is if you finish by saying, ‘…and BACK in the room!’. If you have a boisterous class that needs structure and soothing, this can be useful. If you want to push kids to really think and work hard, then it’s not so good. Horses for courses, really.
  2. Do you need to use it? When using IT in the classroom always ask yourself why you’re using it. For some tasks, such as being able to easily switch from one screen to another, it’s a great resource. But if you’re just getting the kids to research something that they could as easily find if you gave them a textbook or handout, then query whether the IT is necessary, or merely novelty. Sure, it glows a bit more, and you tick the Ofsted box that says ‘digitally literate’ but what else?
  3. You still face exactly the same challenges. Telling a kid to find something out, or share homework, or pick an answer online is substantially, no different from asking them to do it the old-school way. If they don’t want to do it, then they won’t, whether it’s on a shiny screen or A4 paper. The same principles of motivation, monitoring and mentoring still apply. The idea that IT is the solution to learning challenges is naive and foolish. It’s a great way of doing SOME things. But the meat and mince of your job- teaching- and theirs- learning- remains the same, no matter how groovy your room is. Don’t be distracted by IT; it’s great as a tool for some things, and absolutely pointless in other areas. It’s not a baby sitter, a fun lesson, or a no-plan lesson. It needs just as much thought as anything else to use properly.

Have you tried booting it?

And good luck

Tom

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