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Weekly Reading Reflection – Week 13

I happened to read Meaningful Technology Integration first, and I think it was a good article to begin this week’s readings with. It is important to remember that technology integration is so much more than using computers in class. “Technological tools can support a learner-centered and play-oriented early childhood curriculum and promote relationship building among children, families and the wider community.” Technology integration should extend beyond simply using computers to facilitate or enhance. We should use technology to portray and share thoughts, ideas, feelings, themes; to share information and to collaborate. Technology integration is the posting of digital pictures on a website, through email or on social media. It is the producing and sharing of audio and video activities created in class. Technology and its positive influences can be evident in many ways in and out of the classroom.

“The Importance of Still Teaching the iGeneration is the second article that I read, and what I really took away from that reading is the idea of transforming the tools that students like into tools of learning. So many students have access to mobile phones now; why not make them an instrument of engagement? “They are increasingly ubiquitous and introduce previously unimaginable possibilities into the classroom space, and youth perform a wide range of tasks with them outside of school. They are also distinct from many prior technologies in that they are typically brought into school spaces by students themselves. Because smart-phones are intimately tied to today’s youth popular culture and are “personal, portable and pedestrian,” they appear to offer a particularly productive opportunity for student buy-in.” In using smart phones, we must ward against their use in an inappropriate fashion in school. In some ways, we must use what appeals to students to gain and hold their attention.

The final article, “Digital Photo Books” ties nicely in to full technology integration. “The digital photo journal project provides a unique lens through which we might refigure our perspective on young children and technology. Rather than articulating how technology use can be a context for social negotiation, as we have argued in the past here we have created a curricular activity wherein technology becomes an explicit tool for developing and exploring understandings of self, others and the classroom environment.” Technology integration means use of technology in ways and places other than just the classroom.

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Technology and Science

So prior to Spring Break, I was able to collaborate once again with the first grade team at my school on a science project that the students were working on. They are studying animal habitats, and we were able to devote Technology time to learning more about animals in their assigned habitat. We used Pebblego.com. First, I modeled use of the site so everyone knew how to navigate the site to get the information they were seeking. Students were given a worksheet they needed to complete and while modeling, I demonstrated to students where they could find the information they needed for their assignment. I showed students how to find their specific animals (and provided additional support to those few (3-4) that required it) and let them have at it. All students came away with some information; many completed the worksheet and a few were able to draw pictures of their animals. Certainly not very high-tech but it got the job done!

Weekly Reading Reflection – Week 12

I find myself woefully unprepared to effectively engage in a discussion about science and technology. Somehow I managed to muddle through high school science and I can honestly say that I remember little to nothing about my high school or college science experience. Much like math, I think that maybe I simply blocked it out 🙂

Seriously, at the school I work at, science is really an afterthought, unless, of course, we are discussing the 4th grade when students must sit for the NYS science exam. In the ten years I’ve worked at the school, I do not recall any serious discussion about science or social studies for that matter. Sad to admit but quite true, even with the increasing push towards STEM/STEAM. However, at our charter school, the emphasis seems to be on testing – and we are measured by NYS tests which only test ELA and Math. So science and social studies do not get the same emphasis.

Our reading focused on science, technology and elementary students and I felt awkward. My students rarely express any interest in science, and I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that their exposure is so limited. In reading the Emergent Science article, even though I do not teach science, I realized that there are ways that I can encourage their natural curiosity. By showing them resources and materials, and recognizing my ability to introduce science related themes and topics, using the Media Center, I could help spark the interest.

Learning Physics was a bit highbrow for me but I do understand and appreciate how students can learn complex themes and ideas through play. As we have heard through many of our readings, students can benefit when the activity is high-quality, teacher-supported but student controlled.

I loved the BeeSim video and wish that I had the opportunity to utilize that technology. I can imagine that my youngest students would absolutely love this technology, and I could see BeeSim being the spark to help engage my students. Cute, fun but educational. I wish that I could bring this technology to my school.

Technology and Math Instruction

I am sure that everyone has math resources that they have discovered through their experience teaching or through their research in this class. Two of my favorites thus far are IXL and Brainpop. Brainpop is an excellent resource as an introduction for students to understand the concepts behind the math they study. The brief animated video keeps the students interest, explains the topic and helps to explain key vocabulary. IXL is excellent for individualized math practice. Students can choose the grade level they are (which provides for differentiation if they are above or below grade level) and the specific topic with which they may need additional practice, or they can work their way through all grade level topics. The site can be accessed anywhere with the student’s username and password (as can Brainpop) so students can use at home or anywhere they have a computer/device or connection. Math fluency can be achieved through practice so tools like IXL provide the opportunity for practice, practice, practice!

Weekly Reading Reflection – Week 11

Math has never been my favorite subject – I did not enjoy it as a student and I do not enjoy it now. However, I truly enjoyed the video by Dr. Doug Clements who pointed out some of the challenges with our current school math curriculum. I enjoyed some of the examples of advertisements with problematic math included. “50% or half off, whichever is less” was one of my favorites! It was also interesting to learn about math indicators. “Most children acquire considerable knowledge of mathematics before kindergarten…..The knowledge that they gain prior to kindergarten relates to their mathematical achievement for years after. Math grades in high school can be predicted from what children achieve entering kindergarten.” This was powerful information for me, and it helps to bring a deeper understanding of how to help close the achievement gap…through high quality childcare and daycare programs.

I appreciated the information that I gathered from the Counting Sounds article. There is a strong connection between music and math, and certainly there are many ways to deepen that connection – especially through technology and math play. However, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. It is important to ensure that there is adequate supervision to ensure that children are using the technology in the ways intended.

“Classrooom Technologies” was another good article. There was an excellent quote that helped me to remember what we are doing. “The natural order of the classroom, it seems, is to prepare pupils for their futures by using methods from our pasts.” We need to utilize the proven tools that we have access to. It can be challenging, especially when the technology is constantly changing but we must be agents of change. As the expectations for students change, we must find new ways to engage them and capture their attention.

Literacy Learning and Technology

As I have indicated many times, I do not believe that my school takes complete advantage of the opportunities to use technology to build on literacy skills. We use TumbleBooks, and we will begin to use IXL to support specific ELA standards in second through eighth grade.

I would love to see my school move to a block schedule, at least in the upper elementary grades (3 – 5) and work collaboratively with the grade level teachers to use technology teachers to complete important assignment and projects. For example, one of the topics of study in NYS 4th grade social studies is the slave trade and slavery in the 13 colonies. Working with the 4th grade teacher, we could conduct a unit on slavery. We could use an online atlas, Google Earth or another appropriate resource to map the Middle Passage, and map the many locations that slaves were brought to. Students could read stories of the Middle Passage and slave narratives and journal their thoughts about how difficult this might have been. Students could research about life in the colonies and write a report about the hardships faced by slaves. There are so many ways that students can use technology.

Students could obviously use websites like PebbleGo, which is one of the tools that I evaluated to complete research projects in the lower elementary grades, and learn to cite their sources. As with any technological resource, before it is used, it needs to be fully vetted and its use in the classroom needs to be properly supported and monitored by educators.

 

 

Weekly Reading Reflection – Week 10

I was particularly fascinated with our readings this week. Literacy instruction is such a critical component of education. So much of our work is reliant upon a student’s ability to read. When students struggle with reading, the struggle can persist for years and can impact all facets of their education.

Using Electronic Books in the Classroom reading indicates that there is some research supports the use of this modality; promoting reading engagement, help students gain independence, interest and comprehension among other skills. The ways in which e-storybooks provide support with letter/word recognition, word, definitions, animation, interactivity and other digital scaffolds bolsters the abilities of struggling readers. “Research indicates that there may be benefits for struggling readers…”

Selecting “App”ealing and “App”ropriate Book Apps details how well chosen book apps can also beneficial in the literacy development process. It is another tool that can engage reluctant readers and assist struggling readers in the quest to read. “This film-like style of digital picture book is more beneficial for the most at-risk beginning readers and second-language learners.”

All three of the readings, in different ways, support the idea that e-storybooks can be an important part of literacy instruction. As with all technology use in the classroom, the e-storybooks must be carefully chosen. High quality e-storybooks have good writing (developed characters, interesting storylines and excellent vocabulary, dynamic images that help make the written words come to life, expressive narration/audio and interactivity (read-alongs, games, word highlighting etc).

While we use Tumblebooks and Starfall, I think that the investment in iPads may help improve literacy instruction, and help our youngest students get a strong foundation in reading.

Week 9 – Integration of Podcasts, Wikis and Google Surveys

In each of my assignments, I shared multiple ways in which Podcasts, Wikis and Surveys could be used in the classroom. There are so many ideas and so many ways in which to integrate these tools into the classroom; the ideas that I am sharing are simply the ones I feel would be most successful in my classroom.

Podcasts – Since I manage the library, I might use podcasts as a means of advertisements. Students could record podcasts to ‘advertise’ books that they have read. They can highlight pertinent details such as characters, settings and plot and discuss favorite parts of the book. Any teacher, myself included, could use podcasts to record lessons or critical components of lessons so that students can refer back to the information while at home as additional support.

Wikis – At my school, we celebrate Festival of Nations. Each grade level is assigned a specific country and they are charged with sharing information about their country. Each grade level could create their own wiki and collaborate to create a presentation about their country. Students could then use the Media Center to ‘travel the world’ visiting each Wiki and gathering information. Students could also use a wiki to create stories collaboratively or submit stories for others to proof and edit.

Surveys – Google surveys can be used as an assessment tool. I could use the survey to ascertain how much information students were able to obtain from the Country Wikis above. I could use Google Surveys to determine which lesson was confusing or required more information or clarification so that I could include the important details in a podcast lesson. I have not yet employed any of these tools but I plan to start phasing them in with my oldest students (5th grade) first. I think they will find these tools intriguing.

Weekly Reading Reflection – Week 9

Learning: Is that an app for that? Investigations of young children’s usage and learning with mobile devices and apps by Cynthia Chiong & Carly Shuler

iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category of Apple’s App Store by Carley Shuler

I think that it is obvious to those of us with any iPad, iPhone or any level of technology are aware of the explosion of technology and technology related tools, applications and accessories. “Apps for young children are the most popular age category (58%) exceeding apps for adults by almost 20%. Adults are the second most popular age category (40%) followed by elementary (19%) and middle school (18%). High school was the least popular age category (10%) (Shuler 2012). Both reports (listed above) seems to provide plenty of details about app usage share the level of ability that children have in using the apps on smart phones, what types of apps are used, what role parents take in facilitating use of smart phones but the report does not really explain why parents choose to allow children to use smart phones as a means of occupation or entertainment. Certainly there are other means of engaging children such as books, toys and conversation. Why are parents choosing smart phones over these other ways? Are apps taking over the role that televisions formally had in child-rearing?

General early learning apps seem to be the most popular category of apps, with STEM apps in a close second. Why are these apps the most popular? Is there a correlation between age/grade of user and purpose? I seem to notice a recurring theme in much of the readings regarding the different forms and tools of technology and their use with children in and out of learning environments. They must be carefully selected, monitored and properly supported by teachers/adults.

Interactive whiteboards, interactivity and play in the classroom with children aged three to seven years by Alex Morgan

“There are contrasting opinions concerning the relationship between ICT, play and learning for children of this age (Morgan 2010).”

I found this study to be a curious inclusion to our reading this week. The study looked at how IWBs are being used but the findings are not meant to be conclusive. We use them in our classroom much in the same ways that are used in the study, primarily in the lower elementary classrooms. While I think all classrooms can benefit from IWBs, I think there is a particular appeal with the little ones. Overall, I think the key to usage of IWBs is appropriate, limited and planned usage.

Weekly Reading Reflection – Week 7

 

Collaboration seems to be the name of the game this week. Computers (and tablets and phones) are generally designed as single user devices and are often used as such. However, there are numerous occasions on which computers are not used singularly, and there are benefits to using computers collaboratively in early childhood classrooms.

The three studies we read about focused on collaboration, technology and the early childhood classroom. Social Construction of Computer Experience in a First-Grade Classroom (Wang & Ching 2003) researched how young students toggle between individual and collective classroom goals as they “create their own definition of computer use.” Young children enjoy using computers. Our study indicates this, “Evident from the very beginning was that playing computers games during choice time was a highly desirable activity for the children.” My own work in a school Media Center supports this. All of my students want to use computers every day. I am asked daily if my lessons include computers, and if they will have an opportunity to “play”. The study results showed how students found ways to work together and engage with each other using one computer. The study also indicates that by encouraging this collaboration, the classroom benefits. “Engaging students in discussions such as what is an appropriate computer turn length, how many players are the optimal group size at the computer, what are proper behaviors during group play at computers, etc. will afford students opportunities to further consider these complex social issues. Additionally, when students help develop the classroom rules, they share ownership of classroom norms and will likely be more willing to self-monitor and follow these co-constructed rules.”

In the Co-located single display collaborative learning for early childhood education, the benefits of collaborative learning are shared, particularly when engaging technology within the early childhood classroom. “When children have the opportunity to work collaboratively, they develop a common understanding of the world as they acquire verbal, cognitive and social skills, all of which influence their learning.” Teachers are central to this process, to help provide the critical guidance that students need to be successful. With that support, students can learn collaborative skills as well as school-readiness skills. “The implementation of the intervention highlighted, the importance of offering settings where students in early childhood can share activities and develop collaboration while learning basic skills. It is important to carefully provide teacher support for these activities in order to facilitate the collaborative interactions among children and strengthen the role of teacher.”

I think, on some level, our class is helping to demonstrate the ability to collaborate using technology. As we all work our way through this and my other class, I find myself working closely with students across space and time. I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal, to plan, to manage my time, to learn new technologies within a timeframe that I did not previously think possible. Rather than creating isolation, technology can bridge gaps and create connections across time and distance.