Dan Henderson

Friday, June 24, 2016

How Can We Control Facebook Usage In The Classroom?

Author of That’s Special: A Survival Guide To Teaching

Before the technology supervisor decides to block Facebook on the school server, we must of had enough updates to track the social standings of our student’s by the minute. These updates were discovered by a parent while they were working. Given the fact that we are entrusted with the safety and education of these children, a Facebook status update that says, “OMG I can’t wait to go home to play Mario Cart!” doesn’t bode well for the reputation of our schools curriculum.
The update statuses are from a collection of boys and girls in the fifth grade class. A computer cart was wheeled each day from classroom to classroom for each grades’ designated computer time. The computers were used primarily to help reinforce the math skills teachers had previously taught. Teachers place a computer in front of each student, stare at a screen intently, clicking away with speed and hopefully precision. The teacher uses this time wisely to lesson plan.
I watched my busy bees typing away on their personal computers. I was at my desk in the corner, preparing for my next unit in mathematics. I had the vantage point to see about half their computer screens. The classroom is grouped in desks of four. Another advantage I had was that I could assign each student a certain number of problems from my computer. I can even check to see who has completed the problems in real time. 
By constantly refreshing my browser, I was able to check which students are working. I slowly paced the room, checking work, answering questions. I do have a Do Not Disturb sign if I really need to accomplish a task, but for the most part I answer all raised hands. I was too relaxed in checking minimized browsers on their computer screens, I was only checking on the completion of their assignments. After thirty minutes we would put the computers away and this is what I thought a typical day of mathematics looked like in my classroom. The next day would prove to be very different.
This was a period in my teaching where schools were just getting laptops and Facebook was relatively new. Today, everything is blocked and sometimes my students have trouble logging into PBS kids. 
It was a rainy fall afternoon and I was planning away for my next weeks lessons. I was startled when my principal asked me to come to the main office.“Mr. Henderson.” The principal’s long pause after your last name was never good sign.
“I have some troubling news. It seems that many of your students are logging into Facebook during class.” The principal said.
“I am so sorry, I had no knowledge. They must be logging in during our math time. How did you find out?”
“Tim really wants to play Mario kart after school.” My principal chuckled. I really enjoyed that my principal had a sense of humor..
The principal continued, “Ms. Richards called me today because she is friends with her son’s Facebook account. Ms. Richards replied to Tim, asking, ‘Are you in school?’ and, when she got no response, she got a little worried. Ms. Richards called the reception desk and I assured her Tim was at school. I told her we would take care of the incident.”
Knowing that my relaxed supervision did not help this scenario, I thought of an idea to possibly redeem this situation. 
“Could we wait until during my math class today, when they are all on the computers to give Tim a consequence. Also, if more students are on Facebook, I would rather find out who they are. I have a plan.” I said conspiratorially as I relayed the plan.
“Go ahead.” my principal sat back in her chair and started rocking to listen to my idea.
“Why don’t I act like everything is normal? I will have all the students come to the carpet. While they are there, I will check their computers one by one.” My principal agreed. With a flick of the hand he sent me away to deal with the situation.
I left angry. Let kids get away with something and they will. I walked up the steps, formulating my plan. I had to play this one cool and make sure they did not close their screens. I wanted to catch them in the act for the shock value. 
I began the lesson with a Powerpoint presentation and a marker. My strategy, before I had a smart board, was to have slides with step by step instructions. However, I would shine the presentation on a white board and sometimes draw over the projected problems, writing out the steps. 
One by one, I invited other students to the screen to add mixed fractions. I wanted to give Tim a particularly hard problem, revenge for essentially getting me in trouble. I tapped my fingers against a desk to restrain my anger and then the students proceeded to do independent work on their personal computers. I sat, ready to strike my own status update. “No Mario Cart For Tim Tonight.”
Three boys, Tim, Ryan and Eric, had smug grins on their faces. I stayed at my desk, pretending to not look in their direction. I waited for the perfect moment. 
Ten minutes into the lesson, keys were diligently tapping away. My computer told me even my three friends were completing a few of their math problems. I grabbed the armrest of my chair springing to my feet. 
I yell,“Hands on your head like this! In three, two- this mean you,” I put my hands on my head to signal what I wanted. Tim, nervous, started clicking furiously on his computer, but not quick enough. “-Tim, one!” I rushed over to their desks and saw Facebook accounts open on all three computers. 
Tim motioned toward his keyboard. I gave him my best Dirty Hairy look, thinking. I know what your thinking, ‘How did I know? Will I call your mom? Do I have enough juice left in my cell phone battery?’ Well you gotta ask yourself, do you fell lucky today punk!
“Everyone to the carpet.” Luckily, from my early days of teaching 1st grade, I still used a carpet from time to time. Although they were bigger kids, they all had assigned spots on the carpet. The transition went smoothly.
I clicked on the Powerpoint presentation and gave a marker to Samantha. 
“Samantha, please call students up one by one to the board to complete the problems. Remember to have each student who comes up explain their reasoning with each step.”
The three boys looked at me with terror. Sweat started running down foreheads. Ryan looks especially remorseful as if I might need to buy him some Depends. I walk to their computers and sit in the tiny chair to open their status updates.
I read, “I know you like Samatha Ryan just admit it.” Tim wrote to Ryan. 
“No, ok maybe just a little. What should I do.” Ryan wrote back.
“You should kiss her after school.” Tim persisted.
“I haven’t kissed a girl before, what do I say.” Ryan questioned.
“Tell her she is like one of the hotter girls in fifth grade and like you should plan a time to kiss.” 
I read this attempt at love and thought. “Tim, Tim, Tim, don’t give advice if you have never kissed a girl.”
I may be an old man, but I had a girlfriend of mine translate this male language into what a girl would hear.
Female Translation.
Hi, my name is Ryan. Listen, you are probably the seventh maybe sixth most attractive female in this class according to my ranking model. Your prospects of snagging the best mate are slim. This is why you should settle for me. I do not have the courage to actually kiss you now. I am going to trust my hormones on this one and never call you on the phone to see how you are doing.
The students were still sitting with their legs folded and their backs straight on the carpet. My three culprits still looked very nervous. I began to think of how I could teach these kids that social networking can be dangerous. On Ryan’s computer, I searched Samantha’s name. I wrote Samantha a long love note using Ryan’s login. After my long winded message, I cracked my knuckles and looked at my friends with a big grin. I had just devised the best motivational tool ever. Checking the message once more to add the words, “I promise to wear clean underwear whenever I am with you.,” I summon my friends.
“Tim, Ryan, Eric come here please.” They rose and Ryan sidestepped as if he was approaching a wild animal in the brush. In the past, I had used some pretty creative ways to prove a point and they were worried after the cell phone incident with Claudia earlier in the year. 
“I want you all to read what I wrote to Samantha.” Ryan gripped the desk and turned white in horror.
My message on , “Samantha I think you are really hot, like the sixth most attractive girl in class. Do you wanna you know, kiss sometime. : ) I promise to wear clean underwear whenever I am with you.” 
“You wouldn’t.” Ryan begged.
The other boys started giggling. I think they wanted me to send the message. No loyalty in this crew.
“Tim and Eric, I wonder if I were to scroll though your accounts, which are left open here, do you think I would find any message about girls?” 
The giggling ceased and they look at me deadpanned. As I rose from the chair, they stepped back and looked up at my eyes. I was about a foot and a half taller then the tops of their heads when I stood up. I closed the three computers with a hearty slam and carried them over to my desk, inviting the boys to follow.
“You know that any other website other than the math practice is off limits. Facebook is especially forbidden in our school. You did this knowingly and, worst of all, I see you talking behind other students backs. This is your choice. I am going to hold onto these computers with your Facebook log in information. Either I send messages to all the girls in your account or you stay late all this week for after school detention.”
“Detention.” They all said in unison, after taking about two seconds to decide. 
“Plus during your detention you will be on our math program completing extra problems. I will make sure that someone is watching your screen at all times.” I said with authority.
“Boys one more thing. When you like a girl, tell her she is beautiful and don’t rank her. Plus, if you want to kiss her she will send you signals. You will know.” Samantha owed me.
“Please go see the principal.” Tim, Eric, and Ryan, with heads tilted low, walked towards the door.
I direct the class to go back to their computers. Samantha asked me, “What did the boys do?” Samatha asked me as she walked briskly to my desk, overhearing her name.
“They were writing messages on Facebook to each other. I just want you to know they are going to have detention for three days. If you want more information, you can follow my status update.”
“Mr. Henderson, you are on Facebook?”
“No, but I can write you my status on the board.”
Mr. Henderson status update: “Angry. Tired. Might eat children if they don’t get back to work.”
Most students laugh and I pull out a bottle of ketchup from my mini fridge just to seal the deal.

Do you think Math on the computer is an effective way to teach Mathematics?
Is social media hard to control at your school?

If you enjoyed these teaching mishaps and want to read similar stories visit my blog at http://danhendersonthatsspecial.blogspot.com. You can find out more about Dan’s book at That’s Special: A Survival Guide To Teaching or go on Dan’s website on thatspecial.co