Controlling Students

Last fall I went to ITEC11 in Des Moines. I was challenged by educational reformers like Gary Stager and Steve Hargadon.

I also enjoyed perusing the exhibits. One of the many sellers was LanSchool Classroom Management Software. I was mildly interested because I do want to have good classroom management and I want to host a safe digital environment in my classroom.

However, at the same time I was repulsed. I had just been listening to radical and exciting educators telling that we can be lifelong learners together with our students. We can give them ownership of their learning. They can be creators and contributors. When I saw LanSchool demonstrated, I couldn’t help but think this was a serious disconnect. Many of us teachers were excited to take to heart the exciting innovations we heard at the keynote address. However, we then walked into the very next room and were able to undo everything Stager and Hargadon told us if we bought the right management software to “control” our students.

I realized then that not all schools embracing 1 to 1 technology for their students are also embracing the type of learning of which Stager and Hargadon spoke.

When I came back to my school I did not tell anyone about the software. In fact, by this morning, I had forgotten all about the LanSchool Classroom Management Software, but today I received an email that reminded me of the software I had rejected.

Here is part of the email that came:

Want a tool that grabs your student’s attention? Choose the one that some students fear but every teacher loves.

LanSchool Classroom Management Software lets you run your computer-assisted classroom like a pro. Blank computer screens. Show your computer to the class. Drop kids off the Internet. Get their attention like never before.

OK, so I read their email and it reminded me of my polarized thoughts. Right before the email, I had had my first class. Students had come in with their laptops. They, like me, are tempted to multi-task. They like to get logged in right away, and I try not to tell them too often to close their computers. Sometimes I do–for prayer, when I’m giving directions, when someone is sharing, etc.

Would I want to be able to blank out their screens? Do I want to nip in the bud any hint of online chatting (note passing)? Do I want to make sure they make no digital mistakes in my classroom?

Or do I want my class to be a place where they can make some mistakes? If not in my classroom, where? Do I want to inspire them to be geniuses–creating and producing? “We don’t have time for chatting now, unless you are talking about the work you are doing. We need to contribute and share our genius. We are changing the world!” I’m heard to say.

We have to leave some room for them to learn good digital citizenship by making occasional mistakes. It’s a bit messy in my room these days.

Yes, it may be handy to blank a screen once in awhile, but if I always do it for them, would they even know they need to learn to blank their own screens sometimes? Do I want their learning under my control? (I shudder to consider what any of us would think if a speaker blanked our computer screen so we would “pay attention” in a class, conference, or PD meeting.)

I work hard to make my classroom student-centered, why would I want to take control of their computers? I want them to take control of their own computers and their own learning!

And so, after reading the email and even venturing a look at their three-minute video, I find myself once again dismissing the idea of LanSchool software, as I did in October.

What do you think? Does your 1 to 1 school use a computer management software?

If not, do you think you’d like one?

I hope you’ll share your experiences with or without it.

My guess is that One Laptop per Child schools don't need management software.

Images Haiti Classroom and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from One Laptop per Child, shared with CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license.