Having been a middle school teacher for most of my career, I have to admit the littlest kids were my biggest fear when I accepted this elementary-focused position. But, oh, they are just so adorable! No matter what happens during the day, the moment I walk into the kindergarten classroom, or they come into the Learning Hub, I can’t stop a huge grin from spreading across my face. There’s nothing quite like a knee-level hug from 10 five-year-olds at once!
After working with one of our fantastic pre-Kindergarten teachers last year and getting a little bit of an idea of just what the youngest of our little darlings can do, I was anxious to try another project this year.
I heard a lot of talk before I started about how the younger kids “can’t” use computers and how they “don’t know how” to work a laptop. So, those of you that use technology with your kindergarten classes will know just how pleasantly surprised I was to see just what they can do, and for those of you that don’t – they can do a lot more than you would expect.
Certainly you have to break each step down into manageable chucks, of course you can only do short bits at a time, and for sure, they need a different type of support than middle school students, but they absolutely can use technology – and a lot quicker and more independently than I was lead to believe.
This year I’m working with two amazing ISB Kindergarten teachers (and 8 other teachers around the world) on the KinderKidsDraw project. Basically, we started from the idea that the kindergarten students used to go to the computer lab (which no longer exists) to “learn” KidPix once a week with the technology teacher. After thinking about the fact that once a week, for 20 minutes each time, and often extended breaks in between, may not be the best way for kids to build their understanding of new concepts, and maybe KidPix isn’t something we want them to “learn” since we’re looking to enhance core content not teach software, we came up with a new idea:
Use KidPix to enable students to draw their understanding about the new concepts they are leaning in class. Spend perhaps 20 minutes a day for 3 days in a row breaking down the drawing steps into small chunks so that they can create a finished drawing every few weeks. Then, taking that finished drawing, upload the picture onto VoiceThread and have the students record what they learned that is represented in the picture. Over the course of the year, these VoiceThreads can become an electronic portfolio of their developing understanding in various subjects.
We started with the “All About Me” social studies unit by having students draw (first by hand, to be able to compare later) a picture of their face, and then record an introduction to themselves on VoiceThread. It was interesting to see just how many of the students preferred drawing on the computer, even though they said it was much harder than drawing on paper.
Each class has now posted their completed VoiceThread on our collaborative wiki so that we can help students find connections with their peers all over the world.
On Thursday we watched the VoiceThreads from Spain, the US, and Canada as a class. As we were watching, we paused every now and again to ask how many students in the room have a common interest with the students in another country. It was fascinating to see their looks of surprise when they realized that kids all over the world love Ben 10, cupcakes and the color yellow.
Once they had an introduction to each class, I worked with our students (one-on-one) to select one specific student from another class, and then record a comment on their VoiceThread introduction. They were very quick to choose which ones they wanted to leave a comment on and they absolutely loved hearing their own voice play back through the VoiceThread.
Next up we hope to do something around the topic of weather and seasons. It will be interesting to see which of our students have actually seen snow previously and sharing the pictures of our different seasons should be a real eye-opener for those that have lived in southeast Asia all of their lives. The plan is for these connections to continue throughout the school year so that our students can begin to have the experience of create an (age-appropriate) personal learning network with their peers in other international and public schools around the world.
We are definitely proceeding slower than I would in the intermediate and middle grades, and I am doing a bit more facilitation than I would with older students, but it is working. The students are enjoying the experience and they are totally ready and excited to “talk” to other students around the world. It’s still pretty amazing to me that a five-year-old in Bangkok can get to know a five-year-old in Spain with just a few quick lessons and audio recordings!
What do you think? Can kindergarten students “do” age-appropriate technology-rich projects? Or should I be focusing my attention on the upper grades?