However, I realize I have been teaching in a 1:1 environment in a lab situation for several years and I have a couple tried and true methods that help me keep focus. Generally, I go by the motto "If you don't see something you want your students to have (focus, manners, listening skills), you have to teach it to them".
Here's what I will be doing this September:
1. Set a Foundation of Community Principles
I picked these up from working at Ontario Educational Leadership Centre. There are the cornerstone of my community practice within my class: be positive, speaker in charge, validate others, no killer statements, everyone has the right to pass (don't force people into stuff they are comfortable with). I will try to write a post about this later.
The community principles are important because if devices pull away from a community of learning then we need to reconsider how they are infused into our classroom. The principles help set the standard.
How do I "teach" this: I lay out the community principles on the first day and reinforce them throughout the semester. Depending on the curriculum I will also explore different aspects through group activities and challenges.
2. Teach Active Listening
One of my pet peeves is when it feels like students aren't listening to each other. When its me speaking in class, I sometimes feel like students look at me as if they were cows in the field and I am a curiosity passing by.
The distraction of technology can make this worse. I found that teaching active listening helps.
There is verbal and non-verbal aspects to active listening. Here is my working definition of active listening: comfortable eye contact with speakers, turning attention through body language to the speaker, having a receptive look on your face, asking questions. In short, its being a human towards other humans.
One I have taught these skills I can call upon them in the classroom when I don't see them. For example, I may say "I realize you are taking notes but I don't have enough eye contact to know whether you get this or not. Show me with your faces if you understand."
3. Favourite Classroom Commands
Here's my short cut of commands to help leverage technology without distraction.
Screens down (clam shell) (for quick class discussion or further instruction)
Screens Off / Shut (for longer class discussion)
Eyeballs on eyeballs
Be ready to go in 10, 9, 8, 7...3,2,1
Can someone research that question with their phone/computer/etc...
4. Cellphones on desk
I prefer that my students have their cellphones on their desk ready to be used for appropriate times. I far prefer this than having them hidden in their lap. Years ago, I was in a meeting with superintendents who had their phones on the table and then when appropriate such as during a break, they would check for messages. I have adapted this protocol because it makes it feel professional and literally "above board".
5. Declare Technology Time Outs
Sometimes its good to detach, unplug and call a black out from all devices. I find it a reflective time. If you have a WIFI or electrical black out, don't despair. Use it for review, reflection and discussion.
Of course, this can be harder said then done when you start becoming addicted to your own techie tools. For example, not looking up to make eye contact while trying to get an email out that is REALLY important. I am sure I have done it and I am sure I felt justified at the time. I know I have to keep myself in check as well.