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Monday, January 9, 2017

Classroom Charging Station

I've been teaching high school at the same school in rural southwest Ohio for the last twelve years. During that time much has changed, but one of the constant struggles, the prevalence and distraction of personal devices, has only seemed to grow. Much like you, perhaps, I have tried many different approaches regarding phones and music devices: trying to be the "cool" teacher that allows students to use them unless they "cross the line" (whatever that means), being the no-nonsense tough guy, and everything in between. The one commonality between all my past approaches has been the students were left responsible to keep the devices away or use them responsibly - in other words, they had the devices in their pockets or book bags.

Toward the end of last year, a different idea came to me, and I gave it a "test drive" during state-mandated testing, since security guidelines from the state required students to be device-free. The plan was to have a cubby-like system, similar to what students have in lower grades, to store their devices. This allowed for organization, while also having the phones and iPods out of sight (and hopefully, to whatever degree it was possible, out of mind). I looked around the Internet for possible types of furniture to use, and even had my mind set on an old card cataloging system as the way to go. That was, of course, until I found out those old wooden library catalog cases went for hundreds, often thousands, of dollars as collectible antiques.

Opting, instead, for more of a "group cubby" system, I decided to use an unused piece of furniture from my basement that looked similar to a shoe rack and had 8 equal-sized compartments. I placed a small plastic bin from the dollar store in six of the areas, leaving two larger compartments for tablets or laptops, in case students were to bring such items to class. On the front of the six bins I placed a label with seat numbers (Seats 1-5, 6-10, etc.), since all the seats/desks in my room are already numbered for various purposes. Students were told in advance that they would be expected to "check" their devices when entering the classroom. For testing purposes, I didn't have any resistance from students, and things went perfectly.

I knew that, coming into this year, I really wanted to have something to "sell" students on the idea of checking their phones in the baskets at he door. To achieve this, the same thought kept coming up: provide a way for students to charge their devices while in the cubbies. Essentially, make it so they check their devices into a charging station. Some funds from our distric PTO became available, and I ordered two 7-port charging hubs ( At first I asked for donations for charging cords, but didn't have much luck. The assistant principal did donate several cords that had inputs for multiple devices, but many students had devices with cases, and the inputs wouldn't fit. Faced with a funding issue, an administrator helped put me in touch with a contact at a local energy company and I was able to pitch to her the idea of sponsoring the charging station (with recognition on the side of the station, of course). I ordered ten Amazon Basic Lightning cords and ten Amazon Basic Android-compatible cords with the sponsorship donation.  I was able to creatively mount the hubs under the chalk/marker tray behind the cubby system and then weave them through the baskets in each cubby area (see picture).

While the amount of cords ordered does exceed the current amount of slots I have between my two 7-port charging hubs, it also allows for backups/replacements, if necessary, or the chance of possible expansion, adding a third hub, depending on student interest and usage (and funding) following this year.  As things stand now, I have one Apple-compatible cord and one Android-compatible cord in each plastic bin (shown in picture). 

Of course, I'm still in the first go-around with this device check-and-change approach, and I'm sure there will be the occasional issue or obstacle to overcome at different points throughout the year. However, I wanted to share what I have come up with, and what seems to be successful with my own students and classroom, thus far, in the hope that it might help some of you. Half-way through the year, it seems to have been a great success.  It's been interesting to see students who clearly are arriving earlier in the class-change between bells just to get the charging cord that works for their device in their seating-group's basket. I've even had students come by my room and ask, during a bell they don't have class with me, if they could charge their device (to which I allow them to do ask, while also thinking, "you're welcome...whichever teacher has that student this bell").

I encourage you to share your own experiences, thoughts, and/or reactions to the topic of device classroom management. I'm more than happy to reply to any questions you have, as well.

Until next time, keep teaching your students with all the passion that I know you bring to each and every day in the classroom!

-A Teacher's Teacher

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