Tips and Tricks for Managing Devices in the Classroom

Practical advice for painless device management.

March 13, 2015
Darri Stephens Senior Director, Education Content
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES Digital Citizenship, In the Classroom, Technology Integration

From seating charts to taking turns to supply bins, classroom management encompasses the rules, routines, and procedures that encourage a positive classroom culture. And now devices -- fancy, expensive devices -- are being added to the mix.

With New York City's lift of its school cell phone ban, there's a renewed buzz about device management, not only at the district level, but also within individual schools and classrooms. As teachers know, setting and communicating clear expectations is half the battle!

A successful approach is for schools to fold technology use into their existing missions and codes of conduct. While this landscape and the devices might be new, the behaviors around safe, responsible, and respectful use are not. To find out more about the distractions that devices can cause, check out our landing page on the topic: Dealing With Digital Distraction in the Classroom

Top 3 Tips for Device Management

  1. Have an AUP. What’s that, some may ask? AUP refers to an Acceptable Use Policy; some schools call it a Responsible Use Policy. Basically, the policy outlines all goals and expectations for acceptable device use, along with the consequences for violating the policy. Some schools have separate AUPs for students and faculty. We've also seen schools translate legal-jargon-heavy AUPs into more digestible "Technology Values" statements to share widely with kids and their families.
  2. Get buy-in. Make sure families are in the know about what your school expects. Use our Q&A for Families to help outline and answer parents' burning questions. The more they are part of the decision-making process, the more they will support and enforce the efforts. Likewise, at the end of the day, students are the ultimate device users. Use our writeable Customizable Device Contract with students to co-write contracts so everyone has a clear understanding of the agreed-upon expectations and consequences.
  3. Be proactive. Address digital citizenship even if devices aren’t a constant presence in your classroom or school. Kids don’t have online and offline lives anymore. Their worlds are digital 24/7. By starting conversations about acceptable behaviors as early as kindergarten, you set a precedent and expectation for your school climate. Weave our K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship lessons throughout the grades. As we know, when kids misstep (and they will), the consequences are more dire in the digital world, and reactive efforts are never as effective as proactive ones. 

And leave it to teachers to find clever ways to weave the use, care, and management of devices into their already existing classroom routines and practices. Kids quickly learn where you keep the Kleenex and extra paper, and how to check out a classroom library book and turn in assignments. Similarly, think about setting classroom norms to help co-manage the devices. Even if your school hasn't formally gone 1-to-1 with a laptop, tablet, or BYOD program, we're sure you'll find your fellow teachers' tips and tricks for device management quite innovative.

5 Favorite "A-Ha" Tricks from Teachers

  1. Use a visual cue like a poster of a stoplight, and move a clothespin to indicate whether devices are in use (green), put to the side (yellow), or off and stored (red).
  2. Tape a colored strip or notecard on the corner of each desk, where students can place devices when not in use.
  3. Create a locked space for devices to recharge -- stack devices neatly in a dish bin, add a power strip, and store in a locked cabinet (cheaper alternative to a fancy rolling cabinet).
  4. Use simple sand timers (and yes, there's an app for that) to make sure kids get equal time on shared devices.
  5. List your homework assignments or extra credit opportunities online, and then post a QR code in the classroom that kids can scan with their personal devices for easy access to that page or site. 

Check out our Tips & Tricks Pinterest board for more suggestions. Good luck, and let us know how it goes! Feel free to send us your questions and suggestions at

Image: "student_ipad_school - 130" by Brad Flickinger. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.