I have been thinking a lot lately about a question I am asked often; “How do you keep track of how much ‘screen time’ your students have?” and “How much time should my child be on an iPad?”
Both of these questions bring about a lot of deep thinking and a shift in thinking on my part. My response is always in regards to learning because the focus of my work as an educator is always about the learning. The learning is the center of everything I model and explore with my students. The learning is vital and key when thinking about engagement and relevance when I work with students and their families.
Too “keep track” of how often or when one of my students is using an electronic device would shift the purpose of what I am doing. The learning would not be authentic, but rather something to be “checked off”. Technology offers all educators, parents and students a way to enhance and enrich their understanding of what they are discovering and learning. I love how technology supports my ideas for exploring and creating new learning opportunities for and with my students. I often think of endless examples of how this might look and sound like in Kindergarten.
Just by having iPads in different parts of my classroom my students understand that this tool/device is there if they choose to use. For example many students create and design many things in Kindergarten using a variety of tools. Why not think about a way to record and document that creation or design with a tool that provides your student/child to share what they have discovered? This is the importance of using and having technologies available in meaningful, responsible ways. This is how I can model for my students and their families the importance of having technological tools and how they can be utilized.
The iPad has many different unique features that can be integrated in an almost seamless fashion. I try to think of this device as another opportunity to enrich and enhance the learning that is explored.
Learning special features of different geometric shapes is a great example. In Kindergarten we explore shapes. We examine shapes within and outside of our classroom. Geoboard is a great app that can help my students create and design their understanding of geometric shapes we explore because it provides equal learning access for everyone. This is a very powerful way to engage all my students. As mathematicians we explore how we know a triangle to be a triangle, etc. This app gives all my students equal access to their understanding and learning of our topic. I also have geoboards too! By having a variety of tools, I am able to provide a variety of learning opportunities for my students. Learning opportunities that support my students thinking. My students take risks with their learning because it is encouraged and modeled daily in the many learning activities we explore.
So the time my students spend on an iPad is important, but it is not what drives the learning. Learning opportunities are everywhere. I try to model explicit ways of how technology enhances what we are exploring and learning about. Learning is the center for everything. From rich, authentic learning opportunities my students use a variety of technologies that support their explorations and understandings. For me it is always about the learning. Technology helps bring the learning to life!