Smartboard Attendance–shutting it down

Thanks to all who commented and were so enthusiastic about my little smartboard experiment (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, and Post 4).  It was so gratifying to see others get some use out of my little brainstorm-turned-spreadsheet.

I did think it only fair to let everyone know that I’m not using it anymore.  The system just didn’t do what I needed it to do, namely, 1) enforce my tardy policy and 2) free me up to do other things, like teaching.

At its core, the problem was this:  this technology was not sufficient to enforce procedure, which, really, is the point.  The attendance tap was supposed to be the last in a sequence of entering-the-room tasks before taking one’s seat:

  1. come in,
  2. dispose of gum/food/weapons/drugs, etc.,
  3. drop backpacks,
  4. get music folder,
  5. tap in,
  6. take seat. 

It NEVER went that way. 

The students invariably took this sequence: 

  1. tap in,
  2. leave room to talk in the hallway with loser boyfriend/girlfriend until the bell rings,
  3. drop backpacks,
  4. get music folder,
  5. take seat, dispose of gum/food, etc. only when called out by me,
  6. stare in shocked disbelief at the smartboard showing their status returned to “Absent” because of their post-tap excursion to the hallway. 

At no point when using the smartboard to track attendance did I have a class-full of seated students when the bell rang.  I still had to yell, “Let’s go!  In your seat, you little…!”

The kids enjoyed using the smartboard so much that they would race each other to tap in ALL the names they could.  Some of this was innocent excitement and some of it was malicious system-manipulation (“But, Mr. Davis, Buffy just called me from the parking lot and asked me to tap her in because she’s here on time…”).  I found myself having to spend my time policing the tapping procedure, more time than I would have spent simply policing the attending procedure.

At the end of the day, the most effective attendance-taking method was my presence at the podium, refusing admission to students without a front-office-issued tardy pass who were not in their seats when the bell rang .  One day of that, and we did fine thereafter.

Teaching-lesson #273:  The teacher must enforce the policy.  Never push policy enforcement onto a system or onto a student helper.  It’s worth it to take the time to give the policy teeth, preferrably your teeth.


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