Tag Archives: 21st century learning

Ongoing Reflection and Thinking

Last week I was reminded about the importance of self reflection and choice through play.  When students have both the time and opportunity to pursue a personal interest they are able to connect, collaborate and engage in meaningful ways that would, well, really surprised me.  One of my students is very interested in tornadoes.  He has been exploring books, creating tornadoes and even brought in a “tornado tube” and shared how a tornado is created.  unnamed-4Through his interest and passion for this topic he was able to share his ideas and engage through play and exploration of text about his topic.  He choose a friend to go to the library and get some books on the subject and then read them.  Afterwards he created an amazing picture of what he thought a tornado might look like from outer space.  I was so intrigued by his perspective. After having a conversation about what he created it was clear to me that by giving choice and more opportunities to our students we are giving them invitations to be inspired and share about what they wish to explore.  This is where our students experience critical and deep thinking because they work tirelessly to pursue their own understanding.  Through their curiosity they are  not only sharing what they are passionate about, but also inspire others to learn alongside them. Here is where authentic learning naturally leads to meaningful conversations and opportunities to collaborate.  Later this student asked if we would tweet his picture.  When I asked him why; “I want to share my idea with the world.” I recently heard from a parent as well about their Kindergarten experience.  Through feedback I am able to reflect, rethink and begin to think about things that worked well and what opportunities do I have to make changes moving on.  She shared; “I just want to say a heartfelt “thank you” for teaching our children in a way that inspires them to apply what they learn to real life problems!  You don’t just teach them to memorize – you teach them to understand!  Two examples in this past week show how much __ has grown in your class with regard to understanding math. First, two days ago we were discussing his birthday party. He was trying to determine how to divide all his friends up into the six stations we are going to have. He asked “If we have 5 friends in each group how many is that?”  I asked him what he thought and within 30 seconds he replied “30!”  He explained that he combined stations so he could count by 10’s:) This is on example of what can happen for our students when we create opportunities and invitations to learn in ways that connect, engage and inspire us.  For me I am thinking of ways that I can continue to offer choice through the content I am required to pursue.  I am thinking about ways I might be able to offer choice more often and in ways that might inspire my students to become more curious about the what, why and how we explore together when pursuing questions. unnamed-2unnamed-3Here are a couple of reflections from my students in Kindergarten this year.  We are creating books about what we learned how to do in Kindergarten.  Here is another way to think about what your students learned, but also what they were most interested in.  This is also another opportunity for me to reach out and ask more about why these ideas were mentioned, what they offered? As an educator I want to offer the best learning experience for my students.  I want them to feel important, cared for and also know that I have hope for each of them.  Learning is for everyone.  Through my own ability to ask for feedback and engage in meaningful dialogue about my own learning I am able to make changes and improve learning for myself, my students and their families.  Through my own change, I am growing and modeling how transparency can be revealing, but offers ways to create more learning opportunities that promote meaningful reflection and growth.

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com.

The Hour of Code: @vermontkkids123

What an amazing opportunities my students and myself had this week in regards to the national celebration of “The Hour of Code”! We started our journey of coding by watching President Barack Obama’s video.  The video was well done and the message was clear, even to my 5 and 6 year old Kindergarten students.

We need opportunities to create and design ideas that we have in regards to our passions and interests. We need to be engaged and able to use a variety of digital tools to connect, inspire and challenge our thinking.  When we are exposed and transparent in our thinking, then we open up paths for others to invest, engage and collaborate with us and our thinking.  I am thinking that coding may be one way for this to happen.

unnamed-1We are in a world that is not only changing fast, but technology is really impacting our opportunities to connect and engage globally to solve common world problems as well as opportunities to use digital tools that enrich our lives.  So coding is important and yes, even in Kindergarten it is clear that we need to offer opportunities for our students to learn code and how it can support their learning now and in the future.

Creating code is one way I can create opportunities for my students to create & problem solve through collaboration.   We used an App called; “Daisy The Dinosaur” which was fun for my students because they were able to think critically and team together to solve a problem.  Then when we visited our technology lab and teamed up with our learning buddies my students were able to practice that idea again of collaboration.  Working in a team, 1 student navigates and the other is the driver.  This is not a new idea for my students, it is just another learning opportunity where they can experience this type of collaboration using different tools.

My kindergarten students were able to write code and learn how to create directions to make something move!  This was the immediate connection that my students made.  A few of my students shared;”Mrs. D. when we make code we tell the computer what to do!” Thinking about this connection moving forward past this week I am thinking about other ways I can provide my students with opportunities to code.

I am new to the idea of code.  The whole idea of coding was a little bit overwhelming to think about, but now, after this week of coding and being able to learn alongside my students it is not.  As an educator of young children I need to find ways where students can connect and collaborate together to solve a problem.  Coding supports this idea.

Reflecting about coding and why should I be coding and exploring this with my students?

Here is what I came up with….

1. use of high level vocabulary

2. collaboration, conversations in a face to face situation

3. risk taking and experience positive self confidence

4. learning “how to” give/follow a direction

5. setting goals

6. experiencing flexibility and adapting to a new situation involving critical thinking and problem solving

7. use of digital tools, their capabilities

8. experiencing digital citizenship

9. global opportunities, family engagement opportunities

10. It was really fun!

I am passionate about learning.  I support innovation and creativity because we need to be able to use our creativity to connect and collaborate face to face, in our schools, homes and communities. Learning is for everyone and the technological tools available make it possible for everyone to share their voice.

Examples of How Class Culture Reflects The Value of Collaboration and Connecting

Wow!  I am so excited to share what has been happening with my kindergarten students and their families this year in regards to how we are collaborating and connecting.  I feel that an interactive and engaging culture for learning makes all the difference.

Classroom culture is one of the most important things that I create and design with my students.  Our learning environment needs to be very engaging, inspirational, fun, safe and a place where my students and their families feel a part of the learning opportunities that appear daily.  As my classroom culture develops my students and their families have opportunities to watch, listen and interact with the how and why we do what we do using a variety of technological tools.  I model right from the start how I use an iPad or a camera to capture something that we have observed or discovered.  By being so intentional and explicit about how I do this, my students and their families begin to explore how they can benefit from using technological tools that enhance their ideas.

I have listed some examples below for you to read.  I hope these examples inspire you to enhance your own class culture and to reflect on the tools you are using.

Some examples of this are;

1. One of my students sent me an email saying that she learned a new college word, hypothesis.  She shared this with me because in Kindergarten we use a lot of “college words” when we share our discoveries.  What a wonderful way for this child to have a voice, share this email and of course she is beginning to understand how technology can be used to connect.

2.  I was at Vermont Fest this week presenting a workshop on blogging and social media.  While I was out of the classroom one of my parent volunteers used her iPhone to email me some photos of the work she was doing with some of my students during math workshop time.  She also shared how her husband found an app for her iphone that she could refer to when working with the different attributes with the students.  I also enjoyed Skyping my students to say hello and check in on how their day was going!

3. One of my students was home sick and Skyped us!  My students are so use to using Skype that they know what to do when they hear the call!  The leader taps on video call, everyone sits on the rug and looks at the SMARTboard.  We say hello!  The student that was home sick asked what we were doing and the students had an opportunity to say hi, send get well wishes.  After the call, all the students went back to what they were working on!

4.  I was using an iPad to take a video of one of my students sharing a piece of writing he did.  Another student at the table saw this and quietly took his hand and covered the student’s name.  Wow!  Without saying a word, this student understands that when we use media, we do not use any identifying information.  This is how we model being a safe, kind and responsible user of technology.

5. One of my students parents was in South Africa at a medical conference.  He used Skype to say hello and talk to us about what the weather was like there.  My student was so happy and excited to say hello!  Later we are then able to put a marker on our virtual Google map of a connection we made!  Now we also have a map on our wall that my students created with push pins documenting our connections as well.  Through this experience we are now learning the names of the continents, oceans and even some of the time zones because of the connections we have made.

6.  Another parent calls us one morning from California where he is on a business trip.  We say hello, share the weather and then he tells us that it is 6 AM there.  It is 9 AM in Vt.  A great opportunity to think deeply about how many hours difference there is from the west to the east coast!

7.  A parent shares photos of her daughter collaborating at home with her barbies!  Again, by using ‘college talk”, higher level vocabulary the richness of our content in Kindergarten becomes much more.

8.  When I presented last year on blogging at the Vt. Superintendent’s conference I was able to use Skype to include my students in my presentation.  They were able to share and connect with us about how blogging helps them with their learning!

9.  Twitter!  I have 11/18 parents who are now following our class twitter account!  My students and their families understand that when we tweet, we are talking about what we are learning.  My students continue to tweet with other kindergarten classes about what we are exploring and discovering.

10.  My students use cameras and iPads throughout the day to take photos of what they create.  My students are happy and proud to share their ideas.

11.  Blogging!  My students understand that our class and science blog are ways that we share and reflect on what we are learning.  This has been a wonderful way to not only showcase our learning, but my students families also are able to interact and use the blogs as a way to talk about their child’s day.

12.  Kidblog!  My students are beginning to blog independently about what they are learning.  They are developing a sense of audience and understand that they share in a kind, safe and responsible way.  Through their kidblog they are able to respond to each other as well.

13.  Instagram!  One of my students created a story at home and his father used instagram to send to us.  Wow!  This child was so proud of his story. When he was sharing his story on the SMARTboard other students were able to connect and share what they noticed as well.  What a great way to boost self esteem and build confidence!

14. Some of my students families use their iPhones to share video and photographs of the math games they are playing at home.  One of my current videos sent via an iPhone is of one of my students enjoying a popsicle while she is counting and writing her numbers 1-20!  Some share special celebrations also.  This is a wonderful way to connect and develop positive relationships.

These are just some of the ways that I use technology to develop a positive, interactive, collaborative and connected classroom culture.  The examples I have shared are simple ways to bring students ideas to life!  An easy way to celebrate and be reflective each day about the authentic learning that is happening in school.  I hope this inspires others to think about how to enrich your classroom culture to help all your students and their families feel a part of what is happening.

As an educator I think about how important equity is for all learners.  I think about how important it is to have a culture that encourages all learners to be a part of all learning opportunities.  The technology helps reach all learners, it gives everyone a voice.

iPads! In Kindergarten, Really!

What a wonderful surprise! iPads really make a difference in student learning and engagement.  This has been so exciting and a great learning opportunity for me and my students.  This is another technological tool that is making a difference and yes, Kindergarten children are finding lots of ways to use these tools as well as discovering lots of a ha’s about how this tool can help them to reflect and create learning experiences.

This post is a collection of photos and my observations about the positive impact that iPads have had and continue to have on learning.  I want to share the excitement and ah ha’s I am noticing because an as educator this is where I see spark in the children and of course lots of authentic learning opportunities appear too!

I started the 1st day of Kindergarten by introducing these interactive tools to my class.  We talked about being safe, kind and responsible as well as how it might help us with our learning.  The children immediately started exploring with the iPads and instantly began figuring out how it worked!  I was really impressed with how quickly the children adapted to this tool and of course the excitement.  The touch screen really made it easy for the children to type and access the apps.  Then the children began touching the screen and the exploration began.

As an educator I often think about all of the things I want and need to do during the course of a school day.  It can be a bit overwhelming…  So when presented with a tool that might make learning more accessible and engaging, I find myself beginning to see how many opportunities I have to make connections within my lessons as well as help children to become more engaged and invested in their own learning.

In the photograph you see a child creating a post on an iPad on her kidblog. Image As a class we spent time from the beginning of school talking about blogging, what it is, why do it and how it helps us with our learning. The children understand that when they blog, they need a title and thoughts that we call sentences.  In the beginning I use lots of books to help demonstrate this point.  I find that the more explicit you can be with children and the more tangible, concrete connections and comparisons you can make, the easier it is for children to grasp and begin to use technological tools.  The beauty of this example is that this child knows 1 way to use the iPad in a meaningful, safe way.  She is motivated to blog and share her ideas with others.

During a writing workshop time the children were creating illustrations and writing about what tools help us to become better spellers.  Look at this illustration!  I notice what came first in this child’s mind, an iPad!


During an “Echo Time”(Fundations/Reading Time) the children write the letters they hear at the beginning and at the end of words.  They have opportunities to work on letter formation, starting at the top then working their way down.  The children discovered that they could fit more letters on an iPad and even words by changing the line size of the color they choose to write with.  This is an example of what an iPad can do to help support early literacy skills.  The children LOVE to practice letter and number formation because they get to interact with their idea, share it, practice again and get feedback from others.  I have noticed that all children want to participate in activities involving the iPad.  What a great way for all children to shine and be seen in an equal way as their peers, taking risks and building confidence!


In the photograph below you see a child during a life studies/science time using an iPad as a way to document a discovery of living creatures he discovered during a 4 Winds time.  The child understands  one of the many purposes of an iPad.  It can capture my discovery and I can share it!  The child also understood how to use this tool in a safe and responsible way.  A great example of how an iPad can help us with our learning.                                                         Image

As an educator I find myself trying to create and design meaningful learning opportunities for and along with the children I work with.  Technological tools are amazing and their impact on student learning and engagement are endless.  For me the iPads have enhanced everything that I do.  I can’t help but love them!