By Lynn Korff
Differentiating instruction for various groups of students can be hard enough when they’re all learning the same topic. If you’re trying to teach multiple subjects or concepts in the same classroom at the same time, it’s even more challenging.
I’ve found that using the right classroom management platform not only helps me run my classroom smoothly and keep everyone on task; it also helps me deliver highly targeted instruction to students learning different topics during the same class period.
As a high school computer science teacher, I teach eight different technology classes—including Intro to Computer Science, Desktop Publishing, and Web Design. There’s no way I would be able to juggle all of these classes without a robust classroom management tool.
The courses I teach involve a lot of hands-on learning, with students being introduced to a concept or technique and then applying this knowledge for themselves by completing a project or activity. All of their work is done at a computer terminal, and as engaging as my lessons might be, teenagers are often tempted to stray from the topic at hand while they’re on the computer.
Most teachers think of classroom management software primarily as a tool for monitoring students’ computer-based activity and keeping them focused on a lesson. The platform I use—NetSupport School—does this as well. The way my classroom is set up, this is an important goal for me, as I can’t see everyone’s screens from any single location in the room. But with NetSupport School, I can see what’s on every student’s monitor at any time from my own computer screen. Just this knowledge alone helps keep students focused on the activity I’ve assigned.
Beyond keeping students on task, the platform helps me manage instruction effectively in many other ways. For instance, I can collect, review, and return student work digitally, without requiring students to print out their projects and assignments. I can lock students’ computer screens while I’m giving direct instruction, so I know they’re listening to what I’m saying. I can share students’ screens with others, so I can highlight exemplary student work as a model for the rest of the class. I can privately message students and offer help discretely if I see they’re struggling. I can also share my own screen with the class as a whole or with certain subgroups of students.
This last feature helps me target instruction for different groups of students, which I have to do when I’m teaching multiple classes in the same room at the same time. For instance, I have three different levels of Web Design classes going on during one class period. In another period, called Computer Apps, I have some students learning desktop publishing, others learning video game programming, and still others learning Photoshop or Visual Basic.
If I were to project my screen to everyone at the front of the classroom, this would be distracting for the students who are learning a different skill or subject. However, with the classroom management software, I can share my screen with only those students to whom I’m directing the lesson—making it very easy for me to differentiate instruction.
Using the right classroom management platform makes my job much easier, and I can’t imagine teaching without it. Not only does it help me run my classroom and keep students on task, but it’s an invaluable tool for targeting instruction to different groups of students more effectively.
Lynn Korff is the computer science teacher and technology coordinator at Walther Christian Academy, a small Lutheran high school in Melrose Park, Illinois.