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Classroom timing

The classroom can be a busy environment to organise. Planning is critical to a successful classroom and the timing is important to get right. The systems a teacher uses need to operate within very small time slots (measured in seconds and short minutes) and allow for constant interruption as they work with students (which is the key focus).

A typical class where I teach is either 60 minutes or 120 minutes (quite a special arrangement and great for project based courses). In a single hour with a standard class of 25 students it wil usually take a competent teacher about 5 minutes to settle the class into a working state and about 5 minutes to finish up leaving about 2 minutes with each student. Typically students take up more than their share of time so a teacher may spread time across a few lessons during the week and get around all students that way. Some students obviously require less time than others but equity is an important part of keeping a classroom a safe and honest environment.

When you start to look at the systems a teacher needs to interact with during a class the timing starts to get very tight. Attendance recording really should take no longer than 30 seconds but paper based systems invariably take minutes and many of the electronic systems are no better. This does not count the time a teacher may have to use to translate that information into Ministry of Education approved systems.

Student achievement and behaviour records need to be equally robust and simple to record in. Ideally a teacher should be tracking student behaviour (both desirable and undesirable) during class (or close to it) to create a running record and remove the need for those awful end-of-term reports with superficial comments. The system that would facilitate this needs to be packed with customisable defaults so a teacher can quickly set and forget on a regular basis.

The focus for the teacher is always on the students and their needs. Systems must support this and allow the teacher to track information and progress with the absolute minimum effort and maximum output. Timing is critical in a classroom and needs to be a key factor in every system design.

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