A couple of weeks ago, I finished the Reading Part 2 AQ Course through our Board. As one of the final assignments, I had to go through our marker students, highlight areas of strengths and needs, and look at some specific next steps and groupings that could help them with their reading development. In the class before we completed this assignment, we had the pleasure of listening to a Special Eduction Consultant, psychologist, and Centre For Success teacher, who provided us with many accommodations and modifications that might work for our kids. My head was full of ideas, and while it took me a few hours to write everything down, the suggestions just seemed to flow. Then came the opportunity to read other people’s work, and that’s when I was in for a surprise.
How did I not even consider the use of technology? We saw all kinds of apps and online resources shared by our visitors, but when it came time to plan for these young learners, my focus was not on the use of tech. This really caused me to stop and think. Why?
- Is it because these are younger learners, and I see an even bigger need to focus on building oral language skills (and vocabulary) first? Can this be done without the use of technology?
- Is it because I know that these students may not be where they need to be, but they are learning to read? Do I want to try and develop these skills first before possibly accommodating for a lack of reading skills?
- Is it because, as wonderful as technology is, I’m not ready to see these four- and five-year-old dependent on a screen?
- Is it because I’m still figuring out — with the help of my incredible teaching partner, Paula — what role technology can play in a play-based kindergarten program? How might this role vary for different kids?
Yes, I might always be the teacher with multiple devices and no pen, but do I want our kids to be the same right now? This is a question that I might have answered differently five years ago, but now, Paula and I are more deliberate in our use of these tools. And often kids use these high-tech tools in conjunction with the low-tech work that they’ve done.
The iPad was there because of this research in the morning … 🙂
Reading this text with Carly and Leah about worms. What does it mean? Exploring how to take the information and interpret it before writing it down. Really focusing on comprehension. More at a literal level now. pic.twitter.com/kMKdlTqORQ
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) April 11, 2019
The iPads are plugged in, and children know how to access them when they need them, but they spend way more time immersed in paint and mud than they do on a device. I keep on thinking about these words of wisdom by @happycampergirl:
LOVE this! "Play is a practice. Tech is a tool. If you don't have a sandbox, you don't need an iPad." – @happycampergirl #ECE
— Bethe Almeras (@balmeras) August 18, 2012
I don’t know if I would have always embraced this statement, but it’s one that’s running through my head a lot when I consider tech usage in kindergarten. Could the same be said beyond that? Technology made a huge difference for me when I was in high school, and the ability to type essays and write exams on a computer, changed my educational experience right into university. I’ve taught students in junior grades that also benefitted tremendously from the use of an iPad or computer, and I would not want to negatively impact on their opportunity for academic success. But how much technology is needed for every child, and how do we decide? When it comes to reading instruction, when should we be considering tech options, and when do we need to wait? I know that the answers to these questions might not be the same for each student, but I wonder if the conversation is still worth having. I’m about to open a new can of worms: in an age of technology, do we sometimes consider high-tech options before they’re needed? Should kindergarteners be on devices, and if so, when and why? I may not be a hard “no” on technology usage for our youngest learners, but when I see experiences like the one below, I wonder, will an iPad ever allow students to experience something like this? I think that every child needs an experience like this one. What about you?
You ask a question I have no answer to. I haven’t taught Kindergarten for over 20 years, and then just as a short term LTO. If I have a K Question, you are my go to guru. I can only share my own experience with older kids. As a high school spec Ed teacher, I work with kids who, despite 10+ years of the best reading interventions, programs and practices, cannot read. But with tech, they can listen, comprehend, share and learn. My philosophy is always to try to give Students what they need. If that’s tech, great. If it’s not tech, that’s great too.
Follow your gut. It’s usually right.
Thanks for your comment, Ramona! You’re so sweet! I’m so glad that you shared about your experience as a Spec Ed teacher. My parents ran a private school for kids with speech and language needs for years, and I know that technology usage was key for these kids. Maybe the key thing here is knowing your learner. What works for some children may not be best for others. Would I feel differently on this topic if I taught kids beyond kindergarten? I might. Curious to hear what others think and have experienced. Thanks for adding to this discussion!