Recently, I had a conversation with a teacher who felt that technology in the K-2 level was not beneficial to students. Their concern was that the students were “too young” to use technology or that it would not be relevant for students. So, when I was invited to attend the K-2 Can Too conference by the amazing Susan Stewart, I jumped on the chance to hear about all of the ways that technology is being used in the K-2 classrooms.
Many people don’t know this, but my career in education began in elementary classrooms. Over time, I realized that my passion was working with secondary students but I do have fond memories of working with elementary students and teachers. It was enjoyable to attend this conference because it brought back memories of working with our littlest learners. It reminded me of all of the skills that our students have learned from K-6 that support them in our secondary world. In a way, I wish that all of our secondary teachers could spend a day in an elementary classroom and see where their students have come from.
Anyways, onto the good stuff! Here are my takeaways:
Let Students (and Teachers) Play!
My biggest takeaway was the idea of play. Let students play. Let teachers play. Using technology can be taught but it will be retained by the users when they are allowed to play and explore. Often times, teachers have difficulty relinquishing control of their classroom to their students – especially when it comes to technology use. There is always an excuse, “They are too young”, “They will break the device”, etc. These are just excuses. As educators, we have to allow our students the opportunity to learn. Allow them to play with an app, device, and/or tech tool before you begin a lesson or project. The students may find a way to use these resources in a way you did not imagine. Then, as you begin introducing the lesson or project, students will now be viewing it through the lens of the tech tools that they will be using. The possibilities are endless but it starts with one idea: Play.
Managing Student Devices
One of the sessions I attended was by Ann Kozma titled “Workflow and Management 101”. As I attended this session with my “middle school hat” on, I was reminded of how early elementary teachers have to manage the devices that are in the classroom. In middle school world, my students are responsible for their own device. They do not leave it in the classroom – it’s their responsibility. In elementary school, the teachers are responsible for managing and distributing the devices. In the session, it was really interesting to see all of the ways that these devices were managed for teachers that did not have Chromebook or iPad carts. Basically, Ann repurposed items such as dish racks to store the devices, numbered them, and added a powerstrip to the dishrack. She also reached out to the staff and parents to donate earbuds that they had received with their Apple products. Think about it – we all probably have a couple of brand new earbuds in our house from purchasing Apple products.
After hearing this, I found myself thinking…”If K-2 students can use and manage their devices, why do our secondary teachers get so nervous about it?” I’ll come back to this idea later.
Flipgrid, Google Earth, Ozobots, Oh My!
I am always astounded at how many new EdTech apps, resources, and features are continuing to be released. There is so much technology to use that it can get overwhelming. However, I always tell teachers to take a few ideas back to their classroom and really focus on just one or two. Here are some EdTech resources I am excited to use:
- Flipgrid – A flipped classroom approach to using video for igniting student discussion and engagement. Flipgrid fever – everyone has it! I’ve used it with other teachers but cannot wait to try it in my classroom. If you haven’t checked out this amazing tool yet, you need to…ASAP.
- Google Earth – Enables you to explore the globe with a swipe of your finger. Remember the old Google Earth that had to be downloaded? Well, that is gone and it has been replaced with a completely web-based version. It’s fantastic and beautiful and there are so many ways this can be used in the classroom. (FYI – This session was done by some of my favorite people Rosalinda Jaimes and Michelle Osinski. Yep, Ro. I did blog on vacation.)
- Ozobots – Small, smart toy robots that empower gamers and learners to code, play, create and connect the physical and digital worlds. Playing with these little robots was one of my favorite parts of this event. For students, this would be an amazing way to introduce coding and the logic behind it. Students are able to create a track based upon certain colors, place the Ozobot on it, and have it run through the track. Based upon the color patterns, the Ozobot may go forward, backward, faster, slower, u-turn, etc. It is so much fun!
- Google Cheat Sheets – These cheat sheets were created by Ben Cogswell and they are phenomenal. This is a resource that I will definitely be sharing with our staff members when we return!
If K-2 Can Do It…Then Everyone Else Needs to Step Up Their Game
So…I told you I would come back to this idea. If our littlest learners can purposefully use technology in the classroom…then why isn’t everyone? If a first grader can use Flipgrid, then a 7th grader can use it, too. In fact, not only can the 7th grader use this technology but they can take it to the another level. Over the last year, I have heard a lot of things about why my students are able to use technology in the classroom, mostly the comment “Well, your students are Honors students”. However, as I attended these sessions, I saw that even K-2 students can use these resources in their classroom – which is powerful. If K-2 can, why can’t everyone?
There is so much fear when it comes to using technology in the classroom. But, guess what? Technology is here and it isn’t going anywhere. The world in which our students will be employed will rely heavily on technology and we must help them understand how to use these tools for a purpose. Plus, let’s be honest. Your students enjoy using technology. It engages and inspires them. So, find ways to make it educational and purposeful so that they will be prepared for the future.