Tag Archives: learning in kindergarten

Digital Tools: It’s Always About The Learning!

Lately I have been sharing lots of ways digital tools can enhance, enrich and engage learning for not only the students we teach, but their families and other educators.  When I share a platform and/or tool I am asked to talk about the digital tool, which I am happy to share as well as why I choose the tools I do.  These questions offer me an opportunity to reflect again on the why and what I do and how it all happens.  For me what is most important is how the digital tool will support and enhance learning for my students as well as how their voice can be shared globally. My students have amazing ideas and are always excited to share and ask questions about what they are exploring.  The digital tools give them endless ways to share their learning with each other and the world.

When I share ideas and reflect it is always about the learning that is happening and/or has happened.  The digital tools offer ways for my students, their families and others to engage, connect and be reflective.  Through our ability to reflect and rethink about what we are doing, we learn how we are exploring ideas and what is it about how we are learning that we understand the process of gaining new knowledge and acquire new information.  As an educator I want to make sure that I am always offering invitations to my students and their families that invite them to learn alongside me.  This is possible through the use of digital tools because it offers ways to enhance and engage in conversations.  Conversations are important and vital because this is the heart of our work, as educators, where we have opportunities to listen to our students voices and get at what is most important.

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I value perspective because it gives me opportunities to have my thinking challenged as well as be inspired.  My students need to be able to experience different perspectives as well.  Through their ability to listen and rethink about what they are exploring, opportunities for collaboration appear and the digital tools help bridge this and make it possible.

Last year my students were exploring the forest.  We created a forest inside our own classroom as well as explored the different types of animals and plant life that grew in Vermont forests.  As we explored this idea of forest life we were able to extend our learning to other forests in the US via @skypeclassroom where my students were able to have a conversation with a real forest ranger in YellowStone National Park.  This experience was so meaningful that all of my students were excited to learn more about forest life and take risks with new texts and create their own books about forest life.

So through Skype, posting on our Kidblogs about an animal, creating podcasts of what we learned about the Vermont forest and then Tweeting about what we were learning and how we were learning we all became very invested and engaged.  This is where my students pushed themselves because they were curious about what we were learning.  Through their curiosity about a topic of interest, they invested their own time and hard work pushing themselves to create a multitude of projects that helped encourage them to be creative and learn more about the topic.

Digital tools are amazing.  They offer so many wonderful ways to enhance learning opportunities.  I always think about the learning and then think about what digital tools might be helpful as I explore this new theme with my students.  I also think about what tools will give us opportunities to connect and share our learning globally too.

As an educator I will always have lots of “have to’s”.  The piece I look forward to is how I am going to get at the content, make it meaningful and engaging as well as what digital tools will help me and my students.  The why of this work is always at the heart.  It is what appears and is discovered by your students.  The real learning comes from your students own curiosity.  I am trying to make it happen whenever I can.

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Reflections Inside and Outside of Kindergarten

As my year comes to an end I am thinking about some moments where I was able to celebrate, engage and experience authentic learning opportunities through learning alongside my parents and students.  I have learned so much from my interactions and conversations through day to day life inside my classroom as well as conversations that have been shared globally in regards to how technology has enriched learning for not just my students, but their parents as well.

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 My students were outside last week exploring nature and making observations about where birds might build a nest.  Some of my students heard some birds chirping and tried to use an iPad to capture the birds on video.  As I watched them and listened to their conversation I was so impressed with how they were collaborating and trying to figure out a way to video the bird that was so  carefully tucked away in the tree.  I am so proud of my students and their ability to understand how technology can be used in a meaningful way to enhance and capture something they found interesting and worth sharing.

gabbyDuring a writers and readers workshopt to t conn time one of my students decided to write about penguins. I asked her why and she pointed to her shirt!  She created a book complete with labels, writing about special features that a penguin has and then she had a question.  I did not know the answer so she decided to use Google to search for photographs of penguins to help her.  Through explicit modeling and directions about “how to” search Google safely, with visual steps, my student was able to get the answer to her question.

DSCF3069Visual models along with modeling and using authentic examples my students are becoming safe, kind and responsible digital citizens. They are beginning to experience and make decisions about not only the tools they use, but what features as well and how specific features can capture what they are seeking.

Another student during a writers workshop time had an idea of a topic to write about, Twitter!  She wrote a story about how Twitter helps people communicate and share.  When students are given choices about topics to write about it is really wonderful to see what topics they choose.  As I look at the writing I am reminded about how well this student is able to communicate her idea through her writing.  This is where as an educator I am able to reflect and notice what she has learned in regards to writing.  This is where I look to see what my students understand and if they are able to use skills they have been exploring independently.twitter

I recently had the honor of being able to present at the Dynamic Landscapes conference at Champlain College.  My presentation was on The Social Experience.  I was able to bring a couple of my kindergarten students who were able to assist me and also speak to other educators about how social media and other synchronous tools have made learning meaningful and fun.  At the end I had a few parent volunteers use Google Hangout as well to share their perspectives.  As an educator it really struck me at not only how technology has made a difference for my students learning, but my parents as well.  Click here to hear about what some of my parents had to say.

Kindergarten has been amazing and wonderful.  It is a place that continues to Dynamic Landscapesinspire, challenge my thinking and engage me deeply.  My students have had some amazing learning opportunities that have engaged them, inspired them and helped them begin to explore and experience what it means to be a digital citizen.  Digital citizenship is vital and important for everyone to experience.  Through our experiences we begin to become transparent and transform the ways we think and interact with each other face to face and virtually.

I look forward to celebrating the end of the year with my students. I also look forward to the future where I know I will be inspired and learn new ways to make a difference in regards to learning for myself and others.

My Advice: Caitlin, Megan, Jessica, Katherine and Patrick

Last week my students and I said our final good-byes to the last of our college interns in Kindergarten.  During this year I have had the pleasure of connecting and working alongside 5 amazing, collaborative, engaging and inspiring people who have challenged my thinking, supported my students and have been open to being transparent in their practice which has led to some deep, reflective conversations which have benefited all students.

One of my interns had a set of interview questions for me in regards to teaching culture, etc. One of the questions was about what advice would I give to someone pursuing a career in education and what would I recommend that they do.  I have continued to think about this idea for awhile now because it is really important for new people thinking about a career as a teacher.

So this is my advice……

1. Care, care a lot. You will be able to make a difference for many if you have empathy and perseverance.  Take the extra time to be patient and listen.  Notice how your students react and interact with each other and the culture you create and design.  Be responsive and flexible to making changes that support your students needs.  Collaborate to make a difference for others in the communities you teach.  Through your modeling of caring, your students and their families will become engaged.patrick

2. Be passionate.  Celebrate the learning that is happening inside and outside of your classrooms.  Express your excitement through your face to face, online and other opportunities that you create.  Through your passion, your students will get inspired and become passionate about their learning explorations.  Remember to dance, laugh and sing.gre

3. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and challenge your thinking. Remember as a teacher you have lots of opportunities to learn and interact.  Think about how you and your students might learn alongside each other.  Look for others who are doing creative and innovative things.  Through others ideas, you develop your own inspiration and find your voice.  You have the ability to be brilliant and make a difference.photo+1-30

4. Connect, connect, connect.  Develop your PLN!  This is vital and very important.  This is where your thinking is challenged and you will connect in many ways that will turn into future collaborations.  Through your connections you will develop a group of people, who like you, care, want to make a difference and are willing to make changes that improve their teaching practice.  Your PLN is always there.  Count on them and lean on them when you need support, want to celebrate, collaborate and need inspiration. Join online communities that promote and engage what is important to you.

5. Be transparent. mm2   It is okay to share what you are thinking and why.  Through your transparency you will invite others in and share your perspective.  Think about asynchronous and synchronous tools that can share the learning you and your students are exploring together.  Information is important for all of us.  Make it meaningful and interactive. Through your explicit modeling of sharing globally, your audience will be broad and you will connect and others will benefit from your ideas as you will be inspired by theirs.

6. Be well.catherine  Remember that what you do for your own personal wellness is important.  Your wellness of mind and body gives you stability, strength, endurance and patience. Exercise and healthy eating keeps your mind and body healthy and active. Be sure to pursue your passions that recharge you and make you feel energized.  Positive energy is contagious and helps everyone be successful.

I want you all to know that it has been my privilege and honor to have you in Kindergarten.  I have learned from all of you and I thank you for your daily energy that you shared with all of us. I wish you all the best in your future experiences in education.  I hope you will discover the magic in working with children.  We need people like you, who care, ask questions, connect and smile.

It’s All About The Learning!

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.DSCF2226

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.

photo (1)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!

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