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Classroom management: Pictures are louder than words


“I need you to quiet down class.”

“I mean it, we’re going to lose a chance to get to our fun activity at the end if I can’t get your attention.”

“Class can we get the volume down a bit here, I don’t think this is working type conversation.”


We know this doesn’t work.  Sometimes we get a routine that gets the attention needed for direction, but it shouldn’t be like an on/off switch.  I’ve resorted to the number system, “Alright we’re at like a 6, and we need to be more like a 4.”  It kinda worked.  Once.

We want students to talk.  We want them to be active in their learning.  Sometimes it’s just hard to give the students a structure for managing their own talk.  One simple classroom management tool I worked on with a teacher was to use a wordless chart, and reference it for what the expected conversations would be like in the classroom.  Here it is:

Noise Level Chart

The grey markers are used for what’s our target volume (star) and where are we currently (arrow).  The chart includes silent, partner talk / seated, table talk / standing, and all out loud.

Less talk from the teacher makes it harder for students to talk back to a teacher, argue, or escalate in some other way. Using simple cues like this can help structure your students into a productive classroom.  If you’d like to get the poster for yourself click the picture and it’ll take you to the Google Draw file.  I enlarged the poster using a poster making machine at our student services center.  Your district may have something similar.

If you have other ways of managing productive volume in the classroom, please share them in the comments.

Quick #EdTech tip IWB Mobilized #JulyChallenge 2/31 #MTBoS

I have some ideas for the next few days of posts, mostly dealing with metaphors for teaching.  So far on that list is Farming, Cooking, and I’ve heard that there’s also some thoughts on fishing.  Let’s take a quick commercial break brought to you by the folks at Waco, Swordsoft, Peardeck, Google, and I’m sure some others might creep in.

I used to loved interactive whiteboards.  Yes, that is a past tense reference.  Most of my experience with these is with the Promethean Company.

I learned to be proficient with the standard slide software ActivInspire in which I made plenty of flipcharts.  It was awesome.  I could make interactive presentations, I could screencast the material or export it to multiple other standard formats.  Then I realized the down sides.  Cost.  The handcuffs that anyone in the education industry is all to familiar with.  These boards are expensive.  The accessories are expensive.  And one major downside to the standard entry level interactive whiteboard was it’s own built in shackles.  The board required that you be within arms reach to interact with it.  Of course, one could buy a mobile tablet that goes with the board/software, and that brings us back issue #1: cost.  Companies justify this cost by showing the awesome capabilities of the hardware and software that comes with the package.

I tried some alternatives, like Johnny Lee’s low cost interactive whiteboard that was even featured on TED.  This worked every once in a while, but it still required close proximity to some board as well as constant recharging and calibration.  It started me thinking on how to find low cost alternatives, something more practical for the average teacher.

I tried some Wacom tablets, starting with my first, a bluetooth model refurbished from eBay.

Photo from

This again was alright, but still inconsistent and cumbersome.

A little more than a year ago my student teacher and I tried a newer model of the Wacom Tablet with an added RF wireless adapter.

I LOVE IT.  Here’s why:

  • connects over RF, no wifi required (you can go wireless anywhere, up to about 30′)
  • low weight, I can easily hold it in my hand without feeling a strain as a roam the classroom
  • reasonable cost: $80 tablet + $40 Wireless adapter kit
  • battery: single charge easily lasts more than a full day of HEAVY use, often I get at least a week off one charge

But wait, what about that fancy software?  Aren’t all the built in math tools wonderful?  Yes they are, but Google Drawings, Google Slides, Geogebra, Desmos, and EduCreations have pretty much matched anything I’d done before.  Also, that screen annotation available in those fancy software packages have been replaced by ScreenInk by Swordsoft for a whopping $2.

For those of you that are partial to iPads and apps like AirPlay mirroring,  Reflector, Splashtop or SlideShark, I respect that.  A tablet stylus tends to not be as precise as the Wacom technology, and this tablet with RF adapter doesn’t have a time delay like the others.

With many classrooms incorporating technology into the classroom, teachers need to be mobile now more than ever.  I would also qualify that with maintaining a balance of tech use in the classroom.  Electronic does not imply engaged, and a mobile teacher is needed to manage the 21st century classroom.  By the way, if you didn’t catch the primary advantage, the total cost of this Wacom package (~$120) is about %10 of most other solutions.  Go bug your principals and edutech purchasers to look into this.  I’d be more than happy to field any questions or comments on the issue.

If you have another alternative, I’d also love to hear about that.

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