There are so many ways that students of all ages can use technology. Yes, I’ve blogged and tweeted with students as young as Grade 1, and I know that there are even Kindergarten teachers around the world that are doing the same thing. Every time, we start to talk about using technology with young learners, questions/concerns always arise.
- How young is too young?
- What impact will these tools have on socialization?
- What about the value of students learning to print, or even, dare I say it, “cursive write?”
- What’s lost if students stop experimenting with tools such as paint, paper, markers, crayons, and pencils? These are all tools that we grew up using. What impact will this have on students if they don’t use them?
The truth is, before this year, I never worried about the answers to any of these questions.
- I’ve been very vocal before about the benefits of using digital tools with young students. It’s amazing the thinking that we can capture with the use of these tools, and how we can teach even very young students, the value in a positive digital footprint. Imagine the benefits for these students as they grow up!
- As someone, that’s used iPads, iPods, Livescribe Pens, and computers in the classroom regardless of the grade that I’ve taught, I’d say that even when using these tools, students collaborate on them. They socialize all the time. I wonder if this comes from creating a classroom environment that emphasizes the importance of collaboration, whether that be face-to-face or online. Students don’t need to be staring at screens in isolation to be learning via them. They can still talk, challenge, collaborate, and problem-solve, whether using or not using a device.
- First of all, I’m a firm believer in the fact that printing (and even “cursive writing”) is not the definition of “writing” in the curriculum document. Writing is all about generating and sharing ideas. Students can publish their writing by printing or using cursive, but they can also do so online. That being said, there are articles that speak to the value of writing with a pen (and while I don’t have them listed here, I know that they are not hard to find through an online search). But even if students are blogging, why can’t they also be writing on paper? Blogging is just another form of writing, and I think students should be exposed to many forms.
- Even in a “digital classroom,” there is value to non-digital tools. No matter how many devices I have in the room, I have even more pencils, pens, markers, stacks of paper, paint, and plasticine. I don’t think that these tools need to exist in isolation. There’s value to using both tools together, and always attempting to pick the best tool for the job!
I still believe in everything I’ve written about, but my teaching position has changed this year, and my student needs have changed. The truth is that before this year, most of my students came to me printing with success. I didn’t worry about how often I had students putting pencils to paper because I knew that they didn’t necessarily need this practice. Now many of them do.
If students can print on paper or print on the iPad, what’s the value in choosing the iPad option? Is there one? I’m not sure if there is, but I do know that there’s value in sharing student work, and the iPad allows for that to happen. I saw this value first-hand today. Last night, I sent out a tweet to Carrie Gelson and Elise Gravel. Carrie is an amazing teacher from British Columbia, and last weekend, I read her blog post about Elise’s books. I went out and purchased a number of them because my students love all creatures. Yesterday, we read The Slug, and I shared some of these experiences with Carrie and Elise through Twitter. Both of them replied to my tweet, but Elise’s request resulted in a wonderful dialogue today between an incredible author and my Grade 1 class.
Students were thrilled that their work captured the attention of an author that they love, and they were so excited to get receive this special “gift” from Elise. And it’s an experience like this that helps me see the benefits of using technology and realizing how technology can “transform learning everywhere.”
Technology provides a meaningful audience for student work. With an iPad, students have easy access to a camera, video camera, podcasting tools, and screencasting apps that allow them to not just capture and share this “paper work” with others, but also annotate it and explain the thinking behind this work.
I can’t help but think about the argument that we managed to “learn well in the good old days,” but I wonder if we would have learned more and/or gained a deeper understanding of learning with the use of technology. I don’t want to give my students what I had growing up – I want to give them a better experience than what I had! How could technology contribute to this “better experience?” I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!