Student Contracts and Netbook Classroom Rules
When we learn from our experiences (and mistakes) we develop wisdom! I have included a few suggestions so that classroom management with netbooks will be easier. One recommendation that I would give to teachers is that before giving students their netbooks, students should sign a Netbook Contract. I have also asked their parents or guardians to sign that contract as well. The reason for the contract was to support the idea that it was very important to treat the netbooks with respect. I outlined a few simple rules and explained what the consequences were for breaking those rules. Consequently, everyone understood what the expectations were and what the consequences might be.
General netbook rules and consequences should be displayed on a few posters around the classroom so that the teacher can refer to them when different situations arise. For example, one rule is that students cannot play website or computer games without the teacher's permission. If a teacher sees a student playing an unauthorized game, they can refer to the poster and then tell the student to put their netbook away for the rest of the day, while reminding the student of the rule on the poster. A good catchall rule is, "Always treat the netbook with respect and do not do anything inappropriate with it." Then, if you catch a student trying to stick a pencil into the microphone jack you could invoke the consequences to that rule.
Teachers with great classroom management skills can tell you about the power of the "preferred activity." The preferred activity is whatever the student wishes they were doing, instead of your lesson. The preferred activity for students with netbooks is "free time" with their netbook, this works for most any school technology. STUDENTS JUST LOVE FREE TIME WITH SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY.
Please note that free time is not “game time.” I never allowed my students to play regular games on their netbooks. The only games that I permitted were educational games that allowed them to practice math or grammar and not the games that had students racing a truck through town shooting bunnies! If your students see the netbooks as gaming devices, you will spend most of your time monitoring them as the game police, and you'll hear every type of excuse. "Oh, I thought it was my free time," says the student you catch playing an arcade-type game. In my opinion, you should never allow regular games to be played on the netbooks.
“Free time” with netbooks can include activities such as: sending email, making digital drawings, creating animations, playing educational games, etc. These activities are open-ended yet controlled time for students to interact with their netbook.
I used “free time” as both a classroom and individual motivator. As a classroom motivator, I identified 10 minutes of free time on the front white board. As the class progressed throughout the day, I either subtracted or added time depending on behavior and completion of tasks. For example, I would reward students for walking back from the art room quietly by letting them know they had earned one additional minute of free time that day. Consequently, I could also subtract their free time if I learned that they had been disrespectful or off-task during the art time.
For individual students, I used free time as a motivator to complete their lessons. I would often tell students that once they had their rough draft ready and shared with me in Google Docs, then I would check it. If they saw the comment of READY on their document then they knew that they could start their free time activities. This motivated students to finish projects quickly and accurately since they knew that I would be checking it. Racing through an assignment just to complete it didn’t allow them to start their free time activities. Students were also require to meet the standards that were expected and outlined in my project rubric.