Block it or Improve Classroom Management?

On a weekly basis, I get an email that says something like, “Can you please block Minecraft, because my students are playing it instead of doing their work.”  I want to be helpful and support our teachers, but I always have the question of should I block or do we need new strategies for classroom management in a 1:1 learning environment?

Sure the easy thing would be to block it, but the students will just move onto something else.  Today it is Minecraft, we block that, tomorrow it is Flappy Bird, we block that, the next day it is something else.  Where do we stop?  How do we create a digital learning environment for students when there are distractions?


I guess that we can relate these issues back to magazines or comic books that students place inside their textbooks to make the teacher think they were reading Chapter 10 on Cell Biology, but really they are reading a Captain America comic book.

I believe that if we don’t want to block the entire Internet, which does not benefit anyone in the long run, then we need stop blocking these games and start having conversations about new strategies to help with classroom management in a 1:1 setting.

One of the biggest issues I see is that teachers are giving students free time on their device.  There are numerous questions here, like why do we not have curriculum created to fill all of our instructional time, why do we not have extensions for our students that finish early.  I understand that sometimes free time can be during study halls, commons, lunchtime, or the last few minutes of class.  But if things are going to be an issue in the classroom then teachers need to put limits on what is appropriate in the classroom.


Here are a few ideas for improving classroom management in a 1:1 environment.

  • If you are allowing free time use of the device, let the students know they can only go certain websites or certain apps that you have selected and you know are appropriate.  We have to train our students to use the correct apps in these free times.
  • Use a behavior app, like Class Dojo, to motivate students to be positive digital students.
  • Continue to have discussions with students about digital citizenships and making positive choices online.
  • Watch this video from Common Sense Education about “Dealing with Digital Distraction
  • Have curriculum appropriate to what you are doing in class as extra material for those fast finishers.
  • Don’t just use tech for tech sake, instead have students use tech in meaningful, purposeful ways.
  • Set appropriate boundaries for students in your classroom.  Make sure students know when it is OK to use technology and when it is not OK.
  • Do not have your class be entirely technology based, it is OK to use paper and pencil!
  • Make sure that you are still monitoring and moving around the classroom.  Just because a student is on a device just not mean free time for the teacher.
  • If you have access to a software monitoring program like Hapara or Go Guardian make sure you are using it and make sure the students know you have the ability to watch what they are doing on their devices.

So I believe is it a battle that will continue to happen, the idea between blocking apps/websites and working with teachers to improve classroom management skills to teach our students how to effectively work with technology.

Please feel free to reply back in the comments about your thoughts of if things should be blocked or we should improve our classroom management skills.


One thought on “Block it or Improve Classroom Management?

  1. Great points Brian! You’ve echoed my sentiments exactly. Blocking items, games, apps, etc. because they cause a distraction in the classroom is a disservice. The teacher needs to be focused on why it was that that student was able to get distracted and work to make their classroom more meaningful in the usage of technology to prevent it in the future. Classroom management is the same regardless of the technology.


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