Lesson 1: Management, Discipline, and Control

Remote Control: Classroom Management Software

Web-based applications like WebCT and Blackboard have long been used as organizational tools to:

  • facilitate communication between instructors and students,
  • provide the capacity for posting documents and for efficient recording and retention of class data, and
  • allow systematic tracking of student activity and progress.

In recent years, management software has made its way into the actual classroom, where it has been used for a variety of purposes from automating tedious classroom tasks (e.g., taking attendance) to gaining real-time access to students' work and assessing learning outcomes. Two models of software are commonly used:

  • Classroom monitoring software allows an instructor to access, in a lab setting, computers used by the students, supervising their work and communicating as necessary with individual students or with the class as a whole. Students may be asked, for example, to write a short composition and peer-edit it, while the instructor follows on her own computer and comments as necessary.
  • Student response system software equips students with hand-held devices and allows them to provide immediate input that is processed on the central computer used by the instructor. The instructor may, for example, tell a story and then pose a yes/no comprehension question. Students respond by pushing a button on their hand-held devices, giving the teacher an immediate indication of whether or not he got his point across.
Read the excerpts from infomercials for classroom management software:

"As a teacher...it is incredibly important that I have the ability to see, in just a flash of an eye, what every student is doing at any given time...The main benefits I get from using this software are time management, classroom management, student management, and my own time and personal life management." (SynchronEyes)

"I can easily engage students in collaborative learning activities... I can randomly organize my students into small groups. After they have worked individually on an assignment, they can team up with each other, sharing computer screens and using the chat feature to agree on a group answer." (SMART Sync)

Do you agree with the claims of these infomercials? What would you add? Listen to what language teachers tell us about their experiences with classroom management software.


Language teachers discuss the infomercials for classroom management software.

Duration: 04:02

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As our language teachers suggest, both systems have definite benefits for student-teacher communication, but they can only go so far. They promise control, but may or may not deliver--not a good idea for a language class, or any class for that matter. In a language class geared toward production skills, technology must remain a small component in the overall profile of classroom activities. The question, then, goes back to some of the critical points in the discussions on technology in the classroom: Is the investment in a software system worth the benefits it delivers? Is the confined setting of a lab suitable for a language class?