Students can be easily distracted during computer time. They may be tempted to visit websites instead of listening to your instructions or lecture. Keeping them on task is especially difficult when they are working in groups. There are some things you can do to maximize their on-task time:
- Have clear rules in place for computer time. The rules should state what consequences students can expect when they do not use computer time in a productive way. The rules should be posted at the front of the room and in other areas of the classroom where they are easily noticed by the students. You can work with the students to jointly create the rules at the beginning of the school year (or quarter if you are teaching an elective).
- Have clear goals for each lesson: Students should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. If there is a final report or presentation, you may want to show them examples from previous classes. You may also want to share a rubric with them, or even better, work with them to create one as part of the lesson.
- Divide longer projects into stages: It is a good idea to provide opportunities for feedback throughout the length of a project. This will allow you to address problems early on and save your students some time and effort. It will also avoid misunderstandings when the time comes for the final evaluation of the project. You can also encourage your students to stay engaged in the project from beginning to end by requiring them to submit work in the early stages, even if it is just an outline or an early draft.
- Have “Lids Closed” or “Monitor Off” time when students have to turn off the monitor (if you are using desktops) or close the lids of their laptops (if you are in a lab or classroom with laptops). This will prevent them from being able to visit websites or chat with their friends while you are talking.
- Arrange the room so that you can see what is being displayed on the screens. The monitors should be facing toward a central area if at all possible, instead of facing toward the wall. This will make it more difficult for the students to chat or play games since you will be able to easily check their activity from your desk.
- Check your computers on a regular basis to see if distracting programs such as chat or games are installed and remove them.