Debate Opinions Strategies

Probation: A solution to missing deadlines?

"My Trusty Gavel" by steakpinball on Flickr

As a proponent of students being allowed to bring their personal electronic devices into the classroom, perhaps it seems contradictory that I’m also a supporter of using computer management software (such as LanSchool) to monitor and limit student web browsing.

But if you were to speak to my students, you would find that until last week I haven’t used the web limiting features of LanSchool this school year. This was not entirely by choice (web limiting didn’t work in Chrome until a mid-November LanSchool update), but it has given me time to think about how programs like LanSchool should be used by teachers.

Obviously, I want my students to use their computer time effectively, but I’ve learned that efficient time management can’t be taught by blocking access to web sites unless student behavior warrants it. This would send the message that I do not trust my students to make good choices. Granted, students sometimes don’t. That’s why it’s important to establish rules at the beginning of the year that clearly state how students should use our classroom computers (click here to view mine). For example, my students are allowed to listen to streaming music while they work independently, but they must turn it off during reading activities, collaboration time, lecture, and discussion.

In addition to setting rules, we need to establish consequences for students who do not manage time effectively. In my class, I think I’ve figured out a solution:

I put them on probation.

So how does probation work? If a student doesn’t meet a deadline, he or she is given access to only the websites necessary to complete the next assignment.┬áIn most cases, this means the student has lost access to email, music streaming, and YouTube–i.e., the websites that make can make independent work time more enjoyable…and more distracting. Probation continues until the student has finished the late assignment and has completed the next assignment by the assigned due date. If the next assignment isn’t completed by deadline, probation will continue.

As you may have read in my previous post, I think it’s important to rethink the purpose of deadlines. Instead of punishing students by not accepting or grading late work, we should help them refocus on the learning objectives and give them an incentive to meet future deadlines. I believe probation does this.

Of course, this is a solution that has worked in my classroom, because each student has a computer. I’d be curious how a teacher in a classroom without computers could use probation as an incentive for their students to meet deadlines. I’d love to hear your ideas and read any comments you have about what I’m doing in my classroom.

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