What’s Wrong With Having Both?

Today, I had some big shopping to do. Tomorrow’s the day that my class is going to make the playdough for our Playdough Store. During the first week of school, I had some playdough out as a possible option for patterning, and I noticed that the students loved it. Many of them spoke about how they used it in Kindergarten, and even started mentioning how much they’d love to see their Kindergarten teachers again. This got me thinking! Why not make math meaningful with a little problem that aligns with student interest? The problem: The Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes want playdough to use for some different patterning activities. They’re asking for our help in making and selling them the playdough to use. When presented with the problem, the students figured out that we needed to first determine the colours that they would want to buy. They learned how to create their own surveys and collect their own data. Then students worked on adding up the totals (both individually, and then grouping them with the totals from the other students in the class). We then analyzed the data and determined the best five colours to make and why.



It’s now time to make the playdough, create some patterns with it to inspire the classes that purchase it, determine prices for the different sized balls, create an order form and collect orders, sort the play money (for change), and collect and count the money that we make (looking at number patterns and skip counting as we count by different amounts). Students are even creating posters to advertise our Playdough Store and a sign for our classroom, both of which involve writing the numerals and the number words in meaningful contextsThis play-based math project has allowed the students to explore different math tools in the classroom: from manipulatives to ten frames to the hundreds chart, as they count totals. They’re also gaining an understanding of addition, as they put groups together to determine a total amount. And they’re so excited about the project that the learning becomes equally exciting.


There is not a lot of technology involved in the project itself, but technology has played a crucial role in documenting the learningfrom podcasts to record the class discussions to tweets to share pictures of the students at work. One student even wrote her first tweet, showcasing a sign that she made for the store. While not the initial intent, students have started taking this project and letting it spill into our Language block, as they’ve taken to writing about our Playdough Store, creating media texts advertising our product, and using resources in the classroom to spell familiar words that connect to our store topic (e.g., colour words). Again, technology has allowed us to document this learning: showcasing what the students have shared and linking this work to curriculum expectations.


I say all of this because when I was at the grocery store this morning buying the flour for our playdough, the cashier asked me what I was doing. I explained that we were making playdough for our Playdough Store. He commented on how much he loved this, and said that it was so nice to see that teachers still do this with the focus being on technology nowadays. That made me stop and think. I’m a big believer in the value of using technology in the classroom. Even in just a couple of weeks, my students have used our iPads and ChromeBooks to find out more about topics that interest them, share their learning with others, record their discussions, and even start creating their own digital storybooks and screencasts. That being said, the students also use paper, pencils, markers, crayons, chalk, paint, and manipulatives every day in class, and there is equally as much value to doing so. I don’t want a classroom that doesn’t include paper, but I also don’t want one that doesn’t include an iPad. Can’t these tools co-exist, and how do we help people see the value in this coexistence? Should we really be striving for paperless classroom, or instead, for maximizing our tools for learning? What do you think? I’d welcome your thoughts! I never thought that a trip to the grocery store would give me so much to think about.



7 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Having Both?

  1. Real learning with a real task, lots of planning and thinking with the students. A great way to integrate reading, writing and math and the value of real life experiences. Technology captures and documents students’ learning and few people outside the educational profession see how technology amplifies learning.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rola! I just wonder if everyone in education gets it too. So often, I hear the concerns about technology being a distraction to students, or that children need to learn other skills (e.g., cursive writing) that is not done best using technology. I get that, but I don’t think that paper needs to be lost when technology arrives.

      I’ve read a lot about 1:1 initiatives, and I’m at a school right now that is partaking in a 1:1 iPad initiative in the junior grades. Last year, I was fortunate enough to almost have a 1:1 classroom between my own devices and those that the children brought to school. Having this access to technology was amazing! Students were regularly documenting their own learning, finding new information online, sharing their learning in various ways that allowed them to capitalize on their own strengths, and meet with success regardless of learning needs (thanks to the wonders of assistive technology). All of this being said, my Grade 5’s last year used lots of paper and manipulatives in addition to technology. Paper’s transformed though with the use of a camera and the wonders of social media: now there can be a global audience for what is shared on this paper. I don’t know if I’d want a paperless classroom, but I would want one where what’s produced on paper can be enjoyed and critiqued by people around the world.

      Technology gives the world a window into our classrooms. I think today reminded me that I still want to capitalize on non-tech opportunities for learning (like our Playdough Store), but I also want the technology to document this learning. I wonder what others have to say about this.


  2. Hi Aviva,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – tools can co-exist. Using technology in the classroom does not replace all hands-on learning. In fact, it is simply another form of hands-on learning.

    Our learners all learn in different ways and need different tools to help them and allow them to share what they are learning. Limiting them does them a disservice.


    • Thanks Shauna! You make some very important point here. In classrooms with lots of technology and in 1:1 situations, how do we ensure that we model well the use of both, so that students see the value of both tools? I’d be curious to know what people have to say about this.


  3. Aviva,
    I couldn’t agree more that learning tools can (and certainly should) co-exist. My grade 4 students and I spent a great deal of the past year exploring different apps, programs and mediums to share our learning. We used these tools to communicate our understanding and our solutions with others, in the classroom and beyond our walls … after solving problems using “more traditional” tools (pencil, paper, manipulatives). We really focused on using technology for more than mere substitution or augmentation.
    This year, I am teaching Kindergarten (for the first time) and have held off on using a lot of technology during learning (other than Educreations and Twitter) thus far. I am incredibly excited about the idea of bringing others into our classroom from across the miles (via Skype, etc) and about sharing our “uncoverings” with our families!

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue! It sounds like we’ve used similar apps with our students at this point. I love your ideas for the use of Skype. How else do you envision using the iPad in Kindergarten?

      I hope that you’re enjoying your K experience!

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