Managing Your Digital Classroom with Wearable Technology
For my last blog entry, I shared my top Top Ten Device Management Tips for classroom teachers. This post received positive feedback, as well as questions about the managing the logistics of a 1:1 classroom. For instance, readers asked me, “What are students doing with the devices once they receive them?” and “How do you manage workflow?” And more importantly, they asked, “How do you manage the students if they are all working on devices?”
In my opinion, all of these questions fall under the umbrella of classroom management. To provide some answers, I will describe the creative way I use wearable technology to manage my classroom.
On a typical day, there are three stations in my classroom: a teacher station where I conduct small group instruction, a collaborative station where students work cooperatively to complete a task, and a work station where students work independently to complete asynchronous tasks. With three distinct groups working simultaneously, one might wonder how a can teacher respond to each and every student misunderstanding.
My answer: the Pebble.
Alerts me when a student is on-track or turns in an assignment
Students must be held accountable for the work they produce in each station. To keep students on task, I track their progress using my Pebble watch.
Pebble is marketed as “Technology that makes your life better,” but it is so much more that a bluetooth watch that puts apps, email and text notifications on your wrist. My Pebble allows my students and I to remain connected no matter their physical location in the classroom. I know immediately if a student has not made adequate progress and can quickly either make note of it or address that student during small group instruction. Thus, instead of waiting until all of the papers are turned in at the end of class, I can immediately respond to student progress.
Students can ask questions and prompt responses
Teachers are great at multi-tasking, but it would be humanly impossible for me to conduct a small group and to answer questions that may arise. But with my Pebble, I can receive real-time questions from students (which I promptly answer on my mobile phone).
Students use the Pebble message feature on their iPads to text questions. By simply going to the messaging app icon on their device and sending an iMessage to my mobile phone, we have established a virtual help desk that is both extremely fast and highly responsive to individual student needs.
Sometimes, the question warrants me making a whole group announcement; other times, I can send a quick message to the student(s) to clarify an assignment or procedure. All of this is done without students getting out of their seats, interrupting my small group or disrupting the flow of their collaboration or independent work.
Supports classroom transitions and atmosphere
With Pebble, I can play music to signal transition, or as background music. Both the student and I set timers during each of the rotations between stations. On average, each rotation lasts 20-22 minutes. Students are free to use the timer function on their devices, and I mirror a timer as a visual reminder on my Apple TV. When time has expired, a musical tone plays, followed by a minute of up-tempo music from my iTunes. It’s a rare occasion that I play music while students are working, but I have a neo-soul playlist that I can control (play, pause fast forward and rewind) via my Pebble watch.
Wearable tech is more than just a cool gadget outside the classroom. It can act as an extra set of eyes, ears and hands for a teacher. Sure, my Pebble watch counts my steps, pays for Starbucks, and allows me to view my personal @i143ss Twitter timeline. However, its most important functions give me the opportunity to continue to build my student’s agency, advocacy, and communication skills.
Without my wearable tech, I would not be able to efficiently track and monitor student progress, manage their workflow, or provide a platform to respond to their misunderstandings. Without my wearable tech, I would be struggling to keep pace with the rapid pace of workflow that characterizes a 1:1 classroom. And without my wearable tech, I would be disconnected and locked out of the unique and creative world my students will undoubtedly inherit as they become global tech citizens of the world.
Disclaimer: I am not endorsing this product, but merely espousing its benefits as a classroom management tool. I am not an employee of Pebble or any of its affiliates, and I have not been compensated or received any gifts or favors for providing my opinion on why Pebble is my classroom management tool of choice.