Class Management, STEM, Technology

How to Manage a Digital Classroom

How to Manage a Digital Classroom

Originally published in TEACH Magazine, July/August 2015 Issue

By Anita Townsend

In a traditional model of teaching, the teacher is the source of knowledge. Learning is based on one-dimensional materials that are directly connected to curriculum content and skills. Today’s resources however, are digital, interactive, and visually rich; a stark contrast to rather lengthy text description of topics and themes. Students are now at the centre of their learning and use today’s technology and resources in ways very different from traditional learning materials. They access multiple sources, customize material to suit their needs, mix various media to create new learning, and then share it with unlimited peers through their social networking sites.

And as we transition from traditional teaching and learning approaches to digital and interactive ones, we need to carefully plan and prepare the learning environment. As good teachers have done for decades, good planning provides learning environments that enable students to successfully optimize their potential for success. Having a management plan is essential when using digital learning tools. This plan should cover components such as, classroom organization, instructional strategies, technology availability, and time. The following are some suggestions on planning your digital classroom.

Classroom Organization and Management

  • All of your students do not need access to devices all the time. Plan and be specific about what you want the students to use the technology for. What learning goals does the technology support? What is the best technology for specific learning tasks?
  • When you have a limited number of computers or hand-held devices available for group activities and students have to share, consider assigning specific roles to group members. If everyone has a specific job to do it is much easier for students to focus on the learning goal.
  • Arrange classroom seating so that it is easy for you to move around the room and get to students quickly.
  • Actively monitor student use of the technology. Walk around the classroom; be aware of which websites students are accessing and how they are working together.
  • Provide students with clear guidelines on school policies and procedures in working with technology in the classroom. Every school should have an Acceptable User Policy on what constitutes proper behaviour when using technology. It is important to establish norms for student behaviour, in your classroom within the context of the project. Have students participate in the development of the acceptable use and etiquette guidelines in your class.
  • Establish at the beginning of the unit how and where you want students to organize their data related to the project such as naming files, storing, and sharing files.
  • Establish a backup plan for those days when the technology or the Internet connection is not available.
  • Ensure the websites and learning platforms you recommend to students are secure. Review which web sites your students are recommending to each other.
  • Provide students with a rubric or organizer which clearly defines project expectations and also provides direct communication with parents about the project.
  • Post anchor charts that provide technology tips or software instructions or put them in a binder near the computers. An evolving list of tips can be generated by the students as they work through the unit.

Instructional Approaches

  • Review the learning material provided from manuals or teacher’s guides, and map the curriculum to several disciplines, including as many expectations as possible to cover and evaluate in the teaching of the unit.
  • The content and the lesson plans are a comprehensive resource, which should enable you to cover a selection of expectations from two or more curriculum areas.
  • Use the material to design and implement student learning that extends the curriculum content where and when possible.
  • Students are motivated and benefit from working collaboratively with their peers in a team or pairs. This type of learning requires new skills in cooperative work. Students need to learn how to get along, share and learn from each other. Forming teams needs planning. It may be necessary for teachers to consider computer skills and the specific assignment when pairing students.
  • Digital learning materials are most effective when integrated into the typical instructional day as opposed to being used just during scheduled lab times.
  • As with any other educational resource, the use of the material should be mediated by teachers. Teachers’ responsibilities are not relinquished; instead, the teacher becomes a coach and mentor, using the majority of teaching time to provide instruction rather than large group lessons.
  • Make connections with the content in the online unit to information from other websites that are relevant and timely.
  • Provide specific and descriptive feedback to students as they progress through the online material, just as you would with traditional material. Integrate assessment tasks, which provide for formative and summative assessments of the tasks in the unit.
  • Using interactive online materials will enable learning to become much more student-centred. Leave room in your planning for student inquiry and creativity.
  • Facilitate and encourage students’ use of primary resources by using online polling, interviews, and accessing photo galleries.
  • Take full advantage of student expertise. Students often know more than teachers do about a technology, and teaching someone else what they know is a great way to reinforce their own learning and foster a supportive classroom community.
  • Even though students will do much of their work independently or in groups, they will still need to learn the skills necessary to follow schedules and maintain deadlines.
  • Provide opportunities for students to connect with other students and to connect with experts around the world and then collaborate.

Just as students today share their expertise and knowledge readily with each other online, it is beneficial for teachers to form online support groups as well as the traditional face-to-face connections. Expanding your learning about technology integration can be done anytime, anywhere, by joining an online educator community. Gone are the days when the only place to learn new teaching approaches was a workshop presented to a room full of people.

Different sources of technology will provide different types of access and various levels of uniformity. Good teachers never relied on one teaching resource or one teaching method, likewise today’s teachers will never use a single technology in a single way.

Anita Townsend is an Educational Consultant and Former Principal at SCDSB.

50 comments on "How to Manage a Digital Classroom"

  1. Regina Tucker

    Technology in the classroom can be a distraction but with setting the right tone and precedence for its use early on are beneficial as a learning tool. and resource.

  2. Katie Brewer

    Classroom management is a key asset for a teacher. With the use of computing devices management is key for sustaining proper use and care of devices.

  3. Jessy Thomas

    Great idea!

  4. Terry Thomas

    Very informative since class management can make or break a room.

  5. judith stevenson

    Good classroom management is essential to create a positive learning environment for all students.

  6. sara lennon

    great management in the classroom and task driven skills are important in edcation.

  7. Gloria Locklear

    A lot of good management information especially liked “When you have a limited number of computers or hand-held devices available for group activities and students have to share, consider assigning specific roles to group members.” This is a good time to engage students with hands on activities in small groups.

  8. Linda N McMillan

    Classroom management is a must and this article breaks down some important information.

  9. Sherry Lynn Odom

    Classroom management is first and foremost.

  10. Belinda Jones

    Having a great learning enviroment is key to successful instruction.

  11. Lezlie

    Classroom management is key!

  12. Kimberly Buie

    Learning more and more about how to manage a digital classroom setting.

  13. Brandy Cummings

    Technology can be a great tool in the classroom; however, it can become a crutch if not used properly, or taught how to use properly.

  14. Kimberly L Locklear

    Students have to have clear expectations and rules in class, if it is remote or face-to-face, it is needed.

  15. Rhonda Hunter

    Technology in the classroom can be very helpful if it is used correctly. When I was raising my kids we had to be careful not to use the TV as a babysitter. If not monitored and used correctly technology will be the next babysitter.

  16. Retha Johnson

    Great information using technologyn in the classroom is a valuable tool for all students reguardless of their levels of learning or ability.


    This definitely helps with all the stuff we have to do now.

  18. Anita N Jacobs

    This article was very informative.

  19. greg sampson

    What a wild time we are living in! Moving forward!

  20. james jorgensen


  21. Lena Lowry

    It is important to make sure students are engaged in instruction and understand the organization and routines of the classroom and school setting. Technology use can help students explore areas they might not have been exposed to any other way

  22. Lena Lowry

    It is important to make sure students are engaged in instruction and understand the organization and routines of the classroom and school setting.

  23. Lena Lowry

    Classroom management and organization in the classroom and school setting is a must . With clear rules and procedures, students will be able to be successful academically

  24. Lucille Ward

    Information very helpful and will be most useful in the classroom.

  25. Marian McLaurin

    This information is helpful as I am still relatively new to using digital platforms for delivering instruction.

  26. Brantley Oxendine

    Teaching students in the beginning how to respect and manage technology in the classroom will help improve the learning environment for all students.

  27. Kimberly Clancy

    I appreciate the fact that we are allowing stu. to help with their peers. It lalso helps build a childs self-esteem when the teacher ask a stu. to help another classmate. I think that it is very important to introduce and help children to understand the consequences for negative behavior and what the benefits are if used appropriately.

  28. Tina Colvin

    Class management is great , this skill ensures that students are productive and attentive in the classroom. Have this skill in place for online learning, helps the class run smooth without in interruptions.

  29. Catherine Foxworth

    Technology is a tool to help in the classroom. Managing technology in the classroom leads to a smooth and positive outcome.

    • Anita N Jacobs

      I enjoyed this article of information. I hope to have access in the future to this valuable information.

  30. Irma

    One of the things I like is students working collaboratively with their peers because they learn to get along, share and learn from each other.

  31. Pam Allen

    Technology is a tool to help in the classroom. Managing technology in the classroom leads to a smooth and positive outcome.

  32. Jenny

    One thing I don’t hear talked about often enough is what are the consequences when students act out when using technology? For schools, long gone are the days where you can take their device away, especially if curriculum is available online. Are there any using restorative practices with technology misuse?

  33. Brian McDonald

    Technology in the classroom is critical; however, it must not take the place of the standards-based curriculum.

    • Stacey Maxwell

      Depends on the standards and how/when those standards were developed.

  34. Debbie deVitry

    I appreciate the reminder that each students does not need a tablet or computer to participate in the neat activities available online.

  35. Debbie deVitry

    The thought that all students do not need access to the technology at the same time is a good reminder. I often dismiss some of the ideas I am exposed to in PD because I do not have access to the tablets or computers I think I need to use Padlet or Kahoot, etc.

  36. Mario Nieves

    Classroom management is important for the learning process for all students.
    Technology is a great tool for the learning environment in the classroom.

  37. Michelle Marmo

    I like the concept of students using their technology skills to teach other students, as well as their teachers. There is a huge variety of learning opportunities for students to be collaborative, improve higher level thinking skills, and to be creative, in their use of technology for learning purposes.

  38. Rose Acevedo

    Once first grade students learn to take turns, use kind words, share ideas and learn from each other when using technology, they are able to create wonderful projects together .

  39. Rose Acevedo

    One of the challenges of having first graders work in cooperative groups using technology is teaching them how to share, take turns, use kind words and learn from each other. Once they learn to do that, they are motivated to work on their project together.

  40. Frank Albrecht

    It is very good to know what you want to do and do so with parameters well established ahead of time!

  41. Jami milanovic

    Being a manager of the classroom is key in keeping students on track.

    • Joe Wesolowski

      Like any subject area or classroom setting, the teacher should always make sure that students are on task.

  42. Kirk

    Proper use of digital technology in todays workforce is a critical skill to develop

  43. Lynn Diamantoni

    Having great classroom management requires a teacher to have good discipline practices. Also, students need to gain the teacher’s trust that they are using technology like they should.

  44. Kim

    Understanding the dynamics and your management are key to an effective classroom.

  45. Cathy Rineer

    Management is important so students can focus on the learning goal. Always make sure to have that backup plan when connection is not available.

  46. Amelia

    Managing the class and maintaining discipline are always great topics to learn more about. Technology in the classroom when used correctly can be an amazing learning tool.

  47. Leesa Johnson

    This is a good one managing class helping us in maintaining discipline in our classroom. Better management of computing devices makes student more accurate and take good uses of computing devices.

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