I think I’ve finally figured out why some of my students in my grade nine learning strategies class continually insist on sneaking to other sites like YouTube when they’re supposed to be doing their assignments using sites like PreziVoiceThreadAnimotoVoki, Wordle, or Bit Strips.  Not only are these students off task when they go to other sites instead of the one they’re supposed to be on, they crank up the volume so loud other students hear the sound and crowd around the monitor to see what’s so funny and soon no one is on task. I’ve tried blocking sites to keep students on task, but they just find other sites to go to. It’s been driving me crazy. I’ve been wondering why these students choose to be off task and disrupt the class day after day despite our little talks in the hall. I can’t really ban them from computers because I so “cleverly” integrated computers into the course so they need to be online to complete their assignments. I felt really defeated because I want to use computers and online applications in my classroom but using them was causing me such grief. I was beginning to wonder if it was counter productive to have my students use computers and online technology in the classroom. Then suddenly, it dawned on me. Some of my students are behaving the way they are while using computers because they are trying to try to meet their emotional needs in mistaken ways.

Ages ago, I learned about Glasser’s Behaviour Choice theory.  The idea is that students act certain ways to try to meet certain basic needs.  Sometimes these students try to meet their needs by inappropriate behaviour. These needs are are

  • Survival- the need for for, shelter, clothing
  • Power- the need to feel important
  • Love/Belonging- the need to feel accepted and loved by others
  • Freedom- the need to choose what we want to do with our lives
  • Fun- the need to find enjoyment in life by learning and playing

For example, a child might try to meet his need to feel important by getting undue attention.  When my students are off task and go to other sites online and turn up the volume so that everyone crowds around them, they’re getting undue attention from other students and from me.  They might be thinking they’re only important when they  keeping me busy and keep getting the attention of other students.   That scenario seems to fit a couple of kids in my class.

Students could try to meet their need for power by going off task repeatedly and promising me when I try to redirect them that they will stop going off task and stay focussed but don’t, and I have to continually refocus them.  They may think that they only belongs if  they can be boss and prove I can’t make them do anything. I see that explaining some of the behaviour I see in my class.

Some of my students have profound learning disabilities that makes school difficult for them, and they don’t do as well as some of the other students.  They often feel stupid even though they have average or above intelligence. Since they have difficulty learning or demonstrating their learning,  learning isn’t much fun and they meet their need for fun by amusing  themselves by going to other sites like YouTube which they find entertaining.  When I ask my students why they go to other sites, they  tell me the other sites are fun. I can see why they think that  that because these fun alternative sites don’t expect anything from them like the sites I assign that support the curriculum. For at least one student,  learning how to take tests or write a strong paragraph can’t compete with  the fun of listening to various body sounds (farting sounds)  on www.soundboard.com. No, I’m not kidding.  A student, a grade 9 student, went  to that site and played back farting sounds to amuse himself while while other kids worked quietly on task- quietly, that is, until they heard the farting sounds.

Students could meet their need to chose what they want to do with their lives by refusing to do the assignments in class because they don’t want to be in a special education class. They want the freedom to choose what to do, and they don’t have it. They don’t want to be in my class so they choose not to do the work.  I’ve  heard students tell their friends my class is another English class even though it isn’t.  Students will even ask to keep the door shut because they don’t want their friends to see them in the learning strategies class because it’s a special education class.

When I think about some of the behaviour  goíng on in my class ín light of  Glasser’s theory, the behaviour makes sense to me. I now understand why some of my students act the way they do when they are completing assignments online.

Since I use computers  in my class, students are not sitting in the usual classroom configurations of rows or  tables.  They’re  sitting at computers facing the outside walls of the classroom. They don’t have the opportunity to  interact with me or their classmates in the same way as before I had computers in the classroom, so they have to figure out how to meet their emotional needs in the new context of a classroom with computers.  Students are trying to meet their needs in this new context  in inappropriate ways and this leads to a less than a positive learning environment.  The challenge for me is to help students  meet their needs in positive ways using appropriate behaviour in this new context. .

Any ideas?


photo thanks to sanjoselibrary

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8 Responses to “New classroom management issues arise when students who use computers in the classroom try to meet basic emotional needs through inappropriate behaviour.”

  1. Liz on June 5th, 2011 4:50 pm

    Hi Elona,
    Since I teach in a lab most of the time, what you say is very familiar to me. How about having a structured in time to share a cool / interesting / funny (while still school-appropriate) site students have found. That way they can have a little fun time online, and get the appreciation they need from other students – just not all the time!
    (BTW, love the picture of the lab. Love the windows. Can we have one like this, please?)

  2. Teachermum on June 6th, 2011 5:40 am

    What about finding some kind of balance between the computers and the “emptional” aspect. i.e. What if they spend time doing the research or tasks on computers, but then part of the lesson could involve pairing up and sharing what they have discovered on line.
    The other alternative is to make them partner or group up before they go online, and discuss how they are going to go about doing their online work, what they expect to discover, their plan of action etc.
    Also, what about letting them know that if they DO spend the entire lesson on task on the correct sights, you will give them 10 minutes “free” time at the end of the lesson to go on to sites of their own and share with their mates…but ONLY if everybody, without fail, stays on the correct website.

    Teachermum´s last blog post ..Things I Have Learned This Week

  3. Sam Rangel on June 6th, 2011 1:56 pm

    Great post Elona,

    I have the same problem in my newspaper class. I find my students researching YouTube instead of current events. As long as the sites are appropriate, I will let them spend some time on them as long as they are completing their assignments. I can see how their emotional needs fit into their behaviors in front of the computer. It makes a lot of sense now. Thanks.

  4. Melanie S on June 6th, 2011 5:26 pm

    This is a very accurate description of my class’ behaviour whenever they do online assignments.

    I have no real answer, but I did find I had to be wary of giving extra time to finish assignments since it encouraged this behaviour. Unfortunately, this could put certain students (who work hard but need more time and don’t have Internet access at home) so I had to keep this in mind.

  5. Elona Hartjes on June 7th, 2011 6:33 pm

    I agree about the dangers of giving extra time. My kids would stretch the work out to fit the time and still submit things late. I find daily deadlines with work handed in at end of class works best. I break up assignments into little parts so that kids keep on top of things. It’s a struggle though.

  6. Elona Hartjes on June 7th, 2011 6:35 pm

    I’m relieved to hear other teachers are encountering the same challenges as I.

  7. Donna on July 11th, 2011 7:25 am

    Thanks for your insight. It is difficult but important to remember to consider student behavior in the light of new classroom strategies. The availability of the web changes everything.
    Donna´s last blog post ..Knew 2 mi!

  8. Jodie Brown on September 10th, 2011 5:27 am

    I also give my students free time to explore on the computers, however our department still blocks you tube and students are more likely to investigate Cool Maths/ Friv. I have an agreement with students that allows them to complete a negotiated segment of their work and than have the “free” time at the end. If they don’t do the work they don’t get the time. It seems to motivate a majority of the students, especially as for many of them it is the only time they have access to a computer.

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