Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tech Integration and the Elementary School

Guest Blogger: Ryan S. Alderson

Educational Technology including iPads, interactive whiteboards, laptop computers, and the multitude of wireless devices that access Web 2.0 tools are essential elements of a successful Four Year Old Kindergarten classroom.  If one embraces the Framework for 21st Century Learning established by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the assertion begins to take form.  Even in the earliest of primary classrooms, traditionally valued content appears from foundational skills in reading and mathematics to initial glimpses of the importance of global awareness and health literacy, all made more accessible and engaging through the use of educational technology.  Of more consequence are the connections between 4K classrooms and the 21st Century outcomes under the overarching strands of  “Learning and Innovation Skills” and “Information, Media, and Technology,” as it is here that the fundamental necessities of implementing lessons and activities that enhance students’ abilities to exercise their creativity, communication, and collaboration skills takes shape.
The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool, a widely embraced framework for early childhood development further establishes the connection between research-based instruction and the use of educational technology.  The model establishes objectives for academic, social, and emotional development, objectives which can be more readily achieved through the assistance of educational technology.  When considering the subset of Creative Curriculum objectives extracted below, the potential of hardware, software, and web-based applications takes further form, whether considering the use of social media to interact with other classrooms, sorting and classification drag and drop activities, or the established gains in student engagement and motivation.
·         Interacts with peers
·         Engages in conversations
·         Makes friends
·         Uses social rules of language
·         Attends and engages
·         Explores the visual arts
·         Shows curiosity and motivation
·         Makes connections
·         Uses classification skills
·         Uses print concepts
·         Identifies and names letters
·         Uses letter–sound knowledge
·         Shows flexibility and inventiveness in thinking
·         Demonstrates knowledge of the alphabet
·         Uses and appreciates books
·         Connects numerals with their quantities
·         Uses language to express thoughts and needs
·         Demonstrates knowledge of patterns
·         Participates cooperatively and constructively in group situations
·         Explores and describes spatial relationships and shapes
·         Uses appropriate conversational and other communication skills

Many are familiar with the academic applications of computers, iPads, the iPod Touch, and Web2.0 tools.  Likely many are unfamiliar with a relatively new device making its way into classrooms.  With a decline in the initial cost, the SMART table has become an accessible tool in early primary classrooms.  Cashton Public Schools has provided further access to instructional tools by placing one of these units in each of the Four Year Old Kindergarten classrooms in the district.  The SMART table is an interactive device that enables students to explore content through the use of a multi-user touch screen. Even the preloaded activities enable students to create, explore, classify, sort, and manipulate objects in a learning center environment.  The content of each activity is designed to be modified by individual teachers to align to the specific needs of their students.  Further potential is realized through the SMART Exchange, a web-based environment though which teachers, publishers, and developers can share applications.  Although there continues to be much to learn about the potential of this tool, classroom teachers are already conveying the enhanced interest and engagement demonstrated by students interacting with the table and each other.
The use of educational technology is an essential practice that not only facilitates the exchange of information, ideas, media, and knowledge, it simultaneously promotes student engagement and motivation, provides access to the global perspective of learning, and prepares students to use the tools necessary for the collaborative, creative, and social context through which the next generation will navigate the challenges of tomorrow.  While the complexity of the application of technology increases as students learn and grow, even the youngest of learners benefit from multisensory learning opportunities made possible through technology.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post gentlemen. We have yet to venture into tech use with our 4K kids, but the SMART Table sounds like a great place to start.

    Curt Rees - Onalaska