The debate is important to have for all grades, but in K-3 classrooms, this argument becomes nearly an emotional one. For our youngest students, the choice can seem agonizing. Do you fully engage them by recognizing their “real” life outside of school is constantly filtered through a digital lens, and an online workforce is their present and future? Or do you make your classroom an analog haven where traditional materials -- actual books with paper pages, physical math manipulatives, Elmer’s Glue -- give the students a digital reprieve from hours of at-home screen time?
This is a good segue into the second step: analyze not how much you are using technology, but how you are using it. Just like any effective pedagogical tool, technology should enable students to be collaborative, creative, and critical thinkers. Two recent tweets (both of which reference TeachThought) shared to me by my colleague Lora Shields sum this point up nicely. The first uses side by side columns to show the difference between mere usage and intentional integration:
You're using technology in the classroom (I hope), but are you truly integrating it? Do you know the difference? https://t.co/dhKi1d5rvo pic.twitter.com/iJPK5AwPCM— TeachThought (@TeachThought) November 17, 2017
The third step is to reject the either/or false dilemma nature of the question of "to tech or not to tech." A modern classroom will likely have both digital and analog tools side by side, where technology usage is not seen as a “reward” or for a special hour on Friday. It requires balance and moderation -- in short, a blended learning approach. This can take time, a growth mindset, and patience. It also requires moving the blended learning classroom from a "substitution" model -- where the pinnacle of achievement is merely digital flashcards and online dictionaries -- to a “redefinition” model where teaching is truly transformed and recentered . . . a place where students are exploring creativity, impacting their environment, and active reflectors of their own learning.
If you need to see a blended learning model, look no further than Jodie Collins and her kindergarten classroom at Wright Elementary. Ms. Collins (like all Shelby K students) has a 1:1 class set of iPads. After a recent visit, I knew she would be a great person to interview about the challenges and successes of integrating technology with our youngest students.
I began teaching in 2000. I taught Head Start. I finished my BA in Early Childhood Education in 2003 and continued with Head Start at Wright. In 2005 I began teaching Kindergarten here. I went to Georgetown and obtained my Masters in the Teacher Leader Program in Instructional Technology. Technology has always been a love of mine. I have always loved being innovative in my teaching. I started just by using technology in my classroom. I used to hear, “Oh, kindergarten students can’t use technology to learn.” Yes they can and they do! I do a lot of blog reading of other teachers and technology. Technology in primary is powerful and necessary considering the world our kiddos are growing up in!
Personalized learning in kindergarten? How do you do that?
Yes, you heard me right! My students are on an app called Boom Learning (Boom Cards is the name in the app store). I created my free account and added my students. I am able to assign task cards to my students based on their individual needs in the areas of Math, ELA, Science and Social Studies. I can create task cards, but the website has a ton of free task cards in their store or I can purchase decks through Boom Learning and on Teachers Pay Teachers. My students are able to work on skills they need and on their level. Not only does this help the students but Boom Learning keeps reports for me to access how my students are performing on each skill. I see their accuracy, the number of times the deck was attempted, and I can even see the rate at which the student is answering or performing the skill. This helps me see if they lingering on a certain problem for a long time, and I can check in with them and pinpoint where they may be struggling and intervene to help!
I think we are doing our students a disservice if we do not use technology in our classrooms. That is the nature of the beast and the world around us is filled with technology. We want our students able to use technology appropriately and efficiently. Yes, I use a lot of technology in my classroom, but I also use pencil and paper and crayons and markers. My students are well balanced in learning from both technology and traditional tools in Kindergarten. We write daily, we color daily, and we are learning to type too!
Definitely Boom Learning! I love how I can differentiate with it. I have students working on addition through 20 already even though we are not to addition in our Core Content instruction yet! I found Boom Learning to be more beneficial having the iPads and also because of the reports I get from it. I also like Splash Math, ABCya, Sand Draw, Rainbow Draw, Glo Draw. With an app called Sticky, students practice typing words. We have just started working with a few apps on coding!
I want to incorporate Google Classroom but we are not there yet! Google Classroom may work better for iPads a little later in the year. I am definitely interested in coding and teaching them how to code. I am looking into some LEGO kits that do just that for the classroom!
TRY IT! Yes, it can be scary and yes you are going to STRUGGLE but as [our principal] Mr. Green reminds us, it is all about the struggle! We learn when we struggle! Do not give up and be creative. Make it work for you and your kiddos!
Thank you Ms. Collins for taking the time to interview!
In closing, here are some additional resources for blended learning and tools for elementary students:
- Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker.
- K-3 Technology Primer, with some tools suggested by Shelby staff!
- Julia Lyle’s website, a teacher at Heritage Elementary, which details her blended and personalized learning journey.