Managing Laptops and Carts in the Classroom

Many times I am asked the best ways to manage laptop carts in the classroom.  I do have quite a bit of experience using laptop carts successfully, but have also worked at schools where the carts quickly deteriorated into disarray.

My suggestions follow, but with one disclaimer: each school has its own culture. What works well at one school might be disastrous at another–develop a plan that will function well with your school’s students, teachers, and physical building.

1) Come up with an agreed-upon sign out or pick-up procedure. How does a teacher reserve a cart? Can any teacher use the laptops or do they need to attend a training/PD first? Try to keep the laptops in an easy place that’s accessible to all. Keeping them in a classroom may be disruptive. I’ts a good idea to also have a “check in” policy–teachers review the cart before using to see if it was returned in good order.

2) Create an Acceptable Use Policy for both teachers and students. What responsibility does a teacher have for the carts? What rules should be enforced for students? Come up with these collaboratively and make sure everyone knows about them. Ask teachers who use the carts to review these policies with their students and have consequences for students who do not follow the rules.

3) Communicate and notify admin/tech staff about any problems or tech difficulties. Keep an “incident report” tracker either online or directly on the cart. Many schools keep a binder/folder on the cart that contains policies, sign-up information, student sign out forms, and incident reports. Tech staff should check the carts at least once a week to make sure reported problems are taken care of.

4) Classroom Use/Management of Carts
There are many possibilities depending on class size/number of laptops. In NYC, most carts do not contain enough computers for every student. Teachers mostly work with laptops as stations, in the workshop model, or using them in groups. It’s important to shuffle roles and usage to ensure all students have time on the computer–and they will almost always want to have access. Devise a plan that is fair and transparent, and may include a physical sheet or chart to keep track of access. Design student-centered activities and project-based learning activities to facilitate effective laptop use.

Class Management Tips:
– Have students sign out the laptops each time they use one.
-Arrange the desks so you can see their screens by just walking around.
-Walk around frequently.
-Create a class tech team to for other students who may need help so you can circulate.
-To get students’ attention, have a “lids down” signal. A projection device can also be very helpful.
-Create consequences for improper use; denying access to the technology can be a significant motivator.

Related articles:

Mac Book Cart Info page from Wissahickon School District in PA

1-to-1 Computing and Classroom Management from TechLearning

Classroom Management in the Digital Age (PDF)

Teacher Interviews on Classroom Laptop Use (video)

Scheduling & Rotating Ideas for Classroom Computer Use (PDF)

Managing Computer Use  in the Classroom from Intel


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