Students can be easily distracted during computer time. They may be tempted to get off-task if an alternative is more engaging than the prescribed activity. There are some things you can do to maximize their on-task time:

  • Have clear rules in place for technology use. 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.
  • 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 “screens down,” “lids closed,” or “mice flipped” commands established to temporarily bring individual use of digital devices to a halt when it’s necessary to gain the attention of the whole class for an announcement, discussion, or sharing moment.
  • Check school-owned digital devices on a regular basis to see if distracting programs or games are installed and remove them.
  • Of course, the most effective means of keeping students on task is to design engaging assisgnments in the first place. The Technology Integration Matrix provides guidelines for increasing student engagement in assignments. It looks at the characteristics of active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal-directed learning and maps that to technology integration levels. As you design lessons that provide for higher levels of student engagement, off-task behavior problems will be significantly diminished.

Technology Integration Matrix

Illustration from the TIM Graphics section of the Technology Integration Matrix website.

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