This past school year was an amazing year for me as a professional. I learned so many new things and was able to try many new technologies that really made a difference in not only my children’s growth, but their overall engagement. I thought that I would share the many areas of growth that occurred for me and the children.
Kindergarten is a special and unique place. It is an opportunity to really see how quickly children can grow, learn and engage in their learning. I just finished my 3rd year teaching Kindergarten and I am in awe of some of the wonderful things that have taken place.
In the beginning Kindergarten is revealing itself each day with new learning and discoveries that have been slowly starting to emerge within the community. Right from the start children come ready to explore, learn, discover and take risks. Through the classroom community and the relationships that have already started to emerge prior to our first day together, learning and making connections begin to unfold…
In the beginning we look at our class blog, a place where we begin to share and reflect the daily life of our classroom. Children having had a few opportunities to blog and make comments with their parents are familiar with this idea, but haven’t yet been able to explore fully the positive impact it will have on their learning.
In the beginning a blog is simply a way for the children to see, listen and watch themselves. The idea of drawing a picture of your favorite character in a book is easy and fun to do, but once you offer a way to make the drawing available for more than 1 set of eyes, the drawing becomes more meaningful and gives the child an opportunity to reflect on what they drew. The reflection takes many forms… I observed children saying, “this is my favorite character”, ….. I ask the child what is it about the picture that you want us to know. Lots of responses occur, “I worked very hard”, “it is my bestest drawing”, “I took my time”,” I worked carefully”.
The child is using our document camera in conjunction with our SMARTboard to share their work. Then I ask if there is anything that you want to point out to us about your drawing/illustration. Then the child has another opportunity to use interactive tools to draw, make symbols on their work to talk out what they want to share. Other children are automatically engaged because of the “magic” that is happening on the board. Then the child has another opportunity to ask for comments about their drawing/illustration. Some children begin to notice details that are introduced and woven into our day through the many different workshops that occur in Kindergarten. Through this process of talking out, sharing, making observations, and making connections the child is now beginning to collaborate at it’s simplest level. Just by facilitating comments a child has an opportunity to take their learning to the next level. It is through that process that the work/learning becomes more vigorous.
Later other children immediately want to share their work/learning because of what they saw and heard previously. This is the magic, the authentic learning that occurs in a seamless fashion when children are given opportunities to take their learning and make it more available to themselves and others. It is through the process of rethinking, rephrasing and changing our thinking that children develop a deeper understanding of their thinking.
This year I have observed lots of children develop into deep thinkers because of the availability that the technologies have provided for the children to share, connect, engage and take risks with their learning. I embrace the idea of using lots of different technologies that help me, help children, focus on their learning. This is the idea behind the purposefulness of the many technological tools available. I promote the idea of children becoming safe, responsible and respectful digital users of the technologies we use. Children understand at a very young age how to share and connect. The technologies provide endless paths to help with the idea of sharing, collaborating and connecting with their world.
There are so many technologies available and at times I feel a bit overwhelmed by what to try! This is when I seek out my professional learning network(PLN’s). I have many and am always looking for more. At my school we have a very talented and resourceful Technology Integration Education Specialist, Bonnie Birdsall who is available weekly to assist all teachers at our school.
It is through her recommendations that I have furthered my PLN community beyond my school walls. I joined Twitter and another on-line group where other educators meet on-line to discuss, share and collaborate on educational ideas and practices.
Linkedin is another network where you can meet other educators and others who have lots of resources and are willing to share and collaborate. I have also had the opportunity to connect with others who have come across my class blog by chance too.
This year I have had many new parents of the children I will have in Kindergarten join twitter so they can be a part of the ‘tweets” we send. This idea is new for me, but am trying it out as it seems like it would save me some time as opposed to using email. Last year I met a teacher from Texas on Twitter. We collaborated on a voicethread together around an author study of Dr. Seuss. Wow! After we created the voicethread, the children were able to listen and watch what others had to say about similar books they had read.
Lots of things occurred during this voicethread. The children listened and watched intently as each of our Texas friends talked about their book. The children were spontaneous in their connections! This is some of what I heard,”wow!”, I liked that book too, He used the same color of pen I did, She liked the same part as me, What did they use for their identities?, We read all of those books too Mrs. D. As you can tell all of the responses give me immediate feedback about what the voicethread offered and how it helped us with our learning. Some of the responses were connections, some excitement, and observations about the web tool we used. This later example is a higher level observation because the child knows we each have our own identity that we created. Our friends in Texas used the icons on voicethread. Some of the children in my class were looking for “faces” to represent their words.
This year our school has also gone through some amazing professional development in the area of mathematics. Through this professional development I have been able to collaborate with colleagues and look closely and deeply at best practices that impact children in their understanding of mathematics.
During our math studio meetings(4 during the year) we had a chance to work collaboratively together on developing a math lesson form one of our math units to ensure that we, the teachers, were getting at the key/core math idea. The work itself really gives you an opportunity to think deeply about what the math objective is and how to best instruct, explore and access for understanding. After our studio work we were then to explore and try out the ideas/best practices discussed and explored during our math studio time. This was amazing!
I often found myself using a few different technologies to help check for mathematical understanding when working with my children. The FLIP camera for video is wonderful especially because it is easy to use and the children love to use it as well. The other tools I found myself using were podcasting, photographs and of course the document camera and our SMARTboard!
Creating podcasts were fun and so easy to do. The children were able to talk out their mathematical thinking during our dyad time as well as share their observations when exploring a new mathematical concept. Afterwards I would take a photograph to accompany their podcast. This work was uploaded to our math wiki where it could be shared with family, friends and others. The work itself became more vigorous and meaningful for all of the children because they were able to listen to how they were thinking mathematically. I could then take this a step further and ask for children to listen to vocabulary that was focused on math. In Kindergarten we call this, “math talk”. The children were all motivated and begging to listen to theirs so they could identify their thinking and the mathematical words they used. Again, the lesson, the thinking behind their ideas became deeper and more meaningful just by “bringing it to life” through the creation of a podcast.
Young children learn best by manipulating their ideas using a variety of mathematical tools. Through the process of manipulating mathematical ideas children are able to think through and talk out their ideas. The document camera used in collaboration with the SMARTboard gave the children another opportunity to reflect, rethink, share and collaborate with others when working with a mathematical concept.
It is wonderful to see all of the children asking to share their work. They all want to interact with the technology as it gives them confidence and opportunities to justify and explain how they arrived at their solutions and mathematical ideas. Many times I have observed children change their thinking while sharing their work. Wow! The technology helps give children confidence to share their work, then an opportunity to change their thinking if they choose. When a young child changes their thinking they are thinking deeply about their idea and then taking it to a higher level. This happens when they are trying to justify what they know. If their justification is unclear they automatically begin thinking about another way it could make sense or another mathematical idea. Amazing! Wonderful higher level thinking happening here!
So much to think about. I often reflect back to when I was in school and the many opportunities that my teachers missed when working with me. It is so sad and unfortunate really.
But today teachers have endless opportunities to help children make sense of the world and explore big ideas in authentic ways. My goal is to continue to challenge myself as well as my own thinking to keep an open mind about the technologies available so I don’t miss an opportunity to make a difference for any child.