In the Classroom – Managing the Digital Classroom: Part I of II

This article is the first of a two part series focused on managing students in a 21st Century, digital classroom. In part one, we’ll consider how to leverage more traditional classroom management skills, and in the next newsletter we’ll consider how teachers can add technology skills to their toolbox.

Educational Technology and the 4Cs

Educational technology opens new doors for teaching and learning, yet in order for students to be prepared for life in a global economy, students need to develop the 4Cs of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. The ways in which 21st century students engage in their online communities and digital learning environments underscore the importance of empowering them as responsible and effective digital citizens. Effective digital citizenship curriculum is crucial to teaching students how to make good choices with technology.

Teachers are responsible for a number of tasks during the course of the school day: planning lessons, delivering instruction, administering assessments, grading assignments and managing a classroom of students. The introduction of new technologies into the traditional classroom introduces teachers to new opportunities and challenges. On one hand, by integrating digital tools, teacher can engage students with media-rich content, monitor progress in real-time, and use data to personalize instruction. On the other hand, some teachers have experienced challenges with managing students who use technology as part of the learning process.

The Challenges with Managing Students in a Blended Learning Environment

For example, one teacher raises the issue with using school-issued technology for non-academic purposes:

Our school uses a Learning Management System (LMS) to monitor students’ conversations and exchange of content on school-issued e-mail accounts and cloud-based drives. Unfortunately, we have found that many students are using their accounts for non-academic purposes. Help??
Here’s how teachers can transfer their traditional classroom management skills to blended learning environments.

The move from traditional to blended learning environments does not mean that teachers need to throw out everything that they know about classroom management. In fact, teachers can build upon what they already know how to do well. For instance, they can use the following strategies to keep students on task and curtail the online behaviors that do not demonstrate responsible use of school-issued technologies.

Teach responsible technology use throughout the school year.

One of the most critical components of 21st century education is that students learn how to use technology in ways that are effective and responsible.

Lessons on Appropriate Online Behavior, responsible use of Social Networking, and Cyber Bullying help students develop life and career skills such as etiquette, respect for diversity, accountability, responsibility and ethical use of technology and digital content—the attitudes and abilities that will enable them to succeed in today’s global economy.

These subjects are also mandated by CIPA in order for schools to receive e-RATE funding.

i-SAFE’s E-Rate and Gold Compliance programs offer 389 age appropriate lessons fulfilling these mandates, all CCSS ready. See what’s new in our digital learning library!

  1. Establish classroom guidelines. Post guidelines for technology use in visible places such as on the classroom wall, class website, and the course landing page in the LMS. Communicate expectations for technology use.
    Examples of classroom rules include:
    • Do not open or use the device until instructed.
    • Refrain from unauthorized communication or entertainment during class time.
  2. Arrange the classroom to monitor progress and minimize distractions. Mobile technologies (laptops, Chromebooks, iPads) travel. Design seating charts based on the types of activities that students undertake throughout the lesson or project. For group work, permit students to sit with other group members. For individual work, arrange desks so that students face the screen rather than each other.
  3. Set expectations for specific lessons and projects. Display instructions for the day on the board, and on the class website. Include the types of technologies that the students will use in the instructions such as the URLs (links) to any online resources, apps or online educational resources. Clarify expectations, purpose, goals and objectives. Specify a time frame for each activity to help them pace themselves appropriately.
  4. Use offline techniques during class time.
    • Frequently scan the classroom. Use proximity control and shoulder-surfing techniques to monitor student activity. Praise students for responsible use.
    • Acknowledge and redirect students who are off task or using technology incorrectly. Keep a record in case further action is needed.
    • Announce transitions in classroom activity.
    • Use a timer with a bell or buzzer. Display the timer in full view of the class so that students can pace themselves.
  5. Maintain control with end-of-class routines. Remain in control of when students put away the electronic devices. Remind students to save or back up their work. Ensure that students have electronically shared or submitted their work before they leave.


Educational technology has altered the role of the teacher, yet some classroom management skills still apply to new contexts for learning. Effective 21st century teachers not only transfer their knowledge and skills, but prepare students for life beyond the classroom as digital citizens.

Find out more about how your school or school district can better prepare students for the 21st century with i-SAFE’s Digital Learning Program.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share with teachers who are managing students in a digital learning environment?

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Note: In blended learning environment students learn, in part, by receiving digital content and instruction online and partially through face-to-face discussion and instruction.