Around the middle of January, I wrote a blog post that I didn’t think that I’d write. It spoke about changes that I’ve made to the use of technology in the classroom. It spoke about the number of times that we use low-tech tools instead of high-tech ones, and why these options work for us. It even spoke about the fact that my Grade 1 students aren’t blogging this year, and why I made this choice. But then the past couple of weeks happened, and I’ve reconsidered the use of technology for writing …
First, I noticed that my students were incredibly interested in drama, so we turned our class into a drama studio, and students have been creating their own plays and musicals. They’ve been writing lines, planning actions, considering sets, and looking at how to make their story lines richer and more meaningful. All students are writing more than I’ve ever seen before! To help inspire these plays and musicals, I showed the class how to use the microphone on Google to help with Google searches. Students took to this immediately, and they realized that the words appear in the search bar, so they can actually use these words to help with their writing. Now they’ve figured out that Google can be a wonderful spelling resource.
Then the other day, as part of Math, students created “time stories” to reflect on our visit to Lee Academy. Students loved creating digital stories using Scratch, and that’s when I reconsidered iPads for writing, and looked at introducing the students to the My Story app. I did so yesterday. The results were amazing! Students were expanding on their ideas by orally recording their stories. They were leaving spaces between their words because now they didn’t have to worry about the size of their letters and how they might overlap with other letters and words … they could just use the spacebar. Instead of a focus on printing, students were really focusing on generating and sharing their ideas through their writing, and they couldn’t stop writing. Many of them even chose to do so during indoor recess. Struggling writers were using the resources in the classroom (e.g., the word wall and the list of colour words on our Math Wall) as well as letter-sounds to label the pictures in their stories and add captions. Then they expanded on their ideas orally. The potential for differentiation was huge, and all of the students were feeling like successful writers!
I still don’t think that these digital storybooks would have been good options for my class back in September. The students weren’t using resources in the classroom for writing yet. They didn’t know all of their letter-sounds. They weren’t sharing their ideas in writing, and they needed opportunities to do so. I think that a keyboard of letters would have just led to long rows of random letter combinations instead of meaningful sentences and statements to share ideas. It’s the latter that I’m seeing now. So I will definitely continue looking at digital storytelling options now because not only are my students benefitting from them, but as some students shared in their reflections, these options actually work better for them. Maybe we will start blogging before the end of the year, or maybe some students will start publishing guest posts on our class blog. I think that some of them are ready for this now.
Maybe it’s this idea of “ready” that’s key.
- All of our students are different.
- All of their needs are different.
- All students may not be ready for the same options at the same time.
That’s okay. This is where our professional judgement is key. Continuing to reflect and change based on our students and their needs are also key. And so, I see the potential of technology in helping students succeed, but even “best practices,” may not be best for everyone at the same time. How do you respond to your students and their needs? What changes have you made throughout the year, and why did you make these changes? What impact have you seen? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
As you often do, you have me thinking. Time, experience and exposure to the learning is key. Your reflection is so right on! Differentiation is key and my kinders all want to be successful. So we scaffold and really listen. New to us this year is a more concerted effort to SharedPen writing on the SB as we look at our Morning Message and schedule. Sometimes a reflection of a unit unfolding or completed. For the most part low tech writing. Writing focus on content but some strive for correct spacing and letter formations, Many opportunities for turn and talk which has empowered them to share their stories.
Thank you for your comment, Faige! I love how you respond to your Kindergarten students’ needs and get them expressing more of themselves through their writing. I think that this interactive writing is so important. Being up in Grades 5 and 6 for the past couple of years, I’ve done it less, but this year, we do this type of writing every day: on chart paper, on the SMART Board, and even on items such as sticky notes. I’d be curious to know how other teachers are responsive to their students’ needs, and how they change their programming throughout the year to meet the changing needs. There’s always so much to consider!
I had some of the same reflections recently! You worded it perfectly though, so much better than I could do. I love the idea of using the microphone and Google for spelling. Some apps I’ve used for writing is Write This! it is a great “prompt” writing app that is excellent for my beginning writers and writers that struggle coming up with ideas. Additionally, I like Voice by Adobe. It allows them to speak, write, and attach pictures and then it creates a powerpoint type slideshow of their writing.
Thanks for the comment, Jess! I just downloaded the Write About This app. Is the Voice one also an iPad app? It sounds incredibly helpful for some of my beginning writers. I’d love to know more.
Jess and Aviva,
Our kindergarten classes have been using Adobe Voice a lot recently, especially for documentation of their “resolutions” examination. (Thank you Kid President!) The teachers have even been sharing the results on our school’s Twitter account (@agnesmacphailps). Yes, Adobe Voice is on iPad and now I’ll look into Write This! Thanks for the tip!
Thanks for the comment, Diana! This sounds fantastic. I need to check out the Twitter account now. I saw that Adobe Voice is a free app, so this may provide possibilities for home use as well, as then parents don’t have to pay for the app.
I love hearing about other people’s experiences!