This year I have been working to embed more mobile technology in my classroom. A really important factor in this is thinking through my reasons for using them. I didn’t want use technology in a superficial way. I wanted it to expand the experience and the opportunities of the students in my classroom and allow us to do things that we couldn’t do before. I also didn’t want it to be about the device.
Here are some observations I have made in my classroom this year.
1. The students in my class don’t see the device- they see the opportunity. They want to have a turn. They have been using touch-screen, mobile, tablet devices for most of their lives. They are growing up in a world where mobile devices and the Internet is all around them and to be honest they don’t realise that it hasn’t always been this way. The immediate feedback that we can get from an app can be really exciting but I think that it is the challenge that the students respond to more than the flashing lights, sounds and music.
2. Mobile devices are motivational but they really only hold the attention of the astute Kindergarten child if we are using them for a specific purpose. They want to use them to see themselves on the big screen and they want to interact with the world outside their own classroom. They love getting feedback about something they have done.
3. Using a blog and twitter is a great way to connect with other students. I started this blog last year as a way to publish students work and show parents (and possibly other teachers) what experiences we had shared in KC. While this is still one of the purposes of the blog I would like it to be more than that. I would like it to also be a place to have a conversation about what we are doing, share our new skills and developing ideas and build on the ideas that others have shown us. This year I started a class twitter account (@wpskc) and I started by just sharing what the weather was like at our school using the hashtag #weatheratmyschool. It was amazing to see photos from different classes in the U.S. about what the weather was like in another place on exactly the same day. We have also been blogging with 2 schools in New Zealand meaning that they look at our blog and leave comments and we do the same for theirs. It has been really fun having a look at the similarities and differences between our school in Sydney, Australia and schools overseas. The world map on the back wall has been the most studied reference material in the whole classroom. I believe that the kids are making connections outside of our classroom and our suburb and starting to think through the experiences kids the same age are having in other places. I am always looking for new ways to connect and really hope to continue expanding the purposes for the blog.
4. Photos and Videos allow students to explain their thinking. In Kindergarten so much of how we explain things is verbal and visual. We are working hard on our written skills but right it is not as easy for us to explain as much on paper. Handing a student a camera and asking them to take a photo of a hands-on activity allows them to record something that they have just done and gives them a reason to do it well. It gives us a lasting record of their progress throughout the year, an easy on-going assessment but also handing them the camera and asking them to take the photo of their work gives them a greater agency. They can choose what to include, what is important to them and they have an ownership in their own learning. This year I have been constantly reminded that the photos do not need to be perfect- the development in the photography skills is just as amazing to watch.
5. There is a really wide range of mobile devices that students can use- cameras, ipads, tablet devices, netbooks, phones, robots, mp3 players- all of these things can be used to help students learn and share their learning. It is not about having a class set or even more than one of any one device. It is about seeing what opportunities we can create with each device that we do have.
6. It is the teachers who worry about technical issues, not the students. We are always going to have times when any sort of technology doesn’t work when you want it to. There may be times when you thought the students were going to do something amazing with a new app or website and then the Wifi stops working or the battery doesn’t work or for some reason not everyone can logon. This will happen at times but it doesn’t have to be a stressful situation. As teachers we always have a Plan B (or C or D). It is all about being flexible. Often the most creative outcomes happen by just letting the students work it out. Let them adapt according to what the technology will let them do. Let them explore and be guided by their ideas.
This can be a really scary thing for teachers to do but at the end of the day it means that you are showing them that they can be the expert and the teacher is always learning too.