There are so many “things” in a classroom. And no, we are not calling our students things. Consider all the supplies, textbooks, technology tools, cleaning supplies, and visuals on the wall—and this doesn’t even get us started on the living things in the room.
I have written in the past about how complex our classrooms are. This is a real challenge for our teachers and, I feel, adds to their stress, burnout, and sometimes their eventual departure from the profession. There are many solutions to help with this, but the one we will focus on for this article is automation.
Technology has allowed for us to automate more and more of our processes. The advantage of this is that we don’t have to think as much about the mundane and routine tasks that we need to complete. The disadvantage of this is that, at times, we think we can automate everything. Education cannot be automated—regardless of how strong the technology is. The relationship between a teacher and a student is the foundation of the student’s learning; without this relationship, learning can’t happen in the same way.
Simplifying the Classroom
But what are the classroom tasks that we could automate? We should probably first define the term automation. I don’t see that most classrooms could have Roombas rolling around cleaning the carpet, robots passing out papers, or machines that automatically sharpen pencils (although that one is actually a pretty good idea). By automation, we are referring to making procedures, systems, or tasks automatic.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that machines are doing the work—it might be adults or even students who complete the automation. The concept is that we use tools that are at hand to help us to simplify our classroom, which allows us to focus more on the important things in the classroom. We can decide what we want to automate by thinking about tasks that are regular (happen at the same time each day or week), tasks that are rote (requiring little complex thought), and procedures that are quick (completed in one or two steps).
What could this look like? Here are some ideas of automations that could work in your classroom:
Lunch count and attendance: This isn’t a new idea in classrooms, but it fits the criteria of something we can automate: happens every day or every hour, doesn’t take much complex thought, and can be done quickly. Some teachers use some kind of checklist or visual system for keeping track of this. The best way to automate this is to use the classroom interactive panel to keep track. Once the bell rings, the teacher can see at a glance who is absent and hasn’t moved their name to the lunch that they want. This is easy for teachers to create and, with a few days of the students getting acclimated to it, is a great way to free up the teacher to greet students at the start of each class.
Sharing information with parents: Teachers use many technology tools to help engage their parents and organize their classroom. Using something like Automoto.io helps a great deal. There is some complexity to setting it up, but once it is there, it’s amazing. Classroom calendars will sync from online spreadsheets, so instead of the cumbersome process of updating a shared calendar, it’s as easy as a copy and paste. There are also tools that allow you to post to multiple social media accounts when posting to one. So instead of putting pictures on the webpage, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and through email, we can automate the picture to go to all these places at once.
Automatic adults: Allow the other adults in the room—if there are any—to help with any of these tasks. They need to be of the right personality type, because random thinkers are not good at automation for the most part (but they benefit from it the most). I have seen teachers have the paras alphabetize all the papers once collected, go through checklists or visual schedules with students, or even pack and organize backpacks at the end of the day. Classroom helpers should work with students as much as possible, but in the small periods of downtime, these can be timesavers.
Virtual assistants: I know teachers who use a Google Home, Alexa from Amazon, or something in the same vein in their classroom. It’s great to have answers to any questions you might have right at your hand, but Alexa or Siri can help to automate our classrooms too. Timers are easy to set, and these are a great automation tool. Reminders are also easy to put in place, and teachers could even create a to-do list with just their voice.
The automatic classroom that looks like an episode of The Jetsons is not our current reality, but by putting some of these ideas in place, teachers can easily lessen the burden of the complexity of the classroom.
How do you automate tasks in the classroom? Let us know in the comments below.
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