Yesterday was one of those amazing experiences that I had using a synchronous tool with my Kindergarten students that really had a positive impact on what we were exploring inside and outside of our classroom. As a Kindergarten teacher I have lots of opportunities for my students to create and design their understanding of the topics we explore. We use our imagination and interest, but also our hands!
Yesterday morning we had an opportunity to use SKYPE to connect and learn from a forest ranger in Yellowstone National Park! Wow! My students were so captivated and interested in this session. Our forest ranger was engaging, shared photographs and real artifacts of animals and other real things that are part of forest life. Through this experience my students learned about forest life in the west. We were able to make connections with ideas that we were familiar with in Vermont too. My students learned about special adaptations of animals and how these adaptations impact their life. As I watched and listened to the conversation between the forester, in Colorado and my classroom I was struck at how comfortable my students were in using Skype as a way to share and the great questions they had. My students were engaged and enriched with this experience. They were able to experience again the value of making connections with others who have a special expertise and a different perspective about what we are exploring.
I look forward to using @SKYPEClassroom again to enrich my students learning. This is a wonderful, easy and fun way to connect real learning opportunities in authentic ways.
As we began to explore the forests of Vermont my students were very interested in the trees that grew in the forests and the animal live. So we began to create our own forest inside of our classroom. We constructed trees using paper, paint and cardboard. We even collected real tree growth from the natural world and found ways to display and share inside our classroom. Later we created non fiction books, created posts on our Kidblogs about our favorite forest animal, the rabbit! Later we were also able to create our own rabbit too!
As an educator I have opportunities to use a variety of technologies to support and enrich learning for my students. I continue to share and try new ideas that offer inspiration and challenge my thinking. It is vital that I think in a transparent way when teaching. It is an opportunity for me to offer my students and their families to learn alongside me, with me and feel like they are a part of their child’s education. This is how I am able to make a difference, engage and connect. I would not do it differently. Technology is definitely changing education, but it is creating an opportunity for all of us to connect and engage in meaningful ways that supports learning inside and outside of our classrooms. How are you making this happen?
Last week I had one of those ah ha moments in kindergarten during our writer’s workshop time. We have been exploring life cycles. My students have been creating books, podcasts and scientific drawings about many living things found in nature. My students were creating a scientific drawing of some of the insects we found outside our classroom using pencils and paper. I also had lots of informational text, along with some real examples as well as some photographs. I was feeling great about the materials available and thought every student will be successful. I soon discovered that for many this writing task seemed very overwhelming. I then made iPads available and asked my students to go to Doodle Buddy and try designing their insect first before drawing on the paper. Wow! Immediately my students became engaged and so excited. I heard laughing and lots of conversation like;”look what I did, I made an ant, I can help you, see, you can make the lines skinny and fat, look we can shade the background in, yeah Mrs. D. I made a connection, it’s like Gail Gibbons”. This continued for the next 45 minutes. Every child was able to create an insect and highlight the features they felt were important.Then my students created their insect on paper using pencils, colored pencils and crayons.
I have thought a lot about this experience and what it reveals about the importance of having attainable, successful and meaningful tasks for my students. Many of my students were frustrated by using pencils and felt the need to erase. The iPads provided a way for all my students to create and design over and over until their idea/scientific drawing was the way they wanted it. The value of having an iPad made it easy to share their drawings. I was able to email to parents and share electronically. The benefits of recreating the insect on paper was a great fine motor activity and a way for my students to have experienced a process approach in creating a special type of drawing, a scientific drawing with labels, etc.
If I had my own iPads in my classroom everyday my students would be able to save this work and reflect, refer to throughout our study. Emailing makes sharing easy and very powerful.
In conclusion my students were able to share that scientific drawings have labels, use lines and arrows to point out what the parts are(one of my students came up with this one!), colorful, show body parts and are real things.
I am also thinking about how important it is to scaffold learning experiences for my students too. The purpose and reasons behind the why and what we do is very important. As a teacher I want to make sure that the tasks I am modeling are meaningful, have explicit meaning and are attainable for all of my students. The iPads have really been helpful in ensuring not only that all my students are successful, but that they all have equal access to the learning content we explore together.
A quick story, but a great way of how easy and simple technology helped me to create an authentic learning opportunity for students…
I was working out one morning at the ReHab Gym when 1 of the Physical Trainers shared a photograph he had taken of a Luna Moth that was just outside on the window. I asked him to email to me via his iPhone so I could share with my students. He did and this is what happened….
This is the end of school and my students have only a day left of Kindergarten. I share the photograph of the Luna Moth on my SMART board with my students. I pose a question, “What do you notice?’ We take some private think time to think about our observations and then we turn and talk to a friend about what we notice. These are some of the comments that the children shared; “it looks furry, I think it is symmetrical because what is on the left side is the same as the right side, it has 2 sets of wings, the antennae look like small feathers like a bird, it has green, black and yellow, the body is hiding under the wings, I think it is an insect because it has 3 body parts.” Wow! Through this brief encounter with this photograph you can see how much information the children not only have from prior learning experiences, but how they are able to connect and use their prior knowledge to make observations about something they have never seen before.
Then we were about to locate a site that gave us some specific information about Luna Moths. http://www.bugfacts.net/luna-moth.php Again this is another way to be transparent about how I am going to get information about a topic of interest that will help us develop a deeper understanding about an authentic learning opportunity.
As a teacher this is the best possible way to observe how children are sharing what they understand through applying prior knowledge to make sense of a new experience. I was able to see and listen to the in-depth thinking that the children had as well as how they were synthesizing information through an observation. The SMART board was really wonderful because the children were then able to come to the board and interact using the tools to highlight their scientific observations.
I am very transparent about what I do with my students. This experience was a nice way to share how a technological tool can be used to capture something of interest, how the technology is used in a safe, kind and responsible way, and how we all benefited from learning about something that was observed in nature by someone outside of Kindergarten.
The children then created a piece of writing about what they noticed as well as scientific drawings of the Luna Moth. As you can see from a few of the examples I have listed in this post that these Kindergarten children are really amazing scientific thinkers who use technology to help enhance and engage their understanding of the natural world.