I teach Kindergarten and I play a huge role in laying the foundation for future learning. I am looking for ways to build up literacy, math, creativity, problem solving, social networking, and communication/collaboration skills through my work with young children. I find myself constantly being challenged by all of the learning opportunities that present themselves within and outside of the classroom walls. It is very energizing, refreshing and at times a bit overwhelming.
I have decided to write about how I have embraced and embedded the ISTE NETS in Kindergarten. ISTE stands for International Society For Technology in Education and NETS stands for National Educational Technology Standards. For information regarding the ISTE NETS go to http://www.iste.org/welcome.aspx
When I first heard of these standards I printed the document and read through the information thinking about what it all means and how I was going to be responsible for implementing these ideas. So I started thinking about what it might look and sound like from a 5 year old perspective. Thinking about it that way gave me a starting point of what I might try. So my journey began….
The ISTE have developed performance indicators for both teachers and students. I am going to address the indicators for teachers in this post. I have listed each indicator below. They are taken from iste.nets
1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Daily use of the technologies will give children an opportunities to make connections with others and the content they are learning.
Technologies will increase student engagement and investment in their learning. I believe that as a teacher I need to focus on developing strong relationships with my students and their families. Through meaningful relationships others are inspired by ideas that have a positive impact on learning. The technologies I have used so far have helped me to create an environment that is rich, interactive, engaging and inviting with a focus on learning.
As an educator of young children it is extremely important for me to lay the foundation for learning and the possibilities that exist. Through this belief and mindset I hope to help children see the possibilities of opportunities and connections to help them develop a thirst for learning that will be with them as they move through their learning experiences in school.
Authentic problem solving is a great example of how technology can enhance student creativity. I think about children working in small and large groups collaboratively when solving authentic and assigned problems in the area of math. This is a great way to promote and encourage oral language and thinking that occurs naturally. Young children are very ego centric and love to share their ideas! The document camera provides a great opportunity for children to do just this. Children will be able to present their ideas, get feedback, manipulate their ideas to help develop a deeper mathematical understanding as well as opportunities to answer questions from other children that either have questions that to be clarified or ideas.
In Kindergarten I have endless opportunities for children to be creative and inspire their own thinking about ideas. I think about our exploration time when children make choices about what they would like to do. I observe children organizing a library in dramatic play in regards to a story we have read in class. Children are drawn in by the story and the flurry of activity surrounded around a general feeling of enjoyment. The children them begin to act out the story and look for materials within Kindergarten to use to relive out the story. This example is so powerful as it displays the how young children can take an experience and an idea and develop it into something more.
I often video this activity as well as take pictures. The children then have an opportunity to watch themselves and talk about their ideas. Children also have an opportunity to post on their kidblog too about the different learning experiences they have. It is through the sharing of their design around this experience where children rethink about what they did and why. The children share their video on our SMARTboard and talk out what they did. Others have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Later I created podcasts of their ideas for this activity. Again, the rigor is through the opportunity to share their thinking. By using a variety of technologies to display their ideas, the activity is more engaging as it becomes “alive” and young children love to talk about their ideas! The challenge as a teacher is to help facilitate the sharing and reflecting so that it displays the thinking behind the ideas. Too often Teachers talk for or finish sharing ideas of young minds.
The children have daily opportunities to share ideas related to all aspects of Kindergarten. We use a document camera in lots of ways. The camera not only projects the idea, but children can zoom in/zoom out on parts they want to emphasize. The more often you use the technology, the more comfortable children become and will almost seamlessly seek technology tools out to enhance their ideas.
Collaboration and Communication are great ways for children to feel successful, and showcase their learning, build self confidence and of course develop an attitude of how much fun learning can be.
Last year I had a child create and design sight word cards for the class. She used the document camera to share what she created with her family. During the time she was sharing she began to read the words and then said, ‘Let’s play a game.” I will show the word, raise your hand if you know the word. When the game started it evolved into something more… The children began making connections with other activities we have done through word play. The child then asked others to come up and highlight the beginning sound, ending sound, certain letters within the words. So from this opportunity the children became invested and engaged in the sharing. I think about other skills this child was using…. She was facilitating questions, comments, offering encouraging words and reflecting on what others had to say. What a wonderful way to build a child’s confidence.
2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Daily use of the technologies will give children opportunities to make connections with others and the content they are learning.
Technologies offer ways to help children increase their engagement and investment in their learning. Through the use of a variety of technologies I have been able to help create an environment that is rich and inviting with a focus on learning.
In Kindergarten I have found lots of different technological tools that have been great for assessing 5 and 6-year-old children. The voice recorder has been amazing for creating podcasts, cameras capture art and written work, the FLIP camera captures the essence of authentic thinking at a deep level and the document camera gives children a special stage/pulpit to reflect, speak, share and observe from. If you are lucky enough to have a SMARTboard the children are then able to interact with what they have created and designed.
After each life cycle I explored with the children this past year I created a podcast of their understanding of the cycle. It was so reflective and clear about what children understood and how they explained their thinking. Then I photographed their drawing/writing and uploaded to my wiki with their podcast. Wow! Parents, children and others were able to see and listen to what each child took away from our study. As a teacher the podcasts gave me an insight as to where children were with their understanding and where I needed to go next. The children were also able to reflect on their own podcasts and make observations too. The conversation and self reflections were priceless.
I am just beginning to develop technological opportunities that will help all children with diverse learning styles to make learning accessible and meaningful. By building a culture within my classroom that is safe, responsible, interactive and engaging children can not help but want to be involved in the learning opportunities that evolve. I am always thinking about ways to create an environment that is rich and inviting with a focus on learning. The technological tools help make this happen.
3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
As I have already stated a few times…daily use of the technologies will give children an opportunities to make connections with others and the content they are learning. The technology provides endless opportunities for children to become engaged and invested with their learning.
Collaboration and communication are vital. In Kindergarten I use wiki’s and blogs to help make connections with the children, their families and others. Through the websites that I have created and designed families and their children feel a part of kindergarten life. My learning community is not only aware and engaged of what their child is learning, but how their child is learning too. Parents and children have endless opportunities to reflect and interact with the daily experiences of kindergarten.
Through the use of blogs and wiki’s children learn to become safe and responsible users of technology. The tools are used in ways that enhance learning. The other wonderful thing about using websites is that the learning experiences stay, they do not disappear. This is so important as it gives parents and children opportunities to refer to and enjoy over and over.
Wikis are interactive and provide endless opportunities for parents to share, make connections with others and reflect on ideas and experiences. I use wiki’s to showcase student work, activities, trips, special events and celebrations as well as for discussions about topics. Parents are able to learn o use the wiki’s in meaningful ways, they are able to be a part of their child’s learning experience as well as offer ideas, observations and ask questions.
Blogging is another great way to promote opportunities for children and their families to interact with kindergarten life. Parents have endless opportunities through the blogs to start a conversation with their child about their day, a special activity or experience. It is through these opportunities that parents will become more engaged and involved with their child’s school day. I have found this to be true as children are relentless about their excitement and their thirst to share their discoveries. I wish that I could capture all of the excitement!
4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
In kindergarten children learn how to use tools that enhance their learning. The tools the children have learned to use independently are a digital camera, FLIP camera, document camera and SMARTboard.
The challenge as a teacher is to begin to infuse these tools in seamless ways throughout the day so children can see me model the use in ways that captures meaningful learning opportunities. Children love to try new things and be responsible for things, they need guidance and encouragement to take risks. Technology offers ways for children to become excited and develop a desire to take a risk when they see what can happen.
During an author study I discovered a website where children can choose a postcard of an illustration form their favorite book. Afterwards they can write a simple message and email it to their family. In order to participate the children needed to access their email. I invited our Technology Educational Leader who helped me show and talk about email, why we have it, how we use it in a safe and responsible way and of course how it helps our learning. If the technology does not help our learning, it isn’t used. The kids did so well! Each child was able to log in and out of their gmail account. Now each child could email their postcard to their family. I had children email me whose parents did not have email. We talked about what we did, why we did it and how it was helpful with our learning. The children understood that it was a way to communicate and the importance of being kind with their communication.
Then I asked parents to email their child with a short message. They did and that way each child could simply press reply and respond. It was like magic! The children loved how their message disappeared and of course wondered why their parents did not write them back right away. Again, this was another opportunity for children to use their reading and writing skills to communicate a message in a safe and responsible way.
I used voicethread a lot this past year. This tool was a wonderful way for the children to share and interact with the math concepts we were learning. After we created a mathematical quilt or pattern displaying a specific concept I took a photo, uploaded it to voicethread and then the children were able to share their mathematical observations and even interact with their ideas showing the connections and observations they were making.
When we visit our school garden to look for living creatures to draw I bring a FLIP camera and digital camera to use to capture discoveries that the children make. Within 5 minutes the children are yelling with excitement for me to come quick and take a picture of this, video this. Then 1 by 1 a few children ask if they can take a picture and FLIP something they see. This is how it starts, how it begins, how children begin to use technological tools to capture experiences they see and want to share.
Every year is filled with moments and opportunities like this. I am so glad that my eyes are now open and really noticing what the possibilities are. They are endless.
5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
I created many different Google forms that I used to survey parents and the their child about how they feel about the impact that the technologies has had on their learning, engagement, involvement and learning in Kindergarten. By surveying my parents and children I was able to reflect on what others felt about the use of the technologies I used, but also how it impacted their child’s learning and attitudes about learning and kindergarten.
In our school we have a strong RTI model(Response to Intervention) that is already in place. Using the assessments that are in place already I will be able to monitor each child’s progress in literacy and math. One of the tools we use to track student progress is AimsWeb. I inputted student data that I collect in the fall, winter and spring for each child. The data gave me lots of information about what children knew, how they were progressing and what I needed to do to enhance and support the learning opportunities in kindergarten. After reviewing the data I was able to see what children are in the 25th or below percentile who are at great risk for failure and begin to identify strategies and teir 2 supports that will support their needs and help them be more successful. The technologies that are in place will be able to support their learning. This is also true for children who fall above the 25th percentile as well. I will also be looking at ways to enhance and enrich their learning opportunities in Kindergarten to further their growth also.
The process I went through….. Survey students and their families in the fall (4-6 weeks) about attitudes and thoughts about what they are hearing and seeing from their child about Kindergarten. Some of my focus questions will be attitudes and observations about school. For example; What is your child telling you about Kindergarten? Do you feel that they are excited about coming to school? What kinds of learning do you see and hear happening? Some of the students questions might be: What do you like about Kindergarten? What have you learned? What do you want to know or learn to do in Kindergarten?
- Give the literacy and math probes to collect student data to help me develop a plan of action in terms of goals for success. At this point the children who are in the 25th or lower percentile will also have an EST plan that will be developed as well because they will also qualify for additional tier 2 support as well.
- Students who are in the 25th or lower percentile will also be progress monitored 2 times a month. I will set up a progress monitoring schedule for these students in the areas that they need monitoring in.
- I am a strong believer in collaboration and team work. Our Kindergarten team meets weekly to discuss children who are in need of support for both remediation and challenge. This was an opportunity for us as professionals to support all children who needed more support. I was able to share some of the tools that I found helpful and that had a positive impact on student performance and attitudes about learning I also meet with the speech language pathologist, child psychologist, para educator, special educator and OT as well. The beauty of the AimsWeb software is that I am able to email progress updates to both parents and other professionals who work with the children. This way people have the data and we can be communicative about what growth is happening and continue to plan and collaborate around specific student needs. The special educator and school psychologist that I work with receive plans of action/activities to do from our meeting together to plan for the students they work with. We share ideas and make adjustments together to provide what is best for the student being addressed.
- In conclusion I hope to create an overall exciting, interactive and collaborative learning environment for young children. I am the first teacher for many of the students and I want to show them how fun and exciting learning can be, while also having high expectations for success. I value and support ideas around relationship building, teaching with rigor and making learning relevant. Through these ideas of William Daggett I have seen and experienced professionally how far you can go with students and their desire to learn. This way you will know when you can either go further or you have gone as far as you can.
- Technology Operations and Concepts
I have decided to continue to make steps towards completely transforming my classroom and to help model and share with my colleagues how easy, fun, inspiring and rewarding it can be for children, their families, community and others to use technology in meaningful ways. I have been able to experience lots of wonderful examples of how learning can be fun and engaging for children. It is through these examples and my experiences that I hope to plan and produce more opportunities that will help children and their families become invested in their learning.
Some of my PLN’s(professional learning networks)that I use are twitter, diigo and linkedin. These sites have given me lots of opportunities to join other groups with special focuses. The opportunities are endless and so exciting. It is so important for me, as a teacher to be connected with what others are doing who care deeply about seeking ways to make a difference in learning for all children. These connections offer lots of ideas, feedback and opportunities to collaborate. I love it!