Early in my school psychology days, before the Internet, smartphones, iPads, and social media, I had the opportunity to work with groups of fourth-grade students referred to me for academic and social-behavioral support. Some of these students had problems following behavior expectations and completing tasks when they worked in groups, even when the group work centered around a computer. Basic skills such as listening, attending, and turn-taking were skills that needed lots of support.

One of my bright ideas was to pair the students up, two to a computer, to practice turn-taking skills as they played an educational game. Although I thought I sufficiently prepared the students for the activity, one student promptly became impatient waiting his turn, grabbed the mouse from his partner, and bopped him on the head.
I only had a mouse to worry about. In today’s classrooms, teachers have so much more to manage!

A review of current resources on the topics of effective positive behavior management and technology integration strategies reveals themes that are consistent with my experiences working with teachers, students, and technology over the years. Below are some tips and a list of resources for further exploration.

Collaborative planning for instruction, technology integration, and behavioral support

  • A key strategy is to step up your collaboration with colleagues throughout the school year. In many schools, this can happen during grade level or department team meetings. These meetings can be structured to provide a way for teachers to develop and share ideas for carefully thought-out, detailed unit and lesson plans. Time spent early on will go a long way to ensure that the plans are implemented successfully, and at the same time, support technology integration and minimize behavior management problems.
  • Use a Unit Plan/Lesson Plan template, and modify it to meet the needs of the teachers and students.

    • The plans should address curriculum objectives in meaningful ways, technology integration, and management of materials, software, and online resources.
    • Unit and lesson plan templates should also include positive behavioral strategies for handling procedures, routines, and encouraging student motivation. Ensure that the plan is consistent with programs in place at your school, such as PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports), The Responsive Classroom, or Effective Teaching.
  • Involve support staff and specialists during key planning meetings.

    • School psychologists or special education teachers can provide input about differentiated instruction, UDL (Universal Design for Learning), and ways that the unit/lesson plans can support students who have learning or social-behavioral challenges.
    • Curriculum and educational technology specialist can provide additional ideas and resources to ensure the unit and lesson plans that are developed provide engaging learning experiences for the students.
    • Ask for the input of music, art, physical education, and media teachers for ideas that can add spark to lessons.

Know the basics of positive behavior and classroom management strategies

  • Teach routines and procedures, and provide ways for students to teach one-another.

    • Video modeling is an effective strategy in helping students develop skills for handling procedure, daily routines, and positive social behaviors. The video modeling strategy can extend to teaching procedures established for handling technology tools, accessing the internet, and demonstrating good digital citizenship skills.

      • Have students work in pairs or small groups on video projects to create role plays or short skits that show “what to do” and “what not to do”. Each group can take on a specific procedure, rule, behavior, or transition.
      • Students can create videos to highlight positive behavior expectations in different locations in the school, such as the cafeteria and media center.
      • Group video production projects that center on positive behavior topics are good ways for students to practice skills they will need throughout the school year.
    • To minimize reliance verbal instructions, directions, and behavioral prompts, use a variety of visual cues throughout the classroom. This is especially important for younger students and those who have communication challenges. Similar strategies can be adapted for use students in the upper grades.

      • Students can design posters and positive behavior reminder cards for use within the classroom.
      • Students can create digital posters for use as screensavers.
      • Involve students with creating and reviewing the daily schedule and the instructional objectives for their lessons.
  • Get to know your students well, and focus on building positive relationships with them.

    • Review your students’ digital portfolio, and review previous “all-about-me” or autobiography products.
    • Review your students’ academic history, and note previously documented strengths, interests, and talents.
    • Early in the school year, plan “All About Me” activities. For example, have students interview one-another and write biographies. Provide students with a choice of digital tools for their projects. One student might create a video, another a digital timeline, and another, a digital collage.
    • Take time to have short, personal conversations with your most challenging students, for at least ten days. This is a strategy that has been proven to be effective, according to “The Two-Minute Relationship Builder”.
    • Use positive communication strategies when providing students with directions, instructions, and prompts. This is especially important when guiding students through transitions from one activity to another, or from one place to another within the classroom or school environment. Transitions are often “triggers” for student misbehaviors, even among students who usually exhibit appropriate behaviors.

      • Make a conscious effort to provide more positive statements than negative. A rule of thumb is five positive statements for each negative one.
      • Provide opportunities for your students to recognize one-another in a positive manner.

Re-design the educational environment

  • To successfully manage students and technology tools, it is important to take a close look at the furniture and “stuff” in your classroom. Most of it was designed well before the technology era. Many teachers have come up with creative solutions and have rearranged their classrooms to support technology integration and positive behaviors.

    • View your classroom as “learning space”. Work with a colleague to brainstorm ideas that will work for your students.
    • Create learning centers that provide technology-supported activities. Learning centers are not limited to the lower grades. They can be effectively used at the secondary level.
    • Provide a variety of comfortable seating options, and allow for student movement. Flexible seating arrangements are appropriate at all grade levels and have been effectively used in high school classrooms.
    • Arrange your classroom so easily circulate among the students and visually scan their activities.
  • Use a mobile device with an app or spreadsheet to enter information or data regarding your students as you circulate around the room. This is can help you monitor academic progress as well as keep track of students when they are using laptops or other technologies.
  • Make sure digital tools are well-organized, in good working order, and that your students have been taught how to use them.

Ongoing professional development

  • A key to success is a commitment to personal growth and professional development. Your grade-level or department teams can serve as your professional learning community, informally or formally.
  • Consider joining learning communities beyond your school or school district. In some schools, each team member picks an area of interest for further study and joins an online learning community within or outside of the school setting. The team can schedule specific times for teachers to share information ideas throughout the school year.
  • Subscribe to online resources such as Edutopia and Mind/Shift for blogs written for and by teachers.