My classroom used to be full of devices. I even taught a Grade 1/2 class many years ago, where we had almost 1:1 iPads and/or computers. Kids spent the majority of their time in front of a screen. For learning. With a purpose. But still in front of a screen. And I thought that this was best. Now my thinking has changed, especially in the younger primary grades.
The other night, I caught this tweet from Karen Lirenman, and I promised her that I would reply, but with a blog post. This is that post.
I am inspired by the documentation done by Reggio Inspired educators but I wonder why devices such as iPad aren't available to students to capture and share their own thinking while their teacher is occupied capturing a peer's thinking?
— 𝐊𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐋𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐦𝐚𝐧 (@KLirenman) July 9, 2019
Over the past four years, I’ve gradually reduced the use of technology in the classroom. At two different schools, I’ve seen many children that are coming into kindergarten with more Smart phone knowledge than me — dare I share a picture of my cell phone
— 𝕊𝕙𝕒𝕨𝕟 𝕄𝕔𝕂𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕠𝕡, 𝔸ℙℝ (@ShawnMcKillop) August 16, 2018
— but they are still learning how to …
- enter play,
- work together,
- socialize with each other,
- and solve problems.
While my teaching partners and I realize that you can develop some of these skills with the use of technology, there’s something about watching these three-, four-, and five-year-olds staring at screens that stopped us.
Now we all realize that technology can be an incredibly powerful documentation tool, and you just have to look to my Instagram account and last year’s class blog to see that we definitely use technology in this way. But then why don’t we have kids regularly documenting on their own using these devices? For me, I think that it comes down to our view of documentation.
Last year, my teaching partner, Paula, and I really focused on using our documentation to tell a story. Even more so than other years, we relied heavily on Instagram because we could put multiple photographs, videos, and work samples together to be part of this story. These stories often included both of our voices as well as the voices of our kids. Many parents started to comment on these posts, which also allowed for the addition of their voices. It was the combination of voices and contributions that not only made these stories rich, but allowed us to look back at them together each morning with the kids, and use them to extend play. Below are examples of some Instagram stories from the end of the school year. You can see how these stories combine together to tell a bigger one.
Yes, at different times, we could have given students an iPad to use on their own to record their thinking and learning. I wonder though,
- do we need the conversation — between both adults and children — in order to go deeper with this reflection?
- are children distracted by the screen, which then pulls them away from the learning?
- how much does everything need to be captured?
In the examples above, Paula was away on this day. There was a supply in for her, but she was actually on her lunch when a lot of this learning happened. With a really big block of play though (over three hours), there was still lots of time to connect with the other children as well as focus on this Pet Salon learning.
Now when thinking about giving children an iPad to document learning, I keep coming back to these two questions.
- How will we (adults and children) use what they capture?
- How will this help move learning forward?
Then depending on the answers to these questions, iPads either come out or they don’t. Maybe even more interestingly, for the past three years, the iPads were always stored in a space that kids could access easily. They all know where they are and how to get them. They are rarely getting them though. What might we extrapolate from this? Student voice should absolutely be a part of classroom documentation, but is it the conversation with the kids that allows us to move from a still picture or a short video to future learning? I think that it might be. What about you?