5 tips for classroom management with Chromebooks in a 1:1

Classroom management is something that defines professionalism in the classroom as teachers work tirelessly to meet and address student learning needs and goals. It is an art that is learned, refined, and reinvented over and over throughout a teacher’s career as new technology and teaching methods are implemented within the classroom.

Enter the most recent form of technology to come into classrooms the Chromebook. 10187219156_7ff3aa95ca_oA new challenge now awaits as teachers are engaging students with technology, but may struggle with aspects of classroom management surrounding them. To keep it short and to the point one of the new challenges that I hear all the time from teachers is “How do I know if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing?” Many times I am also asked if we can get one of those monitoring services that would be an expensive cost to our 1:1 program.


My response to these questions and concerns comes from meeting these challenges within my own classroom, and getting to observe other teachers implementing similar strategies. In short we can save a lot of money, time, and get better instruction by using a few simple strategies that I use all the time in my class and with teachers that I work with. Here are the top 5 things that we recommend to make classroom management easier with better learning outcomes in our 1-1 Chromebook environment.

#5 Change the physical layout of the classroom

Steinbach, Mennonite Heritage Village, Manitoba, Canada

A classroom that is not going to mesh well with 21st century technology. The teacher is stuck teaching from only the front or back of teh room and leaves little allowance for multiple activities within a lesson.


An example of a classroom that has been changed so that the teacher can be anywhere in the room and see what students are doing. It also accommodates for flexible grouping, and quick rearrangement for multiple activities within lessons.


One of the biggest things that a teacher can do to alleviate some of the management aspects of the Chromebooks is to change what the physical space of the room looks like. Not all teachers have the luxury of changing the room because of space limitations, furniture that doesn’t mesh well with technology, or too many students to accommodate seating within the room. One of the ways to free up your room and get a better management outcome is to move the furniture completely out of the way.  Teachers who utilize this strategy find that they have more flexibility in activities within the room, lower behavior issues, more on task behavior, and better proximity to students. This setup also allows the teacher to teach from anywhere within the room by simply purchasing a very inexpensive wireless presenter mouse. Simply push the desks, chairs and anything else to the outside walls of the room. The picture shown gives a glimpse into one way that this can be done.


#4 The Stoplight Technique

One of the ways to keep students on task and reduce behavior is to let them know when, and how, the technology is going to be used in the classroom. One way to quickly and easily set this expectation is with a stoplight sign on the outside of the room with a clip. Red indicates to students that they will not be using technology in the class today. (AND THAT”S OK) Yellow indicates that they will be using the technology, but that it should remain closed to start the class because the teacher will be giving instruction. Green lets students know that it is time to take the technology out to start the class along with any other class routines that you may be using. Teachers that utilize this find that they are not fighting the common question ” When are we going to use the….”, or are not battling students about inappropriately trying to sneak the technology when they should be engaged in the lesson. When students know when, and how, the tech will be used they are less likely to be off task. This is an easy task to assign a student to help you with at the beginning of the day or hour of a class.


#3 “What I did today.” history email to the teacher and to parents and guardians

A great way to gather some formative assessment data and to keep students on task is the” what I did today email”. This works especially well with Chromebooks as students can “print” their browsing history to a PDF and then include that in an email to their parents or guardians and the teacher. At the end of the hour have students respond with a short “elevator” summary of what they learned in class that day. This is a great technique as it gets students to reflect on their learning, practices summarizing skills, and increases accountability to be on task during self-directed learning times within the class. As a parent myself it also saves from this conversation

ME: What did you do in class today?

Daughter: Nothing

ME: What do you mean nothing? I am sure that there was lots that you learned.

Daughter: I can’t remember

Parents will be grateful to be part of the learning process, and to be able to see the growth of their child over time. This technique can also be use with student blogging as well if parents are connected to the blog.


Greater conversations can ensue when students have little to say about what they learned in class that day, or their browsing history has large gaps within it as it is reviewed by both teachers and parents.  This allows for more in depth conversations around the learning that took place and gives a great way to gather formative evidence. In addition teachers can give parents the gift of insight into what their student is learning without looking at just a grade in an information system or report card. Finally, it will take almost no additional effort on the teachers part to implement.


#2 “1,2,3 Chromebooks on Me”

This is really a simple strategy that allows for a lot of management aspects within the classroom. When giving instructions, or doing some direct instruction this is a great strategy to get students off the keyboard and focused on what the teacher is saying. In addition it also allows for the ability to do a quick check to see if students are on task, on appropriate sites, or need additional help with the lesson. If teachers are using this strategy they really need to be firm and consistent that if students continue working, or are not on task, that it leads to a “technology timeout”. Teachers who are consistent in this find that it leads to a great way to have a flexible learning environment with the ability to meet a students needs no matter where they are standing in the room.

#1 Lids Down or Lids at 45

Both students, and adults, are consistently called by the siren of technology if it is near. If it is within arms reach and you can see it the the likelihood of wanting to do something with it and be distracted by it is pretty high. Everyone thinks that they can multitask, but more often than not it goes in one ear and out the other. The best way to get students attention is to have them put their lids at 45 degrees–something we model and teach– or have them close their lids completely. The great thing about Chromebooks is that they restart really quickly. The best way to make sure that your instructions have been heard is to eliminate the call of the technology siren so that they are not distracted by what they are doing, or their neighbor. This goes for adults too.


As with any management ideas within a classroom you need to make them your own and adapt to your students. However, with a few small changes it can make a world of difference for both you and your students in a technology rich environment.


Author: Tim Mortensen

Tim is a Digital Learning Manager in the Sun Prairie Area School district. He was a classroom teacher for 14 years before entering a position as a technology integrator. You can follow him at @tamoten.


Quick Write/Type with Technology

write 2


A quick write allows students to brainstorm everything that comes to their minds about a particular topic or question. There are no writing rules on grammar or spelling. The only rule is that students continuously write for the allotted amount of time.

Literacy Strategy Description: Quick Write

Great pre-, during and post reading strategy to help students activate prior knowledge, make connections, reflect, encourage critical thinking, organize ideas, increase background knowledge, etc.  This is a 2-10 minute process which asks the students to write continuously about a topic that relates the reading or coursework.

download (1)

Quick Write with Technology: 

Create a small group in Edmodo and have all your students write in a post that could be shared with the entire small group. You could also setup multiple small groups to differentiate instruction. You could create an assignment that students could complete.

Create a Google form that students filled out that would put their answers into a spreadsheet. You could then use FormMule or AutoCrat to create an email or document that could be shared with classmates.

Create a KidBlog for your class for all students to create their own blog. This would be a great tool to evaluate student growth in writing over a given time period.  This also allows you to connect with other classes around the country and world.  Students can change share settings so that they can keep conversations private with their teacher.

Create a Google document template that students can share with their class and teacher. Create a table that has the columns (date, topic, response).  Then have students give comments and feedback to their peers.

*Thank Erin and Rebecca for helping me on these posts.




Research Made Easy with EasyBib

College was filled with research papers, works cited, and annotated bibliographies.  I remember spending hours working on my citations and making sure that I used the right format for each source.  Was there one author or two authors? What edition was the source? Is there a copyright date? What Journal volume was it? Did I put the comma in the right spot? Is it formatted correctly on my eMachine which didn’t even have Microsoft word.  For all these answers I would sift through A Manual for Writer of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian.


Times have definitely changed since my years living in the dorms and writing papers.  Research and digital sources are dominating our students lives along with the way that they learn new material. Sources are mostly within a couple of clicks on your computer, but that ease of access allows us to move from source to source at record speeds without fully bookmarking and remembering each source.  Now citing and creating a bibliography of sources is within a couple of clicks with the EasyBib extension to Chrome.





EasyBib is a website and extension that allows you to create bibliographies and papers.  EasyBib allows you to add sources to your bibliography quickly and easily.  All you have to do is click on the extension button and the source is automatically added to you bibliography. You can cite 59 different sources either manually or through an auto look-up option. With citing sources being this easy, we should expect that our students are responsible digital citizens and properly cite their sources.


Within 5 minutes, I was able to cite my college citation book without even having it next to me.

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual For Writers: Of Research Papers, Theses, And Dissertations. Chicago, Ill: U Of Chicago, 2003. Print.

Happy citing!!

Realtimeboard: A teachers true 21st Century Dream

The evolution of instruction and teachers is a continuous process. We know that every year there is a new tool, tip, strategy, workshop, curriculum, etc that comes along pushing us to better instructional outcomes. The other day I was reflecting back to when I first started teaching.

Almost identical to my first classroom.

My first classroom had a chalkboard. Somewhere around midyear I received an overhead projector.It was the late 90’s teachers dream for instruction. No split fingers, coughing fits and ruined outfits from the chalkboard. Lessons could be reused if you were willing to get your fingers stained red.

I remember thinking “How much better can get this get?”. Then came a flurry of whiteboards, digital projectors, and finally Smartboards. It’s true the evolution of the front of the room has moved quickly in the past 10 years. However, a continuous singularity to all of the previously mentioned tools was a large frustration in a class of 30 students.

One question continuously echoes in instructional planning “How do I get ALL students engaged in the instruction at the front of the room at the same time using the instructional tools that I have available?” This is where the fine delicate art of dynamic teaching truly comes into play.

Now midyear into my 15th year of teaching enter in a new tool that relates to all of its predecessors in many ways except one. Realtimeboard is a new way for teachers to truly engage students within a lesson using the front of the room projector. If students all have access to a Chromebook, or computer, they can all interact with what is at the front of the room from where they are at. Think of it as every student being able to participate with what is on the board at anytime from anywhere without having to leave their seat. We all know that good teaching requires movement, but sometimes time is against you and you just need good formative understanding of where students are at in the lesson. Realtimeboard gives me many of the advantages of Smartnotebook, but offers these items in addition:

1. I can share out the lesson for the day and students can access it on almost any device.

2. If I want I can have students all collaborating on the presentation at the same time.

3. I can comment on student work from across the room as students are working while monitoring progress in real time keeping off task behaviors to a minimum.

4. I can bring in resources and post them within the board for students to view without cutting and pasting.

5.I can use it as a presentation tool if I want at the end connecting student group work together to give a snapshot of what we completed in class that day to solve problems or discuss instruction.

I know that in the everchanging landscape of instruction that there is likely to be something bigger and better tomorrow. Until then I am going to dust the chalk of my pants, wash off the overhead marker from my fingers and move on to Realtimeboard.

%d bloggers like this: